Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure
Slate, sunburn and snacks
By Hati Whiteley
26, Jul, 2018
We know how to do holidays! Climbing, bivvying and eating loads of food in the Llanberis slate quarries
There’s a lot of pressure sometimes to do epic stuff every time you get a few days off work, but you don’t have to fly or cycle or run across the world to make it a holiday worth having. Good weather, good friends, doing stuff you enjoy and getting out: I’m pretty sure that’s what the holidays are all about…
There was one weekend where everyone at Alpkit seemed to be going to Wales. Ronnie was going to Llanberis, Rowan to Pembroke, Connie to Bala, and Elly to St Davids. Factory Nick, Pro Doodler (Illlustrator) Seb and I figured we might as well go to Wales too to do some routes at the slate quarries in Llanberis – it was the holidays after all…
Friday morning, we assembled on the pavement and filled Nick’s car with too much gear, trying (yet still failing) to reach the limit to what you can fit in a Honda Jazz. A quick post-work trip to the Morrisons reduced aisle (9p for rhubarb - it’d be rude not to!) and we were on our way to Llanberis.
A toilet stop at the Cromlech boulders became a midnight bouldering session, leaving us groggy and not-so-selective when it came to choosing a bivvy spot. By some miracle we awoke to excellent views across Lake Padarn (although a little less off the beaten track than we’d hoped). Back in the car, a visit Pete’s Eats, and we were on our way to the slate quarries!
Bus Stop Quarry has Nick’s idea of a perfect walk-in: park on the road, hop over the stile and you’re there. For such a roadside crag, it doesn’t feel roadside and under the sunny skies it was like a continental climbing destination with climbers galore making the most of the weather.
‘A few hours at Bus Stop Quarry’ soon turned into an entire day. Compared to our local limestone and gritstone, slate is incredible yet really really weird to climb on. It takes a while to not be intimidated by those vast smooth rock faces with distinct features and cracks running up them. Often you find really positive little edges to make use of, but they always seem to face completely the wrong direction. The result is some pretty interesting and delicate sequences.
We climbed Equinox, Solstice and a bouldery sport route called Whizz Bang before moving over to the run-out bolted trad routes on Rippled Slab, with the first bolts at 12 metres (Gnat Attack, E1 5c and Massambula, E2 5b). The day soon became more about basking in the sun with some snacks and watching other climbers. We climbed 5 routes in total (6 if you include a whimsical bouldering first ascent of The Bus Stop B*****d traverse) but it was a good day’s climbing nonetheless. We stocked up on chocolate in Deiniolen and headed further into the slate quarries to cook dinner, drink some beer and sleep.
The longer walk-in to the rest of the quarries is impressive, it feels like you’re entering the Mines of Moria but with these awe-inspiring views of the Llanberis Path up Snowdon. We bivvied up at Looning the Tube to the clattering soundtrack of tumbling shale. The drop below, terraces above and improbable manmade structures give you an idea of the scale of the slate mining operation, and you’re conveniently close to the popular HVS Looning the Tube before it gets busy in the morning. In reality, we slept in and it got crowded at the crag, so after a morning at Looning the Tube we decamped to California Area where Nick ticked off all 40 metres of California arête (E1 4c). A bit of tunnel exploration and a few routes later, we were back at Pete’s Eats before retiring to our original lakeside bivvy spot.
The last day, and the hottest, took us to Rainbow Slab. It got the full sun all day so we fashioned our clothes into hats for coverage and Seb promptly pulled onto Bela Lugosi is Dead, an E1 5b crackline where he would spend the best part of the next hour getting a magnificent sunburn before bringing the two of us up. We passed much of the day hiding from the sun until Nick’s route got the shade: the Richard of York finish to RYPGOPB is an E3 with the first gear at 25 metres – it makes for a tense climb and a tense belay.
At 8 pm the temperature became more amenable, but we realised that time was running short and a sprint back to rescue the car was the final route of the weekend. Driving over Llanberis Pass we vowed to one day visit the Slate Quarry Museum to discover how this magical place was formed.
It may not have been the gnarliest climbing trip in the world, nor the most adventurous by other’s standards, but we went to a nice place to do good things and got some pretty excellent sunburn, which is what holidays are for after all.
As for the 9p Rhubarb from Morrisons, we left it in the car and forgot about it so Nick put it in a crumble the next week.
Gear we took and would take again:
The problem with going away with the Alpkit team is that when you unpack your bag, it looks like an Alpkit pop-up shop has exploded into being, plus you sometimes all end up in matching outfits. Here are some favourite bits from the trip.
We were representing the UK factory with our choice of backpacks, and the Ibex was perfect for this type of trip: we had enough space for all climbing gear, food and bivvying gear which meant less to-ing and fro-ing, but could also strip the Ibex right down when we didn’t need so much stuff. Because it’s possible to strip the Ibex right back to the bare minimum, it’s packs down really compactly and fits in the car easily too.
DryDock 100 litre Duffle bag
This one never left the car, but made all the difference when it came to keeping track of where stuff was (3 smelly climbers can easily make a tip out of a small car). That big duffle bag waiting in the car makes the frequent unpacking/repacking of your climbing bag much more amenable.
Pipedream 200 sleeping bag, Hunka bivvy bag and Cloudbase sleeping mat
The Pipedream, Hunka and Cloudbase are ideal because they pack down so small but are really comfy, so you can fit them in your pack with all your climbing gear to save having to go back to the car. It was dry enough not to need a bivvy bag in the end, but always worth having if you can fit it in!
Koro stove, AliPots
The Koro stove is ideal for 3 people, powerful enough to boil your water quickly but not too bulky or heavy for the walk-in. I usually cook with meths, but the speed of a gas burner was appreciated when we arrived late to camp.
The days were incredibly hot but the evenings were cool. Nick pretty much lived in his Laika all weekend, either as a mid layer or draped over his shoulders to block out the sun, whilst Seb was never without his Griffon. When the sun went down we donned out down jackets, a lightweight Filoment for Seb whilst I opted for a Heiko
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Laika [Mens]Lightweight micro fleece or 1/2 zip heavyweight base layer. Next to the skin comfort for year-round outdoor activitiesSale: £28.99Was: £36.99
Griffon [Mens]Lightweight and packable fleece jacket that uses a gridded fleece backer to provide amazing warmth without excess weight and bulk£44.99
HunkaA simple bivvy bag weighing less than 400 g, Hunka is breathable, packs down small and a favourite of many weight conscious bikepackers and alpinistsSale: £42.99Was: £49.99
PipeDream 200 HydrophobicPackable comfort for trips in temperate climates. 7˚C limit 2 season ultra-lightweight sleeping bag weighing 545 g with hydrophobic goose down£159.99
Cloud BaseLightweight inflatable camping mat weighing 395 grams and 5 cm thick to soak up uneven groundSale: £34.99Was: £41.99
Heiko [Womens]Warm, windproof, and packable Primaloft Silver jacket that fits into your layering system for all conditionsSale: £84.99Was: £99.99
KoroA high powered titanium camping stove weighing just 124 g for mountaineering in subzero conditions. Compact design and made from titanium to save weightSale: £38.99Was: £44.99
AliPotsA simple aluminium pan set which deserves a place on any extended camping trip. Durable with a generous pan capacity from which you can serve up a feastSale: £24.99Was: £29.99