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Route of the Month: Bilberry Terrace

Words by Will C

on 23/02/2017 12:00:26


The route we're going to look at this month is Bilberry Terrace, first climbed in December 1894. It's a Grade 3+ Scramble located on one of Snowdonia's most looked at, but least climbed venues: Lliwedd. The cliff itself is huge, home to a variety of routes, but for some reason it fails to attract the footfall of some of its more popular neighbours such as The Idwal Slabs or Tryfan. It may be the scale and difficulty in retreating from the cliff, combined with the need for sound mountaineering and route finding skills that persuades climbers to seek easier lines elsewhere.

It wasn't always this way, and in the late 19th century and earlier 20th was a place of pilgrimage for the climbing royalty of the day: Eckstein, Archer-Thompson, Young, Edwards, Longlands, who, between them, carved a series of classic lines, Bilberry being among them, that still stand the test of time today.

Take the time to venture here and you'll rarely find yourself having to wait behind another party, and you'll be able to enjoy solitude rarely experienced elsewhere in Snowdonia. Bilberry, itself, is a great route with an exposed alpine feel. Long traverses on exposed grassy ledges interspersed with some short but difficult - for the grade - sections make for a thrilling day out


From the Pen y Pass Car Park: Take the well-marked Miners Track to the green hut located at the edge of Llyn Llydaw Grid SH 634545. Turn left here, then take the path that runs next to the lake, across a bridge that spans Llydaw's outflow SH 632543. Head 200m uphill, on a well-defined track, until you reach a small indistinct cairn at SH 632541 which marks the start of the path leading to Lliwedd . Follow this path, which winds its way around smaller outcrops, becoming fainter and more indistinct as you begin to pass under the scree slopes of the east buttress. Keep one eye on the start, and head up the scree below Central Gully, taking care to keep to existing tracks and avoid disturbing the scree as it plays host to parsley fern, clubmosses that, while been common in the cooler, oceanic mountains of western Britain tend to be rarer in Europe as a whole. Start of the scramble is at SH 624534 (Photo 1 & 1a)


Photo 1: General line of the track leading from the main track to the start of the scramble. Blue arrow denotes central gully


Photo 1a : Overall Route showing the major obstacles and features. White Arrow: the start with tricky corner; Red Arrow: Prominent 5 m Corner; Yellow Arrow: The Notch; Purple Arrow: The First Gully; Blue Arrow: The second broad gully and area of Quartz & Moss Topped Block; Green Arrow: Location of the final chimney.

Red Line: Alternate finish up the Pinnacles


The Start | After negotiating the scree slop continue upwards on easy vegetated scrambling until you arrive at a small terrace with a short 3m corner to the right. If you haven't roped up at this point, take the opportunity to do so then climb the corner, which can be surprisingly difficult in the wet. At the top of the corner is the wide grassy terrace. Belay here and bring your second up the tricky corner (Photo 2)


Photo 2: Looking down from the grassy terrace to the 3 m corner marked by the red circle

Stage 2 | Having negotiated the first obstacle, follow the well-worn grassy terrace upwards as it gradually rises for 75m until you reach the foot of a prominent 5m corner. As for the first corner, the second can be tricky in the wet and if wearing gloves. That said there's ample placements to construct a good belay, and for the leader to place protection during the ascent of the corner (Photo 3). Once the corner is cleared, continue upwards and trend left until you find a wide stance and spike belay (Photo 4)


Photo 3: Prominent 5 m corner which represents the major technical scrambling section of the route. Yellow line shows the general line and direction to the stance and spike belay

5 Bilberry Terrace after the crux enjoying a rest with Crib Goch in the background

Photo 4: Looking down at the second, who's just arrived at the top of the difficult corner, from the spike belay. Llyn Llydaw in the background

Stage 3 | From the spike belay head continue progress upwards by cutting right and across a short exposed slab to reach another platform. At the end of the platform is a short wide chimney like crack. Climb the crack. There's good footholds in the crack and sound handholds above (which might need debris clearing from them)

Once above the crack continue along the terrace, trend to the left and climb a fairly steep groove, with a copper coloured wall to the left hand side. From the top of the groove regain the terrace.

Press on along the terrace, passing a gully with a wedged plinth at around half-height until you reach Pinnacle Corner, a prominent notch formed by a pinnacle and the main rock face. Here the terrace crosses the buttress's central ridge. From this point you'll be able to see the sweeping face of the main Lliwedd Cliff Face (Photo 5 & 6)

8 At the notch

Photo 5: Passing through the notch


Photo 6: Moving along the exposed grassy terrace after the notch

Stage 4 | Follow the notch press on for another 30 m along the exposed grassy ledge (Photo 6) passing a small cannon stone on the left. Shortly afterwards a rock rib marks the end of the terrace. From here, turn left and head up defined steps for 25m which lead into a prominent 15m wide depression. Initially keep right in the depression only shifting left as you exit near the top.

Leave the depression by way of a leftward leaning plinth like rock, continue left to a point where you find yourself c. 30 m above Pinnacle Corner (Photo 7)

11 Heading for the summit of the route

Photo 7: The second exiting the first depression in the area of the plinth like rock

Stage 5 | From the point 30 m above Pinnacle Corner maintain movement to the left. Cross a second depression, aiming for a notch in the ridge on the opposite side of the depression. Belay on the opposite side of the depression on a prominent ridge 10-15 above a prominent moss and quartz topped pinnacle (Photo 8 & 9).

15 Moving up to the final rib edited 2

Photo 8: Crossing the second depression and aiming for the notch(s) marking the ridge and belay

17 on the way to the summit

Photo 9: Checking the route and belay prior to moving to the final chimney/amphitheatre

Stage 6 | From the belay above the moss and quartz topped block head up right until you arrive at a small rock grove/amphitheatre, the exit from this feature takes the form of a short chimney section. On exiting the chimney you'll find yourself at the base of another depression, 40 m or so in width. There are two options to exit the depression. The easier is to keep to the right and pick you way up the scree and rocks, interspersed with the occasional footstep to just short of the summit.

A better variation is to climb the spiky ridge immediately to the left of the depression (Photo 10). Care should be taken with loose rock on both exits.

19 on the final rib prior to the exit

Photo 10: On spiky ridge variation on the final section prior to the summit, Llyn Llydaw in the background


At the top, weather permitting, stop and enjoy the view. It's a superb location for sandwiches and tea prior to making your descent. If you're short on time then the logical route of is to head east, along the the Lliwedd to Grid SH 630535. From here, head north and pick you way gently down the track which will eventually take you back to the Green Tin Hut SH 634545 on the shore of the lake . From here it's just a case of re-tracing your steps and taking the Miners Track back to the car park at Pen y Pass.

Here you can pop across to the Youth Hostel and treat yourself to a tea and cake at Mallory's Café. If the weather is fine you can sit outside, but if it's a bit nippy then you can cosy up inside and talk about the day's adventures.

1 Early Morning at the First Stance, Llyn Llydaw and the Glyderau in the background

Photo: Midway on route with Crib Coch (left) and the Glyderau (centre, rear) bathed in December sunlight. Llyn Llydaw stretched out behind


The Route: Point 2 to Point 22: Spot Tracker Data overlaid onto Google Earth.

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