A Guide to Rock Climbing in Llangollen and the Dee Valley

A Guide to Rock Climbing in Llangollen and the Dee Valley

December 10, 2018 Off By Ray Lindley

The Llangollen area is not perhaps the first place that springs to mind when you think about rock climbing in North Wales. It is often ignored by the hordes travelling West to the famous routes and crags of Snowdonia. But if you fancy getting away from the crowds and exploring a beautiful area with a host of climbing through the grades then it is worth stopping off to see what is on offer.

Sunset Rock Climbing at Furry Wall, near Trefor quarry, Llangollen
Sunset Climbing at Furry Wall, near Trefor quarry, Llangollen

Much of the climbing is contained within the Eglwyseg valley. This extends from the Trefor quarry area just behind Dinas Bran castle, to Worlds End, a few miles to the North. The crags are all formed from Carboniferous Limestone and whilst there was some quarrying at Trefor, most of the crags are in their natural state.

There is a mixture of sport and trad climbing reflecting the history of the development of the climbing in the Dee Valley. Through the 70s and 80s when the majority of the routes were established it was not unusual for a mixture of trad and fixed gear to be used, especially on the harder routes. Some original pegs and bolts of dubious origins still exist, use at your own risk! Nowadays the line between sport and trad is more clear. Modern shiny bolts and lower offs on routes with a sport grade, and trad grades elsewhere. 

Rock Climbing at Monument Boulders near Llangollen
Climbing at Monument Boulders near Llangollen

There is also some fun bouldering. There are small outcrops near the panaroma road and  on the Monument Boulders (on the skyline above Trevor Hall woods). Mostly this area is not graded and more  a case of exploring the sandstone formations. However take a mat for the rocky landings!

So, What do you fancy? Trad, sport, easy to hard routes

For some lower grade bolt clipping the crags in the Trefor Quarry area offer plenty of routes up to 6c. ‘The Suspect Area.’ (the first along the path from the parking below the quarry) is popular, with routes from 4 to 6c. This popularity does mean however that many of the routes are fairly polished.

A little more walking will bring you to a small section of easy trad climbing on Railway buttress. Short routes ideal for first steps intrad climbing.

Compact wall is a little further on from here, and was the section first developed. Some great routes here on good rock mostly sport inthe 6s.

Rock Climbing on Limestone at Maeshafn, North of Llangollen
Rock Climbing on Limestone at Maeshafn, North of Llangollen

Further on are a number of other sections with a range of sport and a few trad climbs. They all tend to be in the lower grades and fairly short. The wider area includes limestone Climbing at Maeshafn to the North and igneous Rock at Pandy Outcrop to the South.

One point worth mentioning is that a number of the lower offs have been subject to a lot of wear particularly on Suspect wall. This is likely due to repeated top roping using the lower offs. Please be considerate if top roping, and use some karabiners instead of threading the lower offs.

A little further on is Dinbren,  the first of a series of crags which extend up the Eglwyseg valley away from Llangollen, all of the crags having their individual character, combining trad and sport routes in varying degrees.  All the crags are easily accessed, with the walk in typically under 30 minutes, although it can take longer to reach the extremities of the crags. A number of the crags have very steep slopes underneath them adding a great sense of exposure straight away. At the top you are generally rewarded with fantastic views of the area.

Dinbren crag, behind the castle, is home to some testing sport climbing. Regarded as the top sport crag in the area it has routes from 6b to 8b+. It is also home to some excellent trad climbing with routes from v diff to E6. The climbing is spread over several sections of crag with the left wing mainly consisting of sport with trad and a few sport lines on the right wing.

Monks Buttress is mostly trad climbing with fewer routes than most, and is less visited too, but there are some quality routes here to enjoy such as Jibber and Sir Cathcart D’Eath.

Next up is Pinfold. Great views are the reward for a steep walk in. There are plenty of routes to keep you busy here with a host of top quality sport routes in the 7s, and some fantastic trad climbing. Kinberg is definitely worth the walk.

Twilight is a bit of a dark horse, a longer walk in than pinfold and a reputation for loose rock. But be brave, wear a helmet and there are some worthwhile lines such as Funeral Corner and Penetration Factor.

Craig Arthur is the tallest and most imposing of the crags along the valley, as such it has the only multi pitch cimbing in the valley. With most routes being in the E grades, it isn’t a beginners crag, but there are some cracking routes here such as Digitron and Manikins of Horror.

World’s End sits at the head of the valley with a nice feeling of seclusion and, at the top end of the crag, some great exposure and views. Close to my heart, this is the crag where I started climbing. I have many memories of climbing here, from my first E2 (Hornblower) to the helicopter evacuation of a guy who fell off.  The routes are mainly trad, and range from V diff to E6. The easy routes at the end of the crag can be quite polished due to group use over the years, but there are plenty of good lines further on. Not as popular as it used to be, this crag has some great routes such as Tearg Wall  and Intensity.

In the Ceiriog valley near Chirk (just down the A5 from Llangollen), we can find Pandy outcrop. Not limestone here, but some lovely Ordivician tuff, rough and pocketed.  A nicely placed crag overlooking the valley, it has a gently angled slab and a more vertical section with some good exciting routes like Face Value and Victims.

So there we have a quick look at the climbing in the Llangollen area. There are other places to climb in the wider area (still referred to as Clwyd despite the fact that the county of Clwyd ceased to exist  in 1996), to discover these, and more about the local crags you will just have to come to ProAdventure in Llangollen and buy the guidebook!

So, why not pop off of the A5 for some quiet atmospheric sport or trad climbing with stunning views and great limestone. Pop into ProAdventure the outdoor shop for a local climbing guide book or some advice on where to go from one of our climbers on the staff. Above all enjoy some of the stunning rock climbing in the Llangollen area.