At around the beginning of September this year the North Wales Slate Bolt fund went public, and along with it all the equipment necessary for removing and replacing existing bolts was made available for the work to be carried out.
This is a quick overview of what has been done, as well as where the project will head in the future. The job is far from complete, but in just under two months there has been some staggering progress by a few dedicated locals who have given up many hours and days to keep the process more than just ticking over.
In this period there has been around 170 bolts runners replaced in nearly 60 routes as well as nearly 70 lower off/belay or abseil bolts, in total around 270 bolts have been placed. The speed of the effort is a testament to the few who have not only found the time to bolt the routes but climb them as well.
In the main the whole process has been to replace the old bolts with new, but along the way we have come across some other issues attached to fixed equipment, that of pegs, and whilst there is no real move to remove and replace them all, there has certainly been a concerted effort to do so. In part to make the climbing as sustainable as possible, and in part to take away the seeds of doubt with 20 years old pegs exposed to the welsh climate.
Why these pegs haven't been replaced with new pegs comes down to expense, pegs being far more expensive than bolts. Also pegs that are made of stainless steel have in the past failed as they seemed to develop some form of weakness when placed, meaning they would need to be mild steel and therefore rust far quicker. So by replacing with stainless bolts we are looking at a long term solution.
On top of this there has been times when re-equipping in the esoteric backwaters where simply to replace bolt for bolt would have been a fruitless activity, where the bolts would have sat there for another twenty years before seeing a repeat ascent. Whilst it was never a goal or aim at the beginning of the process retrospectively adding bolts has over time become a growing issue.
As one of the more active climbers involved in the process, I have had many conflicts of consciousness, as well as debates with other local climbers over specific routes, crags and bolting as a whole. A few climbers disagree entirely with the retrospective bolting, but they are on the whole the minority. The majority sit in the middle ground where occasional adding of bolts in the more esoteric areas where routes have seen little to no ascents in the last ten years is not just acceptable but a good thing for the quarries. Of course a few would have us add more bolts to the classics, and turn it all into a sport climbing destination, which is something that the majority of climbers simply do not want, and is certainly not the aim of the re-bolting.
The problem comes in satisfying everyone, which unfortunately is an impossibility. However where possible there has been dialogue with the first ascensionists, who in the whole have been very positive to not only the re-equipping but also the adding of bolts to some of their climbs, if it would be possible to add how the routes were first ascended in the historical section of the new guidebook, a job that is already on going.
Love it, hate it. Everyone is entitled to there opinion and I am sure this will spark debate within the thriving community that is UKC and beyond. Whatever your opinion it would be great to here them. May be come and try a few of the retro bolted routes and see what it is all about, before shouting about something you have no knowledge of. The benefit to the quarries is already showing, with many areas becoming instantly popular. Below is a list of some of the routes that reflect the style in which some have been altered or not, as well as the reasons behind the process.
Alongside this process of re-equipping routes, there has been a start made on producing a new guide. Ground Up Productions a new local publisher who have just completing their first guide North Wales Rock, is producing the guide in conjunction with two local authors and a few local climbers who are in the process of climbing and re-documenting many of the existing routes. This process will probably keep going until the majority of the quarries are re-equipped. The guidebook will capture the character and history of climbing in the quarry like no other. With more topo's and pictures than ever before.
Slate Fund Details
Above all though in order to keep this process going we need your donation of either time or money. If you would like to make a contribution then contact:
- NW Slate Llysfaen, Lon Brynteg, Llandegfan, Menai Bridge, LL59 5NU payable to N W Slate (add £1.50pp to your donation of £5 or more to be sent a free guidebook).
- Or visit V12 outdoor, Joe Brown, Beacon Climbing Centre, Rock Bottom (Betwys), The Great Arete (Bangor) or The Castle Climbing Centre in London where they have collection jars and a copies of the old guidebook available for a £5 or more donation. So far £869.50 has been raised.
So far the following locals have been involved in the effort: Mark Reeves, Chris Parkin, John Radcliffe, Gareth Hughes(V12), Ioan Doyle(local youth), Mark Dicken, Pete Robins, Lee Roberts, James McHaffie, Simon Lake, Malcolm 'Mills' Davies, Rob Wilson, Jack Geldard. I am sure there are some people and names I have forgotten, for this I apologise. It has only been through these people kind donation of there time that so much has been achieved.
Rail Track Slab
This slab has some great climbing but the rock is friable, meaning that before these were quite horrifying route. After they were re-equipped they still retain a bold feel at the top. Red Throated Diver has had one extra bolt added to protect the move to the first ledge 2nd Class Passenger had two extra bolts added, one to protect a boulder problem start to attain a ledge, the original one and then one to protect a slightly friable groove higher up. Ancestral Vice has had two extra bolts placed to reach what was the first bolt bolt, where the bolts have been replaced bolt for bolt. The route really didn't have any 6b climbing, so is now more E4. Off the Beaten Track was rebolted bolt for bolt, as well as replacing the peg and a RURP with a bolt. It was still overly bold for the 5c climbing that was found on the climb so another bolt was added below to allow safer access to the climbing above.
This is another friable esoteric crag that saw very few ascents. See Yer Bruce has had the first peg replaced with a bolt, as well as an extra bolt below that. Above the bolts have been replaced like for like, save another extra bolt so the crux is now only 3 metres above the bolt as opposed to 8 metres. It certainly doesn't climb like a sports route. The Gorbals Has had one bolt added at about 12 metres, after climbing it the feeling is that another bolt will be added just below that as the gear is behind flakes that will probably fail under a fall. The RURP was removed, and replaced by a bolt lower down the wall, and the bolt was replaced and moved up to better protect the crux. The climbing has been considered easy for E5 but very bold since it was climbed. It is now more E4, which is in keeping with the climbing.
A classic area, where the bolts were replaced as close to the original hangers as possible. All done like for like. The peg on pitch two of the Rainbow of Recalcitrance has not been replaced at present.
Several of the route on this level have been equipped as sports routes, because the steep nature of the walls, gives them a more sports climbing feel. Cig-Arete has had a bolt added to protect a move that would have been fine until a rock fall raised the ground level by 3 metres, meaning you would now deck out. Where are my Sensible Shoes, has been retro-bolted as a sports route. Drowning Man has been retro bolted to become a sports climb.
Hidden Wall - Dali's Hole
Minder has had one bolt added and a peg replaced with a bolt. The route is still E4 6a. Her Indoors has had the first peg replaced with a bolt as well as a bolt to protect easy climbing at the top of the wall, once the real technical side of the route has finished.
Peter Pan has been re-equipped with an extra bolt, the hangers have been missing for some time but the old studs remain. Presumably the hangers are on another slate route?! Being steep, this is more of a sports route. Watch Me Wallaby had new bolts a few years ago, but after that the top peg was snapped resulting in a ground fall and never replaced, this has now been replaced with a bolt.
Remain in Light and Great Curve, have had a bolt added below the first one that both routes clip, this is still over 5 metres up the wall. It is still bold to reach that and the one above. Beyond this both route have had bolts and pegs replaced with new bolts. Other route on this wall, have been replaced bolt for bolt/peg.
An arete above the Australian, has had two bolts for a while, these were replaced and one lower one added to stop a factor two fall over an edge.
The two routes Single Factor and Genital Persuasion, which are about as esoteric as you can get have been re-equipped bolt for bolt, with additional bolts added to help seperate the lines.
These are just a few examples of the work that has been carried out, in the main popular routes have been re-equipped as close to there original state as possible, Collossus has one bolt less than before, as two were so close together.