We've covered VD to Hard Severe routes so far in our "best in North Wales" series. This time we are looking at the best rock climbs graded Very Severe, which might be tricky because there are some great ones to choose from.
One Step in the Clouds VS 4c - Bwlch Y Moch Tremadog
As one of the most popular routes in the UK, let along North Wales it would be hard not to kick the list off with this classic VS.
When you arrive at Tremadog, the line of One Step prominently looms above you, sneaking around to the left of the steep roofs and faces of Vector buttress. The first two pitches are the meat of the route, both with a similar level of difficulty at VS 4c. Pitch one starts up a steep groove before an easy traverse on a large ledge leads to a series of grooves which are progressively trickier (although there are some nice jugs at the top of the final one).
After belaying on a large spike you then traverse slightly left before climbing up to the right, following the undercut edge of the face (stepping into the clouds as it were). At some points this pitch is slightly run out, but the gear and holds are good, so follow your nose and keep going!
The final pitch joins the classic VD Hail Bebe for a wild traverse along a huge flake. This can be unnerving the first time, but it's not as tricky as it looks. This leads you to the ledge at the top of the ultra classic E7 Strawberries where you can bask in the knowledge that the greats have been here before you. At this point you can belay, but I normally scramble up the last 5m or so section to belay on the very top.
Direct Route - VS 5b Dinas Mot
I'm not going to quite go as far as saying levitation is required for the crux pitch of Direct Route, but it certainty packs a punch and standing on your partners shoulders might be required!
Overlooking the Llanberis pass Direct Route is a solid VS adventure up well travelled cracks and grooves. At 74m long with four pitches and an abseil descent it requires good multipitch climbing and route finding skills in order to make a successful ascent.
The highlight of this route is the outrageous final pitch which features a very thin crack at the back of a glassy smooth bridging corner. Cunning stemming and laybacking can get you up the move, but if it isn't quite possible a pull on the gear or leg up from your mate can tame the beast. Once you are at the top, pat yourself on the back and heckle as your partner struggles to second.
Laverado - VS 4c Carreg Alltrem
Carreg Alltrem is a hidden gem of a crag which is located in the Lledr valley between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws Y Coed. After parking in the village of Dolwyddelan a short walk will land you at the bottom of the crag, which is nestled in a lovely forested area.
The first pitch of Laverado is slightly easier at about 4b and tackles a groove which leads you to a decent sized grassy belay and the main event, the steep second pitch.
Pitch two steeply leaves the belay, climbing the slightly overhung wall to the left. Confidence and belief that holds will appear are needed to get going, but once you do they soon appear. When I first climbed this route it was the first time that the concept of "bucket" hand holds really made sense, although a word of warning, there aren't many of them but they are there when they are needed.
You can often abseil down to descend.
Mur Y Niwl - VS 4c Craig yr Ysfa
A gap in my climbing CV, but highly rated and regarded by everyone I know who has climbed it, hence it's inclusion in the list.
This is a proper mountain route, so again good mountain multipitch skills are required to safely ascend. It's especially import to take care to adequately protect the second on pitch two, which features a traverse and step down move.
This is what people say about the route;
"Classic route, fantastic climbing in a stunning position."
" Lovely climbing and amazing position"
"Absolutely fantastic climbing. Never a dull moment."
Lighthouse Arete - VS 4b Castell Helen
No VS list for North Wales would be complete without at least one route at Gogarth. Lighthouse Arete is often a route of initiation for climbers experiencing sea cliff climbing for the first time and it's a brilliant way of exploring Castell Helen for the first time.
This climb requires the skills to build a fixed rope abseil (55m) on slightly tricky gear. There are some existing pegs which should be treated with caution but can be backed up with cams and nuts. It isn't uncommon to see fairly poorly built belays here, so take time to build something good which is redundant and equalised well.
When the first person starts abseiling down they should take the rack with them so that they can build an initial belay on the small starting ledge to keep the team safe from falling in the sea by accident. From here the first pitch traverses left on good holds until the airy arete is reached a belay can be built on a good ledge.
The rest of the route weaves its way up through tricky terrain, loosly following the large blunt arete before, after a few pitches finally regaining the abseil point and gearing up ledge. As with any sea cliff it is important to take care with tides, loose rock and in situ gear.