These finest pitches include routes such as: Seams the Same, Comes the Dervish, Ride the Wild Surf, Pull my Daisy, Central Sadness, Slipstream, The Rainbow of Recalcitrance, Naked before the Beast. Equally as good are the Lakeland equivalents found in Hodge Close Quarry: Malice in Wonderland, Ten Years After, Wicked Willie, Limited Edition, First Night Nerves, Stage Fright are all some of the best slab pitches to be found south of Scotland. I know them to be some of the finest pitches as on a great trip to Wales in 1999 with Colin Downer and Wez Hunter we did a spectrum of classics includingThe Cad, the Moon, Sexual Salami, Cardiac Arete, Lord of the Flies, Edge of Time, Weasels. One that stood out for quality on this week was Central Sadness in California, found through 2 tunnels it takes the centre of an impressive face and had 2 paintings on the scree opposite which were highlighted against the greyness. A serious first pitch leads to a stunning well protected crack on the 2nd.
Dad was at Shepherds crag and a guy comes up to him and says:
Guy: "Do you fancy doing something hard?"
Dad: who is this guy? "why not"
Dad was belayed a pitch up and the guy was leading the 2nd pitch and says:
Guy:"Is it alright if I fall off"
Guy:urgently "Is it alright if I fall off"
Guy falls 30 feet gets back up to dad and says
Guy: "I dont mind falling off"
Guy gets back on and does the climb.
A week later a man with long hair went up to dad in a pub and says:
Long hair: "Eye eye, I hear you been climbing with Douggie"
Dad: "He fell 30 feet"
Long Hair " Douggie Hall, he's one of the best climbers in Britain, he falls off every week".
I think its fair to say he didnt fall off very often in the following years but the idea of falling off being often ok with modern protection helped drive things in the following decade, the slate climbing Golden Years.
In the 1980s climbing in the Slate quarries really took off, with a strong ethic on making extremely serious climbs it appeared to be a competition on who could climb the hardest whilst placing the least protection. The runouts and falls which have occurred on slate are legendary. The majority of routes on the Rainbow Slab will have seen at least falls of 40-60 feet, arse grinders. Dawes came off Paul Pritchards route 'A Cure for a Sick Mind' trying to jump clip a bolt from standing on the Rainbow and missed hitting the ground on rope stretch. Pete Whillance took a 100 ft fall off Life in the Fast Lane. Redhead fell off Dawes of Perception and his partner Towse had to jump into the Vivian Pool to save Johns life although he did break his thumb. Lucky falls aside it's a place for a balanced approach as at least 1 person has died on a route on the Rainbow slab.
I've enjoyed hanging out in the quarries probably more than on any other rock over the years and even enjoyed getting a schooling off Will Perrin, Hock or Pete and having to call in all friends at various periods for belay stints on Bungles or Meltdown. Climbing on it is primarily about confidence, flexiblity and crimping.
In 1990 the quarries got given there 2 hardest sport pitches, Bungles Arete courtesy of Sean Myles and The Very Big and the Very Small from Dawes which gave Britain its technically hardest slab pitch. The holds are small enough that most people can have a maximum of 3 goes before exploding at least 1 fingertip. It's a climb which many very good climbers have done with 1 rest but dispensing with the rest is tricky. Steve Mcclure repeated it in 1998 and after a particularly turd morning I managed it in 2005 with Pete Robins doing a tall mans version in 2010.
The hardest sport routes in the quarries are remarkably varied: Bobbys Groove, Cwms the Dogfish, Medium, Concorde Dawn, New Slatesman, Manic Strain, Serpent Vein, Meltdown, Misogynists Discharge, Sauron, Untouchables, Darkhalf, Wall Within, Wish You Were here, Tambourine Man, The Very Big and the Very Small.
Walls, grooves, aretes, corners, slabs, overhangs. A climb to suit most peoples tastes with each offering high quality interesting climbing in very atmospheric areas and with plenty of projects left to go.
With the new slate guide and Dawes autobiography pointing towards the Meltdown I was glad to get it done before someone else with a similar boredom threshold to myself. I was actually thinking of putting a halfway lower off which is a 3 star 7c and if anyone can be arsed go for it. To get to 3/4 hieght is superb 8b+ a bit harder than VBVS which leads to a sting move mantel into a hard traverse. It's tricky to grade and my friend Pete Robins who has recently replaced the bolts suggested it could be 9a many years ago but since its ascent he's more reticent. It would be good for it to get some attention as it has some fabulous climbing on it and is the most chuffed I've been at getting up a climb.
The quarries currently have routes which cater across the spectrum from the timid climber to the adventurer. They are always a place to be on guard in as although the Welsh slate was regarded as high quality it's not like climbing on granite and the bolts which protect some of the climbs may have been placed by people who didn't know anything about it! If you get bored of the limestone, dont feel too fit or are watching the showers pass through the slate should be a port of call.