Clwyd Limestone; it's one of north Wales' more esoteric and hence, less frequented climbing domains. Given that Clwyd was a large North East Wales county which encompassed around six old counties,and stretched from Mid Wales to the coast and which ceased to exist more than ten years ago; the term is still applied though,to a specific area which essentially, is concentrated within the Llangollen, Mold and Ruthin triangle.
It was on this variable limestone that I first started my climbing career over 25 years ago. Stuart Cathcart's little paperback Cicerone guidebook from 1983, my constant reference work when it came to selecting venues. One of the areas not in the guide was a selection of crags in the Pwllglas area of Ruthin, although one crag- Ruthin Escarpment-did get a brief mention in the bouldering section. I did some easy climbs here at the time although the long and beautifully situated escarpment was mostly overgrown and shielded by an impenetrable barrier of Hawthorn, bramble, dog rose and blackthorn.
A year or so back I wandered back there and was amazed to see how it had been developed into a really neat sports crag. I was going to say 'little' sports crag but in fact,the escarpment stretches for several hundred yards and it's potential for further development and its climbing history is worthy of a blog piece in itself so I'll move across the valley to another limestone venue.
I remember taking a look at a decent sized crag just off a little back road from Pwllglas which leads to a local golf club. Despite it's size, I dismissed it as an area for development because frankly,it looked too loose and ivy covered. At the weekend, being in the area,I had a sudden urge to take another look-this is twenty years on- and as with the escarpment across the valley, I was amazed at what had been going down here! At first sight,it had been developed into a sizeable sports crag, with gleaming bolts and climbing tat liberally sprinkled across a face which in size, has to be in excess of a hundred feet
Despite the crag only being about 7 or 8 miles from where I live, I was really taken aback at the fact that I didn't know a thing about it. I wouldn't say I had my finger on the pulse of everything that's happening on the north Wales climbing scene but I generally have a rough idea about what's going on around and about. This development however, had really passed under the radar. Whipping out my iPhone, I excitedly posted an instagram shot detailing an 'awesome new sports crag' I'd discovered and even took some footage on the new Twitter Vine video loop app to post on the FC twitter page. This was exciting stuff!
Later that evening, I eventually discovered that my 'awesome sports crag' was in fact a dry tooling venue which goes under the bizarre name of 'Whitegoods'. Presumably because its roadside location encouraged fly tipping (although there is a council tip/recycle centre two miles away take note!)
Dry tooling... the merest mention of this dark art provokes controversy. Apparently developed originally by Stevie Haston as a way of reaching hanging frozen stuff. Dry Tooling now has developed into a sub sport of climbing in its own right and appears to have brought into its fold,a small but dedicated following who use it both for winter training and as a climbing sport in itself.
Firstly, I have no problem with anyone wanting to mess around dry tooling and I take my Pakol hat off to those who have gone to considerable effort to clean and develop an unused crag. However, I was always under the impression that dry tooling venues were usually chossy crags and quarries which were unsuitable for 'proper' climbing? With regard to this crag though,much of it looks climbable using stuff like,well..skin and rubber! I was looking up at a classic corner groove and thinking,'why have they bolted that?' Looks no more than VS?
Taking a look at the UKC crag guide, I see Whitegoods is listed and sports 25 routes within the arcane 'M' grade. As I say...that's fine and dandy if that's your bag. My only question is, how is it decided that a crag is developed for dry tooling, for sports climbing or as a trad crag??? I can see that if it's loose and chossy, it might be seen as dangerous for trad climbing but surely you've more chance of pulling a rock on your head swinging an ice axe than wrapping your pinkies around a jug?. One for the climbing ethics police perhaps.
Nice looking corner. How would you like to climb it...using skin or metal?