Welsh Slate - Bolts Stripped in Access Scareby Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Apr/2010
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Dali's Hole is a small and friendly crag in the Llanberis Slate quarries. After a recent make-over and re-bolt it has become extremely popular. This increase in popularity has lead to access issues and, in an attempt to reduce the number of climbers visiting this area, local climbers have now removed the bolt hangers from the routes.
Climbing in the Welsh slate quarries close to Llanberis has been a regular occurrence since the slate boom of the 1980's - when routes were developed at a frantic pace as the potential of these smooth quarried walls was realised.
Recently the quarries have seen a resurgence in activity, due in part to a replacement of rotting and dangerous fixed gear and bolts left over from the 1980's first ascents.
Along side this re-equipping has been a new route boom, several hundred new sport routes, most of them in the lower grades, have been bolted on areas of rock previously over-looked. Some say they were over-looked for good reason.
One of the areas that had a new route make-over was the small venue of Dali's Hole. The crag has easy access, being right next to the main pathway through the quarries, as well as short and friendly routes of a low grade, plentiful bolts and a picturesque outlook. These qualities ensured that this crag became undoubtedly the most popular venue on slate. Unfortunately it is also one of the most public.
The slate quarries are owned by First Hydro, a large electricity company who run the Electric Mountain, a hydro-electric generating plant found underneath the quarries. First Hydro have a duty as a landowner to stop visitors from falling down huge old quarry faces. The quarries are criss-crossed with public rights of way and First Hydro have erected fences to stop people wandering about in the potentially dangerous quarries.
Climbers have ignored these fences and no entry signs for two decades and have been tolerated by the First Hydro security. Until now.
Large numbers of climbers, even outdoor centres taking youth groups, have started using the quarries, especially Dali's Hole, which is right next to a very public main path. The First Hydro security guards have full view of the venue and have asked people to leave on several occasions. Non-climbing members of the public can easily see climbers ignoring the safety signs and fences and could well be encouraged to scramble about the quarries themselves.
The situation reached a peak when local climber and slate activist Jon Ratcliffe posted the following message in the UKC forums on the 5th of April:
Please please please follow the access advice of no more than 10 climbers in Dali's Hole at a time and preferably avoid it all together on bank holidays and weekends.
I went past on Friday and counted 22 people climbing there (not a centre group) which is the sort of situation that can antagonise an already sensitive access issue, especially on a bank holiday when there are likely to be families and general tourists in the quarries.
Incredibly when we went past The Sidings there was only 2 people there, nobody at Looning the Tube area and the other levels were equally empty. I just don't get it.
The easy sport routes at Dali's are in the main quite frankly sh*t, on poor rock with difficult access and in full veiw of the main path through the quarries. Pretty much all the easy bolted routes at Looning The Tube, The Sidings and some of the higher levels in contrast are easy to get to, on better rock, better routes and they are in an awesome place, out of view of security guards and tourists.
Check out http://slate.wetpaint.com/ for route info for these areas.
And please, if you're thinking of heading to Dali's, think again of where else you could go, there are now loads of other easy bolted routes in the quarries so have an explore!
This action has in part led to another local activist and prolific bolter in the quarries - UKC Forum User Ian LI-J to strip the hangers from this venue, some of them on bolts that he placed, to sacrifice this venue for the future of climbing in the slate quarries.
This is grass roots action from local climbers, taking responsibility for their home area. Long may it continue.
If you are looking for easy access, low grade sport routes in the Llanberis Slate quarries - you still have them, you just need to look further afield and at some of the other quarry venues.
A new guidebook to the slate quarries, published by GroundUp, will be available soon and will cover the entire quarries, which are notoriously difficult to navigate. The publication of this book should help to direct climbers to new and more secluded venues.
From the Ground Up Website:
"It has been quite a journey but we are finally coming to the end of the production work on the much anticipated Llanberis Slate guide. We are planning for an early summer publishing date..."
You can view some sample pages here: Slate Downloads
An official solution to the access problems in the slate quarries is badly needed, but it seems the half-way house of unofficial tolerance for climbing away from the public eye may be the best solution for the time being.
Stay out of Dali's Hole. Help keep the slate quarries open.