(Jacob Rumans) #1

16 may–jun 2020

I need to get something out in the open
straight off the bat, ironically, given I’m
writing this piece, I’ve never actually been
a massive fan of slate and given half a
chance I’d be happy elsewhere. If I’m being
honest with myself, it’s not slate per se that
I dislike but rather the slabby nature of
much of it. Cranking the honesty slider to
the max, the business of being massively
run-out and standing on micro edges or
a blank slab entirely reliant upon friction
has never been my happy place. German
Schoolgirl, however, is none of the above,
yes, it’s in the midst of the biggest slate
climbing emporium there is in the UK,
but it’s not your typical slate route.
Let me explain.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was Joe
Brown that first saw and started to explore
the potential of the slate quarries. Astonish-
ingly, in 1971 he started with Opening Gambit
in Twll Mawr first and then returned to add
Hamadryad and then The Razor’s Edge; the
latter two routes with some aid. With so much
kicking off up in the nearby Llanberis Pass
things stood idle in the slate quarries until
1981 when Steve Haston added Wendy Doll.
Haston’s Comes the Dervish, added a year
later in 1982, really set the slate revolution
alight. No longer was it just ‘a wet weather/
quick-drying alternative’ but slateheads
became a thing and they went hell-for-leather
to develop the area. Numerous classics were
put up, seemingly on a daily basis; German
Schoolgirl originated in 1984 from Martin Crook.
One of the finest routes up in the Pass is
undoubtedly Cenotaph Corner on Dinas y
Gromlech. Visually striking The Corner,
as it’s often called, has one of the most
defined lines of any routes, a plum vertical
90 degree open-book corner running the
full height of the crag. Since the birth of
climbing, climbers gazed up at Dinas y
Gromlech every time they went past and
dreamed. Brown’s first ascent was rightly
hailed as a great milestone of Welsh climbing.

Paradoxically, Brown climbed Cenotaph
Corner in socks as it was not only dirty
but oozing water. The climbing is good for
sure – some might argue that’s selling it
short and they might be right – but the line
is to die for.
Let’s get back to German Schoolgirl then.
Now I’m not arguing that German Schoolgirl
is another Cenotaph Corner, except that in
a way it is, perhaps, the Cenotaph Corner
of slate. Sure, at 70ft long German Schoolgirl
is 50ft shy of Cenotaph Corner and it’s in a
grotty disused quarry rather than an elevated
and commanding point in the Pass. However,
it is a very striking feature and like all pure
corners, it has a storming line. The usual
slabby nature of slate is also conspicuous by
its absence, the corner of German Schoolgirl
is, like it’s justly famous counterpart, formed
from two predominantly vertical walls
standing at 90 degrees. In short, it shares the
same striking nature as The Corner and that,
undoubtedly, is one of the major attractive
features about this route.
Now we’ve established the credentials
of German Schoolgirl, let’s rack up and get
down to it. More often than not, a slate
rack isn’t the biggest, not so, however, on
German Schoolgirl. This is another of her
rather endearing qualities and another
reason for the route’s popularity – yeah, it’s
well-protected, very well-protected, in fact.
That’s assuming you have, and are comfort-
able with using, lots and lots of small wires.
We’re not talking micro RPs but we are
talking small wires – this thing eats Rocks
1 and 2 etc like no tomorrow so raid your
mate’s rack too and take plenty and spread
them out too.
A cluster of confidence-boosting sinker
wires at the bottom of the corner help steady
the nerves as you get established proper in
the corner. The left wall is slightly under
vertical but it’s not so well-appointed with
holds so most of your attention will fall to the
right where generally, and fortunately, there’s

a better array of holds. Don’t let the harder
moves at the start bug you either, take your
time, keep bridging and before you know it
you’ll be nicely established on decent holds
so whack some more wires in and check out
the next moves. Gradually, you’ll gain height
and providing you started with a decent rack
you’ll have the measure of the route, bomber
nuts in the corner, better handholds on the
right-hand wall and bridging confidently. In
truth, whilst it’s pretty sustained all the way
up, the climbing gradually eases and pretty
soon you’ll be eyeing up the finish which
shouldn’t cause any undue anguish. Pulling
over onto the ledge above you can reflect
on a job well done.
Some, especially the more confident
at climbing corners and, dare I say it, the
taller climbers amongst us, might feel
German Schoolgirl is a bit soft at E2. Yes,
it’s reasonably accommodating given it has
plenty of stopping spots and the gear is good
and generally easily placed. Not surprising
then it’s a popular first E2 but it is sustained,
and you have to be reasonably confident in
your approach to cruise it. It’s not really about
the grade to be honest; German Schoolgirl
is just a great route. Pretty short in fairness
but it has a very pleasing aesthetic, great
moves and is well-protected and that counts
for a lot to many climbers. And it ain’t a
damned slab so it gets my vote just for that
alone. Oh, and before you leave, you should
definitely go and check out The Mau Mau
just around the corner, that’s another
cracker too, a steep, satisfying crack – but
that’s another story for another day. n



LLanberis sLate quarries


German Schoolgirl (E2 5c) Llanberis Slate Quarries,
North Wales

Martin Crook, Nick Walton 18th August 1984

uk cLassics

Alongside the cutting edge developments on the slate in
the 80s those with an experienced eye for a line were
picking off top quality routes at more amenable grades;
Martin Crook’s German Schoolgirl (E2 5c) is a case in
point. Becky Lounds is captured lapping up the abundant
wires and quality climbing. Photo: Keith Sharples

By keith sharples

Free download pdf