Crackstone Rib (S 4a), Carreg Wastad, Llanberis Pass
One of the great Welsh classics described by Stewart Moody and photographed by David Simmonite
First ascent: J M Edwards, J B Joyce July 1935
People often speak about two types of fun. There is type-1 fun, which is fun as it happens. Then there is type-2 fun, which is fun retrospectively. Gnarly, desperate, and bold; these adjectives describe a climb that is certainly type-2 fun, fuelled by adrenaline, you ascend the line, and only when sat at the top do you say to yourself “Yes, that was fun.” Don’t get me wrong, I love those kind of routes, they are often excellent and character building, but truth be told, sometimes I just want a bit of type-1 fun, I just want to enjoy the climb as it happens.
Llanberis Pass, or simply 'The Pass' as it is lovingly known to most, is arguably the most historically significant climbing venue in North Wales. It is much narrower than neighbouring Ogwen and feels like a more intimate setting in which to climb. The Pass is lined on both sides by the finest quality rock, amongst these outcrop is Carreg Wastad. This is a crag offering rich pickings for the sub-E1 climber, with more than enough routes to keep you busy for a weekend. Its only drawback is that it can get overrun by people climbing in the Severe to VS grade, a forgivable sin. The centerpiece of Carreg Wastad is Crackstone Rib, a bastion of type-1 fun with enough spice to keep things interesting.
The route traces a line up the middle of the crag; its organ pipe columns of rock providing a great romp. It doesn’t have the prestigious heritage of, say, Cenotaph Corner, nor is it a Joe Brown classic but, for those taking their first steps into multi-pitch climbing, or those wanting to bag one last route after a day climbing Wastad’s E grade routes, this is hands-down winner. I recall my first ascent, I’d just done Rib and Slab (V Dfiff) on Craig Ddu and I was keen to build a little momentum and lead my first multi-pitch Severe on a mountain crag. I wanted something friendly as, in my early days I felt intimidated by The Pass, and on paper Crackstone Rib seemed to fit the bill. It’s a shame that the start point for the route isn’t more comfortable for all the traffic it sees. The area immediately beneath the steep and scrappy, so you should gear up at the path that traces along the base of the crag and then scramble the last few metres to the base of the route.
The first few metres are a little scrappy as you escape the loose ground that serves as the belay stance. If you can, resist the temptation to place gear in the initial wide chimney for it’ll cause you rope drag later and instead just press on to the ledge. Now it’s time to pop in a bomber nut or two, extend them with your longest runners, traverse left on good holds, making easy moves but without gear for five or six nervous metres. You will then find a welcoming scoop and more gear placements to settle the nerves. It’s worth pausing there to check that your photographer is in position and ready to immortalize your image, for this is one of the most photogenic routes in North Wales. Step left and rock over onto the rib in a delightfully exposed position, smile for the camera, and say: “Type-1 fun” (or cheese, whichever is you preference).
The view down the pass of Llanberis opens up on your left and as you look down between your feet there isn’t much there save for the A4086 snaking its way along the valley and The Climbers' Club hut far below. The position is sublime, and the exposure gives you a real kick. From there the rib leads up on a series of worn but friendly holds with plenty of gear and route finding is not an issue. After 35m of delightful climbing, the belay ledge you reach is comfortable, and straightforward. Enjoy the views whilst bringing up your second; from your perch you can see the train struggling up Snowdon and tiny climbers crawling over Dinas Mot on the opposite side of The Pass. You probably won’t have much time to faff here as there’ll be a queue of other parties ascending in your wake. It’s time to tee off on pitch 2.
The second pitch isn’t to be underestimated for the commitment needed, nor for the quality of climbing. From the belay, move up and right to ascend the corner on easy terrain to its terminus at the steepening. In my humble opinion, the best moves of the route await you. Leave the sanctuary of the corner and traverse left on a stunning but all too short hand traverse on nice jugs and smears for the feet. I’ve gasped on two separate occasions as I’ve seen people traverse left far too early; they cheat themselves out of the best bit of the route and I’m not sure why as there’s usually more than enough chalk on it to guide even the most disorientated climber. From the traverse finish, go easily up the short corner crack to a spike belay and a pleasant walk off. Never scary, always pleasant – I’ve heard people say it’s polished but I think that’s unfair, it isn’t that polished, especially compared to similar routes in The Peak (I’m thinking of the horror show that is Crack and Corner at Stanage Popular End).
If this is your last route of the day it’s an easy 25-minute walk, all downhill, to the Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris. If, however, you’re only just getting going for the day Wrinkle (S), Skylon (HS), or Ribstone Crack (VS), are all well worth your time. Alternatively, the neighbouring honey pots of Dinas y Gromlech or Clogwyn y Grochan are only a stone’s throw away.