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My favourite crag to learn to lead a trad rock climb...

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

Living in North Wales I’m spoilt with multi pitch crags on which to run learn to lead rock climbing courses, but Milestone Buttress on the side of Tryfan stands out as my favourite.

My first lead climb was the classic Tennis Shoe, HS, on Idwal Slabs during a climbing course when I was about 17, but some of my first independent leads were over on Milestone and eventually I really enjoyed the brilliant Super Direct, with a top pitch that feels a bit cheeky for HVS 5a. It’s not all great though! I’m sure plenty of people have enjoyed climbing the HS Soapgut, but it was green and slimy when I did it years ago and I’ve never revisited it! I also got a bit lucky on Mountaineering Instructor Award assessment, spending a day of it at Milestone teaching multi pitch climbing, which was great as I know every route and pretty much every belay really well!

Superdirect “back in the day!”

So why do I love it? Firstly it’s almost roadside and that’s always a bonus, especially in a work sense, from having coffee at the Siabod Cafe, you can be gearing up at the bottom of the crag within 30 minutes! The climbing on the main face is really good, the rock is solid and positive – even the polished bits don’t really effect the routes too much. The solid rock also provides loads of opportunities for excellent gear placements and comfy belays, which makes it a really friendly place to get your multi pitching skills dialled.

You might think that if friendliness is a factor, then Milestone falls down here. It’s not a super simple walk off once you’ve finished to get back to the bottom ready for the next routes, but the descent here is great for teaching abseiling. I will normally skip the very top of the routes when working and then if I'm on the right side of the crag I'll traverse off right across the big sloping ledge section to where there is a chimney with great anchor choices (take some tat) and a short abseil into an easy scrambley descent (watch your ropes when you pull them though, there’s a naughty block that likes to snag your ropes). If I'm on the left I'll use the block near the top of Direct Route. It’s possible to top out and traverse into the main gully and either scramble down or make a longer abseil back down, in a work sense this all takes a bit longer and isn’t of so much value to me.

The bulk of the routes on the main face are Diff – V Diff which are exactly what I’m after for teaching leading or introducing people to multi pitch climbing. Depending on quite what the aim of the day is I’d look to be getting a couple of routes done at these grades, maybe Pulpit Route, V Diff and Direct Route also V Diff (polished first pitch but mega gear). After doing those we’ll probably have done about 8 pitches, as I break them down a bit compared to the guidebook descriptions, and two abseils.

To cap the day off I like to jump on the first pitch of the aforementioned Superdirect which is a good bit of fun at VS 4c and really makes you trust your feet! From there I’ll normally lower my clients back to the ground and I’ll scramble off to the side.

With only a 15 minute walk back to the road, tea & cake isn’t far away!

There’s plenty of other routes there to to fill a day such as Rowan Route Diff and Ordinary Route Diff, or to make a “proper” mountain day of it you could do a route on here before traversing around to Heather Terrace for one of the awesome long routes there, such as Grooved Arete – but move quickly!

If you want to climb these routes they’re in a few guidebooks, the Ogwen guide by the Climbers Club is the definitive one though.

Rack wise you won’t need anything out of the ordinary, something like: Nuts 1-11, doubled up in the medium sizes, on a couple of snappers (DMM Phantom) Cams 1,2,3,4 (Dragons) or the equivalent hexes (Torque Nuts) on snappers 10 quickdraws of various lengths 3 x 120cm slings with a snapper each 1 x 240cm slings on a snapper Nut key and snapper Prusiks on a snapper Screwgates – DMM Phantom, Boa and a Sentinel Belay plate – BD ATC and DMM Sentinel Ropes, doubles or a single (the abseil I use is fine on a 50m single)

If you want to learn these skills on a course with us, check out our climbing courses page!

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