North Wales is one of the UK's premier bouldering destinations. Home to a variety of rock types surrounded by stunning views, it's an area that should be on every boulderers hit list. From the beautifully situated beach bouldering at Porth Ysgo, to the steep, never ending valleys of Snowdonia, to the limestone of the Great Orme, North Wales appeals to everyone's appetite.
North Wales has historically been home to some of the hardest test pieces in the UK such as Pools of Bethesda (8A+) first climbed back in 2000 by Paul Higginson, along with more modern additions like; Isles of Wonder (8B), Dead and Bloated (8B), and the yet to be repeated Das Pumpenhausen (8B), first climbed by visiting German climber Alex Megos. Don't be fooled however, this isn't just a destination for those who can hang from one arm on the bottom edge of a Beastmaker, whilst holding a kettle bell in the other hand. Here you will find some of the best 5's, 6's and 7's in the UK; The Pinch (7A+), Lordy, Lordy (6C), Roof Of A Baby Buddha (7C+), Ysgo Crack (5A), Manou (7C), Ultimate Warrior (7B), King Of Drunks (7A), Boyson's Groove (6B) to name a few, all of which should be considered British classics. With so many rock types in such a close proximity, you can climb many different styles in a day.
Llanberis Pass is an excellent location for those seeking quality circuits and as it is only 5 minutes from the village of Llanberis it's very accessible. You can work your way from the convenience of the Cromlech roadside boulders up to The Utopia Boulders, The Wavelength Boulders and beyond with ease but be prepared to walk a little. The Cromlech boulders are home to a range of quality problems including The Edge (6C+), The Ramp (5B) and Heel Hook Traverse (6B). Parking is directly opposite the main wall so it's perfect for a quick hit before setting up camp after a long drive.
A few hundred metres down the road towards Llanberis you will find the famous Cromlech boulders, home to the aptly named Jerry's Roof (7C) among others, first climbed by the man himself, Jerry Moffat, in 1989. If it's within your ability, it's a must do for North Wales. The problems on the opposite side of the valley surrounding the Wavelength boulder are another must visit for anyone seeking out the classics. Problems such as Boysen's Groove (6B), King Of Drunks (7A), and Lordy, Lordy (6C) are not only some of the best problems in North Wales but climb on some of the best rock that North Wales has to offer. Staying in vans in the laybys throughout the pass is generally fine but please make sure to clean up after yourselves.
Just like Llanberis Pass, the neighbouring Ogwen Valley offers convenient roadside areas as well as some more esoteric ones for those looking to avoid the crowds. Home to some of the most popular areas such as Sheep Pen and the Caseg Boulders plus many more. This valley is home to classics like the The Pinch (7A+), Caseg Groove (6C+) and Paul O Grady - Sit down start (7B+) to name a few. All of which are accompanied by beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, and depending on which end of the valley you are climbing in, views all the way to the sea are not uncommon. The Ogwen cottage has a café for those pre or post session snacks.
Porth Ysgo on the Llyn Peninsula is a personal favourite due to its location and seaside boulders, this combined with beautiful views overlooking the sea and in a perfect spot to watch the sun set makes for an idyllic bouldering destination. Here you will find some old school problems from the likes of Ben Moon as well as new school classics. Problems to look out for would include The Incredible Shaking Man SS (7B), Popcorn Party (7A), Ysgo Crack (5A) and Made In Heaven (6B+). This area thrives as a winter destination as it gets the sun all day. In summer it can be pretty warm and due to the colour of the rock, it soaks up the heat. Make sure to check the tides as some of the boulders are tidal. The rock here can be harsh on the skin so make sure you have plenty.
Limestone and Other Areas
For the limestone lovers, there's plenty; Angel Bay, Manor Crag, Pigeons Cave Boulder and of course the all-weather favourite Parisella's Cave. These areas surround Llandudno and the A55 making it a popular destination for day trippers from across the border. For the climbing on The Great Orme there is a toll fee of £3 if you're driving, but if you're thinking of returning to this area on a frequent basis, I would advise purchasing a years pass to the Marine Drive from the town hall in Llandudno for £20.
Crafnant is one of the best areas in North Wales. The bouldering is situated below the cliff at the back of the Crafnant Valley. A very high grade of Dolerite makes this some of the nicest rock you will climb on in North Wales. The main problems here are Riley's Arete sds (6C+), Cruella (7B), Wonderwall (7B+), Grasswind (7C) and Special K (7C). An isolated valley with stunning views provides a great day out.
Scattered among the mountains you will find smaller areas, although there may only be a couple of problems here they should still be on your list. Cwm Pennant, Clogfaeni y Llys, Coed Maesnewyddion and Aberglaslyn's Black Rhino boulder are home to some of the best 7's in the country. Tan Y Grisiau, by Bleanau Ffestiniog is also an area well worth checking out, surrounded by slate mines and home to one of the best of its grade Tempest (7A), among other gems such as Flick of the Wrist (7C+) make it a great spot with easy access.
Access isn't a huge concern in North Wales but some areas may mean crossing farmers land in order to reach them so please be respectful. Most places however are easily accessible. If you're unsure please check with the guys at V12 Outdoor, northwalesbouldering.com or a friendly local.
When do I go?
The great thing about North Wales is that it's an all year round destination, in summer there's the areas at higher elevation for those wanting to avoid the heat. Autumn and Spring are the best in terms of weather and conditions.
Where do I stay?
There are numerous places to accommodate you. Campsites, B&B's or just van it and stay in a layby. Be aware, if you stay in one layby too long you may be moved on. If doing it this way, please respect the beauty of this place and leave no trace.
Which guide do I buy?
At the time of writing this article there is no current guide book available for North Wales bouldering but Simon Panton's new edition is very close to being completed. In the meantime, you can find information at Northwalesbouldering.com or by asking the guys at V12 Outdoor. Boulder Britain and a few of the CC guides also feature the more popular areas.
What's the scoff like?
Whatever you're after, I'm sure you will find a place that serves it. Places to keep in mind would be the famous Pete's Eats café and Pizza & Pint in Llanberis. There's also a host of Bakery's to keep your sugar levels high for those long days out, most serve the famous Bara Brith.
Where can I buy gear and food?
Llanberis has a Spar and Bethesda has a Tesco Express for those last minute bits. For those who are wanting more of a choice then Bangor isn't far away where you will find many different supermarkets. In terms of climbing gear there are a few options such as Joe Browns and V12 Outdoor in Llanberis where you can get a delicious coffee to soften the blow of your purchase.