Castell Helen

The friendliest of the crags you have to abseil into and therefore deservably popular. Lighthouse Arete is often the first ‘Gogarth’ experience for many, and sometimes the last!
Don’t be fooled though this is not just a punter venue, and at low tide it is well worth traversing round to below the main overhangs, where Stevie Haston forged his way through.

It is best to park at the South Stack Cafe, to do this you will need to patronise the cafe, but another brew and some cake a is great way to start and finish the experience. From the car park head towards the small white castle, this is Ellen’s Tower, owned and run by the RSPB, where there is a CCTV monitor of the birds and sometimes climbers on Red Walls.
Go over a small wall just to the right of the tower and descend a small steep path to the cliff edge and racking up spot. The abseil point for the the route on this section of cliff, is to the left looking out to sea. A 60 metre rope will get you as far as you need to go.

The Routes
The first couple of routes lie between the main section of the crag and the red walls.
Captain Nemo E3 65m (R)
Abseil directly to sea level ledges across the zawn from Black Light.
1. 20m 5b. The short corner leads to easier ground. Pass the overhang and continue to belay on a sloping ledge on the left (peg).
2. 45m 5c. Step right around the corner and traverse right (scary) on all sorts of holds to join and finish up Lighthouse Arete.
Andy Newton & Martin Crook on-sight (AL), 25 Sep 1986.

E3 60m
1. 20m 5b. Captain Nemo p1.
40m 5c. From the belay at the top of the first pitch of Captain Nemo, climb up the obvious groove. At the top of the groove, go over a small roof and weave a way up the wall above to reach a diagonal break/ledge. Follow the break/ramp left to a large corner and finish up this to a grassy scramble.
Adam Wainwright, James Harrison (on-sight), 5 Sep 1996.
Captain Lovepants 65m E2
Unclear how this route relates to Nematoid.
Approach as for Captain Nemo.
1. 20m 5b. Captain Nemo p1.
2. 45m 5b. Traverse across the slab to the arete and follow this on suspect rock to a niche under an overhang. Stick a big friend in and head up and right….remainder of Petes Eats entry illegible. Rick ? 2003.
The next 3 routes lie on the slabby wall left of Lighthouse Arete.
Black Light HVS 65m
A good but esoteric and poorly protected outing up the big slab on the LHS of Castell Helen. Gain the base of the slab by scrambling round from the main abseil.
1. 35m 4c. Climb the slab via a blunt rib, crack, overhang and flake to take a stance right of the top of the slab.
2. 30m 4b. Finish up and right to the main abseil point.
AC Wilmott, MJ Spring, D Edwards, 14 Sep 1969.
Woodlight HS 4a 60m
Climb the crest of the ridge on the right side of the slab of Black Light to join and finish up Black Light. Take belays as necessary.
Tim Neill, J Bertalot, 28/9/11.
Fluorescent Ridge VD 60m
Start left of the roof capped groove at the base of the left arete of the main face. Climb up and leftwards on the right side of the ridge of Woodlight. Continue past the roof to join and finish as for Black Light. Take belays as necessary.
Tim Neill, J Bertalot, 28/9/11.
The next routes are access from the main abseil which is just down and left (looking out to sea) from the racking up spot, head down the corner on the left hand side of the massive half way girdle ledge. There are rumour abound that this ledge has been jumped off into the sea below, I would either a) check the landing or b) not listen to vicious rumours. As you approach the tide line of the cliff there is a triangular niche further out left. The routes to NW passage belay from here, it can get quite crowded. For other routes abseil down but swing right to a good traverse line that leads to below the large stepped overhangs.
Lighthouse Arete VS 80m **
The left arete of the main face. A great route to introduce people to the great experiences of sea cliff climbing and relatively easy for the grade. Pitches 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 can be linked.
1. 20m 4a. From the niche, traverse obvious ledges out left, trending up and to a ledge on the arete.
2. 15m 4b or 4c. Climb the wall on the right to a crack head direct to the small ledge below a roof that leads to the corner above, or more easily from the crack move right to ledge on the arete and go up to the same belay.
3. 15m 4c. Surmount the roof above and bridge in wild position for the grade up the corner. To the ledge above.
4. 30m 4a. From the ledge climb the crack on the right to easier ground and make a rising traverse traverse to arrive back at the abseil station that can become quite crowded, as many routes converge here.
Geoff Cram, Mike Yates, 8 Oct 1966.

Blanco ***
HVS 71m
A brilliant route with a stunningly positioned crux. 
1. 4c 33m. From the low tide niche, follow the right-hand crack that emerges on huge holds to the high-tide niche. Continue in the same direction more steeply, following the groove, to a small roof at a quartz band. Step left, then climb up & gradually leftwards on the wall, keeping to the left of the overlap, heading for the cone shaped groove above. Cross underneath the groove to belay on a ledge.
2. 5a 18m. Above and right is an improbable looking cone shaped groove. Ascend this, with good gear and good holds, in an amazing position and move up and slightly right to the overlap above. This is cunningly circumvented with another step right. Go straight up the broken crack above to belay on the arête.
3. 4a 25m. Climb the arête, joining the previous routes, heading rightwards for the abseil station and the top.
Joe Brown, Dave Alcock, 15.09.66.

A State of Saturation ** 
HVS 73m
A really great eliminate that squeezes it’s way in between Blanco and Posiedon.
1. 28m 5a Ascend the low tide niche and the left-hand crack that emerges from the top of it, to a small pinnacle and spike on the left side of the high tide niche. A vague groove and wall lie above; between the crack of Lighthouse Arête Direct & the groove of Blanco. Head directly up the wall beneath the cone shaped groove on steep but well protected ground. Belay below the cone shaped groove.
2. 45m 5a/b Traverse rightwards under the short roof and onto a quartz veined red slab on surprising holds. Climb up to the apex of the next short roof and step right over it to a flake crack. Sustained but well protected moves lead up this and the leaning groove above to the arête and a finish up Lighthouse Arête.
Mike Gresham et al, 1984.

Poseidon *
VS 68m 
Another good adventure which gradually increases in difficulty the higher you ascend. Start from the niche on the low tide platform.
1. 30m 4b Follow Blanco to the small quartzy roof. Climb straight over this and up a discontinuous crack and groove above on big holds, to belay at the second good ledge, or slightly further up and left on the red slab of State of Saturation. 
2. 25m 4c Continue up the big crack to a band of more slabby rock. It is possible to scuttle left on to the arête here but better to continue. The crack above provides an awkward but well protected crux on big, if slightly unusual, holds. Ascend it to the big break of Pel P2 which is followed easily leftwards to Lighthouse Arête.
3. 15m 4a As for Lighthouse Arete P4
D McGonigal, J Doodson, W Sutherland, 9 May 1970.
Variation: The Blanco Connection HVS
2a 30m 5a. Climb diagonally leftwards up the red slab via a small cave to join and finish up Blanco.

Variation: Poseidon Direct Finish HVS/ E1
2a 30m 5a. Instead of traversing left to Lighthouse Arete to belay, step right and climb a shallow groove to the abseil point.
D Lyon, J Frost, K Robertson, C Lyon, 1976.
Pel VS 65m **
Another good route which takes the obvious crack & groove leading to the halfway ledge. Start at the high tide niche.
1. 4c 28m From the right side of the niche follow a line of good holds rightwards across the wall to the main crack. Follow this, steeply at times, and the wall above. Move slightly left to the groove, and climb this to the left-hand side of the halfway platform and a belay.
2. 4b 37m From the left-hand side of the platform, climb the short wall above, up and slightly leftwards, to reach an obvious horizontal break with a small roof. Follow this, rising leftwards, towards the arête, and finish moving back right on slightly less solid rock to reach the top.
Pete Crew, Dave Alcock, 8th Oct 1966.
North West Passage E1 71m **
Start as for Rap.
1. 28m 5a. Move across the wall trending slightly left to a crack system in the middle of the wall, straight up the wall to a vague groove and follow this to theleft of the platform.
2. 43m 5b. Climb up to a traverse line at 6m and follow this right to a peg. Gain the next break above and move left into a short open groove. Follow this for a short way before stepping left onto the front of the face. Climb straight up to the top in a fine position.
Al Evans, Jim Moran (led pitch 1). Geoff Milburn, N Siddiqui, 1st May 1978.
It was done by several climbers from the north west and was above Atlantis. Al Evans.
The title of a particularly bleak Preston based erotic film. Frankie Boyle.

Lee Roberts on Northwest Passage. Photo Jethro Kiernan

Rap VS 65m **
Start at ledges at the bottom right of the front face. Feels quite hard for VS.
1. 28m 4c. An excellent steep pitch but with good holds and gear. From the ledge climb up and initially leftwards before straighteneing up and heading for the obvious corner/groove in the middle of the face. Tricky moves gain the corner which soon eases and so romp up on good jugs to reach the belay ledge.
2. 37m 4c. From the belay step left and climb up the centre of the red wall to an obvious large break. Ferret around in the back of this for good gear (make sure its well extended) and then quest on up the wall above. This can feel hard on first aquaintence, especially if tackled directly, coming in from the left may make things easier for you. As the angle eases bear leftwards, round a big block to reach a slab and so up this to the ab point.
Pete Crew, Dave Alcock, 8 Oct 1966.

Jon Ratcliffe on Rap. Photo Jethro Kiernan

Limping Lisa E2 5b 37m
This great route deserves more traffic. Micro wires & cams of all sizes handy. It starts from the centre of the half-way ledge. Climb straight up the wall past a thread at the dark break to the grassy ledge. Arrange gear (a good wire to the right) and awkwardly gain the thin groove, just left of Atlantis, which is followed more easily to a small overlap. Pass this, move right to clip a peg, and then go left to the second overlap. Traverse left on good holds, past a block, to a break and small niche just right of Rap. Move through the overlap and up the improbable wall above on small but positive holds to the break. Shuffle right to gain a faint groove and finish easily up this.
Stephen Reid & Crag Jones, Sept. 1982.

In the CC Gogarth guide the entry for Limping Lisa (on Castell Helen) says something like “the crag was crawling with teams”. This was not true and it makes it sound as though I was being reckless. Although I did knock a block over which shattered into fragments one of which hit Lisa on the ankle, the block was actually tipped with the agreement of all other parties on the crag and in fact there were only four of us there, myself, Bill Parker, Crag Jones and Lisa and we had all travelled there together. The three of us then hauled Lisa to the top of the crag and took her to Bangor Hostpital where here ankle thankfully was found to be merely bruised.Stephen Reid.
True Moments E1 86m **
Start as for Rap.
1. 28m 4b. Climbs the righthand arete and the wall just to its left. An excellent pitch with some beautiful climbing and good gear. From the belay head up for a few metres until good holds enable you to gain the arete. Climb this, taking time to enjoy the amazing scenery surrounding you, untill you are forced back onto the face. A slightly awkward move up leads to easier climbing and the half way ledge.
2. 30m 5b. Climb down the corner on the right of the ledge for 3m to an obvious traverse line. Traverse rightwards (peg) for 12m to a rest. Climb straight up the wall, moving slightly rightwards to belay below the roof.
3. 28m 5b. Step up left where the roof is an overlap and pull into the groove. Finish up this.
Andy Hyslop, Dave Knighton AL, 1st May 1978.

Andy Scott on True Moments. Photo Jethro Kiernan

Variation: Caress of Steel E2
3a. 30m 5c. Climb directly over the roof (peg). Finish up the wall above (peg).
Andy Hyslop, Dave Knighton, 1st May 1978.
Atlantis E1 68m **
1. 28m 5a. Climb the obvious right facing corner, to belay on the halfway ledge. This pitch is technical, sustained and excellent.
2. 40m 5c. Above the belay just to the right of centre is a short technical groove (peg reported MIA in 2007), climb the wall to gain the groove, an awkward move right allows one to exit the groove. Continue diagonally up and right to gain another more continuous groove. Climb this to the top.
Joe Brown, Dave Alcock, 16 Sep 1966.
Freebird E1 104m ***
1. 40m 4c. Move up to the ledge on Lighthouse Arete. Climb diagonally right across Blanco and gain the platform by the groove of Pel.
2. 30m 5b. From the right hand side of the platform follow a lower traverse line and belay below the roof on the slab.
3. 34m 5b. Step up left where the roof is an overlap and pull into the groove. Climb diagonally rightwards above the roof (exposed) to finish up an easy groove, a fine pitch.
Al Evans, N Siddiqui, Geoff Milburn, Jim Moran (led pitch 1). 27/3/78.
Link up: Atlantis/True Moments/Freebird E1 92m ***
If you only have time to do one route on the crag, do this link up.
1. 60m 5b. Climb the corner of Atlantis to a few metres below the belay ledge, then quest out right as for True Moments to the belay.
2. 32m 5b. Finish up Freebird.
The Flight of the Do Do E4 6a 30m
Start below an overhanging corner, 17 metres right of the last belay of Freebird. Climb the overhanging wall (hidden RPs) to pull leftwards via a heelhook onto the wall, right of the top pitch of Freebird. Climb direct to the belay of Freebird.

Mike Twid Turner, Louise Thomas, 1996.

Andy Scott onsighting the first ascent of Sloe Passage E4 6a, Castell Helen. Photo: Emma Warren.
Sloe Passage E4 6a
A great little pitch off the halfway ledge on the wall between Northwest Passage and Atlantis.
Start up the same line (off the halfway ledge) as for the start of Northwest Passage. Where this traverses right, go straight up the wall as for Caught ‘twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, mantelling onto a small ledge – ‘twixt the devil’ steps right here to follow a slim groove. Instead go straight up the wall (cluster of good but small RPs) past a flaky undercut and small edges, pulling left into the base of a slim groove and moving up to good breaks and gear. Step left over a small overlap onto the cracked wall and finish direct to a broken groove.
Andy Scott, Ian Wilson. 9th Nov, 2010.
Caught ‘Twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea E3 5c 43m
Another great route, quite sustained but never too hard. It starts from the right-hand side of the half-way ledge. Climb directly up to the good break at 6m. Shuffle right onto a small ledge below a short black wall. Small but positive holds lead up and then diagonally rightwards (small nut placements do exist!) along a faint groove to a good spike (on Northwest Passage) which is passed less easily than imagined! A slim groove and bigger holds now beckon on the left; head for these and ascend to a ledge. Climb the wall above, slightly left of centre, in a great position to the top.
Kev Howett & Stephen Reid, Spring 1983.
The name came about because we turned the car radio on as we drove home and those were the first words that came out of it! Stephen Reid
There is “considerable confusion” about the exact line taken by the first ascentionists of Atlantic Wall which is a pity because it was the first route up this section of cliff which now contains numerous eliminates. It is unclear from the data where exactly the first ascentionists took a belay (level with the stance on Atlantis, left to the stance of Atlantis, or right to the stance of True Moments) and how the top pitch relates to later additions such as North West Passage and True Moments. 

Atlantic Wall E3
Start as for Obelisk.
1. 40m 5c. Follow Obelisk for 15 feet then continue straight up bearing slightly left to gain the weakest point of the main overhang (possible belay). Climb the small overhang and continue up the steep wall above until level with the stance on Atlantis.
2. 30m 5b. Traverse diagonally right until obvious cracks can be reached and follow these to the top.
Dave Barton, Jack Firth (AL) 1969. Note: the above is the original description from the 1977 guide. This was around the time when Dave and Jack were playing the roles of the Holliwell brothers during the making of the film ‘The Climbers’ which went on to win awards at the Trento film festival.

“Owing to considerable confusion”, the 1978 supplement re-described the end of p1 as ……steep wall to a peg runner on True Moments. Go left to the platform and belay as for Atlantis. p2 From the right hand end of the platform climb the steep wall on the right to the obvious traverse line. Follow this rightwards as for the girdle traverse to a peg runner. Move up and right to a crack above the break just right of the open groove of North West Passage. Climb the crack and corner to a dirty finish.

“Owing to considerable confusion”, the 1981 supplement re-described the end of p1 again as ….join True Moments at the end of the traverse. Belay level with the stance on Atlantis. p2 Climb the steep wall on the right…..

The 1990 guide description is p1 Start a little to the right of Atlantis. Go boldly straight up, directly beneath the left hand end of the big overhang……to reach the large break (presumably True Moments). Move right along this, then climb the wall and go up to a poor belay 10m below the roof (presumably as for True Moments/ Freebird). p2 Move diagonally leftwards to join a horizontal traverse line, directly above the first pitch (presumably as for True Moments) . Take a groove just right of North West Passage (presumably True Moments), and a crack to its right, to a dirty finish. The Ground Up Gogarth South guide has a similar description.

Atlantic Wall 2000 E3 75m. *
In keeping with tradition, Atlantic Wall is redescribed for the new millennium as climbed by a direct variation.
1 45m. 5c. Climb the arête right of the Atlantis pitch 1 corner, easily at first until forced to climb the centre of the wall for a few moves. Move immediately back right to stand on the arête where Atlantic Wall emerges from below the overhangs. Climb up then diagonally rightwards along a broken crack to gain a blunt right-facing rib after a few metres, which is climbed to reach the traverse of True Moments at the shallow cave on the traverse fault – about 6 metres right of Atlantis corner. From the right-hand end of the cave, gain the wall above and climb directly to the girdle traverse line, just below the thin wet groove that is 4 metres left of the North West Passage groove line. Belay.
2 30m. 6b. Gain and climb the thin wet groove to its junction with Caught ‘Twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Make a move up the leftwards slanting groove of Caught ‘Twixt.. until a step rightwards across the face can be made to gain a footledge on the right. From here, climb difficult moves straight upwards, well protected by R.P’s, to join North West Passage. Follow this to finish.
Glenda Huxter and Howard Jones, May 2000.


Hanging out at Glastonbury E4 **
A good traverse which allows the excellent 3rd pitch of Free Stone Henge to be experienced by lesser mortals. Start 7m down from Castle Helen Ledge in the corner of Atlantis, on good nuts.
1 17m. 5c. Follow the obvious traverse line right to the arête and belay (junction with Obelisk).
2 17m. 6a. Reverse the traverse of Obelisk and carry on right to belay in centre of slab.
3 18m. 5c. Free Stone Henge p3.
4 30m. 5b. Free Stone Henge p4
Mike Twid Turner and Louise Thomas, 1992.

Obelisk 79m E6 ***
Finds a line through the left hand side of the massive roof system.
1 15m 4c Climb the groove and slab to belay below the first roof.
34m 6b Climb up to the roof. Hand traverse wildly left along the break under the roof to gain the arete (see pic below). Climb the tricky groove to the next roof. Protection is good but pumpy to place. Traverse leftwards to the arete and easier ground above. Belay.
30m 5b Climb the slab, moving right to finish up a steep groove.
DE Alcock, JV Anthoine (A2) 30/8/69. FFA Stevie Haston, Martin Crook 1981.

Castell helen - Gogarth

Tim Emmett on Obelisk. Photo G.Farquhar
Free Stone Henge E6 70m ***
This route tackles the lower overhang direct, in a wild position then weaves through the top overhang with suprising ease. A great route. Start as for Kalahari.
1 10m. 4c. From the right end of the ledge, pull steeply through the bulge on large holds. Belay on the slab beneath the main roof.
2 10m. 6b. Approach the weakness in the roof from the left. The wide flared crack is a short and tough fight. Belay on the slab.
3 20m. 5c. Worth E4 in its own right. This amazing pitch bails out right through the upper roofs with bags of exposure. Traverse right round a huge hanging block and continue undercutting right and round onto the slab. Belay further up.
4. 30m. 5b. Surmount the cracked face and go up right to the cave to finish up the crack-line as for Kalahari.
Stevie Haston and Ray Kay, Aug 1986. Second ascent Johnny Dawes and Trevor Hodgson, 1986.

Vital Statistix E8 77m

Start on the right hand side of the two cheese wedges.
1 23m. 5b. Step off the left hand end and climb up steeply to the base of a right facing corner and continue up the slab to belay below the overhanging v-roof of Free Stone Henge.
2 7m. 6c. Take the roof direct, right of Free Stonehenge. Start by reaching a large undercut (good nut) and continue with body bars to a rest and undercut up the overhanging groove to a wild bold finish.
312m. 6c. Climb the roof left of Free Stone Henge.
4 35m. 6c. Climb the overhanging wall left of Obelisk‘s top pitch. Follow the quartz streaks to a peg and RPs. A hard move left and up gains undercuts, peg, and continue steeply direct to finish. Bold.
Mike Twid Turner, Louise Thomas. June 1995, climbed over various days.

Kalahari Highway E4 70m ***
A direct variation of Kalahari linking to the phenomenal roof traverse that is p3 of Free Stone Henge.
10m. 4c. Kalahari p1.
2 30m. 5c. Start up the bulge as for Kalahari and then diagonally right to a small hanging slab that allows access leftwards around the end of the first roof, (crux). Possible belay on the slab as for Free Stone Henge. The rest of the pitch is common to Free Stone Henge p3. Move up to a rest and then launch out right along the undercut flake through the roof to the nose. Belay 5m up the slab. Outstanding.
3 30m. 5b. Free Stone Henge p4.
T. Dagg and E. Hind (11/5/10).

Kalahari E3 73m **
A quality route traversing rightwards through the big roofs. Good gear and solid rock with the hard climbing short lived. from the base of the abseil, traverse right (looking in) to some sloping ledges below the first bulge.
1 10m. 4c. From the right end of the ledge, pull steeply through the bulge on large holds. Belay on the slab on the right.
45m. 5c. Be wary of rope drag on this pitch. Move up the right end of the slab to a peg. Hard moves right lead round onto the next wall. Follow the slanting crack rightwards to a fine position on the arete. Carefully climb the runout groove above followed by easy slabs to belay beneath the upper headwall.
28m. 5b. A fine mini-route. Climb up onto a large block from the left and tackle the strenuous but well-protected crack above. Climbing the centre of the block via a thin crack is poorly protected 5c (pushing grade up to E4?)
Joe Brown, Pete Crew (3 pts aid) 2/10/66. Second pitch direct Rowland Edwards, 1967. Top pitch Geoff Birtles, Joe Brown, Baz Ingle, 1967.
Drunken without Trace E6 76m.
Start at overhanging groove directly below top of pitch 1 of Kalahari.
1 13m. 6b/c. Climb up the wall to below the overhanging groove. Over this and move up to the obvious line of jugs leading to the ledge.
2 33m. 6a. Traverse right across break to a loose spike (white tape) and climb up and left through Kalahari (rest). Climb straight up and thrutch through the overhanging chimney. Wild pull out leads to slab above.
3 30m. 5b. Free Stone Henge p4.
Mike Twid Turner, Louise Thomas, Ian McNeill, 1992.
Gobi HVS 76m
Makes the most of the rock between Kalahari and Yellow Wall. Loose and serious but improving towards the top. Start 100 feet right of Atlantis right of an overhanging groove.
1. 18m 4c. Climb the shallow groove in the arete to the right. Belay at the base of a crack.
2. 25m 4c. Climb the crack and continue to belay on the RHS of the slabs above.
3. 15m 4a. Continue up the slabs to belay at the foot of an obvious groove in the steep headwall.
4. 18m 5a. Finish up the groove.
Pete Crew, Joe Brown, 1 Jan 1967. Most of this had been climbed previously (according to the 1969 guide).
Where Puffin’s Daren’t * HVS 4a-5a
A 6 pitch girdle with fine climbing, slightly easier than Castell Helen Girdle mostly above that route but they join for the last two pitches. Start up Lighthouse Arete Direct pitch 1. Up 10mts to the big break and across to belay in the corner of Atlantis. Go across the steep wall to a juggy break across to the belay below the roof on Freebird. Down to join Castell Helen Girdle and follow this for 3 pitches to finish,
Al Evans, Geoff Milburn, N Siddiqui, Simon Horrox, 28/5/78.
Castell Helen Girdle E1 5b
5 pitches. As for pitch 1 Freebird then follow a traverse line to the belay on Freebird. Follow slabs under the roof. Up the exposed ramp and right above huge overhangs to a corner.Traverse 3 mts right to a foothold on the arete, steeply back left and up the corner on good holds to the top.
Geoff Cram, Mike Yates 8/10/66. The final section had been climbed previously by H.Smith and party.
The Blunder
E2 5b, 45m
Probably done before but could find no references.
Alternative finish to Castell Helen Girdle. From Kalahari stance at the end of easy slabs climb up rightwards into the corner bulge as for the start of pitch 2 on Kalahari. Take the horizontal break rightwards in a fantastic position. Usual vagaries of rock. Emerge into slightly broken ground and up a few metres to finish. (Around the Savage we think). 2nd needs to be steady also.
Adrian Pedley, Neil Griffiths – 11.6.2016

Rock Climbing Information for North Wales