I like to think the time spent in these places offset time as a kid when terrified of going into school for years, when not spending months skiving, with the shame of being poor having been drilled in by chants of tramp and the like. I should thank that time as it has made me into the tough little bastard I am now and my book, Eleri, which is out imminently will have various stories and themes around inequality and being fuck poor. It was a real cathartic pleasure to write and the artist Maisy Lovatt has made a killer cover and Sophie Eleri James some serious editing on it.
The Llanberis Pass is something of a central point for climbers and if you’ve lived in the area for a few years and park at Cromlech roadside you’ll often see people you know. I first climbed here on a trip down from the Lakes with Wez Hunter and Adam Wilde, climbing in a 3 and soloing we had a cracking time, Spiral Staircase, Diagonal and Cemetery Gates were 3 of the highlights if memory serves and if you’ve not done these I would highly recommend them, timeless classics.
On either side of the Llanberis Pass many cliffs and outcrops are scattered. One of the first major ones on the left as you drive up is one of my least favourite, Craig Ddu. It has black rock that hearts up in the sun and has a lot of sloping holds and not as striking lines as many of the other crags. That said Canol, Yellow Groove and Bog of eternal stench are worth seeking out and Mabinogion, just left of this crag, a micro route or highball is brilliant.
The next crag along Clogwyn Y Grochan is the quickest to dry and fastest to get to, perfect for a quick after work hit or if you are short on time. It’s a real sun trap too. The 2 VSs on the left, Phantom Rob and Nea will ever be popular as will in-situ climbers trying to workout which way to face on the classic HVS here, Brant Direct. Redheads masterpiece to the right, Cockblock sees off many would be onsight wads but was soloed back in the day by Phil Davidson so cant be that hard? I enjoyed watching Emma Twyford piss up it onsight. Go try it. Alex Masons direct on it, Rising sun deserves to become a modern classic, giving a brilliant grit arete boulder quality sequence above good kit and a clean fall out zone well tested by Ferdia. Up and right of here the E3 cracks of Stroll on and Quasar offer high quality e3 struggles, both hard for the grade, the former sustained and the latter cruxy.
Just down Left of the Grochan is a lovely short E1 called Little Groover, a soft E1 with good pro but techy start, and the Redhead micro testpiece that rarely gets done now, Ryley Bosvil.
Above the Grochan lies Drws Y Gwynt where there are 2 excellent E1s, A touch of class and Too hard for Jim Perrin that gives a great short finger crack in a wall. Lying out the way these will be ideal if you want a quiet crag on a bank holiday, if you can get parked of course.
Carreg Y Wastad is the next crag up the Pass and for many on here there is only one route, Crackstone Rib, ultra classic but best done mid week when quieter, climbing with people above you is generally a dull idea unless you have to, many a time have I seen people pull rocks off onto people below. The harder ones on here such as Erosion Groove Direct (E2) and Zangorilla (E4) are also brilliant but rarely get done now which can give them a bit of an esoteric, ‘Lakes’ type feel. There is a great pic somewhere of Pete Crew doing Erosion with little pro and rope around his waste, really out there days.
Cemetery Gates up the right arete is again a timeless classic by A-team, Joe Brown and Don Whillans, you are treading in their footsteps when going up it. Left of Cenotaph lies the stunning wall climb Resurrection, possibly better than Right Wall and a very good stepping stone towards Right Wall if you are building up to E5.
My favourite ones on here are Left Wall and Memory Lane. Left Wall would be a classic wherever you put them in the world. Reckon I’ve done each of these in sub 2 mins in my early 20s.
On the upper tier are 2 great aretes, Overlord (7c and poky) put up by the understated Steve Mayers again and Rumblefish, a Craig Smith E7 which is balancy and committing on the finish but easyish for the grade. Grond gives a fantastic corner crack above, a Whillans and co masterpiece which gives great entertainment to watch when climbers are on it who cant jam. The Monster to the right is well worth doing to enchain from the bottom routes. The crack of Atomic hot rod just round the corner was given E5 7a by big ron and tbh in those shit old boots it probably would feel 7a as the crux is off knuckle jamming and reliant on a very small foothold on the right to feel ok. Take a couple of cam 0s, .5s and 1s.
Beyond this is Clogwyn Blaen Coed, only 15 minutes easy walk from Cromlech boulders but nobody goes here. The E4, Marlene on the wall is good and Youtopia, named after a very good party, is a modern classic for those who like burly roofs with pretty good pro.
Shifting to the other side (right as you look up the Pass) you have very different rock types, some of which many people think are the best here.
Clogwyn Gafr (crag of the goat) has 2 great well protected E3s, Pulsar and Sacred Idol and the super E5, The Nectarine Run. This crag gets a lot of shade and nobody goes there so again its great if you are seeking a quiet crag. I remember Will Perrin talking me into staying at his house even though I was keen to camp. His housemate came in from a party, bent as sin, and gurning started yacking at me for hous in the ungodly hours. We went to this crag the day after and did Outspan, feeling very tired. I never found out if Will had set me up for that.
Between here and Dinas Mot lies Dinas Bach and a 3 star E5 called Felony, it only gets 1 star in the guide but is brilliant, a good wire, a peg then techy crux. Nearby is Nick Dixons micro route, Vlad the arete, E4 7a! Both are excellent quality and if you are local I’d point them out as giving a good evening of fun.
Dinas Mot, directly opposite and lower than Dinas Cromlech is renowned for top quality routes and the route that gets most mentioned for its rock quality is an E2 called Ten Degrees North. The E1s on this right buttress, Nexus and Plexus are great on an evening, catching the sun. Many a time I’ve wondered how Cliff Phillips survived a fall from the top overhang section on Plexus whilst soloing and survived, the guy is like Rincewind from a Terry Pratchett book, where death is always trying to catch him. The Red Ring to the left gives an ace, well protected burly roof E5 and the Nexus Direct and Shining path give great techy E5s.
The main buttress of the Mot is quick to dry. The cracks, Diagonal and Superdirect are ones you want to do again and again and the last one, Superdirect was for many years my favourite in the valley, I’l never forget belaying Wiz Fineron leading the top pitch when he was 11 years old having to body bridge to gain the roof then jumping above it, a mega lead. For those after more difficulty the E3s Stairway to heaven and Zeta are excellent. Think on first moving to wales I soloed Stairway, some stuff on the cromlech than had a fun scrap with Patch at the roadside when he nabbed his Minidisc back from my shit fiesta. Ray Woods pic of Leo Houlding on the upper left side of this crag on the first E9 in the Pass, Trauma, really captured that era.
A small buttress along called Ettws Isaf has Christian Klemmows arete called The Dark Side which still hasn’t been repeated and there is rumour of it also being E9, which would have been a great effort if it is as it was done the same month, possibly even the same week as Trauma. Need to check it out.
Above and right of here there is a large black looking cliff called Craig y Rhaedr, crag of the waterfall. Tim Neill, one of the more experienced winter climbers I know, thinks the ice routes on here such as Cascade and Centrall Ice fall are the best in the UK. I’m no winter devotee but even I’ve done these ones. I remember me and Jim Mccormack sending pillars of ice down onto Andy Scott and Ratcliff when pulling onto the Final Pillar of Central ice fall on the king of the pass challenge and Andy crowing, looking forward to getting up there. The thought of the top ice fall coming away with Terry Taylor still attached to it via his axes and leashes does make me shiver. There are 2 excellent rock routes on this crag that very, very rarely get climbed. I think Chris Wentworth first recommended them to me, Ghosts, E3 and the Wall E1, wall climbs with rock that reminds me of marble, quite compact, smooth and pale.
Just up right of this is Cyrn Las, aka Diffwys Ddu (I know I’ve missed Clogwyn y ddysgyl out, but nobody goes there except for Parsons nose-the walk puts most climbers off). Cyrn Las feels high and has longer routes than any on the other side. Used to be my favourite crag on first moving to Wales, remember being a cocky little shit and spinning round to stand looking outwards on the end of the trav on Lubyanka whilst soloing. The Grooves on the right is a mega Pass E1, again a Joe Brown route from 53, great corner pitches. Lubyanka, Skull and Long Kesh give stellar techy outings at e3 to e5 with the start of the Skulls middle pitch giving the pokiest section on any of them. Just right of these and finishing up Skulls groove is Dai Lampards Wrath of Kahn that gives a great and pretty low in the grade E6 with good pro.
Dropping down from here you have the Cwmglas area. The most popular E6 in the Pass is first up, Pretty girls make graves, with good pro a hard start into an e3 crack. Just right of this is Nick Dixons Melancholie, old school E7 6c it has a perfect landing so with pads gives the best highball font 7b+ in the Pass. Marble rock, great moves. The offwidth you can see up and right is Fear of Infection, E4 and the hardest offwidth in the Pass.
Just right of here is a crag called Craig cwm glas back with my favourite small climb in the Pass, Weasels rip my flesh, around E4, crux start and perfect solid pockets and crimpy techy climbing above via a thread, feels almost like gabbro. There is a very good E2 just out right called Stebbing, lesser travelled.
The Llechog ridge has little climbing on it but the highball, Mynedd Oer is worth seeking out and there is scope for some good new micro routes high on the left. The new gen of snowflakes like lewis and Jacob are probs too lazy so I might pick them off if I make it into my 60s.
Further down again lies the Nant Peris quarry, facing towards Pen Y Pass with Crac Yr Meistri now being a popular testpiece, a modern version of Comes the Dervish.
As for the blocs a bouldering session in the Pass is hard to beat. The Seam, Mouses toothpaste, Jerrys roof, Big Smile, Willy 2 goes, Black Mirror, Barrel Trav, Full roadside, King of drunks and the Witch are my favourites, but there is bound to be another classic waiting to be found. When I've been climbing at my best I've often come to the pass boulders as a training ground too. Favourite circuit was some laps on full roadside, laps on barrerl, some on big smile then onto Jerrys roof.
Anyway, that’s my boring ramblings about the Llanberis Pass. I think it’s a fucking fantastic place and if you get the opportunity to go and do a route or boulder problem there I don’t think you’ll regret it.