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Littlejohn & Neill Strip Bolts out of Gibson Routes

© Pat Littlejohn

Craig Arthur on the Clwyd limestone in Wales is one of the UK's finer traditional limestone cliffs and is home to classic hard routes such as Friday the Thirteenth (E5 6a) and Manic Mechanic (E6 6b).

Around two years ago the prolific and sometimes controversial bolter and new router Gary Gibson added some sport routes to the buttress. Gibson, who put up his 4000th new route earlier this year, has angered some climbers with his recent additions to this crag as some of his bolts have affected the traditional nature of the existing routes.

Tim Neill removing bolts from Manic Mechanic at Craig Arthur  © Pat Littlejohn
Tim Neill removing bolts from Manic Mechanic at Craig Arthur
© Pat Littlejohn

Tim Neill (active North Wales based climber and mountain guide) and Pat Littlejohn (first ascensionist of Friday the Thirteenth and well renowned climber and mountain guide), have been down to the crag and taken out several bolts that affected the traditional routes.

Pat commented to UKC:

"Craig Arthur is a major crag offering high quality trad climbs as well as sport climbs, which until recently had co-existed pretty well. I hope things can now ‘settle down’ on Nemesis Wall and there will be no further need to remove bolts placed on outstanding trad climbs."

Nemesis Wall Topo, Craig Arthur  © Rockfax
Nemesis Wall Topo, Craig Arthur
© Rockfax

1. Survival of the Fastest, E5 6a 8. Relentless, 7b+
2. Protect and Survive, E6 6b 9. Smokin' Gun, E6 6c
3. Survival of the Fattest, E5 6b 10. Tres Hombres, E6 6a
4. Revival of the Latest, 7a 11. Shootin' Blanks, E6 6c
5. Friday the Thirteenth, E5 6a 12. Mercury Rising, 7b+
6. Manic Mechanic, E6 6b 13. Steppin' Razor, E6 6b
7. Oblivion, 7b (no longer exists) 14. Marie Antoinette, E5 6b


The topo above shows the buttress, with the new sport routes marked in italic/bold. The first sport route Revival of the Latest has all of its bolts intact as it was not affecting any traditional routes. The bolts affecting Manic Mechanic and Friday the Thirteenth have been removed leaving a relatively easy run-out section on the new 7b+ of Relentless and removing the 7b of Oblivion completely as it was too close to the original routes, and in fact shared a lot of climbing with those routes.

The adding of these bolts has been discussed in the UKC forums already, and was first brought to light on the internet on Nick Bullock's Blog.

Pat Littlejohn guiding in Tien Shan  © Littlejohn Collection
Pat Littlejohn guiding in Tien Shan
© Littlejohn Collection
Pat Littlejohn is one of the UK's most inspirational climbers, having added many of his own traditional new routes to the cliffs of the UK, many of them onsight and without chalk. His Pembroke route Terminal Twilight (E7 6c) is thought to be the hardest UK new route climbed without chalk. Pat inspected the line on abseil a couple of weeks prior to his successful ascent and the only repeat ascent came 24 years later at the hands of James McHaffie (onsight, but with chalk). Interestingly this route is on the famous West Face of Huntsmans Leap, one of the best traditional cliffs in the UK. Some of the other routes on this face were first climbed by Gary Gibson, including the now classic and scary Souls (E6 6b).

In other news, Littlejohn has recently stepped down as Director of the well known International School of Mountaineering (ISM) in Leysin, Switzerland, and from now on the management team will be headed up by Adrian Nelhams, a well-travelled climber and mountaineer who has worked with ISM as a Guide for the past 18 years. Littlejohn has been the Director of ISM for the last 30 years, dividing his time between the alps and North Wales.

Pat is the first Director to actually retire from this job, all the others having been killed in the mountains.

The founder of ISM, John Harlin, was killed a year after setting up the school when a fixed rope broke during the first ascent of the Eiger Direct in 1966. Dougal Haston took over and ran the school for 10 years before being caught in an avalanche while skiing a couloir above Leysin. Pete Boardman became Director in 1977 when the school was at a low ebb (“just me and three rucksack’s of climbing gear”) and had a 5-year tenure before disappearing with Joe Tasker high on the ENE ridge of Everest.


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27 Nov, 2013
Worth mentioning that Friday the Thirteenth is Pat L’s own route. And, on the subject of Huntsman’s Leap, the long-forgotten Witch Hunt episode (never quite understood the name of this route; you’d have thought it would be a GG route). And, of course, Lundy, and…..no, perhaps on reflection it’s better not. jcm
27 Nov, 2013
Has Mr Gibson made any comments about this whole affair? Even with his, ahem, rather colourful history, I found this story rather depressing.
27 Nov, 2013
Good work fellas. The crag was/is becoming very overcrowded with poor sport routes at the detriment of the much greater quality sport routes. Strong Image!
27 Nov, 2013
Really, Manic for example snakes and wanders across the face of Nemesis wall, it is not even a good line, it is really a sport route with copious amounts of fixed gear. It was originally engineered with chipped holds, bolt, pegs and tat. There is even an aid peg mid-way through the final crux. Perhaps the remarkable lack of climber feedback on UKC for a supposedly classic 3 star route from the eighties gives a clue. There is a whiff of a wind up, or an attempt at a publicity stunt going on here. .
27 Nov, 2013
There was a lot of discussion about it at the time it appears on Nick Bullock's blogg. I think it's a good thing that the bolts have gone.
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