Arguably one of the best-known climbing cafes in Wales, Eric Jones's cafe and campsite at Bwlch y Moch, Tremadog, has recently been put on the market. After serving millions of mugs of tea and bacon butties to climbers since 1979, Wales's best known mountaineer and his wife Ann have decided it's time to retire.
The cafe, campsite and carpark, situated below the cliffs of Tremadog, are well known to climbers, cyclists and motorcyclists and provide a great place to rest and recover between climbing on some of the best outcrops in Wales.
In 1979, Eric Jones was at the peak of his alpine climbing and, having suffered severe frostbite to his feet while on Everest in 1978 (while filming Messner and Habler on the first oxygen less ascent), was looking for a way to earn a living while still giving him the freedom to go on adventures. Mrs Williams, the previous owner of Bwlch y Moch, was retiring having run the cafe and the then petrol station for many years and Eric saw an opportunity and purchased the cafe.
The main crag at Tremadog, Craig Bwlch y Moch was also on offer but wisely, Eric decided he didn't want the liability of owning a 200ft high crag hanging over a major road (!), so Mrs Williams gave the crag to the BMC who now own and manage the crag on behalf of climbers.
WATCH: The BMC International Summer Meet 2015: Tremadog on BMC TV
Since then he has become a well-known provider of a great service to climbers and his other customers. Elfyn Jones, BMC Access & Conservation Officer for Wales, recalls the support and mentoring Eric gave to local climbers at the time.
"I used to cycle down to Tremadog from my hometown of Ffestiniog to solo on the Tremadog crags and meet up with other climbers (including such well-known climbers as Jerry Moffatt and Andy Polllitt). Eric would point us at various routes and give us lots of advice that probably stopped us from killing ourselves in our various antics!"
It was about this time that Eric also became the first British person to solo the North Face of the Eiger, and Elfyn recalls as a young impressionable teenager being slightly bemused and in awe at being served tea and a chip buttie by the person, that the week before had accomplished one of the most impressive alpine solos by any British mountaineer ever!
More recently, Eric became the star of the award-winning film Copa – Patagonia Eric Jones A Ioan Doyle by SteepEdge, produced to conince with the 150th anniversary celebrations surrounding the establishment of Y Wladfa, the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Released in 2015, this film celebrates the friendship of Eric and Ioan, Patagonia and Wales, and is a testament to Eric's fascinating life as he shares his memories, stories and philosophies whilst on an adventure pilgrimage with young climber Ioan Doyle.
WATCH: The Copa trailer featuring Eric Jones by SteepEdge
Over the years, Eric became much-loved for providing his campers with an early morning mug of tea, personally delivered on a tray to their tent, and he only reluctantly stopped that practice when a few years ago he had surgery on his frostbitten toes and found he couldn't balance a tray of hot tea while at the same time using crutches!
Eric has seen great times and some sad events at Tremadog – he was there when Ron Fawcett did the first ascent of Strawberries (E7 6b), when John Redhead was creating amazing routes (with equally amazing names!) and when future stars such as Jerry Moffatt and Andy Pollitt were progressing through the hard routes and establishing themselves as Britain's best young climbers.
However, less well known is how Eric also provided a rescue service for injured climbers. Before Mountain Rescue in the Tremadog area was fully developed, he kept a stretcher at Bwlch y Moch and would frequently dash off, leaving bemused diners waiting for their food as he attended to injured climbers. Unfortunately, he also had to help recover the bodies of a number of climbers following fatal accidents on the crags – which stays on his mind to this day, especially when he personally knew the victims.
WATCH: TremFest 2016: the BMC's crag revival festival on BMC TV
So in his (unbelievably!) 80th year, the still youthful and energetic Eric Jones and his wife Ann have decided it's finally time to hang up their aprons and to pass on the tea-making to someone else. They are keen that the new buyer continues to provide facilities for climbers (parking, cafe, camping, toilets, etc.) but that will be up to the new owners to decide. Over the years, Eric and Ann have been very supportive of the BMC at Tremadog, not least in their generous support of the annual BMC TremFest climbing and crag clean up festival.
The business (cafe which seats 36 diners, the car park and the campsite) is for sale through local estate agents Haf Jones & Pegler at Caernarfon for an asking price of £295,000. The BMC and all climbers would love to see a person who is sympathetic and supportive to climbing take on this opportunity to carry on in Eric and Ann's footsteps. Eric and Ann would also welcome any offers regarding the bunkhouses and holiday cottages that are part of the current set-up.
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