About the guide
The definitive guide to the climbing on North Wales Limestone by Pete Harrison and Andy Boorman, with all profits going to the bolt fund to support ongoing route maintenance.
Why is this important?
The North Wales Limestone area is a uniquely varied place to climb: there can be few other venues in the UK with such a diverse range of climbing styles co-existing side-by-side within such a concentrated area. From single pitch trad cragging to font 8B bouldering, remote multi-pitch sea cliff adventures on loose guano-covered rock to French 8c’s on immaculate well-equipped sport crags, ‘designer-danger’ hybrid routes to easy access entry-level grade 4 and 5 sport climbs - all of these exist within walking distance on The Great and Little Ormes, sometimes on the same crag!
The nature of the terrain here dictates that routes often rely on fixed equipment to be climbable and the ethic of bolting on NW limestone is open-minded and practical - this is just as true for the great trad climbing as it is the sport routes. Thousands of non-stainless bolts were placed on sport and trad routes during the 80s and 90s.
However, the marine environment isn’t kind to any non-stainless equipment and, unfortunately, the bolts and pegs placed back then have become dangerous liabilities. Most of the cliffs here are coastal, routes are often at sea-level or not far above.
The area consequently slipped into neglect as hundreds of good routes were ignored due to the deterioration of the fixed equipment. Today, routes aren't climbed until somebody re-equips them. Even the now-popular LPT was quiet only 4 years ago, until the addition of 180 new duplex stainless bolts (costing approximately £10 each inc. resin) to replace dodgy bolts breathed fresh life into the crag. The following year top-quality grade 8's which hadn't seen ascents for 10 years were getting climbed.
Apart from being hamstrung by the poor state of fixed gear, the NW Limestone area is subject to other factors which, combined, have ensured hundreds of good climbs remain under the radar. The area hasn't had a definitive guidebook for 16 years - the last definitive guide, a 1997 Rockfax, contained whole cliffs that were neglected even then, due to the poor state of fixed equipment. The old guide contained many passages expressing hope that the good-but-neglected climbing would be brought back to life by re-equipping.
Many cliffs on The Ormes are bird-restricted each spring until July or August. Some are tidal. Hence a lot of climbing is inaccessible for large parts of the year.
There are lots of good crags hidden away in little out-of-the-way zawns and buttresses, often with unobvious access down intimidating slopes or by abseil, or not visible from the approach path. Many of these feature hidden gems, afternoon sunshine, atmospheric surroundings or just plain away-from-it-all solitude. If the fixed gear isn't safe and you aren’t sure how to access these places it's reason enough to never visit.
There are climbs here which cover seriously atmospheric and adventurous terrain. Cliffs such as Ormesman Wall, Castell y Gwynt, Red Meat Wall, West Buttress of Detritus, Detritus Wall and Great Zawn - here are truly memorable climbs in impressive surroundings. To access the routes at the far end of Detritus Wall required installing a 150m-long fixed line using 16mm stainless bolts, halfway up on a vertical cliff 50 metres above the sea. This isn't like walking down Cheedale to go sport climbing! The Diamond has some of the best sport routes in the country, but it wasn't a viable cliff to climb on (some would argue it never is!) until 3 month’s solid work had been done to construct an access line above the sea. This was followed by a thorough re-equipping of the routes. This continues each August, with only a small number of routes left to do.
Combine the lack of a definitive guidebook, the lack of safe fixed-equipment, the adventurous or remote/hidden nature of much of the climbing, short climbing windows and a perceived lack of easy access on the less well-known cliffs and it adds up to make one very high-maintenance climbing area to bring back from neglect.
But, a huge amount of that re-equipping has now been done. The climbing here has been brought back to life by locals giving freely of their time and energy. And supported by the bolt fund, we’ve transformed a neglected area into a brilliant place to climb, trad or sport. Good quality stainless bolts have been provided by The North Wales Bolt Fund. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of gear has been placed. Drills, resin, batteries, bits and consumables all eat into funds too. The bolt fund also provides new-routers (not just re-equippers) all over North Wales with good quality stainless bolts at cost price so the cycle of unsustainable bolting doesn't happen again - the stainless gear being placed now should remain bomber for at least 30 years+.
All of the climbing in this special quirky area will be showcased in the forthcoming definitive NW Limestone guide, which also has an accompanying smartphone topo app from theSend. The guidebook authors have tried hard to bring to life many of the unknown cliffs and routes with beautiful topos and inspiring action photos from some of the country’s best climbing photographers.
The guidebook authors are giving all profits back to the bolt-fund which enabled the North Wales Limestone area to be rejuvenated, and which continues to support the development and restoration of climbing areas all over North Wales by supplying them with quality stainless equipment at cost price.
We hope you enjoy discovering the adventures to be had in this special area for years to come!