Friday, 28 December 2012

Clarach Bay Bouldering

Clarach Bay Bouldering – Mid Wales.

Sometimes in climbing you need something to pull you out of the doldrums. Plateaus can be hard to deal with - you feel heavy, uncoordinated and despondent. At these times you just need to get out there and climb, leave the projects behind and get enthusiastic about something. For me enthusiasm is nearly always rekindled by the development of ‘esoteria’, venues which have been discounted by others as being to scrappy, obscure, or to distant to be worth any effort. However to a boulderer disenchanted with projects and the general climbing rat-race present in Britain’s premier bouldering venues, it is these esoteric areas that will yield real excitement, adventure and at times problems of true quality. I was stuck in a deep rut earlier this year until my climbing focus turned to Mid Wales. I was going to visit friends there, and as I was aware, you never know what might be found to cure the climbing funk if you don’t look.

Mid Wales is sparsely populated. Its patchwork landscape of mountains and sea is so beautiful it almost hurts to be there when the sun shines. There is some already well documented bouldering in this region of the principality. Cae Du near Towyn, is well known and well visited by boulderers looking to take their family on a holiday that might, if they are lucky, involve some climbing.

I knew I would be staying in Aberystwyth. Aber is close to Cae Du as the crow flies, but a good hour and a half drive around the Dovey estuary is not an option for quick-fix climbing sessions. Internet searches revealed little in the Aberystwyth area. There were vague possibilities of bouldering on the top of a wet mountain with an hour walk in but nothing practical. Could there really be no bouldering in this area? Would the deep funk of a plateau be magnified by a forced, restless rest period? Well ........ no!

When looking for the magic of esoteric bouldering, persistence is the key. The mountains and bays around Aberystwyth had to yield something! I sent out e–mails, dug a bit deeper, contacted Terry Taylor at and eventually got a result. A lot of work I know but sometimes the thrill of the chase can be as exciting as the results you uncover, leading to a building of momentum and a return to psyche.

My digging, searching and hard work eventually allowed me to home in on a target- a venue five minutes from Aberystwyth and ten minutes from where I would be staying. Clarach Bay has some sports routes and there were some rumours of bouldering, however most of the leads that reported this place were pretty negative. I’ve never really listened to others so I thought I would find out for myself. Clarach has one other major feature which made it easy for me to ignore the opinions of others- it’s coastal. Many people hate bouldering on the beach, having to judge tides, weather windows and conditions, but I love it. The unique elements of shady caves and the cooling effect of evaporating salt water make coastal locations the only place to climb in a sweaty British summer.

My first visit to Clarach confirmed that my inquisitive and optimistic outlook can be advantageous (ok- it’s can also be annoying). Local climbers had forsaken Clarach in favour of the more popular bouldering of North Wales and the Peak. What they had left for me was by no means world class or even nationally significant- however, it is good. Cool, wave-washed graywhack sandstone overhanging with slopers and crimps, a little friable yes, but nothing serious. I climbed a range of problems from V1 – V7, some of which genuinely hold their own against problems in the Pass – honest!

It’s now summer. I’ve been to Clarach several times and climbed my projects. Psyche is restored by the regenerative qualities of the Mid Wales coastline. If you need to step off the treadmill and find some solitude, try some esoteria – you won’t regret it. There is a video and topo showing my exploits at Clarach below, use them to help you access the bay or as inspiration to find your own little boulderfield to breathe life into and pass on to others who are lacking psyche.

Clarach Bouldering from Owen McShane on Vimeo.

Here's the link for the topo.

Cheers Owen

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