21st November 2014

Route of the Week Number 6

Seamstress and Seams the Same, Serengeti, Llanberis Slate Quarries

Winter is approaching and it’s becoming harder and harder to find nice dry rock to climb on! There’ll always be the odd day here and there as a day trip to the Main Cliff of Gogarth last week proved but most of climbing of late has been taking place at the Beacon – which is certainly good training, but it’s not the same as being outdoors on real rock is it?

That’s where the slate quarries come in. I’ve had some lovely summer days on the slate, but it’s the quick drying characteristics that make it great for dodging winter showers, add in short walk in times and closeness to the cafes of Llanberis (Pete’s Eats for the photos and history or Caban in Brynrefail for the pancakes & bacon) and you’re onto a winner.
The quarries aren’t as intimidating as they once were, the addition of lot’s of low grade sport routes and one of the best guidebooks available (Llanberis Slate by Ground Up) has really opened them up to anyone and everyone.
If you’ve never been before and you are after some trad climbing then the Serengeti area may be one of the best places to head first. The Seamstress Slab is such an awesome looking piece of rock and the two routes I’m writing about just look right, both following slightly off balance crack lines.
 photo ASerengetiSlateSeamsSeamstressSlateSlabTradClimbing.jpg
Seamstress, VS 4c, must have been many peoples first slate climb, it was certainly mine and it got me hooked on slate climbing. Slate is all about delicate, balancy climbing on small edges – climbing wall power and strength won’t make up for any lack of technique here!
Some of the routes on slate can be quite bold but as you’re following a crack here, there’s plenty of small to medium gear placements. As with any slate route, be wary of the rock, these routes get plenty of traffic but slate is still a snappy medium and you do sometimes get some loose bits too.
The climbing is pretty steady, but slate does take a little getting used to, keep placing good gear as you progress, there’s plenty of good rests as you go – it’ll be your calf muscles that you’ll be shaking out rather than your forearms! At about two thirds height you’ll come to a slight bulge which requires a little thought as it’s off balance but it’s still well protected. Once you’re over that, motor on to the top remembering to keep checking the rock as you near the top out.
So if that went well, look right when you’re back down at the bottom and you’ll see Seams the Same… It’s a very similar climb, just a bit thinner and gets E1 5b, although if you like the style of slate climbing it’ll probably seem pretty soft for the grade. The gear is still there and it’s pretty good, but the placements are smaller – small wires, maybe the odd RP and a small cam or two. There used to be a stuck cam, but that has gone now leaving space for another good bit of kit.
The slate quarries are an awesome place, they’re very atmospheric and there’s loads of history, of which there’s quite a bit in the guidebook. Soak up a bit of this atmosphere once you’ve topped out, enjoy the amazing views up the pass and across to the coast and decide what to do next!
 photo ASerengetiSlateSeamsSeamstressSlateTradClimbing-1.jpg
Looning the Tube is another awesome route at HVS / E1 depending who you believe and for a super short walk the Bus Stop Quarry has a few good trad lines, Solstice, Equinox and Fools Gold all being really good, if you’re feeling pretty bold and you’re steady at E1 then Gnat Attack is a bit of old skool slate fun – two bolts in 40 metres…
Even in the rain the quarries are worth a wander around to look at inspirational super famous climbs and the history – there’s also Snakes & Ladders….

To see photos of what we’ve been up to recently, check out the JB Mountain Skills Facebook page.

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