Twll Mawr and the longest sport climb in the UK
Ian Lloyd-Jones and his son Celt Lloyd-Jones have established The Desolation of Smaug, the longest sport climb in the United Kingdom.
Can you remember The Rock Bottom Line in Wales? That route put up by Ian Lloyd-Jones and Sion McGuinness in Twll Mawr, the immense cavity in the Dinorwig quarries above the village of Llanberis in Northern Wales? The route caught our attention two years ago due to curious fact that it was considered the longest sport climb in Great Britain. How long you might ask? 130m. This height will certainly cause many to smile, but on an island where the limestone cliffs aren't particularly high and above all where bolts aren't tolerated on mountain crags, until a few days ago The Rock Bottom Line up the West Face of Twll Mawr held this peculiar "record". Held, because a Lloyd-Jones and his 11-year-old son Celt have now added and freed The Desolation of Smaug, a new route up the North Face that is 140m high and therefore the kingdom's longest route to be climbed with just a rack of quickdraws. With good rock quality and difficulties that don't breach 6c, the Lloyd-Jones are convinced the new line will prove popular.
Talking about popular: since this is already Lloyd-Jones' 11th route in this dark hole, we decided to ask him what ties him to this – very particulr – piece of rock. "Twll Mawr, which in Welsh means Big Hole is an awesome and intimidating Quarry Hole" Lloyd-Jones told Planetmountain, "first climbed by the legendary British climber Joe Brown in 1971 who added a number of bold trad routes on the North Wall including Opening Gambit, Hamadryad and the Razor's Edge. In 1986 Johnny Dawes added his famous Quarryman E8 route which includes the iconic 'Quarryman groove' pitch and what makes Twll Mawr special for me as a local climber is that, having always been in awe of Johnny's route, it became apparent that not many climbers dared to venture in. So over the last few years I've worked hard at developing and bolting a number of new sport routes, many of which are multi pitch which is a rare thing in the UK. My Supermassive Black Hole (4 pitch 7a), Black Hole Sun (3 pitch 7a+) and The Rock Bottom Line (5 pitch 7b+) have all become very popular routes and it's great to see a once quiet quarry hole being enjoyed. Twll Mawr is also special to me as my grand parents and great grand parents were all quarrymen who worked in the Dinorwic Quarries all there lives an, in one way or the other, they probably helped create these amazing slate cliffs and climbs."
At its peak during the second half of the 19th century, the slate mining industry dominated the economy in North Wales, employing almost 17000 men at quarries dotted around the country including the immense sites at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bethesda and Llanberis. Entire hillsides were transformed irreversibly as Welsh slate was exported worldwide, but with the advent of cheap roofing tiles the industry showed the first signs of decline at the turn of the century, and then collapsed after the Second World War.
The Dinorwic quarry above Llanberis was the second largest mine in North Wales and when it closed definitively in 1969 it left behind a wasteland of vast proportions. The entire area was abandoned for years and it wasn't until the early 1980's that climbers ventured into the complex system of mines to explore this vertical Eden, discovering fantastic crags such as Vivian Quarry, the Seamstress slab, Bus Stop Quarry and of course Rainbow Slab.
Rock climbing in Wales - a choice selection
- Dinas Cromlech - some of the best extreme rock climbs in the entire UK.
- Cloggy - Clogwyn Du'r Arddu- the shrine of British rcok climbing.
- Vivian Quarry - the most popular slate crag in Wales
- Rainbow Slab - arguably the jewel in the crown of Llanberis slate.
- Gogarth - one of the best sea cliffs in Britain. Fullstop.
- Lower Pen Trwyn - simply the best sport crag in North Wales.
- Huntsman's Leap- one of the most popular sea cliffs in Pembroke, South Wales.