Monday, July 29, 2013

One thousand foot climbs in Betws y Coed and other tall tales.

The excellent third pitch of Kreen-Akrore above Swallow Falls

I was up in Capel Curig today,seeing friends, and after I said goodbye I went on a stroll with the hound up to Summerhouse Crag above Swallow Falls. Passing under the cliff which stands above the falls, I stopped to look and see if Traditional Route was getting any traffic. Didn’t look like it...shame. It got me thinking again about how some climbs and venues click but others don’t. If traditional Route was at Tremadog it would be a popular lower grade trade route like Poor Man's Pueterey or Christmas Curry. After all, it’s a lovely 15 minute level walk from a parking spot just above The Towers Outdoor Education Centre. It’s a amenable four pitch severe with nice steep climbing, short pitches, big stances and great atmosphere as the thundering waters of the falls far below offers an ominous soundtrack to the actual climbing. After saying that, it never feels anything other than nonthreatening and enjoyable. Probably because the verdant nature of the cliff breaks up the verticality.

I first did the climb about 17 years ago with one of its progenitors, Harold Drasdo who did the first ascent on Christmas Day in 1964. The actual story of the ascent is highly amusing but I think I might have written about it somewhere before so I won’t risk repeating it here. For an esoteric easy day or as a more challenging climb for a novice, Traditional Route ticks all the boxes. I’m sure the steep Kern Knotts-esque crack on the second pitch would have some Severe leaders sweating a bit when they first look up but it’s all nice and easy...maybe 4a at a pinch.

In about 2000 I did a slightly harder companion climb to TR- A  4 pitch VS climb called Kreen Akrore. Named after a lost Amazonian tribe and in recognition of the cliffs rain forest vibe. Like it’s easier neighbour, KA is pretty good really with an excellent 3rd pitch. A perfect clean open book corner which is 4c/5a-ish. These two climbs are the only climbs on the cliff. I’m sure other routes are there but is there any modern day climber willing to put in the spade work-probably literally!- to create a few new routes which will probably be unfashionably easy? Don’t think so.

 Final pitch of Traditional Route
Another interesting fact about Traditional Route is that it is a component of a unique 1000’ + climbing expedition.  The aforementioned chief instructor at The Towers told me that at one time instructors there would entertain themselves by climbing Traditional Route. From the top of which they would then wander across the forest track to a little cliff hidden in the trees. Climb a line up that and then gain yet another tier of cliff known as Summerhouse Crag- (the summit of which is a popular viewing platform which apparently, in days gone by was an actual crag top summerhouse owned by a local estate. Some foundation stones still remain.)

They would complete the expedition by climbing a final pitch up the pleasant south face and pull out onto the viewing platform.  I did this esoteric route once- undoubtedly one of the few people in north Wales who has- and it was very entertaining. So there you go; one of the longest climbing expeditions in Snowdonia and it’s not in any guidebook and it’s just outside Betws y Coed. Who would have thought it!
Instagram shot of Moel Siabod taken from Summerhouse Crag earlier today

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