Significant access gains on the Ormes

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 01/07/2011
Chris Parkin teaching volunteers the black art of bolting!

Following some intensive negotiations, site visits and geo-technical inspections significant areas of previously banned cliffs at Pen Trwyn have become available for climbing.

In the late 1980s there were some significant rockfalls along the Marine Drive (the road that leads around the Great Orme), and in one unrelated case a walker was killed by a single falling rock on the west shore part of the Drive. This led the council to impose a total ban on all access to the cliffs above the Marine Drive (upper Pen Trwyn) on safety grounds.

Some intensive BMC intervention at that time (involving many local volunteers as well as full time officers) allowed for a negotiated access arrangement, with climbing only allowed on specific areas, following a detailed geo-technical inspection by specialist geologists and engineers. Another condition was that lower-offs had to be installed to prevent climbers topping-out on the loose upper ledges, which are also really important for their rich array of protected plants.

Over 300 belay bolts were placed by trained volunteers, which are inspected annually and replaced as necessary, by the BMC. In that time there has not been a single bolt failure, and no reported incidents of injury or damage caused by climber inititated rockfall. In fact it's arguable that climbers help to reduce the rockfall danger to the public using the public road, as any loose rock is identified and removed in a controlled manner, rather than falling spontaneously or randomly onto the road.

Climbers have always questioned the validity of some of the reasoning behind restricting some apparently sound areas of cliff and early in 2011, working closely with the Country Park Wardens and the Countryside Council for Wales (the whole of the Ormes is a Site of Special Scientific Interest) the BMC commissioned its own geo-technical inspection, looking again at some of the banned areas.

The result is that we have now managed to get some significant areas made available again for climbing. This will include the upper part of Mayfair wall, hopefully creating sport routes that will be up to 40 metres long, extending an extra 15 metres to classic routes such as Contusion, Mayfair and Axle Attack. The major gains however are around the corner on the mainly trad area betweeen Sheik yer Money and Chaingang wall, where six brilliant routes are based, including eighties testpieces such as Hom's Punk, Ward 10 and The Jehad. Further on, the area beyond Black Walls has also been de-restricted, and here another 10 routes, including some more amenable traditional E1's and mid-grade sports routes wil be re-equipped.

Local climbers and volunteers (including some of the new guidebook team) are now busy re-equipping these previously banned routes, and as soon as they have had their (BMC provided) belay bolts and lower-offs installed they will again be available for climbers. Remember to check the RAD and the North Wales Limestone Wiki for the latest information.

The BMC wants to thank all involved in enabling this to happen, in particular the Wardens from the Great Orme Country Park, BMC volunteers Andy Boorman, Roger Bennion and Chris Parkin, Owen Davies from Mott-Macdonald and new guidebook writer Pete Harrison and his team of stalwart helpers for all the hard work in re-equipping the previously banned routes.

Remember to donate money to the North Wales Bolt fund next time you're in the area to support the work that these guys are doing on climbers behalf!.

We are also very hopeful that there will be further access gains on the Ormes in the near future as the current extensive climbing restrictions on the Observatory Buttress to Crescent Crags area (due to nesting birds) are being reviewed, and a significant reduction in the extent of restricted cliffs is likley.


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