There are no more scenic places to visit than the south stack area on Holyhead mountain a place im very fond off. Many hours have been whittled away climbing different routes with various friends passing summers by. It has a special draw to me.. The big lump of Quartzite that sticks out prominently over the skyline of Holy Island is a mythical place of legend that has a place the folk lore of Welsh History. Its an atmospheric place and weather can change in a heart beat. Lashed by stormy westerly winds all autumn and winter it can feel a hostile place that needs respect if your climbing. It’s world renound in the climbing world for the famous sea cliff climbing of Gogarth in north wales and attracts professional and season climbers alike from all over the world to do combat with the sea cliffs here.. Our focus was not the sea cliffs proper today but the escarpment on the back of the Holyhead Mountain that was the remenants of the last glacial ambush here in north wales.
A short walk from the old white quarry on the road to south stack, where we parked our cars, past the fishing reservoir and up top to the climbing crag. Climbing bag is packed full of kit as I couldn’t decide what we where going to do with the evolving weather patterns here. By evolving what I mean is pouring down then dry then pouring down the dry- repeat. Big boots where packed for a bit of winter fitness for the 15 minute walk up the track and started the scramble up to our first climbing route.
We have a amazing climbing guides here in north Wales written by Mr Simon Panton who has painstakingly re written the north wales climbing guides and done so excellently his north wales climbing guides are our trusty companions on all outings and are full of colourful topographic images of the climbs themselves if your heading out take one with you the are called North Wales Rock and Gogarth North.
After perusing the guide book we (as in my guest from the Nedderlands Niki who was and is an A&E consultant and Dr Daffydd a local Anaesthetist who is my go to climbing partner locally here) anyhow we decided on attempting two small multpitch routes, which could be climbed in one people may argue, but nothing wrong with practicing a bit of belay and rope skills. Routes D’Elephant and 66 where choosen and I racked up the gear onto the harness, put the climbing shoes on, chalked up and tied in for the off.
The great thing about climbing on Holyhead is that the rock is very positive (as in jagged and spikey for non climbers- as opposed to smooth like sandstone) spikey is rather easy to climb. The routes we choose are super easy and meant for a bit of a winter warmer up as I think all three of us had not been out on the rock in earnest for many months. It’s a pleasure to climb on the mountain, great views, calm winds and oh did I mention its fairly well protected for climbing gear also? When we are doing what we call “ traditional Climbing “ we are putting protective equipment in the rock and then clipping into it for our safety. This stops us if and when we fall form hitting the ground, which is always a good thing.
I led the first pitch of D’elephant (VD) which stands for very difficult (but in this case isn’t!), I climbed to the belay point set up my protection on belay and then belayed Niki as she climbed up to me. We had a few minutes break, then she continued after switching some of the climbing gear onto her harness and she led the second pitch, which was a bit more wet then we had anticipated to say the least.. the small rivers of water we saw running donw the track on the walk up should have given us some indication of the prior rain fall the crag had gone through that morning and what we where now in the middle of a rather wet rock. Not ideal. Niki finished the climb very well and then made a belay so I could climb upto here. Great views ensued.
To get down back to the start point you can walk off and scramble down which is always great, long walks in tight climbing shoes are not enjoyable.
A swap of climbing gear and we where onto the next climb of the day one of my old favourite’s Route 66 a lovely two pitch climb that has a couple of different style mixed together from a little layback style to begin with then a more vertical wall section above, all very well protected again. Belay stance in the centre is a beauty of a flake which you can put a sling around and stand and belay.
Niki led the first part and the I followed and led the second part this time switching it up for a mix. You never forget a climb like this and it’s a pleasure to climb on the mountain with all its quirks and peculiarities.
Climb finished we descended back down to the start and had a well deserved coffee and chat, then the walk back to our cars.. Rather than heading straight home we took our guest to the Sea Shanty, Trearddur bay for yet more coffee and cake- well why not we earnt it!
Now just as an after thought some of you who may not climb and may want to know how you can go and what gar to have, and some of you may be climbers not local to the area but want to know what kit we use here so I’m going to list some sources below.
Final point. There are many many more places to climb in north Wales. Snowdonia national park is littered with some of the best climbing in the UK in the Llanberis Pass. Snowdonia national park offers also two other main valleys with may rock escarpments to climb at such as the Nantle Valley, Ogwen Valley. I will do some more blogs and articles on this in the future.
Weather guide :
Climbing lessons for beginner outdoors :
Plas Y Brenin,
Climbing kit I use here :
Petzl Calidris Harness, Edelrid Heron Pro rock climbing rope, Five Ten Anasazi Velcro Rock Shoe –, DMM Starter’s Nut Set, DMM Spectre Quickdraw Trad Set (5 Mixed Lengths), DMM Dragon Cams set 2,3,4,
Obviously this is a small snapshot of the gear we use but it will give you a an idea to start off. Also have a look at our previous blogs on Rock climbing in north Wales .