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Cwm Silyn: Massive rockfall

 Dave Williams 14 Aug 2020

There’s been a very big rockfall down most of Cwm Silyn's Great Slab, originating from the top of the Slab between Ordinary Route and Kirkus Route.

While Outside Edge and Ordinary Route can still be climbed after a fashion, both are in an awful condition. Eg. the only clean part on Ordinary Route is the steep chimney crack at the start of pitch 3. The rest of the route is covered with loose debris. Outside  Edge is in an equally awful condition as well.

The state of routes to the right - Central Variant, Kirkus' Route etc. - is less clear, but they are likely to be in a similar condition. It seems to be the case that most of the slab is covered in loose rock debris. Also there are many scars on the slab caused by the rockfall. A lot of the scree at the base  of the Slab looks to have been washed away too.

There are still lots of dangerous, loose rocks and debris teetering at the top of the slab. Further damaging and dangerous rockfall is a very real possibility. 

It goes without saying that none of the routes on Great Slab should be climbed at this moment in time. The whole area at the top of the slab is still extremely unstable, so much so that climbers should avoid the whole area, at the very least until a full risk assessment has been made.

Dave Williams 

BMC Local Access Rep.

Post edited at 22:29
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 Cornish boy 14 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Thanks for that info Dave. I was planning on climbing Outside Edge Route next week but will give it a miss now! 

Hope nobody was on the crag (or at the base) when it happened. 

Thanks again for sharing this info on the forum. 

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 Dave Williams 14 Aug 2020
In reply to Cornish boy:

Thanks.

FWIW, there's some speculation that it was caused by a lightning strike. 

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 Cornish boy 14 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

 Christ!

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 Paul Evans 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Wow..thanks for the update, Dave.

Paul

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 Red Rover 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Thanks for the warning. Do you have any photos?

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 Rick51 15 Aug 2020
 Lankyman 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

I wonder if we will see more of these kinds of things given the increase in weather events like Storm Desmond and extended periods of greater rainfall. It's been noticeable to.me personally that more erosion gullies are appearing on hillsides in the Lakes and footpaths being washed out.

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 Red Rover 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Rick51:

Yep that looks like a big one. Shame to lose outside edge and kirkus, if they are gone when it all settles down (probably a year or two!)

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 Doug 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Lankyman:

there has been some work in Scotland on the potential impact of climate change related changes in erosion patterns, search for publications by Ian Grieve (Stirling University but probably now retired) & colleagues if interested

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 Andy Johnson 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Whether it's temporary or permanent, it's such a shame to lose these great routes. I climbed Outside Edge Route last year and it was an awesome experience.

Natural change, though. Hopefully new possibilities will emerge.

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In reply to Rick51:

Must be one of the biggest rock falls in British mountains for quite a while. It's hard to believe with something as solid seeming as Great Slab on Craig yr Ogof. It's obviously going to take a very long time to stabilise and clean up naturally. 

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 speckman2000 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Climbed there last Saturday. Even low down, the right-hand side of the slab is very unstable.

I attempted a route to the right of Kirkus. Shattered rock everywhere, so we delicately retreated from pitch 2. Very sketchy. Don't feel so bad about leaving those cams behind now.

It was like Piccadilly Circus at the foot of the main slab, as people queued for Outside Edge. Good job it didn't come down then.

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In reply to Dave Williams:

Mountains, sea cliffs, crags in general are erosive environments and what we now enjoy is, in the medium- to long-term, and sometimes even in the short-term, just a passing phase.  We should savour our experience and cherish what we have.

Which could easily lead to a link to the current fly-camping, treat everything as a theme park, no need to take your rubbish home as someone will tidy up after you epidemic.  The first attitude has respect; the second, none.  It's a stark contrast.

T.

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In reply to Dave Williams:

Diolch Dave.....I've now updated the BMC RAD with this info. 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/RAD/view.aspx?id=2520

Interestingly, we posted a warning about this a few years ago. 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/cwm-silyn-rockfall-warning

Elfyn 

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 Trangia 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Oh dear, what a shame.

Outside Edge was one of my favourite climbs.

It's scary how much erosion and damage from rock fall is occurring, presumably a result of global warming and climate change? It's always been a possibility particularly in ancient mountain ranges like North Wales , Lake District etc, but also in the newer ranges like the Himalayas. Is is increasing or is it being reported more these days?

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 Myfyr Tomos 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Trangia:

All that scree has come from somewhere. Great shame though. Wonderful crag, Menlove, Kirkus, Odell, Band, Wrangham... such history.

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 Skyfall 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

Thanks for posting.

Last time I climbed Kirkus’s there had been some fairly recent rockfall and the top was very unstable, that was maybe 7 years ago.  So I’m not surprised sadly.  Superb routes and a sad loss if they prove to be unclimbable.  

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 xbraddersx 15 Aug 2020
In reply to Elfyn Jones BMC Cymru/Wales:

I took a bad fall after going slightly off route on Outside Edge and a hold breaking. Was winched off sunset ledge.

Thankful it wasn’t worse now! Taught me a big lesson about rock friability...

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In reply to Skyfall:

I don't think any of the routes on the main face (Kirkus etc) are at risk of being unclimbable. There is a lot of loose debris from the top that is likely to be scattered among the ledges. Most of it actually seems to have fallen toward sunset ledge (cruciblejabberwokky) which obviously affects Outside Edge. There is a lot of material still at the top and I suspect more to come down. Hopefully rain and wind will get rid of any really loose stuff and a bit of careful route cleaning from above could be done to make any larger stuff safe. 

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In reply to higherclimbingwales:

Having spoken to the person who made the video and seeing some of the other images he took, I'd like to revise my earlier statement. There seems to be  significant risk of further rockfalls that could potentially affect climbing for some time. This is one crag I won't be visiting for climbing for the foreseeable. 

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 JohnBson 19 Aug 2020
In reply to Rick51:

Looks just like many climbs in the Dolomites or the alps. Adventurous

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 Red Rover 19 Aug 2020
In reply to JohnBson:

Yes I think the UK is lucky to have easy (mini)mountaineering routes that aren't covered in rubble! Not that this is generally true of non-UK mountains but some areas seem to be like that (probably due to easy routes not being steep enough for rubble to fall off)?

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 Phil Layton 23 Aug 2020
In reply to Dave Williams:

I was watching the storm from Nantlle - some big flashes, one knocked out the local relay and caused a power cut. Thinking back, I reckon I might have heard the rumble when the rockfall happened! Dave - if I can help with making the crag safer in any way, let me know.

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 Sl@te Head 14 Sep 2020