Saturday, June 16, 2018

Talking lost crag blues...

Craig y Dwr, Cwm Crafnant taken last week.
The climbing community both here in north Wales and further afield in areas like the English Lake District, have in recent years, been much more more pro-active in trying to save traditional crags from disappearing under vegetation. Holding crag clean-up days where activists gather with loppers, saws and spades and clear the pathways to the crags, or dangle on shunts and hack out gorse and heather from cracks, or brush off moss and lichen which render routes un-climbable.
Tremadog has in recent years seen 'Tremfest'; organized by the BMC, this gathering is aimed at extending the range of routes at Tremadog to include those less popular but nevertheless, still worthwhile routes which- compared to the classics like Poor Man Peuterey, Vector, Merlin and One Step in the Clouds- get relatively little traffic.

Late last year I attended a crag clean up at Craig Dinas near Betws y Coed. A crag which despite the quality of its routes, its incredible location looking out on the beautiful Lledr Valley, its sunny, south facing aspect and the fact that it has a good pub-The Silver Fountain-at its base, is relatively unfrequented and the approaches can become unpleasant bushwhacks without regular attention. When I was up there last week,the approach was still fairly clear although the horrible gorse which runs riot at the top of the crag is starting to encroach on the path again.

A crag clean up was planned for Craig y Dwr, the imposing crag in Cwm Crafnant for this week, but a quick reccee by the organiser earlier this week, revealed that at this moment in time, in the height of summer, the bracken and heather beneath and above the crag would make it a difficult undertaking so its been postponed until later in the year when its died back a bit.

Although Craig y Dwr has never been a major Snowdonia crag, it does nevertheless hold some quality climbs. Not least 'Ron Jame's 'Vypon' which has in the past, been included in compendiums of North Wales classic climbs. I climbed there once. Nearly 20 years ago and it was still approachable and the routes were clean. Now it appears that the crag has been totally abandoned and never sees any visitors.

With crags like Dinas, Dwr and even Tremadog climbs getting little or no traffic these days, it speaks volumes about climbing's changing culture. There is no one reason why few people climb in Crafnant Valley any more. Despite its beauty, the quality of its climbs and its accessibility. Rather, there are several factors at work. Probably the main reason is the fact that Traditional Climbing has fallen victim to what younger climbers in particular seek from the activity. Why slog up to a crag which is outside of the popular orbit of most climbers, when you can play around on road side boulders or sport yourself on a bolted sports route? Then there is the ease by which you can climb abroad where sunshine and dry rock is almost guaranteed.

Another factor is competition from other activities which now entice would be climbers away from rock and winter climbing. Road and Mountain biking in particular has become phenomenally popular in the last decade. Parascending, Skiing, Fell Running, etc. etc. All activities more popular than ever. 2018, what is the future for crags like Craig Dinas and Craig Dwr? Trying to be positive, one would hope that these crag clean up days and the subsequent publicity, will entice more climbers to sample what's on offer hereabouts. The alternative and for me at least, the more likely scenario will be that these crags and areas like Crafnant will eventually return entirely back to nature.

Craig Dinas Clean Up Day. 

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