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Ahh, it seems like only yesterday! In fact slate is one of Britain's youngest rocks, at least in the rock climbing sense. Development started earlier but it has only had something even vaguely approaching mass appeal since the mid-1980s, at the earliest. Still, in that truncated period of development the slate quarries surrounding the town of Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon itself have acquired for themselves a history quite as rich, fascinating, and downright crazy as that attached to any other climbing medium.
The team assembled by editor and Ground Up maestro Simon Panton to document our activities on these bizarre formations (somehow it just feels wrong to call them 'crags') have clearly made it their mission not simply to write another superb guidebook (though, along the way, they have achieved that as well) but to capture every facet of the unique climbing culture that has grown up around the quarries.
In particular, threaded throughout the text, is Martin Crook's 'Diary of a Slatehead,' quite probably the most wild, ribald, Rabelaisian, and patently unbelievable climbing history ever to be published. But, dear reader, it is undoubtedly all true – and probably only half the story in reality. In all seriousness Martin does a wonderful job in capturing the bravado, lunacy, and sheer joie de vivre that characterised the slate years. Alongside Martin's Diary are a series of pen portraits of some of the leading activists from across the years, most of them already well-known, a few of them less so. Again, this is a great idea. Ideally I would like to have seen a few of these given some real space to breath but I recognize the team have had a hell of a lot to cram it.
At the same time, the guide is a visual feast. Design duties have been handled by Allen Williams, who has played such a vital role in making the current superb crop of Ground Up guides what they are. Visually the pages are always varied and interesting – but never at the expense of clarity and attractiveness. The team have also assembled a sumptuous suite of action and crag photos that reveal slate in all its gloomy, brooding magnificence. I also appreciated the inclusion of extras, such as the Slate Walks and Adventures section, which make this that little bit more than just another good guidebook.
British guidebook publishing is then in rude health, with a revitalized BMC outfit operating alongside a host of smaller independents producing outstanding volumes on a range of climbing styles and venues to cater for every taste. Ground Up has played a leading role in this renaissance and are to be congratulated on producing another excellent contribution to our guidebook shelves.
Andy is an academic and historian who played a very active role in the British climbing scene during the heady days of the 1980s. His climbing talent, which is considerable, is matched only by his modesty. Most recently he has been heavily involved in the production of the forthcoming BMC Cheshire Sandstone guide.
Ground Up is a climbing media company started by Llanberis based climbers and co-directors of V12 Outdoor, Simon Panton and Rob Wilson. Ground Up collaborators include designer Al Williams, Graham Desroy and Simon Marsh. Current publications include North Wales Rock (2nd edition), Gogarth North, North Wales Winter, Parisella's Cave guide and Recent Developments on Peak Limestone, as well as Llanberis Slate.
Look out for future Ground Up publications including: Gogarth South and North Wales Bouldering (2nd edition).
Rainbow Slab posters are on sale at £2.95 - all proceeds to the N Wales Bolt Fund: www.groundupclimbing.com.
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