Craig y Rhaeadr
The Llanberis Pass contains one of the finest and most iconic of winter climbing crags. In a strong winter season a dramatic 100m high curtain of ice forms on Craig y Rhaeadr. The ice is clearly visible from the road and soon enough an excited buzz spreads through the local climbing scene and beyond. These spectacular routes have inspired generations of climbers and do not disappoint in execution. This really is as good as it gets.
However, a note of caution: all of the main routes here give steep, sustained and sometimes serious climbing. This is not a place to push your grade; in anything less than perfect conditions expect the grades to feel hard. Needless to say a good selection of sharp ice screws are needed and do bear in mind that most belays are on screws. Some rock gear will also be useful, particularly for belays at the top.
Even though the crag can be seen easily from the road, it is not always easy to decide on the conditions. A closer inspection is always worthwhile. Some of the routes can be climbed in thin conditions (although they will be considerably harder and with little protection) but many are only possible when good conditions prevail. The crag is at a low altitude and consequently requires a sustained period of freeze thaw for the ice to form properly.
The crag can be reached from the layby near the entrance to Ynys Ettws (the Climbers’ Club hut).
The routes spread around the Cyrn Las ridge and the Clogwyn y Ddysgl cliff in the upper cwm offer a variety of classic snow, ice and mixed routes, including a few notable classics, such as Parsley Fern I and Parsley Fern Left Hand II, Sergeant’s Gully II 3, Sinister Gully III 4, Clogwyn y Person Arete III 4 and Face Route IV 4. There are also a number of superb mixed routes in the grade IV to VI range. The routes vary in length from a couple of pitches right up to 300+m for the full version of Face Route.
The cwm itself is a beautiful and atmospheric place with a splendid sense of isolation and impressive topography. The neighbouring Cwm Hetiau also offers some good ice routes in a strong winter.
Sections of the Cyrn Las ridge and Railway Buttress in Cwm Hetiau are home to rare plants – for full details check out the North Wales White Guide.
The Parsley Fern gully lines are often in condition, although after fresh snow prone to avalanche. The mixed routes are a good option throughout the season and can give good sport after fresh snow. The ice routes can be a bit fickle, but come into condition much more frequently than the lower Pass crags, such as Craig y Rhaeadr.
The routes can be reached from the roadside lay-bys in 45 – 90 minutes depending on how high you go.
Llanberis Pass icefalls
In a really strong winter low level icefalls form on the north side of the Llanberis Pass. These give good sport in a roadside cragging style.