North Wales climbing routes focus of Bangor Uni study

Image source, william m connolley
Image caption,
Dinas Cromlech features routes like Cemetery Gates named by legendary climber Joe Brown

Since the 1700s climbers have been finding new routes to scale among the mountains of north Wales and the first to discover them get to name them.

Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington says he named one Sunset Boulevard after a climb in Gwynedd finished late.

Meanwhile, others give a clue as to the nature of the climb involved including two called Valour and Kamikazi Finish.

The author of a study of the names says they also give an insight into cultural changes since the 20th Century.

Bangor University lecturer Kate Lawrence said the climbing industry took off in north Wales in the 1980s, becoming more hedonistic when names started reflecting things like the music and movies of the day.

Early route naming was more descriptive, she says, with first route recorded in 1798 by two clergymen who helpfully called their climb Eastern Terrace due to the position and layout of a crag at Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, which can be seen from the Snowdon mountain train.

But by 1984 climbs in the slate quarries of nearby Dinorwig had names including Flashdance - after the popular movie of 1983 - and one named after 1980s pop star Sade's song The Sweetest Taboo, were becoming more popular.

Image source, terry hughes
Image caption,
Clogwyn Du'r Arddu: Sir Chris Bonington says the Bloody Slab route is adequately named

Theatre and performance art lecturer Ms Lawrence started the study after becoming interested in the names of climbs in the region.

The research involved analysing the names of 145 climbs from four climbing areas in north Wales at Clogwyn Du'r Arddu [Cloggy], Dinorwig slate quarries, Dinas Cromlech and Bwlch y Moch at Tremadog.

And although Sir Chris has taken on the biggest and most challenging climbs around the world he can still recall the names of much smaller routes in north Wales.

"I have made one or two first ascents in Snowdonia," said Sir Chris.

"Some have more graphic names like Bloody Slab [Clogwyn Du'r Arddu] because it was incredibly hard to climb," he added.

Legendary climber Joe Brown added many routes to crags in north Wales with names like Cemetery Gates, Resurrection and Cenotaph Corner, first climbed - and named - in the early 1950s.

Gwynedd climber Calum Muskett highlights The Indian Face climb as "probably the most difficult and dangerous" on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu.

Image source, Kate Lawrence
Image caption,
Kate Lawrence led the study after becoming fascinated by the names

It was first ascended in 1986, before which it was known as The Headmaster's Wall.

He says its revised name was "less pretentious" than the former and was used because the crag "resembles a traditional Indian headdress and face when seen on a snowy day in winter time".

He added: "At the end of the day, the name isn't the important part of a route, it's the line, position and climbing that make it something special.

"Names are like belly buttons, everybody has one, some just stick out more than others."

Names of climbs are now routinely logged online on websites like

But Ms Lawrence says they were originally recorded in a book kept in a local pub before being incorporated into local guidebooks.

She presented her findings to a Royal Geographical Society international conference in London last week.

Image source, mj richardson
Image caption,
Dinorwig slate quarries: Names include Flashdance and 80s pop star Sade's song The Sweetest Taboo

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