I was chatting to someone the other night who had been out climbing with me earlier this year and I’d suggested having a bash at Spiral Stairs on the Cromlech, which I now know they thoroughly enjoyed!
It’s such a stunning and iconic crag that you can’t fail to spot it as you drive down the Pass, the geology is incredible and has left us with this incredible feature of a corner with some fairly hefty boulders below. My first experience of this crag was a long time ago and was totally memorable - probably for the wrong reasons!
Just getting to the start of Cemetery Gates expanded my comfort zone way beyond the panic bit and my personal survival systems were in over drive, but the route was spectacular. An early crux led onto the steep wall and eventually a small belay ledge where if you hadn’t had the time to soak up the atmosphere, allowed you to gaze down into the Pass and appreciate your hanging situation! The route was only about 50m in length, but because of the steepness of the crag and its location high in the Pass, it seemed incredibly exposed. The ab off and getting back to my bag was another entertaining part of the day! Since then I’ve climbed quite a few of the routes up there, hopefully in better style and feeling more comfortable with the situation, I do have a very healthy respect for this crag, it’s steep, it looks intimidating and it’s covered in history, but every climber should visit it on their journey.
Dinas Cromlech was originally given the name Columnar Cliff by Menlove Edwards, then it received a made up name eventually evolving into Dinas Cromlech. Interestingly Dinas y Gromlech is the correct written form for this crag, but Dinas Cromlech can be used in spoken Welsh because of grammar rules - I never knew that, but it’s referenced in the Llanberis Guide. It translates as Fortress (of) the Cromlech, which I think describes the look of the crag accurately, it could have appeared in a Tolkien book!
My first experience of this crag was a long time ago and was totally memorable - probably for the wrong reasons!
Most people think of the Gates and the Corner along with some other fairly stiff routes on the 2 faces, but there is a route for everyone including 2 of the best VDs in North Wales, there are a lot to chose from, but Spiral Stairs and Flying Buttress are contenders in there somewhere. These routes pack punch at the grade through some really intimidating terrain, neither of which when you stand at the bottom look amenable, but their position and the quality of climbing is immense.
Both routes were climbed in 1931 by Menlove Edwards and became classics quite quickly. Apparently “One of the most interesting circuits is the ascent of Dinas y Gromlech by the Very Difficult Spiral Stairs and descent of the Difficult but superb Flying Buttress” (J.E.B Wright 1958). For those who have done both routes, will understand what I mean that descending the top pitch of Flying Buttress sounds pretty exciting!
Spiral Stairs I guess comes from the way it winds itself up and around the crag on huge jugs crossing some reasonable routes of a higher grade. Flying Buttress was originally called Sodom, but folk weren’t too keen on it!
They both require a sense of adventure and when you’re on them, at some point look down between your legs (you’ll understand this when you do it!) and marvel at the exposure on such a steep crag, remember you’re on a VD and when Menlove did it he was in big boots with a bit of string attached to him. It makes you appreciate the line and also realise that you don't have to climb hard to climb on the Cromlech…..