Saturday, 4 January 2014

The top 10 routes of 2013

2013 has defiantly been one of my most productive climbing years so my very first sentence is dedicated to all you folks who were there for those quality moments, from sport dogging cheers to the victory beers, this year has been one of the best, Thanks!

To the main point, these are in my opinion the top 10 routes i've climbed of 2013.. (most of the photos are mine but some have been nabbed from people with better camera skills!)

10, Ethos*** (HVS 5a) - Pembrokeshire
Crumbling rock, a rubbish top out and worst of all, its a slab. So why is this number 10? Because its a pure rush! From the abseil down to a small ledge above a frothing sea, to the fact that every move is off balance. This route completely engulfs you in the moment.. which at the end of the day is what climbing is all about! Best done on a stormy day at high tide to get the maximum out of this experience. Don't get stuck though, as this HVS is the easiest way out.

Emma seconding Ethos (HVS 5a)

9, Plexus** (E1 5b) - Dinas Mot, The Pass
A classic contrast and one for the homesick grit monkey! The difficulties start at the second pitch (5a) up a rounded groove which is unusually pimpled Rhyolite and requires a determined smeartastic approach mainly due to the appalling lack of gear! The next pitch (5b) tackles the massive overhang that dominates this part of the crag. After a jamtastic, well protected burl through the roof a thin groove leads to a belay and a further wandering pitch leads to the top. An amazing adventure, just make sure you have enough rope to make a full 60m abseil to the bottom! Next time lets check we have 60m ropes not 50s ey Laura!  

Me and Laura after a successful foray on Plexus (E1 5b)

8, The Fang*** (HVS 5a) - Tremadog
This one is defiantly a delicate brute and to me spelled unfinished business. This was caused when the first time i tried this route i ended up on Extraction (E2 5c) by mistake which caused me and Rafe to have a new found respect for the grading system of trad at Tremadog until we realised our mistake!

I came back and did the route via the correct start (up the overhanging corner to the left) with Emma later that year.. The belay is intimidating and cramped, situated beneath the huge overhanging 'fang' that gives the route its name. The second pitch is bold and with halves/a very bold leader it is impossible to protect the second. All of this however makes this route one of the most adventurous popular routes at the crag! Amazing!

The cramped belay on The Fang (HVS 5a)

7, Cyfrwy Arete via Table Direct** (VDiff) - Cadair Idris
The north side of Cadair Idris in southern Snowdonia receives little attention from climbers, walkers or anybody really. This may be because of the generally poor quality of rock and also its aspect which makes the routes cold, damp and somewhat foreboding. However these qualities also spell adventure!

CA via TD is a huge undertaking totaling nearly 250m of climbing in ~10 pitches up the towering buttress of Cyfrwy. Best done in big boots to add to the excitement! It tackles the tottering arete more or less direct and provides an excellent outing which is best completed with a bivvy on the summit in the bothy!

I enjoyed this route so much i did various sections of it 3 times this year, the first with a considerable amount of ice on it.. Other neglected but adventurous routes of Cadiar include the crumbling Hyrib (VS 4b) and of course the classic Pencoed Pillar (HVD). If your based near these routes, you have no excuse! Get on it! But remember to take your helmet and probably a trowel!

                        After the table pitch on A snowy asscent of Cyfrwy Arete 

6, Diagonal*** (HVS 5a) - Dinas Mot, The Pass
A technical and gripping route up one of the most prolific crags in the pass which winds a bold line up the slabby right hand side of the crag finishing up a steep groove.

This one was done with Ian late in the evening after a day of SPA training. After running out of light on the 3rd pitch we decided to go for it since we only had one pitch remaining and neither of us wanted to leave any gear behind. Steep thrutching and jamming is hard to get back into after 100m of technical slab it turns out! We finished the epic accordingly by abbing down the wrong side of the buttress meaning we ran out of rope before the base.. Lesson learnt! Take 60m ropes or after a day of SPA just go to the pub!

5, Lubyanka*** (E3 5c) - Cyrn Las, The Pass
A harrowingly bold and technical line up one of the most intimidating crags in The Pass. After a gentle introduction to climbing the first few pitches of Main Wall (HS 4b) the relaxing rapidly dissapears as the route diverts up the steep prow of the main crag winding an intricate line up to a grand finale with possibly the single best pitch of climbing i have ever done. Climaxing by yarding through the final overhanging for the lip of the crag leaving your feet cut loose and all of the pass below consuming your vision. A simply amazing route!

The final space walking pitch of Lubyanka (E3 5c)
*photo taken from

4, Barbarian** (E1 5b) - Tremadog
If you like roofs, this is the route for you. It is a route of legendary status with numerous onsights squashed including one member of the Aberystwyth Mountaineering club whom took a fall from the roof on merely a nut key placement. This route ultimately proves that slabs can never compete with such brilliantly steep litholgical architecture. It tackles the large roof at the top of Pant Ifan buttress, it is well protected if you place the right gear, you just have to go for it!

3, Avalanche Wall/Red Wall/Longlands* (HS 4b) - Lliwedd
An alpinesque route up one of the largest crags in Wales. Complex route finding and poor rock along with over 12 pitches of climbing make this route one of the best adventures around! It took me and Emma about 5 hours to do this beast with the crux pitch being right at the top, baring the way to freedom! We did it on a day where it hadn't rained for the previous week and it was still wet in places.. If you've got the motivation to get up early, then this is a must-do summer route!

 The crux slab of Avalanche Wall/RW/L (HS 4b)

2, Terriers Tooth*** (VS 4b) - Chair Ladder
A fantastic route set amongst some of the most idyllic sea cliff climbing in the West Country. The route climbs the initially bold rib and pillar from a wave washed platform to a large ledge at ~30m (end of technical difficulties and can be avoided if needed using a groove to the left but you'd be missing a great pitch in itself!). This is followed by some superbly exposed climbing up the tower/tooth on huge holds to the final hanging slab at the top of the tower.

The only way down is to make a 20m abseil back to the cliff. A stupendous adventure and well worth the drive to the what feels like the end of the world aka West Penwith!

The first VS pitch of Terriers Tooth

1, The Grooves*** (E1 5b) - Cyrn Las
Simply the best route, with the best moves, in the best setting, with the biggest exposure! The route follows the obvious central line of weakness on the main face of Cyrn Las (mentioned above) up a series of grooves (how surprising). Before any climbing can even begin you have an hour walk in which includes a loose muddy scramble up the lower crag until situated beneath an initial overhang which bars the way to the face. I did this route with Rafe this summer after spontaneously deciding to go and climb it that morning in Aberystwyth.

I had the first pitch (5b), which tackles this overhang direct then follows the sustained jamming groove for a full 50m through two more bulges to a large ledge. The next pitch (5b/5c) is the crux, and follows the grooves continuation through a steep section to a larger ledge. From here we had a go on Overhanging Arete (E2 5b) but after a severe beating we opted for the normal finish (5b) which was equally outlandish as to start one has to crawl along a sloping ledge and step into yet another bottomless groove! If you only do one route this year, make it this one!

Rafe on the second pitch of The Grooves (E1 5b) just before the crux moves

The mountain crag of Cyrn Las in Llanberis Pass with the line of The Grooves viable on the right

So those are my top 10 routes from this year.. If you haven't done them, get them on your list or even better,
get out and do them!

There are a few extra that were equally amazing but didnt quite make the final list!

Devils Slide*** (HS 4a) - Lundy Island

Great Bow Combination** (HVS 5a) - Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, Snowdonia

Crimtphon*** (E2 5c) - Compass Point, Bude

Emulator*** (E1 5b) - Gogarth, Anglsey

Javlin Blade** (E1 5b) - Idwal Slabs, Snowdonia

Grey Arete*** (HVS 5a) - Idwal Slabs, Snowdonia

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