Tuesday, 8 September 2015


I think I've now read all of Martin Crook's "Diaries of A Slatehead" in the fine new(-ish) Slate guide, albeit in sporadic bursts and in the wrong order. I really like the way he refers to the slate gurus and aficiandos simply as "heads", emphasising the cultish dedication to the medium (or The Medium?). Thinking further, heads are not the only cult in the area - away from the hoary old traditionalists and honeypotted classic-baggers of the mountains, the fringes have their own dedicated acolytes and accolades: Slateheads, Ormesmen ritually circling Pen Trwyn, and presumably Coastline Perverts praying at the tottering temples of the Lleyn (the latter has only a passing mention in the definitive guide, but the spirit and idea is strong enough). I think one could add Rhinnogite as a further path to follow, not least because following paths in those broad hills is not an easy task. The addictive nature of the climbing and exploring seems to match nicely other three cults.

I'm not sure the exact qualities one needs to attain those titles, and I suspect it is a matter of spirit rather than box-ticking (just like climbing, then....). Certainly ownership of a North Wales Rockfax would be an immediate preclusion, and choosing such areas merely for convenience or fashion would demonstrate a lack of essential soul. A lasting passion and appreciation of the perculiarities of the rock type, along with varied exploration of the venues would be a good start, and a calm, knowing utterance of: "Yes, This is it" might be a confirmatory finish.

Unfortuately despite erring towards those tendencies on a regular basis, I don't think I'm quite deserving to be a head, yet (not that I could ever achieve it via accomplishments, only via dedication - but that's the main quality). I'm close with the slate, having been from the heights of Upper Australia to the depths of Vivian in adjacent visits, and done a 6a rockover next to skyhooks in one of those visits, but slate is so afflicted with hordes that the bar needs to be set higher - more exploration needed. I'm tip-toeing along the Ormesman path but have a long way to go - more routes away from Marine Drive and perhaps climbing at my limit in all 3 disciplines, trad sport and bouldering, would further my steps. On the Lleyn, I have the passion but not the experience, I mean every numpty and his dog has done Byzantium - going off-piste with the definitive guide is the appealing way forward.

I suspect I am a Rhinnogite, even if it's my own suggestion. Visiting several venues all along the ridgeline - yes. Doing multiple hollow star routes and likely second ascents - yes. New-routing with Terry Taylor - yes. Pushing myself on a few routes as good as any short outcrop routes anywhere - yes. Falling in heather, bilberries, and boulder chasms - yes. That must be enough....

Anywhere here are some pictures of that chalky polished trade route Byzantium, it is still fantastic:

This is a boulder below Direct Hit. I thought it was rather pretty. The route was jolly good fun.

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