The elephant in the room

June 27, 2017

Skills n drills. Check, check and double check. Working alone has its risks. That's why I am careful...

Another day at Elephant's Cave, moving my rope across the wall that has given pressure blisters from working in my harness too long already. A bird flies by my ear. Not a bird but a seagull size block of limestone that has been dislodged by my working line about 3 metres above my head. I know where it's come from as I clocked it on the way down, pinned it with my rope, and thought "It'll be ok, I just have to remember not to move my rope"...


Elephant's Cave has been long known (or not) for housing the superb, ever-dry 7a "Pure Conjecture". I remember spending winter training sessions on this with "Mad" Steve before being able to afford to visit the climbing wall.

Well, now it is home to a few more worthwhile fully bolted routes. With the summer ban on Pen Trwyn fast approaching - maybe its time to visit the Elephant?

The details below are adapted from text provided by Andy Boorman and based on the 2014 "North Wales Limestone" guide book published by OnSight Publishing. If you don't have a copy, then go buy one.

There is still a fair amount of work to be done here. The routes listed below have all seen some re-equipping with stainless bolts and lower-offs, and would benefit from traffic. Preferably traffic armed with brushes...

Treat the rock with respect. There are still fragile areas. Helmets advised on the longer routes.

Please feel free to provide feedback on what has been done so far. Grades are a guesstimate as I don't get out as much as I used to :(


Elephant's Cave Update 2017



Ben Matthews showing the way on probably the 2nd ascent of a newly re-equipped "Pure Rejector"

This complex sector of walls and caves has now been descaled and re-bolted by Matt Jones and friends to give a series of worthwhile routes and a few new ones. The crag provides shade on hot days and a useful ‘alternative’ to Pen Trwyn during the holiday periods.

Main Wall and Cave
The routes are described from right to left; the first few climbs start from a terrace hidden in the trees up right of the main cave. Approach via a stile on the right.


1  Surprise the Elephant    Still to be re-equipped.
The small corner right of the wide ivy-infested crack. 
Nick Jowett, Paul Freeman, December 1987 at E2 5c


1a  Shaking the Tree 6b+
From the second bolt of Shock the Monkey move out R, make a hard pull over the overlap and finish leftwards to the LO of StM.
Matt Jones 2016


2  Shock the Monkey 6b+
The original line left of the crack via a short corner and tricky face.
Paul Freeman, Nick Jowett, December 1987 at E3 6a


2a  Wallflower  6c+ *
Just left of Shock the Monkey climb the slabby wall then move L via flutings.
Matt Jones 2016


The wall to the left of the ivy. 

2b  Kiss That Frog  6c *
The right hand of 2 bolted lines breaching the blocky wall. Delightfully sustained climbing.
Matt Jones 2016


2c  Shosholoza  6c
The left hand line. At present, a long cheat stick is required to clip the high 1st bolt.The loose looking block below the overhang has so far resisted attempts at removal…
Matt Jones 2016


Bolts have been placed to the left to enable an SRT type traverse across the main face. This line will give access to the LOs/belay stations of the routes below and above. The upper wall tends to stay dry in almost all weathers.


After a large step down the Main Wall proper commences, defined near its right side by the formidable-looking corner groove taken by:


3  Jeux Sans Frontiers 6c
35m Climb the initial roof, head leftwards to gain a runnel and at the 6th bolt trend left, then battle up the open groove which heads slightly rightwards past a prominent iron spike en route to the lower-off.
Paul Freeman 11.3.88 at E4 6a


3a  Variation Finish Je Suis Charlie 6b+
15m At the 6th bolt of JSF keep R via technical moves up the scooped wall (hard for the short) to a L0 below the terrace. Good, varied climbing.
Matt Jones 2016


3b  Project (Ben Matthews – will be hard)
Climbs directly over the large roof to the L of JSF (originally equipped by Matt Jones 1995)


4  New Moon Rising 7b
The bulge at the right end of the long roof succumbs to some powerful moves.
Tony Shelmerdine, Phil Smith, 1995 at E5 6c


5  Pure Conjecture 7a *
Good 7as are thin on the ground on the Ormes but this one’s worth seeking out, although it’s not much to look at. Pumpy climbing on flatties, starting from the right-hand side of the bay.
Phil Smith, Paul Freeman, Nick Jowett 5.9.88


6  Pure Rejector 7b+ *
A hard direct through the roof into Pure Conjecture.
Kristian Clemmow 1997 Grade confirmed by Ben Matthews


6a Underdog (Closed project Matt Jones) 
A diagonal line rightwards along the lip of the roof from Route 6b, then direct to the Pure Conjecture belay.


6b Roger’s Variant  6b
Start R of the arête, just R of Penelope. Head up, crossing Penelope, and climb directly to the LO.
Roger Hughes 1995



7  Penelope 6a+ *
50m+ A unique adventure! Start at the arête just right of the large cave mouth. P1 and P2 can be completed in one long pitch: long quickdraws required to reduce drag, 70m+ rope needed to lower off after P2 - Care needed.
1. 5+ Climb the arête then move up diagonally rightwards to gain a small belay ledge by the finish of Pure Conjecture, just below a small triangular overhang.
2. 6a+ Ascend the open corner above to the square-cut nose on the right. Climb the arête of the nose (committing and hard for the grade) then continue back leftwards and up a groove to a belay (possible abseil/ lower-off).
3.  6a Traverse out left to a top-out up a groove, heading left to a small tier with resin bolt anchors. Walk off right to the ski station.
Alan Davies, Dave Birchley, June 1961 at E1 5b. An historic route!

8  Penelope Direct-ish  6c 
Follow Penelope to where it branches right on pitch 2, then continue up the corner above to re-join the main line.
This is the first part of Andy Pollitt’s 1982 E4 5c line

9  Power Windows 6a+
15m. Start up Penelope to reach a ledge on the right arête of the cave then keep moving left above the cave lip to join Route 9a and move L to the LO.
Norman Clacher, Nick Jowett, Dave Lyon 11.4.88 at E2 5b


9a   Zihon Zeme 6c
15m. Start on ‘fuzzy’ rock, right of Route 10, just inside the Main Cave. Climb leftwards to cross the arête and gain a stepped groove. Move up to a ledge, traverse R and up a groove to join Route 9.
Matt Jones 2016


10  Colonel Hathi 6b
15m. The juggy wall left of the arête leads to a stiff move by a borehole and a LO on the left.
Phil Smith, Paul Freeman 5.3.88 at E3 5c


11  Raindancing 6b
15m The central line with some hard pulls leads rightwards to Colonel Hathi’s lower-off.
Nick Jowett, Fraser Ball, Paul Freeman, March 1988 at E3 5c (line changed due to hollow rock)


11a  Kandula 6a+
Follow large flatties up the wall R of the arête then move left with interest to the lower-off on Ivory Trade.
Matt Jones 2015


12  Ivory Trade 6a+
The straightforward left arête then a blind move to the lower-off on the right.
Ian Williams, Fraser Ball 9.3.88 at E2 5c


13  The Golden Chopper 5+ Still to be re-equipped
Start up Ivory Trade then climb up leftwards to a lower-off.
Tony Barnett, Mel Griffiths 1992

14 Crowing with Caruso Still to be re-equipped
Just left of Ivory Trade
Mel Griffiths 1992


Leftwards along this leg are found two now active projects which were originally equipped by Matt Jones in the 1990s. Still to be re-equipped


The Third (and final) Leg is obviously near to the Elephant’s backside:

17   Hippopotamuff 6b+
The centre of the leg. An entertaining creature.
Tony Shelmerdine, Roger Hughes, 1995





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