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Hazel Findlay climbs The Quarryman (E8 7a)

© Angus Kille

Hazel Findlay has climbed Johnny Dawes' four-pitch masterpiece, The Quarryman (E8 7a) in Twll Mawr, in the Llanberis slate quarries. She had climbed the spectacular groove pitch in June but returned to climb all the pitches in one push.

Hazel on the second pitch (E5 6b)  © Angus Kille
Hazel on the second pitch (E5 6b)
© Angus Kille

Due to the lockdown and heavy restrictions in Wales, Hazel and her partner Angus Kille were looking for a project close to home and threw a rope down The Quarryman. The famous route had been on Hazel's ticklist since watching Johnny Dawes climb on it in Stone Monkey:

'It's such a famous classic route and I love the 3d climbing that you find on the groove. That said, I'm not the biggest fan of the slate, I find the rock to be pretty weird and the quarry environment, which is at first novel, can become quite oppressive.'

Hazel belayed Angus on his ascent a few weeks ago and made short work of the groove pitch herself. She returned on the hottest day of the year, only to be scuppered by a greasy first pitch. Hazel also discovered a couple of extra cruxes for short people: 'it took me a while to work them out. The crux on the first pitch is quite runout which lockdown hadn't prepared us well for and I had to do some serious focusing to get my head in gear for it.'

The three pitches other than the groove are significantly harder for the short. Hazel was having to pull moves out of the bag which other climbers wouldn't even have thought twice about. For instance, on the final pitch, Hazel had to work out a vertical dyno, which wasn't even a move for Angus!

The pitches on the route break down as follows:

Pitch 1: E7 6b

Pitch 2: E5 6b

Pitch 3: The 'ungradable' 8a groove

Pitch 4: F7c+ ish - although again, as Hazel has pointed out - slate is ungradable!

Hazel working the groove pitch - watch out triceps!  © Angus Kille
Hazel working the groove pitch - watch out triceps!
© Angus Kille

After waiting for cooler weather, Hazel managed a smooth, quick ascent of the whole route. The pair had refined their beta on the groove pitch, working out a method of gaining the groove slightly higher: 'Once we figured this out it was easier but it's hard on the triceps and the skin on your back!'

Unusually, Hazel believes that sections of the groove pitch are potentially easier for the short – fitting better inside the initial chimney. However, 'long, bendy legs would be ideal' at the top.

'As always with reachy climbing, it's fun to have to work out your own moves and it feels like you get more out of a climb than someone who can reach the holds more easily.'

The aesthetic groove pitch made famous by Stone Monkey gets quite a lot of ascents. The pitch is relatively easy to access and has quite unique climbing. By comparison, the whole route rarely gets climbed. The first time the route was repeated in the 'all pitches in one day' style was by Steve McClure in 2011. Since then only a handful of people have followed suit, including Caro Ciavaldini, James Pearson and of course, Angus.

Hazel told us: 'Not many people have done it in a day because it would be easy to slip off the groove but do the other pitches and then not bother to come back. I feel like once you've redpointed the pitches you'd have to be extra motivated to come back and try to do them in a day. So I'm happy it all worked out yesterday because I doubt I would have come back.'

Returning the favour, Angus was belaying Hazel and told UKC how impressive Hazel's ascent was: 'The Quarryman is a lot harder if you're any shorter than 5'10'', Hazel had to do a bunch of crux moves just to reach the holds for my crux moves.

'I think it's a good day out by anyone's standards, and feels like a lot of things to get right in one go, especially as it's so easy to slip in the groove. Hazel has a bit of a super power for pulling things out the bag when it really matters, but I was still impressed when she managed all four pitches without a single fall - the end of the groove was wet and she still held it together!

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Hazel Findlay has been climbing for 20 of her 30 years, and started out trad climbing on the limestone sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. She dabbled in competition climbing - she was the British junior champion six times...

Hazel's Athlete Page 50 posts 6 videos

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1 Jul

Ever since watching Stone Monkey, I've been in absolute awe of anyone who can climb this route. I know there are physically more difficult routes out there - but this is one of those pure "wow, how can a human do that?" ones that blows my mind.

Well done Hazel (and Angus!) - another amazing tick to add to such an impressive portfolio.

3d feels like a pretty mean tech grade for the groove pitch.


What a great achievement - well done to both of you.

I re-read Johnnie Dawes book recently and there is a great little story about him meeting Gail Zappa to ask permission to use one of his tracks 'Yo Mama' on Stone Monkey. It was the first time ever that Frank's music was used as background to a video.

1 Jul

For all the talk of height let's not forget that Johnny Dawes is pretty short - that's one of the reasons why he developed such a dynamic climbing style.

1 Jul

Has Mclure done it too? Or am I mixing it up with The Very Big and the Very Small...? Anyway isn't Steve, in the nicest possible way, a bit of a short arse too? :)

In the article they reckon 5'10 is the height you need. This is handy because I'm about 5'9 and 3/4 inches, so now I have an excuse for why I can't climb the Quarryman!

Well done Angus and Hazel.

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