Serious parking problems at Black Ladders leads to conflict and criminal damage. Climbers heading off to enjoy some of the very best Welsh winter climbing on the Black Ladders are strongly reminded that parking at Gerlan is severely limited, and they must look at alternative parking to prevent further problems.
The village of Gerlan near Bethesda is the gateway to Ysgolion Duon (or Black Ladders) one of the finest winter climbing venues in the UK. The recent spell of near perfect winter conditions has seen upwards of 25 climbing parties on the crag at one time. There is a long history of parking problems on the approach road to the path that leads to the crag. The approach road from Bethesda is a narrow single track lane which leads to Gerlan, a former quarrying community, made up of steep lanes and narrow streets. Just beyond the village the road narrows further, becoming a track (with a couple of passing places) leading to some farms and a water treatment works.
Landowners, farmers and water authority vehicles all need access along this track – usually in large vehicles, often with trailers. In the event of an accident this is also the only access for ambulances and Mountain Rescue. Climbers have over the years managed to squeeze a couple of cars in gateways, in the passing places and on slightly wider bends, much to the consternation of local inhabitants and water authority staff. Last winter several climbers’ cars were given parking tickets for obstruction (although currently there is no formal parking restriction on this lane, obstruction of a highway by inconsiderate parking is still an offence).
Attempts have been made over the years by many (including the BMC and the National Park) to identify any suitable areas to create a parking area at the end of this track. However the nature of the terrain and the unsuitability of the narrow approach track make this option highly impractical. The highway authority does not want to encourage any more vehicles along this narrow track, especially in poor winter conditions, and even if a suitable and affordable location was identified, they would in all likelihood oppose any proposal to create a new formal parking area at the end of the track.
The parking issues are not restricted to the requirements of climbers and walkers, and many local people struggle to find suitable parking areas in this village, especially in winter conditions. In recent weeks, due to severe weather, local residents parked alongside the road leading to Gerlan, but in doing so prevented access by snow ploughs, leading to Mountain Rescue needing to be called to recover a seriously ill resident. One consequence of this is that the highway authority is now introducing formal parking restrictions in many places in the Gerlan area, which will be enforced.
During the last few days climbers cars parked in the passing bays have been subjected to damage – apparently deliberately caused, and the Police are investigating that particular matter. While any deliberate damage to property has to be fully condemned, the frustration of local inhabitants who cannot get vehicles to their homes or carry out their legitimate day-to- day activities due to inconsiderately parked cars in passing bays and gateways can be understood.
What are the options?
As clearly stated in the new guidebook, parking at Gerlan is a serious issue, and climbers going to the Black Ladders have to be prepared to park further down the road towards or even in Bethesda itself. This would add no more than a 15 minute walk to the journey.
Another very practical option is to use the bus – from Monday to Saturday the first bus from Bethesda to Gerlan (Arriva Service 66) leaves Bethesda at 7am, while the last bus leaves Gerlan just before 11.25 pm, and there are four separate services before 9 am! There are plenty of free parking areas in Bethesda itself. Bus timetables are available here
With a new guidebook and over 80 recorded winter routes on the Black Ladders and surrounding cliffs (most which are amongst the very best mixed lines to be found anywhere), the popularity of this venue is sure to increase, making it even more imperative that climbers park sensibly and avoid causing obstructions.