Guidebooks for walkers, mountaineers, trekkers, climbers and cyclists

Guide to winter climbing in Wales - UK

Cover of Welsh Winter Climbs
15 Jan 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm
No. Maps
29 including diagrams
No. Photos
1st Published
1 Jan 1989
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Welsh Winter Climbs

by Malcolm Campbell, Andy Newton
Published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to winter climbing in Wales. All the classic winter routes, plus many short outcrop climbs. Covers Carneddau, Glyderau, Llanberis, Yr Wyddfa, Nantlle, Lleyn Peninsula, Moelwynion, Rhinog, Cader Idris, Aran, Dyfi and Berwyn. It offers fuller descriptions where available and tackles grading, with advice on mountaineering issues.

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This guide differs in some ways from its predecessors: it contains descriptions of many more short 'outcrop' climbs; it offers fuller descriptions where they are available and appropriate; it attempts to tackle the grading dilemma. It also offers advice on mountaineering issues for climbers who are seduced onto the tops by the promise of glistening ice only to find deep fresh snow, storm force winds and zero visibility.

This edition further extends the boundaries of the climbing area covered. The area has been subdivided into 12 smaller sections with the aim of setting up a framework of the less well-known areas into which future new routes can be added.

  • Seasons
    Usually any time between January and March, during a sustained period of cold weather.
  • Centres
    Betws-y-Coed, Capel Curig, Llamberis, Beddgelert.
  • Difficulty
    All grades covered. Ice climbing and winter routes require a good level of competance to deal with the prevailing conditions.
  • Must See
    Western Gully, Carneddau, North Ridge, Tryfan, Central Gully, Lliwedd, and many more.



Although this latest edition has been substantially revised to accommodate new climbs and new crags it still embodies and draws inspiration from Rick Newcombe’s detailed and wide-ranging accounts in the two earlier editions.

Winter climbing has seen an unprecedented boom in popularity over the six or seven years since publication of the last edition, and with a number of really excellent winters in this period there has, not unnaturally, been a surge of exploration and a consequent plethora of new routes on a whole range of new crags. 'If it ices up, climb it!' seems to have been the attitude, and this has led to new climbs being established in such diverse places as Cwm Silyn and Aber Falls, Craig Ddu and Cadair Idris.

Alongside this boom a new outlook has emerged, involving perhaps a totally new ‘clientele’, more akin to the rock climbing fraternity than to the mountaineers within whose domain winter climbing was once firmly entrenched. Technical difficulty is now pursued for its own sake by climbers who are not mountaineers; frozen ‘smears’ in quarries are sought in preference to Lliwedd’s icy ribs and grooves; new climbs are recorded even before frozen beards have softened; accurate blow-by-blow descriptions are demanded…for ‘the Times They Are A’Changin’! Whilst we, the authors of this guide, regret the passing of the romantic Golden Age of British Winter Climbing (violins and sighs!), we are not ostriches on the way to becoming dodos! It’s your sport (and ours!) – do with it what you will: we are only observers and we are trying to provide the service that most of you want.

Consequently, this guide differs in some ways from its predecessors. It contains descriptions of many more short ‘outcrop’ climbs; it offers fuller descriptions where they are available and appropriate; it attempts to tackle the grading dilemma. It also offers advice on mountaineering issues for climbers who are seduced onto the tops by the promise of glistening ice only to find deep fresh snow, storm force winds and zero visibility. Of course this information is available elsewhere in a number of excellent instructional manuals, but the odd pearl of wisdom contained herein is aimed at the climber of action, whose reading is confined to guidebooks.

‘Activists’ and those with a need for ‘extreme adventure’ will doubtless be critical of any attempt to make the sport more ‘accessible’. But this guide is not aimed at them. For most of these people, winter climbing is a game of exploration and adventure. Certainly, experienced winter mountaineers will need no guidebook or grading system to promote their climbing, and the authors offer anyone in this category the opportunity to close the book at this early stage – and to refuse all the ‘clues’ it contains (so long as they’ve actually bought the book!) Happy Adventuring! But for other lesser mortals, the information is here should you want it. But take only what you need and leave the rest to discovery and chance. And afterwards, when your adventure is over, there will be many a fine yarn to spin over pints of ale, toasting around a blazing fire.

One of the problems of writing a winter guide where there are so many routes spread over such a wide area and where the majority of climbs (400 of them!) are out of condition for 360 days a year, is that it is practically impossible to have climbed and checked everything. So we haven’t! This means that descriptions and grades of some of the less popular climbs should be treated with caution. In these cases, although we may have relied to some extent on rumour, hearsay and common sense, the basic information is all there: you should be able to find the climb with reference only to this book and an OS map; its grade will approximate to that given (as far as they ever do!); and you should be able to get down safely (assuming you can get up!) – what more could you ask? Oh, yes – and there’s the odd bit of humour, just to discourage anyone who may be taking things too seriously.

Have fun!

Sample Route

View Sample Route Map

1.4 Ffynnon Llyffant

Grid Reference: 685645 (OS Sheet 115 Snowdon)
950m – 1,060m

Climbing Conditions: This high cwm accumulates and holds large quantities of snow, on which the climbing relies. After heavy snowfall and westerly winds there may be cornice and avalanche problems just below the main ridge.

There are numerous approaches, all of them lengthy! But perhaps the best is via the SE corner of Melynllyn (approach as for Craig y Dulyn), whence a short climb up a wide, steep basin to the west gains the SE spur of Foel Grach. From here an almost level contour to the SW leads easily into the cwm. (2hrs from the car.)

This wonderful little cwm nestling high on the NE flanks of mighty Llewelyn is probably the highest in Snowdonia, and although it lacks grandeur, there is a great air of pastoral tranquility. Unfortunately perhaps, man’s presence is all around in the form of the scattered remnants of an old aeroplane. A sobering reminder to all who seek to conquer; but with the snows we are spared the sadness.

The climbing is modest, yet for those who seek the solace of untrodden snows, there is great appeal up here, spoilt only by the necessity of arriving on the Great Carneddau Highway close to the summit.

The climbs finish on the NE ridge of Carnedd Llwewlyn, and to return to the cwm this ridge may be followed down until the crags have been passed, whence a simple descent may be made. But from the summit of Llewelyn the world is your oyster.

The three climbs described are all to the west of the small lake in the bottom of the cwm, and take shallow gullies to join the NE ridge and the main footpath.

A straightforward snow climb up the broad depression finishing virtually on the summit.

The shallow snowy gully directly west of the lake some 100m right of South Gully.

A well-defined, easy-angled gully about 75m to the right again, above the north end of the lake.

Other possibilities exist, particularly on the small buttresses, but these are best left for individual discovery and re-discovery.


Overview Map Sample Route
Sheet 66/76 Bethesda (Gwynedd) - CARNEDDAU
Sheet 65/75 Snowdon & Betws y Coed - SNOWDON & GLYDERS

Outdoor Leisure Series
Sheet 17 - most of Northern Snowdonia
Sheet 18 - Bala area
Sheet 19 - Harlech (Rhinogs)
Sheet 23 - Cadair Idris

Winter Climbing

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