In the northern, deciduous segment of the Braichmelyn woods there is a very fine bouldering circuit. Central to the circuit is the magnificent Super Boulder, but beyond it there are numerous excellent problems dotted around the woods. The rock quality is mostly excellent and the landings are generally good.
Conditions: The rock can be slow to dry out after rain, especially if there is no wind. During warm summer evenings midges can be a problem, as can the sharpness of some of the holds. It is perhaps at its best in the Spring or Autumn when neither of these issues should cause too much trouble. The trees provide some shelter, making it a good option on very windy days when other more exposed venues would be out of bounds.
Approach: From the kinked Mynydd Llandegai crossroads at the Capel Curig end of Bethesda turn up the Braichmelyn road towards Gerlan. After 300m Nant Graen (a narrow road leading off right from the main road) is reached. If arriving by car continue for another 50m across the bridge over the river and park immediately in the road entering the housing estate on the left.
Walk along the narrow road of Nant Graen until it ends after 100m at some houses. Follow the footpath sign directing you to the left of the houses and out through a gate on to a riverside path in the woods. Afon Caseg Gorge is situated almost immediately on the left. The circuit is described from here, moving back right and then up to the Super Boulder, and then in a series of forays spreading out to the various satellite boulders. See the individual sections for more details.
Afon Caseg Gorge
The first part of the Braichmelyn circuit is perhaps its least appealing. The Afon Caseg Gorge is an esoteric sideshow best appreciated during a sustained dry period. At least then the seepage will have dried up and the vegetated highball top outs won’t be so terrifying!
Approach: 30m from the gate by the side of the houses and just below the riverside path a dry bottomed subsidiary gorge to the main river can be seen down on the left – this is the Afon Caseg Gorge.
1. El Pablo 6B+!
The best problem here tackles the shield of rock at the left side of the crag. A selection of side pulls will get you to the top of the shield. The highball finish is rather scary and overgrown. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
2. Pools of Bethesda 7A+
A harder variation moving up and right to gain a triangular hold with your left hand and side pulls for the right. A hard move back left might get you to the top of the shield; finish as for El Pablo. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
3. Ceunant Groove 5C!
The groove feature right of El Pablo leads to a scary highball finish reaching for the tree. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
4. Undercurrent 6A!
Climb the left side of the undercut, blocky wall from a sit down start. There is, of course, an obligatory scary highball finish on directional holds. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
5. Undertow 6B+
The bulge to the right of Undercurrent is much tougher, and also leads to a highball exit. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
6. Ravine 6C+
To the right of the Undertow is a bulge of rock which is often wet. Start sitting beneath the bulge, left hand on a crimp rail and right hand in a low crack. Make some powerful moves up into Undertow which provides the finish. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
7. Wild Water 7A
Start sitting as for Ravine but move powerfully up directly to a good hold in the break, before trending up and left to finish as for Undertow. [Calum Muskett 10.11]
This impressive block has some of the best problems in the area. It is fingery though, so expect a rough ride if you visit during hot weather.
Approach: From the main riverside path at the edge of the Afon Caseg Gorge cut back sharply rightwards on a narrow path leading at first towards the back of the houses, but then weaving up leftwards to reach a clearing within 50m.
8. Superstar 7A
From the start of The Ramp climb directly through the bulge then with the aid of two crimps make a big rock over for the left arête of the boulder.
9. Shooting Star 7A+!
Follow Superstar through the bulge then continue up the diagonal line rightwards to a highball finish.
10. The Ramp 6A!
A classic problem following the attractive rightwards curving ramp feature. After an initial crux section the holds improve, but there is still a memorable highball finish to be dealt with.
11. The Romp 6B!
Follow The Ramp to the good hold after the first hard move on the traverse, climb directly upwards from here with the aid of a hidden pocket.
12. The Crack 7A
The thin crack line leading up to the finish of The Ramp gives a painful, testing problem. The sitting start on the low sloping crimp boosts the grade to 7A+. [John Redhead 1981, sds Chris Doyle 24.02.09]
13. Klimov 7A
The thin, intense wall just to the right of The Crack is just about independent. [John Redhead 1981]
14. Central Wall 6C+
More fingery, technical wall climbing, but this time of the very highest quality. Climb straight up at first from the thin flake hold, but then swing left to the sanctuary of The Ramp. The obvious sitting start bumps the grade up to 7A and makes for an even better problem. [John Redhead 1981]
15. The Seam 7A
From the Central Wall sds follow the seam rightwards with difficulty to reach and finish up Braichmelyn Arête.
16. Spring Juice 7A+
Follow Central Wall up, taking its gaston with your left hand, before stepping up right and finishing with a big lurch for the sloping shoulder at the top of the arête. [Dave Towse 1983]
17. Braichmelyn Arête 5B
Take the arête on its left side to a prominent jug. Continue with the aid of a handy branch to top out. It is also possible, but not as good, to climb the arête on its right side at a similar grade. There are a couple of different methods for the powerful 7A sitting start to the left side of the arête.
18. Au Revoir Cont 7A+
From the Braichmelyn Arête sds trend leftwards into a finish up Central Wall. Bonjour Mademoiselle 7B starts as for Au Revoir Cont but finishes up Spring Juice. [Ioan Doyle 02.07, Bonjour Mademoiselle: Calum Muskett 2011]
19. Braichmelyn Traverse 7B
A vintage test piece with an intense crux. Traverse right from the base of The Ramp passing a desperate fingery section before the standard eases off a touch as The Seam is followed out to finish up Braichmelyn Arête. A harder variant finishes up Spring Juice at 7B+. [John Redhead 1981, Spring Juice finish: Dave Towse 1983]
Right of the tree is another rock face with some easier problems.
20. Kryptonite 4C!
A pleasant, albeit rather highball line snaking up the wall right of the tree.
21. Nietzsche 4C
Follow the rail leftwards out of the alcove.
A couple of minor problems can be found on this nearby boulder. To reach it turn your back on the Super Boulder and walk over to another flat clearing and head round to the left.
22. The Bethesda Prowler 5C
Climb the prow direct from a sitting start without using the low boulder for the feet. Follow the crack to finish. [Phil Targett 25.03.11]
23. Sharpshooter 6B+
Start standing just to the right of The Bethesda Prowler, using the higher of the two obvious side pulls for the right and a poor hold on the lip for the left. Pull up and dyno for good holds directly above. [Phil Targett 25.03.11]
More worthwhile problems can be found close to the Super Boulder. The first section can be reached by skirting the Super Boulder on the left and continuing in the same line for 30m.
24. Tŷ Gwydyr 3C
The slabby line right of the flake crack.
25. Caen Braichmelyn 4A
The big flake crack is a great feature – climb it!
26. Oh So Thin 6C+
The thin slab to the left of the flake crack has superb rock and some surprisingly tricky moves. Undercut the flake and move up via a selection of tiny/unhelpful holds to gain a decent side pull on the right before gaining the top of the slab. There is one simple eliminate rule: the upper section of the flake (i.e. from the point it changes angle and runs up vertically) is out of bounds. Numerous potential methods exist – just find the one that suits you best! [Archie Ball 06.14]
25m farther left from Oh So Thin is a distinctive groove line.
27. Electrophilic 6A+
The groove gives a good technical challenge. A harder (6B+) version avoids the holds out on the right arête. [Josie Ball 06.14]
Electrophilic is close to the riverside footpath that runs up by the side of Afon Caseg Gorge. If you follow this footpath up for approximately 50m a riverside block comes into view.
28. Happy Slappy 5C
On the right side of the boulder there is a steep arête. This gives a short dynamic problem on perfect rock. [Archie Ball 06.14]
29. Skinny Dipping 5C
On the left side of the same riverside boulder there is a slabby facet. A long move gains an edge up right; finish up and left. For obvious reasons this is best avoided if the river is in spate! [Josie Ball 06.14]
This section has two steep walls with some good problems and reasonable landings. From the Super Boulder walk round to the right and follow a vague path on the far side of a broken drystone wall heading up right. At a junction with another low drystone wall continue up through the woods bearing slightly leftwards. After 30m you should reach the edge of an open amphitheatre on the left. On the far side of the amphitheatre you will be able to see the two walls.
30. Mae’n Ddirgelwch 6A
The obvious line on the steep right hand wall is excellent. Some care is required topping out next to the drainage line.
31. Braich Dancing 6C+
A puzzling start leads into a dynamic finish. Gain the base of the groove with a tricky pull. Continue with difficulty, slapping for the top if you have to. Mantel out with gusto. [Phil Targett 23.03.11]
32. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf 6C
A splendid Tarzan-esque challenge. Tackle the arête on its right hand side from a start matched on the undercuts. Gain the base of the upper arête then slap right to the edge of the Braich Dancing groove and make monkey-up-a-stick moves to the same mantel finish. [Phil Targett 23.03.11]
33. Art House 4B
Climb the slabby crack/groove on the left hand side of the wall. [Phil Targett 23.03.11]
Deep in the Braichmelyn Woods there is an impressive leaning wall; well worth seeking out. From the edge of the amphitheatre mentioned in the Braichmelyn Bach approach head upwards until above the top right corner of the amphitheatre then trend up rightwards and round into a small upper valley. On the left flank of this lost valley you should spot an attractive highball wall.
34. Mars One 7B+
The interlocking diagonal groove on the left side of the leaning wall gives a stunning, independent boulder problem. Snatch up opposition sidepulls to a rough open pinch then make a wild cross through to grab a similar pinch on the other side of the top groove. This move has the potential to cause an unpredictable ‘helicopter’ dismount so make sure you are well spotted. The finish is, thankfully, easier. [Pete Robins 07.03.15]
35. Consolation Prize 7B
The right hand line on the wall starts well but is spoilt by the eliminate nature of its upper section. The large holds up on the right are out of bounds, but it feels very contrived not using them. It was first climbed with a specified starting position (right hand in the low undercling and your left hand on the crimpy side pull) – a good, intense sequence leads up to a hard, skin trashing pull up to the top line of handholds. From here finish more easily past the rough slopers on the lip. [Calum Muskett 09.11]
From the junction with second drystone wall mentioned in the Braichmelyn Bach approach contour round rightwards for 70m.
The slab behind the block has a few worthwhile problems.
Climb the left side of the arête above the sloping landing.
The central line on the slab is tricky at first but the jugs soon arrive.
The groove is good; just watch your hands on the sharp edged crack.
The hanging groove is another good problem (when it is dry).
Up and right there is a leaning arête and wall.
40. Luke’s Arête 5C!
The scary arête, following sharp holds.
[Luke Wharton 06.11]
41. Papa Simon’s Extra Six Inches 6A!
Takes the line up the right hand side of the slightly overhanging wall, just left of the tree. Long reach for the top. Spotters recommended.
[Simon Rogers 06.11]
Back down on the steep front face of the main block the problems are described from left-to-right.
42. Braichmelyn B-Boy 6A
A neat little problem. Start sitting with left hand on obvious low edge on the far left of the block and right on a rounded side pull on the lip of roof. Kick a foot out right onto the Turtle Head starting jug and climb diagonally rightwards into the finish of that problem. A harder (6B) direct finish is possible.
[Jason Jones 04.04.11]
43. Turtle Head 5C
Start sitting, hands matched on the low jug at the right side of the low roof. Bounce up to the flake and exit past the ‘Turtle Head’ at the top. The slabby block to the right is out of bounds at this grade; an easier (4C), ‘anything goes’ version is possible. A 6B eliminate variation (Hip Op) starts on the same low jug but avoids using the higher juggy holds; use a side pull and crimps instead.
[Luke Wharton 04.11/ Hip Op: Jason Jones 04.05.11]
It is possible to force a dynamic line up the wall to the right of Turtle Head. Move up directly from the obvious pocket and diagonal hold. [Dave Noden 07.03.15]
45. BB Arête 5C!
From a hanging start climb directly up the arête. Try not to fall off as the landing is awful.
46. Ip Hop 7A
Start hanging a pair of crimps just above the lip 1.5m right of the arête. Traverse the lip leftwards to finish up BB Arête.