There is no denying that the Slate is great… in my humbled opinion some the best, and most interesting, routes you’ll get in North Wales.
Now, don’t misunderstand, climbing wonderful Trad routes at crags like Tremadog, Tryfan, and in Llanberris Pass in the sunshine are all equally enjoyable. However, the unique techniques and skill sneeded to climb the Slate is what draws me back to it again and again in an almost obsessive manner; meaning before I’ve even done the first few climbs of the day I’m already seeing other nearby routes I aspire to do.
Currently, comfortably climbing at 6a+ keeps me on my toes (literally!) with many routes to try within the grade. One of the lesser know, but greatly technical climbs withing this grade, is ‘Fresh Air’ in Nuremberg area of Never Never Land . This hidden gem is a slabby masterpiece made up of many high footed rock-overs with the final, rather hidden ledge is a miracle jug after trusting a completely blank section and trusting your feet to reach the lower off. This is a brilliant route to start off on before attempting some of the harder climbs in area, such as another sport route ‘Swiss air 6c’, or alternatively the trad routes ‘Breaking Wind’ or ‘Hot Air Crack’ both HVS. However, I could almost guarantee is was this singular climb that cemented my love for this imposing, yet magnificent, landscape which suited my flexibility and strengths in climbing perfectly.
Since this moment climbing many other routes has led me to even surprise myself. Noteably, a route on the ‘Above The Rails’ level in ‘Australia’ called ‘Surprise Surprise’, which I can only guess is a reference to the huge mantel shelf at the top of the route. A wonderful surprise when you reach for it, or in my case pull a mini-dyno across to it as I was slipping on the sloper of a foothold below. However, I triumphantly made it to the top and can say it is one of my proudest climbs. This isn’t due to this dramatic finish, more the blocky bouldering style start to this climb. It starts with an impressive right-handed side pull, while jamming your toes into a little triangle hole, then jumping up to the positive jug and locking off to then reach up and over to a rounded ledge, finishing with a massive heel hook up and over… I almost wanted a bouldering pad below. Then right there was the first clip so onward and upward I went. After looking at this route all morning it felt sublime to clip the anchor and turn round to enjoy the epic view all the way across ‘Australia’, and out further over to Llanberis with Snowdon in the distance.
Of course, the danger of falling is there when pushing yourself on this dynamic rock type with it’s many tiny holds and slippy foot placements, and therefore, it’s something I’ve grown to become more comfortable with. Trusting bolts and Trad gear alike, and becoming willing to try harder routes with increasingly complex sequences requiring more than a simple onsight attempt, with less fear is allowing me to push my grade further and understand not only the limits of my technical abilities but also the limitations of my mind and the fears with in it. No one wants to fall, there is always the risk you will keep falling and splat! Though it is this fear which helps me climb on upward in many cases, the little bit of knowledge sizzling away in the back of your mind that you simply can’t let go pushes you further above what you thought possible of yourself, and even further outside of your comfort zone.
“The Llanberis slate quarries are home to some of the boldest, finest, hardest and weirdest climbs in Wales.” – Mark Reeves, UKC
Since the beginning of 2017 this has been my goal, to rid myself of this unique fear, and become a modern version of the great slate heads of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. These pioneers saw it a a complete blank slate, open to all possibilities of lines, and now almost 50 years on myself and many others are still venturing into areas like Australia, Serengeti and Never Never Land to complete the most popular climbs, and looking down into Twll Mawr simply dreaming (as it will always be) of a day in the future we could complete some of the impossible routes like ‘The Quarryman’, with a grading of E8 7a.
For more information on the geological history, pioneers of the sport, and greatest achievements these Quarries hold check out Mark Reeves UKC post: