5 of the Best VDiff Routes in North Wales
North Wales is home to lots of amazing trad climbing and is where many people begin their trad climbing journey. In this series of posts we’ll be looking at five of the best routes at various grades, starting with VD (very difficult).
The mountain crags of Eryri/Snowdonia are perfect for classic mountain routes, especially at more accessible grades. However this isn’t to say these routes are easy, they are all fairly long and complicated with good ropework and efficiency needed in order to get back to the car in the light!
Hope - Idwal Slab (VD)
Hope of the Idwal Slabs in Cwm Idwal is one of the more easily accessed climbs on this list, although it still requires some mountain and common sense for the scramble descent at the end of the route. Described by Rockfax as the “Classic of the classics”, this route is certainly popular and has the associated polish to go with the title, this doesn’t make much difference to the climbing though.
The route follows a system of cracks for about 5 pitches or 140m of climbing and was first climbing by Emily Daniel (nee Young), which would have been fairly unusual in 1915. If you are interested in geology look out for the interesting quartz intrusions on your way up.
At the top of the route, scramble up to the left and then follow the fairly worn path for a few hundred metres (there are a few scratched arrows on the way which are useful, but please don’t add more). Finally you will arrive at a section which steeply drops into a gully, there are a few options for descending, with most people either scrambling (stay right as much as possible, if the holds aren’t massive you are on the wrong bit) or abseiling (check abseil stations are well constructed). From here follow the path down, make sure you stick slightly right otherwise you end up coming down a grade 2 scramble.
Grooved Arete - Tryfan (HVD)
Grooved Arete is one of the longest routes on the list at 230m and also slightly tricker at the grade of HVD 4a. It also has one of the longest and trickiest descents with the option of either summiting Tryfan and walking down the south ridge or by going down Tryfan north ridge which is a top end grade 1 scramble.
The route is located on the heather terrace on the east face of Tryfan and has GA carved into the rock at the bottom (again, please don’t add your own scratches to the rock). After a tricky start which can be skirted around with some sneaky route finding there are a few easier pitches. This leads into some tricker pitches, with a 4a move in there to keep you on your toes. One of the highlights of this route is the “knights move” across the chessboard, I won’t give too much away but its an interesting unique rock feature to look out for. After this the difficulties steadily ease again until you reach the top of the route.
Flying Buttress - Dinas Cromlech (VD)
The only route on the list I haven’t climbed but would certainly like to. Flying Buttress is situated on one of the most iconic crags in the UK, the open book corner of Dinas Cromlech. Whilst I might not have climbed this route personally, I’ve climbed quite a few of the other routes on the crag and they have all been outstanding, both for their climbing and position looking down on the valley.
A slightly shorter route at 90m, but with some complicated terrain to cover and 6 pitches of climbing this isn’t a route to be underestimated.
Direct Route - Milestone Buttress (VD)
Direct Route is a roadside classic in the Ogwen valley and is probably the least committing route on this list, although it isn’t without its challenges. My favourite part about this route is the memorable features you encounter along the way, on the first pitch a slippery crack followed by a tricky move over an overlap, on the second pitch a leg jamming crack followed by an exposed flake traverse and on the final pitch a squirmy chimney. All the elements of a classic!
To descend from the route you can either abseil off an insitu station that is often there on the top of the second pitch, or if you are completing the third pitch traverse right (looking uphill) to the top of the gully, from here several abseils will get you back down to the bottom of the crag.
Table Direct - Cadair Idris (VD)
Table Direct is a VD that goes into the classic scramble Cyfrwy Arete and is probably the most underrated route on this list. Often Cadair Idris, located at the far south of Eryri/Snowdonia National Park is overlooked in favour of more geographically central routes. With only four pitches of climbing this is one of the shortest routes on the list, but when combined with the full Arete it’s possibly a contender for the longest.
The bottom of the route can be slightly challenging to find, so do take care to make sure you are in the right location because the rock off the beaten track can be a bit loose and poor quality. The four pitches are fairly straightforward and can be linked together, but they are quite steep and care needs to be taken with some looser rock than the other routes. The final pitch finishes on the table feature, from here drop down to the niche to find the start of Cyfrwy Arete. When you are at the top of the Arete you can either head left to the summit, or right to find the path leading back to the car park.
Symphony Crack - Rhoscolyn (D)
Hanging above the sea, waves crashing underneath, sun setting over the horizon. Is there a better way to enjoy moving on rock? I’m not sure. Symphony Crack is a great introduction to the world of sea cliff climbing and I’ve included it in the list as a bonus route because of the unique position at the grade.
It might not be the longest route in the world, but for climbers wanting their first sea cliff experience at a moderate grade its the perfect place to start. A short down scramble takes you to a short traverse pitch with a semi hanging belay perched above the ocean. From here a steep move or two on good holds leads you into the groove crack to the left of the large jutting pillar, this crack is followed to the top of the route. Unlike the other routes there isn’t a descent description because you’ve finished at the top! Best followed up with ice creams on the beach at the Sea Shanty in Trearddur bay.