Breaking new ground in The Pass

The post-heatwave monsoon has well and truly arrived, and the only dry cragging available this weekend (at least north of Pembroke) is in North Wales. Even then, you need to pick the more optimistic forecast and hope that’s the way the dice land. Paul’s enthusiastic (there’s a tautology!) so we head to The Pass. Sullen grey clag…

… over the tops puts an end to any thoughts of Cloggy, and instead a flick through the guide reveals that neither of us has ever climbed on Scimitar Ridge. That’s probably because the typical grade is E4/5, but there’s a starred E1 and E2 so we decide to take a look.

Llanberis is absolutely mobbed and the parking at Nant Peris is heaving, but we head past Beudy in the hope that there will be a space in one of the laybys beneath the crags – fat chance! We head up to Pen-y-Pass to turn around, and as we’re passing the Cromlech boulders someone is just leaving – happy days! It’s overcast and chilly, but dry, as we follow the trod along the river and via a short pull up a bit of scree to the foot of the crag (about 0.5 Cromlech’s worth of effort).

Happily, the east facing wall is sheltered from the cold westerly. It’s imposingly steep, with a seemingly crystalline structure on a macro scale. We park our sacks and gear-up beneath our two “introductory routes”: the obvious corner of Chreon, E2 and the cracked wall to its left, Troy, E1.

I start up the latter, inadvertently traversing immediately left to the crack rather than from part way up Chreon, and perhaps adding another E-point. The cracked wall above looks innocuous but it is deceptively steep and all the holds (undercuts and layaways) and gear are sideways up and left, making for a burly and less than casual warm-up. Certainly worth a star or two.

A handy ab point facilities a swift return down, and Paul leads Chreon. Thin, technical bridging up the groove / corner with good but fiddly and spaced gear. Both routes recommend as well worth the visit, and remarkably contrasting styles considering they’re only ten feet apart.

The abseil brings us down the well-chalked line of Killekranky, E5 6a/b which looks very attractive, but I lacked the mojo to have a go. Another time (not to mention The Roc-Nest Monster and then I’ll have to recruit a wad to haul me up King Wad which looks stupendous!) With the crag’s supply of amenable routes exhausted and the rain still holding off, it was looking like a two-crag day. Gazing up The Pass, Paul pointed out the isolated buttress of Clogwyn Gafr (aka Craig Fach) high up on the opposite side of the valley, not far from Pen-y-Pass.

Paul recommended a couple of fine E3s there, so we stomped up to check them out.

It’s a cracking little lump of rock, with a couple of dozen routes across the grades, with the stars very much clustered in the E3 to E6 range. The corner of Sacred Idol was seeping but the adjacent crack of Pulsar, E3 6a, looked fairly dry. I jumped on, hoping to get the route done before the approaching grimness coming up the valley arrived and changed the situation!

It’s an outstanding route, with sustained technical moves punctuated with plenty of gear and the occasional “thank God!” hold from which to place it. With occasional spatters of rain arriving I decided not to chance the E4 direct combo finish (a couple of pegs but looks precarious), but still found the final few moves of the original route quite harrowing enough, with some balancy lay-backery required. Very chuffed to top-out (and relieved that the worst of the rain had held off).

The downpour arrived with a vengeance and it was soon clear it was “game over” as far as The Pass was concerned. Not a bad day though, with three good routes and a couple of new (to me) crags, both of which are worth going back for.

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