Crag Of The Month
As part of our series highlighting the best crags from our region and beyond, it was only a matter of time before we looked at one our most renowned crags: Dinas Rock.
Found in the Neath Valley in an idyllic location the beautiful Sychryd gorge is home to some of our best inland limestone and really does offer something for all tastes. Over the years this has become a testing ground for locals and visiting climbers alike; many have left there mark here with some truly impressive ascents.
Dinas Rock is situated along side the ‘Heads of the Valleys’ A465, near the village of Glyn Neath; it’s a major tourist draw for many recreational users. This is waterfall country and as such there are many stunning trails that lead around the steep wooded valleys that will guide you to the numerous waterfalls. Due to the ease of access the area is extremely popular in the summer so get to Dinas early or parking can be tricky.
It’s not just climbers who are drawn to the steep walls of the gorge: we share Dinas with the gorge walkers, kitted up in wetsuits and buoyancy aids. This is a popular stag and hen do activity that involves swimming and jumping around in the river, so don’t expect a peaceful day at the crag. Throughout the summer hundreds of people participate in gorge walking at Dinas which adds to the car park congestion so it can be good to visit in the week when you will probably have the gorge at its best – all to yourself!
Once you park up you will straight away be struck by the car park face, which is home to some great trad lines. Unfortunately these don’t see much traffic these days and as such most are quite dirty. This car park area is often used by local activity centres for novices and is probably best left to them, for the more serious climber there are far better delights waiting round the corner.
Following the path around from the car park and you soon discover the tranquil gorge and notice that there are a series of ‘cragettes’ dotted along its side. Each of these spots offer an abundance of sport climbing across the low to intermediate grades; although there is the odd ‘desperate’ here the majority of routes are in the 6’s.
Eventually a corner is turned and Kennelgarth wall is visible, home to South Wales’s most popular bouldering spot. Endless problems from V1 to V11 abound this steep wall with almost all of them requiring a cunning mind as well as steel fingers.
Opposite Kennelgarth is the Lower Cave: a more recent addition to Dinas rock with a few super steep climbs that unfortunately seep most of the winter so it’s definitely one for your summer tick list.
From here it is possible to ascend the rock step that is guarded by a short water fall and make your way onto the upper track and in turn to the Main Face. The Main Face at Dinas is an incredible sheet of limestone that is pleasure to climb on. Most of the classics hear are in the 7’s but there are some great 6’s found on the flake cracks on the wall.
It should also be said that Dinas has a few brilliant trad routes and a few of these are found on this very wall. ‘Giant killer E6’ is and impressive piece of roof climbing found on the left of the massive roof that is not for the faint hearted. On the right of this roof is one of the worlds hardest crack climbs, Dina Crac E9. This is the hardest trad route in South Wales and weighs in at around F8b+ in difficulty, add to this all the gear is placed on lead this route is a serious challenge!
The far right of the main wall is home to some slightly easier trad routes. Here you will find ‘Groovy tube’ which is a brilliant E1 climbing through an incredible tube of rock that feels as if you have entered the bowels of the cliff. Spain (E4) is also a classic and worth finding for those into the trad thing!
How to Get there
The crag is simple to find from the village of Glyn Neath where by following the brown tourist signs for waterfalls will see you pass a pub called The Angle. From here take the right fork in the road and at its end you will find the Forestry Commission car park (which is free at present). Once you are on foot simply follow the path on the right hand side of the car park and the crags become apparent in a few minutes. The main crag is no more than a 10 min walk with a short scramble once past the Kennelgath Wall.
Whats in my pack
Dinas Rock offers such a variety of climbing that a little planning is required to know what best to take. For most who intend to boulder simply a bouldering mat, shoes and chalk and you’re good to go. The landings are flat and the height insufficient to require more foam. I would suggest a good pair of aggressive shoes, such as the Evolv Nexxos, with a toe patch for the bouldering as all manner of toe and heel hooks are required to solve a lot of the problems. See Simon’s review of the Nexxos here.
If you are interested in sport climbing then a 50 meter rope will see you safely off almost every line here although it is still best practice to tie a knot in the dead end of the rope. 12 quickdraws are plenty for almost all climbs but those interested in some of the longer lines on the main face may require a few more and some longer extenders can be off great benefit to reduce rope drag.
Most or the lower crags are in the shade of the wooded hill sides so a warm jumper for the evenings is a must but the main wall can be a sun trap, so some sun block and a hat can be useful along with some water (don’t drink from the river, we’ve heard some horror stories)! The walk back to the car from the main crag is not one you want to do more than once a session so check you have everything before leaving!
As it’s a sport venue you will need to know how to thread a lower off to get down safely along with all the normal sport climbing issues.
If you’re into redpointing then a GriGri and clipstick could be useful as a few of the first bolts on the harder lines are quite high above the floor. A lot of the chains have karabiners left in place so you can simply lower back down after a climb- please leave them there! It is worth threading the belay if you intend to strip the line as some could have been in place a long time.
If you are interested in the traditional climbs then a normal rack is sufficient with few cams. Most of the trad lines have some in-situ threads that I would seriously consider backing up as they have been there for some time.
What ever you choose to do at Dinas take some insect repellent! As the sun starts to set midges can be a real pain at Dinas, especially on the lower crags but a good spray can make the difference.
Crag height – 3 to 20 meters
Many climbers have a tough time on there first visit to Dinas rock as the climbing is almost always technical and requires more problem solving than brute force, the holds are not always obvious but I can vouch that they are there!
The first crag that you walk past has two great lines with a great F5 ‘Fromage Frais’ Being a good warm up for most. There is also a great F7A+ ‘Rob Roy’ that goes direct to the same belay and is a lot of peoples first at this grade.
From here a stones throw will se you at the next crag which is home to some great F6s ‘Charlie’s Rusk’ and ‘The Deflated Dick Head’ are the pick of the bunch. Also of note are the F4s found by the track which climb some crazily featured rock.
The slab that follows is deceptively hard, although it looks quite easy due to its less than vertical inclination, don’t be fooled the F6s here are technical and not easy.
Before moving up to the lower cave the last crag you walk past is the Love of Ivy sector and again a few great F6cs and low F7s, ‘Morticia’ probably being the most popular are be found. Also of note is the amazing ability this part of the crag has to stay dry in the rain. Don’t ask me how but I have climbed on dry rock here even in monsoon type weather.
The lower cave is obvious and found on the adjacent riverbank. ‘Rose Line’ F7b and ‘Smashed Rat’ F7c are the two must dos. But the cave does have some other lines all in the 7s and one very difficult link up named ‘Tiger Cut’ 7c+.
After the short scramble you will find Dinas main cliff. How do you pick a line on the main cliff? They are all so involved and tremendous routes. The obvious place to start is on the left of the main roof were a 6b, ‘Call a Spade a Spade’, is a worthwhile warm up. From here walk under the massive roof until you find ‘Berlin’. This route is often listed in the top 100 routes in the UK so has to make an appearance here and should be on the tick list of anyone who operates in the high 6s or 7s. The start is a brutal battle over the first roof followed by some dreamy slab climbing sequences that will baffle most.
‘Chimes of Freedom’ F7c, ‘Harlem’ F7b and ‘H1N1’ F8a are also regional test pieces that also seem to have the benefit of staying dry in most weather conditions.
Once you have finished climbing a short car journey will see you back at The Angel pub which is were most climbers seem to stop to discuss the events of the day and plan their next adventures.
All pictures courtesy of www.simonrawlinsonphotography.com.