The coat tails of Storm Ellen were flapping around Britain, bringing lashing rain, as Andy and I set off for the crag on Saturday morning. The wipers were still on overtime as we reached the A55 and we were beginning to doubt the Met Office (our favoured forecast as everyone else thought it was going to be a washout!) Regular blog-followers will be surprised to find that we weren’t heading to Anglesey (even Gogarth has its off days) and instead we pulled off at Llanddulas to follow winding back roads and ultimately a dirt track to a gate into a field secured by a combination padlock. If this sounds a bit like a quest, then it is of sorts – it’s the now-agreed access for the legendary Craig y Forwen.
Rumours of this fabled crag had infiltrated my consciousness decades ago – Great Wall features in Extreme Rock and Mojo is one of Dave Jones’ 100 Great British Climbs, but access has long been banned by the local landowners. More recently, negotiations by the BMC have at least established access to some of the crag – whilst the “main event” of the central walls remains banned, the areas either side are open for business.
There are full details of the parking and approach, including the secret lock code, on the BMC RAD database. https://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/RAD/View.aspx?id=798
The farmer who owns the field that you park in deserves a huge vote of thanks from the climbing community, and kudos to the BMC Access team for reaching such a convenient resolution.
The parking is more or less on top of the crag.
To access the far / righthand end of the crag you head across the field roughly eastward until you reach a trod which leads down into the huge gully that bounds that end of the cliff, where an easy winding path leads to the foot of the face. Sticking nearer to the top of the crag allows a bit of a sneak preview of what’s to come – tree tops from below belie the height of the routes which run to 30m+ – they’re big trees!
The broadly barrel shaped buttress has aspects to the south east and south, and at a more micro scale is made up of square-cut bays with a number of corners, aretes and walls. We stopped at the most obvious feature
The tree cover make and dodgy weather made for pretty poor photos, but believe me it’s an impressive crag.
We kicked off the visit with Sangfroid Direct which gets E2 but is well worth E3. It starts up the glowering flake crack of Sangfroid and where the parent route scuttles leftwards to the sanctuary of the arete (improbable ground for a HVS!) the Direct jinks right into another, even steeper groove.
A “blind faith” move up and right, before the pump kicks in, is rewarded with good holds and a rest on a narrow ledge. Even more faith is needed to leave the ledge, and a tough, off-balance pull gets you to easier ground. Fully deserving of its 3*!
Mark had recommended The Groan as a must-do route, and the suggestion was confirmed by a couple of visiting ‘Beris climbers, so I geared up despite the no-star E3 6a entry in the guidebook. My faith was rewarded – recent cleaning has reclaimed and elevated this neglected line into a 3* E2. Steep moves up a leaning crack are more straightforward than appearances suggest thanks to good holds on the wall and a couple of kevlar threads.
The crux comes near the top where looong moves past another couple of threads get you over a bulge.
To complete the makeover, there’s even a situ lower off from two cemented pegs. Good work, guys!
A couple of less notable routes saw us climbing well into the evening – forgetting the forecasted downpour due around 6.30pm. Unfortunately, the Met Office were proved bang on again, just as I belayed at the mid-height stance on a wildly zigzagging 2-pitch route. We were absolutely soaked within minutes, and grateful of the offer of a top-rope for the last few moves up the summit waterfall!
A very long-awaited first visit to the CyF – hopefully I’ll be back in less than another 30 years, especially if access to the central wall can be secured!