North Wales Climbs Rockfax Review

© Rockfax

I love a new guidebook, even to an area I'm super familiar with like North Wales. It allows me to view places with fresh eyes, often giving some much needed inspiration. At 544 pages the new edition of North Wales Climbs is a weighty tome, probably not the sort of thing you'd want to carry up Cloggy (does anyone do that these days?), but it is jam packed full of inspiration and information on the area's best rock climbs. In terms of both new inclusions and presentation, it's an improvement on the original, which came out a whole decade ago.

North Wales Climbs cover  © Rockfax

The first 25 pages are taken up with logistical information, useful to the first time visitor: things like where to stay, when to go and that sort of thing - with the occasional inspiring action shot thrown in to keep your interest piqued.

Then follows a helpful section on access, required gear, bolts and bolt funds, tides, and a graded list, which at a glance seems to be relatively accurate. Though Hogmanay Hangover (an esoteric Hard Severe at Pant Ifan) is listed as both the hardest Severe and Hard Severe - it can't be both, and in my distant memory it is very much the latter!

The book describes most of the great crags and climbs in North Wales, in the now-familiar, easy to use Rockfax format. Thankfully all crags are described from left to right, the illogical alternatives used by some non-Rockfax guidebooks being one of my favourite pet hates.

Informative topos and inspiring action shots  © Rockfax
Informative topos and inspiring action shots
© Rockfax

There are a few notable inclusions and omissions however. I'd have also liked to have seen Cromlech Girdle and Nightmayer included on Dinas Cromlech. The Ogwen section seems great, with lots of welcome new additions. I thought it was a bit of shame that there were so few action shots in this section, as it is one of the best low grade climbing areas in the UK. In the Carneddau I particularly enjoyed the double topo of the lower wall of Craig yr Ysfa, which is very tricky to photograph. Here, as elsewhere, Rockfax have used a drone to great effect to get as good a topo as possible.

The inclusion of the routes on the left hand side of Craig y Castell at Tremadog, which are esoteric in the extreme, seemed a bit over the top for a selective guidebook. Elsewhere there are a number of new crags included in the Betws y Coed/Moelwynion area. Carreg y Foel Gron, Craig Dines, and Craig Rhiw Goch were all totally off my radar before publication of this book. The drone-assisted topos and action shots of these crags will definitely inspire me to make future visits. I'd also have liked to have seen the inclusion of the recently revitalised Clogwyn yr Adar.

Drone photography adds a new level of clarity to crag diagrams  © Rockfax
Drone photography adds a new level of clarity to crag diagrams
© Rockfax

The climbing on Anglesey is one of the areas that has seen the biggest increase since the previous edition. Dozens more routes have been added to both the North and South Stack sections. Interestingly neither State of Saturation or Poseidon, two great mid-grade routes at the ever popular Castell Helen, have been included. That said it was great to see the recently rediscovered, and totally brilliant, Main Wall on the Main Cliff included in a guidebook for the first time.

I was less sure about the additional crags included at the Range, Porth Dafarch and the left side of Rhoscolyn - having climbed a few of these, they're not exactly North Wales' greatest hits, and are the sort of venues best left to the Rockfax App. Personally I'd rather this space in the book were given to the very best of the Llyn Peninsula. Equally I was surprised not to see the popular mid-grade sport climbs at Fedr Fawr included.

All the favourites are in there...  © Rockfax
All the favourites are in there...
© Rockfax

The North Coast limestone is another area that has seen big expansion since the last edition, and it's great to see many more routes on the Orme, and the inclusion of Penmaenbach Quarry. That said the routes on the left end of Penmaenhead (left of Tunnel Vision), directly above the A55, are some of the worst in Wales. How anyone was motivated enough to clean and bolt them is a mystery to me. These climbs make Horseshoe Quarry look like the Verdon Gorge, and have no place in a select guidebook. Especially when Craig y Forwyn, one of the most idyllic venues on the North Coast, where one can often climb in December, and also the popular mid grade sport at Llandullas Cave, have been omitted from the book.

But then one of the fun things about selective guides is arguing about inclusions and omissions, since no one is ever likely to agree on everything.

All in all North Wales Climbs is an improvement on the previous edition, with many extra routes, great topos, and inspiring action shots. It has been produced using the tried and tested Rockfax formula, which most climbers will be familiar with, and is very easy to use.

See crag coverage UKC Guidebook page


North Wales Climbs Cover
North Wales Climbs

North Wales Climbs spans the major mountain crags from Llanberis Pass, to Cloggy; and from Ogwen to the Carneddau. It also includes the Llanberis Slate quarries, Tremadog, the Moelwyns, the Gwynant Valley, Mid-Wales, Gogarth and the Ormes of Llandudno. As is normally the case with the selected Rockfax guidebooks, the choice of what to include is based as much on the crag it is on as the route itself. If we include a crag then we tend to include a good selection of routes on that crag.

The 2023 edition builds on the successful 2013 edition with many extra routes and mostly new aerial crag photography throughout. All the maps...

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31 May, 2023

The reviewer sates that "the routes on the left end of Penmaenhead (left of Tunnel Vision), directly above the A55, are some of the worst in Wales. How anyone was motivated enough to clean and bolt them is a mystery to me. These climbs make Horseshoe Quarry look like the Verdon Gorge, and have no place in a select guidebook." Presumably he means Trench Wall. If so why doesn't he say so? Its very odd describing it to the left of Tunnel Vision when Trench Wall is an entirely separate area some distance away down steps and at right angles To Tunnel Vision. Those who have done some of the 34 routes there disagree. Of those ascents logged on UKC almost none get no stars. Many get 2 and some get 3. How is the reviewers opinion so utterly at odds with the experience of those who have done the climbs?

31 May, 2023

At the Rockfax company meeting On their hands - a dead guide book And oh, the plans they weave And oh, the sickening greed Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! Re-evaluate the climbs Double-pack with a photograph Extra route (and a tacky badge)

Hey Rockcat,

Yep - I mean Trench Wall. Sorry I didn’t know it was called that.

It’s a pretty grotty area right next to the A55. It is very noisy - the only time I could imagine it is tranquil would either be in the dead or night, or if Wales were in the knockout stages of a major sporting tournament. The rock is quarried, and there is litter everywhere. It’s the sort of place where I wouldn’t be surprised to find a murder victim.

How these routes get any stars is a mystery to me.

This is an inappropriate venue to be described in a selective guide to North Wales. It’s a inclusion does a disservice to the quality of the routes in North Wales.

If you don’t believe me go and climb at any other crag in the guidebook, and report back regarding the quality of the one and two star routes.

Remember, a two star route should be really bloody good.

Something like Rat Race, or Icarus, or Wen, or Lighthouse Arête. I could go on…

31 May, 2023

Slight geographical change, but on the same topic of 2 star routes. Last week I climbed Cooks Tour on Pavey Ark. A 2 star route apparently (that's in the FRCC guides, not sure about RF). Yet it is a botanical excursion with plenty of dirty, but mostly just dense vegetation, before some mild redemption in the final pitch. Anyway, it's done now. Gimmer tomorrow :-)

Cover shot on the new NWRF is brilliant

I can see where this is coming from. The review bemoans the omission of Adar, forwyn, llandulas, and a few similar venues. This tells me the reviewer has done loads of climbing in the area and is operating in the mid extremes. Most of the rockfax audience won't be, and anyone who is can likely justify owning the definitives, so the authors probably made the right call. And you don't need a guidebook for Adar anyway.

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