North Wales Slate Review

© Rockfax

North Wales Slate Rockfax Cover  © Rockfax
In reviewing this book, I have to start by owning up to the fact that the author is a close personal friend, with whom I have shared many roped (and unroped!) adventures over the years. Many of these have been in the vast and beautiful arena described in these pages. This may lend a certain bias to my opinion, of which I am well aware, but in all honesty I can say truthfully that it is a massive success.

I was frankly quite surprised when Mark told me he was putting out another Slate guide as it only seemed like yesterday that the beautiful guide produced by Ground Up had been published. I was unaware that this guide was out of print and, even though I am a self confirmed slate-o-holic, I still needed reminding just how much development had occurred since its publication. An important aspect of modern slate development is that many of the new routes are actually easier sport climbs of a generally reasonable, and occasionally outstanding, quality. This extensive development had made the previous book very popular, but also quickly out of date, and hence the need for a new guide to document the ongoing work and provide folks new to the area with a printed resource to discover it all for the first time.

North Wales Slate - example page 1  © Rockfax
Big aerial overview photos of the complex quarries

The guide fulfils the brief admirably. Mark's exhaustive knowledge and massive passion for the area really shines through, in both the text and the mostly-excellent action shots. He has been photographing and documenting activity in this place with great attention for many years. In particular the photo of James Oswald on Off the Beaten Track stands out as a classic and really captures the fun industrial play essence of the quarries. Mark has produced several good routes himself, some of which are still standing! He has done a lot of the renovation work through the re-equipping that was required to overhaul a lot of older classics too.

James Oswald eyeing up the finishing hold on Off The Beaten Track (E3 5c) on the aptly named Railtrack Slab.
© Mark Reeves

I have loved slate climbing myself for a long time and my enjoyment of the medium has only grown with familiarity and its widening diversity of styles. The variety of experiences on offer in the area are thoroughly and beautifully documented in this guide. The photo topos and text make locating, and following, the routes in the more inaccessible bits of the quarries easy, and have highlighted some fantastic new routes and areas previously undiscovered.

North Wales Slate - example page 2  © Rockfax
All the classic routes as well as the new stuff

Within the now-familiar format of a Rockfax guide, it's fairly hard to fault the general quality of both the appearance and the information presented here. This is however a very different guide to its Ground Up predecessor. It is smaller and more practical, but what it does lack is some of the atmosphere of the older guide. This is sad as a big part of the allure of the slate scene is the wacky, off-the-wall nature of its 'creators' and the routes they produced. While the descriptions of the routes and the areas do capture some of this ambience, the nature of the last book as something you would read on the bog is perhaps somewhat missing. I for one would like to think that in time we will have a facility for some of the stories and folklore to be captured, perhaps in an online context rather than printed copy?

North Wales Slate - example page 3  © Rockfax
The most detailed climbing map of the quarries ever produced

In summary, this guide will definitely more than serve its purpose. It will get you to a route and provide ample info to get you up, and off it. It will also inspire both newcomers and seasoned slateheads alike to make further visits, tick off classics, or venture deeper into the heart of these post industrial wastelands, and seek out some of the more weird and wonderful fayre on offer. Basically, if you like good climbing, get this book and get yourself to Llanberis. Trust me, it's ace ... but I would say that wouldn't I?

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10 Oct, 2018

The maps and overhead shots look fab, I could have done with those when trying to walk out from the top of Smaug in Twll Mawr, which involved a lot of nervous peering down ever steepening scree and heather!

10 Oct, 2018

I followed Mark up the Dervish in about 1998, it is great to see he still has the same enthusiasm for the slate 20 years on! It is a shame that the excellent yarns on the Ground Up guide have gone in the name of portability, maybe someone should re-publish them as a stand alone history?

12 Oct, 2018

Do you know if this new slate guide has already been submitted to RockFax so that any new routes are available in the RockFax mobile app please? There's nothing on my phone that suggests my North Wales Climbs package, which included the slate quarries, has an upgrade waiting.  Are ALL the new routes / updates in this slate guide, available in the RockFax app, or do RockFax just update a selection? Many thanks in advance Glyn


Hi Glyn, I'm not sure why it's not showing an update available - that's an error, I'll look into it.

You should update your North Wales Climbs package to get all the new slate stuff - all the slate areas have been redone.

You can't use the normal mechanism for updating obviously because it's not showing you the update button, but you can achieve the same thing by deleting the installed package and downloading it again.

12 Oct, 2018

Many thanks Stephen - will delete package and reinstall - thank you. Will keep you posted.


Kind regards Glyn

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