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Llanberis Slate Turn the clock back to the Thatcher years, the centre of the mountaineering universe is a small sleepy town in North Wales. In those days the Llanberis climbing scene was a raw-edged heavy mix of designer danger and dole-funded madness.
No more than five minutes walk from the Tobermoray-bright buildings of the Llanberis main street lies the scarred hillside of the old slate quarries last worked in 1969. For many years they lay idle before eventually housing the Dinorwic hydro power station and possibly more importantly becoming the home to a new climbing culture providing a perfect bolt hole for wayward climbers and drop outs.
Fast forward to the present and the Dinorwic Quarries have been integrated into the North Wales tourist machine along with the walkers, climbers and many of the Llanberis residents.
The footpaths have been repaired, signposted, the dangerous bits fenced off, you can book a tour round the power station, take a ride on the miniature steam trains, visit a slate museum, even take a ride to the top of Snowdon.
The climbing has been sanitized by converting areas into an outdoor climbing gym by fitting mechanical bolts in the rock and adding lower offs to the tops of the climbable rock and of course these Blackberry wielding day’s accurate information is available at the press of a button Our little team arrived on Friday night, the weather was bright and sunny but high winds meant the mountains would be out of bounds. The slate quarries were an obvious compromise being quick drying and sheltered.
On our first day we visited the upper quarries easily accessed from the village of Deniolen via the network of level tracks and old tramlines.
Many of the climbing areas have exotic names such as Australia, California, Vivian, Rainbow and Dali’s Hole, Never, Never Land our first stop was the Serengeti so called because of the strange formations emerging from a plain, we do two warm up climbs here called Seamstress and Seams the Same Last year a Hollywood film crew used this amazing area as a backdrop for the blockbuster ‘Clash of the Titans’, today we come across a smaller budget outfit and get asked to keep the noise down.
We get out of their way and emirate to Australia where we do a couple of climbs including the classic ‘Looning the Tube’ before finishing the day off at Bus Stop Quarry and then adjourning to Pete’s Eats the climbers café in Llanberis.
Then its back to the digs for a beer, we are staying at Ynys Ettys owned by the Climbers Club and situated in the heart of the stunning Llanberis Pass. From the lounge we sit overlooking one of the most sensational views in the UK this really is location, location, location.
The next day we decide to visit the Lower Quarries, situated directly above the Hydro Power Station a complicated access route has been negotiated by the British Mountaineering Council. Following the old tram inclines through the winding house it then follows a railway before descending a second incline past several of the old working levels until we find the Rainbow Slabs, one of the most extensively climbed areas.
At the end of a hard day we slog back up the inclines to the cars savoring a couple of epic climbing days in this historic location.