I have climbed a lot in the Slate quarries and have climbed many of the classics numerous times. As such I like to think I have a reasonable appreciation of what is good and what is not. Whilst many newcomers to the quarries flock to the easy sports routes and good for them, its great to see a place I love and cherish feel vibrant.
I started climbing in the quarries in 1994, I was taken tio the Rainbow Slab and top roped Red and Yellow…. in a driving blizzard. I was hooked, the next year I moved to Bangor to study at university, and during that time started to explore the myriad of levels and routes. A year later and I ran into a 16 year old Leo Houlding and for most of the rest of my studies I escaped lectures early on a monday and met him in the Slate Quarries.
Paul Pritchard’s writing on the 1980’s lifestyle was being published in On The Edge Magazine, and the idea of being a Slatehead became something of a dream. I am not sure if I ever reached that level, but I have repeated most routes to E5, a few F7a+, worked the harder routes but never redpointed and even put up a variety of different routes from single pitch routes to a large gnarly and as yet unrepeated horrorshow.
In that time in the quarries, I have climbed one route more than others. That being Comes the Dervish, however to name that the best route in the quarries is something of a mistake in my humble opinion. For sure it is one of the most aesthic lines, and it climbs sublimely but for me it is simply the entry level route for those that want to become a slatehead. It is polished though, although a lot of that is probably from my regular laps of the route with many different friends.
However last night I saw a photo of another friend climbing my pesonal pick of the Slate Quarries, and another friend who hadn’t climbed it called round and wondered whether I fancied it? I haven’t moved so quickly in weeks, as it is a route that finding someone to climb it with can be hard. Why? Well it is E5 and has two pitches that warrent that grade, one for the ‘Hero’ and one for the ‘Married Man’.
I sent Simon, the married man up the Hero pitch, whilst I went for the safer but more sustained top pitch. Both pitches are as good as any E5 in the quarries, but together there is extra synergy. Simon plodded up the first pitch, ignoring my hand placed pegs in a break beta, then I set off up the top pitch.
Again learning from previous mistakes I doubled up on small micro cams and attacked the most amazing finger jamming crack in the quarries. Fight the rising pump, given it was 2 grades harder than anything I had climbed recently, but I knew up at the end of the crack there was another good rest. Pulling into it I think I might have let out a rather enthusiastic whoop as my knackered rock boots meant I was having to pull a bit harder than I would have liked to compensate.
So anyway the route is called ‘Central Sadness’ and is the very best route in the quarries.