North Wales Slate: Handmade History

North Wales Slate: Handmade History

Surrounding and dominating the village of Llanberis, North Wales are the Slate Quarries; hand hewn dark scars on the hillside.

Once the beating heart of the area, the quarries are now sidelined to playground and curiosity whilst the villages around struggle to find themselves in these post-industrial times. The worker’s barracks are now empty and the men who filled the chapels and pubs are now long gone. When the clouds roll in and the wind blows through the abandoned workings it can feel like the past is just around the corner.

The first forays into the slate came from the old guard Joe Brown and company, trad routes finding the obvious weaknesses in the recently vacated quarries.

In the 80s, slate was a break from tradition, rock sculpted by men, sometimes bolted, sometimes chipped, often trundled and heavily cleaned. Brightly glad dole climbers finding a unique form of bolted boldness, Redhead, Dawes, Haston, Towse all leaving their mark, no continental clip ups in those days. Slate became accepted into the fold with its classics, Comes the Dervish, Poetry Pink, Seamstress, The Quarryman. Routes to aspire to on your way through the grades.

The millennium brought in a new wave of routes and a fresh approach, sports routes proper bolts, more accessibility and new guide books. A new generation left their mark; Robins, McHaffie and co. Sometimes their routes revisited the boldness of the past.

Possibilities for exploration still exist amongst the sharp edges, smooth walls, corners grooves and arêtes for future generations to leave an imprint.

If the weather should drive you from the hills it’s always worth a walk in the mist and rain a the quarries to feel the past around you.

Llanberis North Wales based climbing and adventure photographer who started in the days of Kodachrome, Velvia and OTE, is now picking it up again after an interlude bringing up kids