Tremadog - North Wales roadside trad cragging at its best

Pete Robins attempting Psyche and Burn (E6) Tremadog, 118 kb
Pete Robins attempting Psyche and Burn (E6) Tremadog
© Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor, Sep 2007
Although situated in the armpit of Wales (geographically speaking), Tremadog definitely doesn't stink. More often than not Tremadog can be the place to be, as whilst it is raining, cloudy and windy in the mountains the weather can be sunny, sheltered and warm at Tremadog. Those who have witnessed the magic that can happen when rounding the final 'Tremadog Corner' - as one seemingly changes climates from rain to sun as the crag looms near - will know that this is a place that can offer reliable year round cragging.

After a decade or so in the doldrums Tremadog is once again a favoured venue. This is in no small way due to the fantastic efforts of local climbers and the BMC Tremadog Festival, the place hasn't so much had a renaissance, but more a serious nip/tuck, with tree's felled, routes cleaned and access paths spruced up.

This means that more routes are accessible and much more rock is open to the Tremadog sunshine, as a consequence the rock dries quicker and stays warmer, great during the winter, but you might have to seek the shade in the height of summer.

A shadowy Shadrach at Tremadog., 109 kb
Ruth Smitton on Shadrach. Photo: Simon Richardson

As well as a revamp physically, Tremadog has had not one but two new guidebooks covering it published in 2010 courtesy of Rockfax and the Climbers' Club. If you have never been to Tremadog then basically it is made up of 4 major areas that are part of an escarpment that runs along a hillside that overlooks the village of Tremadog on the outskirts of Portmadog to the west of the Snowdon massif. It is pretty much at sea level.

"Tremadog has had not one but two new guidebooks covering it published in 2010"

The crags are predominantly made up of solid dolerite, with lots of positive edges, corners, arêtes, cracks and other features which make the climbing diverse and interesting, as well as fairly well endowed with protection. With routes ranging from Diff to E7 there is something here for everyone. The most accessible and therefore popular of the areas is...

High up above the crowds on Void (E3). Photo. Mark Reeves

Craig Bwlch y Moch (Tremadog)

Owned and managed by the BMC, because of this it has been kept clean and tidy by local and not so local climbers at the annual Tremadog Festival. As the most extensive of the crags it is often the most popular, seeing that it is spitting distance from the focal point of the crag Eric's Cafe, a great place to enjoy a brew and cakes before, during or after climbing some routes hereabouts. Possibly one of the most famous of the crags many buttresses is that of the Vector Buttress. Steep, complex terrain that is host to some of the best extreme routes in Wales, if not the UK. Routes like Joe Brown's Vector (E2) that celebrated its 50th Birthday in march 2010, Cream (E4), Void (E3), The Weaver (E2) and the rarely tamed Strawberries (E7).

"Routes like Joe Brown's Vector (E2) that celebrated its 50th Birthday in march 2010"

Other buttresses in this area are Grasper Buttress, Neb Buttress, Plum Area, Fang Area, Grim Wall Area, The Slips, Oakover Buttress, Merlin Buttress, Bobo Area, and Yogi Area. Hidden amongst these crags are many great routes.

Libby making use of double rope technique on the weaving line of Vector E2 5c, Tremadog, 101 kb
Libby Peter on the all time Tremadog classic Vector (E2). Photo. Mike Robertson

Top Ten Sub Extreme Routes of Blwch Y Moch

Hail Bebe (VD)
Oberon (S)
Valerie's Rib (HS)
Christmas Curry (S) or the Christmas Curry/Micah Finish (HS)
One Step in the Clouds (VS)
MeshachShadrach or Grim Wall (VS)
Yogi (VS)
Merlin Direct (HVS)
The Fang (HVS)

Top Ten Extreme Routes of Blwch Y Moch

Grim Wall Direct(E1)
Diadic (E1)
The Plum (E1)
Leg Slip (E1)
Vector (E2)
The Weaver (E2)
The Grasper (E2)
Void (E3)
Cream (E4)
Vulture (E4)

Valeries Rib, 142 kb
George Doone on Valerie's Rib a classic (HS). Photo. Mark Reeves

Craig Pant Ifan (Tremadog)

The next crag towards the village, and still within walking distance from Eric's Cafe, is Pant Ifan, owned by the CCW, and as such the 'cleaning work' has not and should not occur here. However many of the classic routes are totally clear of vegetation, the crag is quieter than Craig Blwch Y Moch, nevertheless the routes are if anything as good if not better than some of those on its neighbours. In particular this crag is arête heaven with Scratch Arte (HVS) and Silly Arte (E3) being routes of such quality that I would never turn down a chance to repeat them.

This section of the crag also includes the awesome Two Face Buttress and the popular single pitch beginners venue the Upper Tier.

Top 10 routes of Pant Ifan

Poor Man's Peuterey(S)
Scratch (VS)
Great Western/Monkey Puzzle Connection (HVS)
Scratch Arte (HVS)
Barbarian (E1)
Falcon (E1)
Integral (or the Direct) (E2 or E3)
Silly Arte (E3)
Fingerlicker (E4)
Vulcan (E4)

Craig y Castell (Tremadog)

This crag is situated above a small school and a new hospital at the end of the Tremadog village, although only small the crag has many fine routes, and is again less busy than Pant Ifan and Blwch Y Moch. It marks a turning point of the escarpment that makes up the Tremadog chain of cliffs. The routes hereabouts are still multipitch, and range from HS to E3. Creagh Dhu Wall (HS), The Wasp (E2), Tensor (E2) and Mensor (VS) are all worth a trip to this crag.

There are a few hidden gems tucked away on the broken buttresses that lead off towards the left hand side of the crag. Often overgrown, these are best left to the Autumn or Early spring before the new growth of brambles make the approach warrant a machete. The two routes worth seeking out when you have climbed out the buttress are Lonely Edge (E2) and Pert (E3), both taking in some great arête features.

Christmas Curry - Micah Finish, 111 kb
Christmas Curry - Micah Finish
© Mark Reeves
Grim Wall Direct, 130 kb
Grim Wall Direct
© Mark Reeves

Over the years a little sport has been undertaken by regulars to Tremadog that involves climbing all of the extremes that begin with the letter V - in a day. The routes are Valor, Vector, Venom, Void, Vulcan and Vulture (A good selection if ever there was). This makes a pretty tough outing and although I did all the climbs, I never managed to get them all done in a day!

Mark Glaister - UKC destinations editor

Craig y Gesail (Tremadog)

This crag is the end of the Tremadog Crags, and is shorter and less well defined. There are however a couple of routes worth seeking out if you want a bit of solitude. The routes here are far less 'classic' than any on the other cliffs, although a couple of exceptions are Bramble Buttress (VDiff) a pleasant lower grade climb with a stunning finale, Plumbline (VS) and Touch and Go (VS).

Top Ten Esoteric of Tremadog

Striptease (VS)
Rienetta (VS)
Stromboli (HVS)
Chwys (E1)
Valor (E2)
Itch (E2)
Strapiombo (5.9 OW or HVS in UK money)
Cardiac Arte (E3)
Titanium Man (E3)

Strawberries E7 6b - Pete Robins goes for the On-Sight., 233 kb
Pete Robins on Tremadog's famous hard line Strawberries (E7). Photo: Tristan Johnson

The Sting in the tail
Nick Smith - UKC


When do I go? Tremadog is truly a crag for all seasons, if there is sunshine then you can climb year round, especially if the wind is blowing over the top of the crag. Spring and Autumn are great as well. In the heat of the summer the crag can get too hot. What is special about Tremadog is that it often escapes the rain and bad weather associated with the higher mountain crags.

Getting to Tremadog? From the A5, turn left at Capel Curig and follow the A498 to Tremadog via beddgelert. From the A55, follow the A55 to Bangor and take the third signposted exit to Bangor also signposted Caernarfon A487, follow the signposts on this road to Portmadog, just before Portmadog you reach the market square of Tremadog, carry straight on down the A498 for about a mile, where you will find Eric's Cafe and parking for the crag. Parking at Eric's will cost you a small amount of money, although there is a small free parking area at the base of Craig Blwch Y Moch, and it is possible to park on the verge below Pant Ifan.

Where do I stay? Many people will want to stay closer to the heart of North Wales climbing in Llanberis, there are however some places a lot closer to Tremadog. In particular Eric's Cafe has a camp site behind it, as well as a bunkhouse and if your feeling flush a Holiday Let. Bromsgrove Mountaineering Club also have a hut at the foot of Valerie's Rib.

What's the scoff like? Eric's does a good line in Cafe food, and Portmadog has a few eating establishments, as well as a supermarket. The Golden Fleece in the village of Tremadog is a bit of a walk from the campsite, but serves food and has wifi access

Which guide do I buy? North Wales Classics by Rockfax (2010) covers all of the best climbing whilst the new CC Tremadog guide (2010) has coverage of all the routes. North Wales Rock (2006) by Ground-up has a seletion of Tremadog's finest climbs

Where can I buy gear and food? Again Eric's Cafe sells guidebooks to the area, as well as a limited supply of climbing equipment. Other than that you will have to head back to Llanberis and shop in V12 Outdoor or Joe Browns.

What else is there apart from the climbing? Well if it is raining then you have a couple of options, if it is light rain a few routes can stay dry, in particular the first pitches of Vector and Cream to the cave, similarly Striptease is very sheltered. The other wet weather alternative can be The Hyll Drem Girdle or the small bouldering wall at the bottom right hand side of that crag. For a cultural experience maybe visit Port Meirion, the architectural marvel that was the set of the 1970's TV classic The Prisoner. If you have a mountain bike then about 30 minutes south is Coed Y Brenin which has some great way-marked trails of all difficulties. In terms of climbing walls there is a wall in one of Eric's Barns, however the the closest decent wall is the Beacon Climbing Centre back over towards Waunfawr, again the Indy Wall can be worth a visit if the weather is really foul, and you have already spent too long in the Beacon.

Photo Gallery

Caff, extreme gardening on Strawberries - Tremfest

Caff, extreme gardening on Strawberries - Tremfest
© jethro kiernan

Nico Favresse attempting to onsight Strawberries.

Nico Favresse attempting to onsight Strawberries.
© Alex Messenger

Pete Robins attempting Psyche and Burn (E6) Tremadog

Pete Robins attempting Psyche and Burn (E6) Tremadog
© Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor

the delicate overhanging groove (or pod) that leads to the headwall on the final pitch of Void (E3,6a) on Craig Bwlch y Moch

the delicate overhanging groove (or pod) that leads to the headwall on the final pitch of Void (E3,6a) on Craig Bwlch y Moch
© ronlayters

3:17, after almost full moon climbing at Tremadog

3:17, after almost full moon climbing at Tremadog
© m_gas


© jethro kiernan

one step in the clouds

one step in the clouds
© Nadir khan

Strawberries E7 6b - Pete Robins goes for the On-Sight.

Strawberries E7 6b - Pete Robins goes for the On-Sight.
© Tristan Johnson

The Void, Tremadog

The Void, Tremadog
© Steve Ashton

Near the top of P1

Near the top of P1
© Calder

Si and Ali on Poor Man's Peuterey

Si and Ali on Poor Man's Peuterey
© Alaister Nurse

Fist pitch of Oberon. Yet another dry day at Tremadog when everywhere was damp or raining

Fist pitch of Oberon. Yet another dry day at Tremadog when everywhere was damp or raining
© berwyn

Summit of the Old Man of Hoy
Mark Reeves is a photographer, climbing instructor, writer and film maker. He is also a member of the Llanberis mountain rescue team. If you hurt yourself on a crag in the Llanberis pass, he may well be coming to your aid.

You can read more about Mark Reeves on his blog: Life in the Vertical

Mark is also a professional Mountaineering Instructor. You can find out more on his other site:

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