North Wales Slate Review

North Wales Slate Rockfax Cover, 159 kb
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 This extensive development had made the previous book very popular, but also quickly out of date, and hence the need for a new guide to document the ongoing work and provide folks new to the area with a printed resource to discover it all for the first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, 236 kb
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.

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, 190 kb
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, 192 kb
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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