The Quarrymen, featuring climbers James Pearson and Johnny Dawes
The film The Quarrymen by Neil Hart, about the slate quarries above Llanberis in North Wales starring James Pearson, Johnny Dawes and one of Britain’s most famous multi-pitch rock climb, The Quarryman.
If you enter the slate quarries above Llanberis in North Wales, you’re certain to enter into a completely different dimension, a parallel world. Ever since the mining came to an end in the late 1960's, time seems to have stood still here for practically everyone except for climbers who enjoy a unique playground that requires both extreme skill and, in many cases, a huge dose of courage. After some initial forays in the 1970’s, climbing development began in earnest in the 80’s, and even today some of the creations from back then are highly sought after physical and psychological testpieces.
One of the biggest prizes of all is The Quarryman, established by Johnny Dawes back in 1987. In this film by Neil Hart, James Pearson describes his relationship with this four-pitch E8 7a which he repeated in 2016, breaching the famous groove pitch unique groove which Dawes had told planetmountain.com puts the body "under a full physical assualt." It’s worth noting that Pearson’s parter Caroline Ciavaldini made the long-awaited first female ascent of The Quarryman in 2018.
At its peak during the second half of the 19th century, the slate mining industry dominated the economy in North Wales, employing almost 17000 men at quarries dotted around the country including the immense sites at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bethesda and Llanberis. Entire hillsides were transformed irreversibly as Welsh slate was exported worldwide, but with the advent of cheap roofing tiles the industry showed the first signs of decline at the turn of the century, and then collapsed after the Second World War.
The Dinorwic quarry above Llanberis was the second largest mine in North Wales and when it closed definitively in 1969 it left behind a wasteland of vast proportions. The entire area was abandoned for years and it wasn't until the early 1980's that climbers ventured into the complex system of mines to explore this vertical Eden, discovering fantastic crags such as Vivian Quarry, the Seamstress slab, Bus Stop Quarry and of course Rainbow Slab.
Rock climbing in Wales - a choice selection
- Dinas Cromlech - some of the best extreme rock climbs in the entire UK.
- Cloggy - Clogwyn Du'r Arddu - the shrine of British rock climbing.
- Vivian Quarry - the most popular slate crag in Wales
- Rainbow Slab - arguably the jewel in the crown of Llanberis slate.
- Gogarth - one of the best sea cliffs in Britain. Fullstop.
- Lower Pen Trwyn - simply the best sport crag in North Wales.
- Huntsman's Leap - one of the most popular sea cliffs in Pembroke, South Wales.
Links: Instagram Once Upon a Climb, onceuponaclimb.co.uk, La Sportiva