Between Land and Sea

Sea cliff climbing adventures from North Wales

Feature type Story

Read time 11 min read

Published Dec 21, 2020

Photographer Jethro Kiernan

Jethro
Jethro Kiernan North Wales based adventure photographer, happy being in or on the sea, lakes, mountains and crags usually with a camera.

Words & Photography | Jethro Kiernan

Alex Mason Powell on the Main pitch of Ramadam on Main cliff Gogarth, Dan Mcmanus belaying.

Alex Mason Powell on the Main pitch of Ramadam on Main cliff Gogarth, Dan Mcmanus belaying.

Sea cliff climbing is not a uniquely British pursuit, but from seaside resort sport climbing to isolated windswept fear inducing adventures, we certainly have our own flavour here in the UK. As foreign travel becomes more uncertain, the sea cliffs of North Wales provide a welcome dose of adventure for those looking for a fix.

Dropping down an abseil onto a cliff face or traversing around a corner as waves crash over the boulders below is enough to transport you into a totally hidden world. Sometimes a haunting cacophony of violent waves and hunting seabirds, at other times, sparkling azure seas and Mediterranean sunshine.

North Wales boasts the full spectrum of sea cliff climbing, from world class bolted hard sports routes to terrifying multi-pitch trad routes and all the variations that lie between allowing you pick your line and push your comfort zone accordingly.

Entering the realm of the sea cliff brings with it a primal feeling. The waves crashing below, the potential frangible nature of the rock, the cry of the sea birds and, perhaps if you’re lucky, an audience of curios seals. Gogarth the grand old dame of British trad sea cliff climbing epitomises the otherworldly adventurous feel. Regardless of their familiarity with the cliffs there, most climbers heading to Gogarth will be conflicted by a mix of excitement and trepidation as they consider the challenges ahead.

Entering the realm of the sea cliff brings with it a primal feeling. The waves crashing below, the potential frangible nature of the rock, the cry of the sea birds…

Archie Ball moving through typical Llyn Peninsula territory, Cripple Creek E3, Craig Doris.

Archie Ball moving through typical Llyn Peninsula territory, Cripple Creek E3, Craig Doris.

Tom Riply on the endless search for gear at North Stack Wall, Gogarth.

Tom Riply on the endless search for gear at North Stack Wall, Gogarth.

Glenda Huxter on The Shinning 8a, The Diamond Little Orme

Glenda Huxter on The Shinning 8a, The Diamond Little Orme

The Llyn Peninsula just down the road from Gogarth is renowned for the quality of its rock. The fragile nature of the cliffs and holds make it a place of esoteric adventure, uncertain holds and a daunting reputation make it as much a mental and intellectual exercise as a physical one.

For those looking for a challenge rooted in the physical rather than mental, the limestone sports routes around the seaside resort of Llandudno provide bolted physical test pieces. The atmosphere is still very much dictated by the sea and tides but a gentler mental experience. No matter what your preferred flavour of climbing adventure is, the sea cliffs of North Wales will likely have something for you.

Alex Mason Powell climbing out of the cave on Billy Bud, Gogarth

Alex Mason Powell climbing out of the cave on Billy Bud, Gogarth

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