A week without rain in Llanberis is a bit of a rarity, but signals one thing to the Cloggy aficionado – it might be a “in”! A scan of UKC recent ascents suggested only a few visits so far in the season, but despite max forecasted valley temperatures of around 15C it seemed rude not to at least take a look.
For the benefit of our non-UK blog readers, Cloggy (or Clogwyn D’ur Arrdu to give it its full and more menacing title) is a largely North facing crag that sits near the summit of Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales at over 1,000m) and glowers down from its lofty perch at the tourist / former mining village of Llanberis. It ranks somewhere in the Rockaroundtheworld Global Top 5, and it’s not just my opinion – it’s name-checked by Leo Houlding as simply The Best.
It’s a fair hike (a stiff hour and a half) and for the most part you are mingling with (or rather overtaking) holiday-makers who are puffing their way determinedly up the Llanberis Path to the summit of Snowdon and its famous cafe (other mountains are available!)
There comes a point, as the crag hoves properly into view, where the tourist path heads up leftwards towards “Cloggy Station” on the horizon, but the climber’s approach goes straight ahead to skirt Llyn Arrdu. There’s no fence or gate to cross, but I always have the sense here that there’s an invisible sign, perhaps enforced by a hidden forcefield, that says “special people only this way – enter at your own peril” – it’s an intimidating spot!
On closer inspection, most of the major crack and corner lines are looking a bit damp and uninviting (I still haven’t done the eponymous Corner, Piggott’s, Octo etc but they’d have to wait again), so the best conditions would be found on the aretes and walls. Happily this suited our plans for a huge enchantment, linking Lithrig into Pinnacle Arete and the Hand Traverse, with maybe Shrike thrown in at the end depending on energy, psyche and daylight. Ten pitches and a couple of hundred meters of 3* climbing at a fairly sustained E1/2. As an added bonus, we might just catch the occasional burst of warming sunshine on our voyage up the most easterly (and east-facing) bit of the crag.
Here’s James just catching a few rays at the start of Lithrig, before heading rightwards towards what is traditionally an aided tension-traverse (we took the 5c free option, of course, but you can appreciate why this was out of the question for boot-clad pioneers!)
Magnificent views over Anglesey and down to Llanberis and the distant conga of microscopic walkers on the tourist path.
Here’s James setting off on the rising flake line to join the arete proper on Pinnacle Arete (from where a really committing series of moves is required to gain and climb the crozzly crack).
No photos of me leading The Hand Traverse (James’ phone being safe and secure in his rucksack, despite the guide explicitly stating that it’s one of the most photogenic pitches in the country!) Safe to say it’s etched vividly in my memory, with some tricky moves and a growing sense of urgency as footholds run out at about the same rate as arms fatigue, and with slightly suspect gear (the peg being long gone).
A quick bask in the sunshine on the top and the chance for James to recce The Axe for a future visit (and for me to bathe in past glories)
… before rapping down for Shrike (no excuse for knocking off early – it’s only 3pm). Despite having done it twice before, I still can’t remember the way, and we have a couple of head-scratching moments (not helped by no chalk or signs of passage, and the ambiguous Rockfax description – shouldn’t have left Paul Williams in the rucksack!) before getting it straight. The first pitch has a slightly bold traverse followed by a tough crux. The second wanders deviously to link unlikely holds for an exhilarating ride. Mega!
Still plenty of daylight as we head back down to join the throngs returning to ‘Beris. It’s tempting to hang on for the “Golden Hour” when the setting sun finally swings around to illuminate the crag in dazzling light that gradually fades to orange then red, but arms and energy are well and truly sapped. In any case, four routes on Cloggy is a pretty decent haul – more would be greedy and you’ve got to leave something to come back for!