Llanberis Slate Ground Up Guidebook

"After years of neglect the slate quarries of Llanberis have come alive again. A comprehensive re-equipping campaign, coupled with a frenzy of new routing activity has seen the once quiet levels of this vast rock playground buzzing with activity. Over 200 new routes have been added since the last guide was published. Crucially, much of this new development has occurred at accessible sport grades. Once upon a time slate was reserved exclusively for the elite, but now it is open to all climbers, regardless of their ability or experience. All tastes are catered for in the quarries, from classic traditional routes such as Comes the Dervish or the magnificent Quarryman Wall routes in Twll Mawr, through the full range of sport climbs running from friendly F4s right up to desperate F8bs..."

For more information and to buy this book visit the V12 Outdoor Online Shop.

Llanberis Slate Cover  © UKC Gear
  • Ground Up Publishing Ltd, Llanberis, 2011
  • Authors: Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Simon Panton (Editor)
  • With contributions from many others including: Jon Ratcliffe, Tim Neill, James McHaffie, Calum Muskett, Ian Lloyd-Jones, Chris Davies, Colin Goodey, Andy Scott, Noel Craine, Graham Desroy, Adam Wainwright, Dave Rudkin, Llion Morris and Dave Evans.
  • ISBN: 978-0-9554417-6-9
  • RRP: £24.95
  • A5 format
  • 376 pages
  • Over 200 new routes; many being low grade sport climbs.
  • 900 action packed routes in total.
  • Dinorwig Quarries, Vivian Quarry and the Glyn Rhonwy Quarries.
  • Full colour topos.
  • Extensive area maps and individual crag approach maps.
  • In depth history section with quotes and anecdotes from key slateheads.
  • Martin Crook's Diary of a Slatehead - the 80s slate scene revealed.
  • Atmospheric and inspiring action shots from the best climbing photographers.
  • Historical shots from Paul Williams' legendary 'Slate of the Art' slide show.
  • 5 page monster graded list.

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.

Rob Wilson on Comes the Dervish E3 5c  © Si Panton
Rob Wilson on Comes the Dervish E3 5c
© Si Panton
Martin Crook on FA of Nostromo E4 6b  © Crook Collection
Martin Crook on FA of Nostromo E4 6b
© Crook Collection

Rachael Robins on 362 F5c
© Pete Robins
Which brings us to the climbing. I'm afraid I've not yet had a chance to road test this guide. The quarries are notoriously complex (and sometimes dangerous, inhospitable) places and it is clear from even a cursory glance that the team have gone to immense pains to detail approaches, descents, and objective dangers in exacting detail. The route descriptions are not skimped on either and any reader worth their salt is going to be licking their lips at the treats on offer. As an old timer who hasn't climbed in the quarries for a good while I was taken aback by the huge number of routes available, the diversity of styles and the range of grades on offer. For me slate basically meant rocking-up on a matchstick and wondering whether I'd just entered the ground-fall zone. Those thrills are still there but it clearly doesn't have to be an experience like that anymore.

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.

Image Gallery

Llanberis Slate Poster  © UKC Gear
Llanberis Slate Poster
A Grand Day Out, Australia, Llanberis Slate sample spread  © Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton
A Grand Day Out, Australia, Llanberis Slate sample spread
© Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton
The Vivian Diamond
Colossus Area, Llanberis Slate sample spread  © Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton
Colossus Area, Llanberis Slate sample spread
© Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton
NNLand, Llanberis Slate sample spread  © Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton
NNLand, Llanberis Slate sample spread
© Pete Robins, Mark Dicken, Martin Crook, Si Panton

About Andy Popp

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.

About Ground Up and the Authors

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).

Pete Robins has a profile page here on the DMM website and Mark Dicken has his own blog.

Rainbow Slab posters are on sale at £2.95 - all proceeds to the N Wales Bolt Fund:

For more information visit Ground Up Climbing

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6 Aug, 2012
Credit where credit is due. This is more than just a guide book. Facinating read lots of funny stories and facts you'd have never known, unless of course you allready did. Some classic vintage and current photos, lots of good advice and help for those who'd never been to LLanberis before. It even has something to do with the wife, if the only way you were allowed to go, was to take her with you, in the "slate walks" section to do on a wet day ( that should ensure she'll never want to come back too.... cheers!!) Easy to follow and light enough to carry about. Only one small complaint would be the maps could've been easier to read or slightly larger? Overall loved. Well done 10/10.
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