the steep stone story

A Tale of Climbing and Exploration in Wales' Empty Quarter


The publication of a new climbing guidebook is, in itself, hardly noteworthy. But the fact that a vast region, encompassing a quarter of Wales' land area between Southern Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, with a very long history of rock climbing, has lain beneath the radar for decades and has never been included in any such guidebook until now is, in this day and age, a remarkably unique situation. 

This vast 'empty quarter' is the ancient heartland of Elenydd. Secretive, enigmatic and largely undiscovered; a land of mystery. “…as far as the eye can see, and twice as far again, is silence and solitude...”   A G Bradley (1903)  In 1860, John Henry Cliffe, travel writer and angler, evocatively described the Elenydd uplands as “ of the most untamed and has indeed with perfect truth been called the 'great desert of Wales'....a nearly unpeopled region...”

Fundamentally, other than the total abandonment of marginal farmsteads, leading to wide-spread depopulation and consequent degradation of land use, little else in Elenydd has really altered in the intervening years. The purple moor grass and heather-clad hills and plateaus, the brooding Welsh oak woods carpeted by ferns and the youthful, impatient, rock-strewn rivers are largely unchanged. "This is now a vast sheepwalk, roadless, ruined and depopulated - a tumbled world of mist and bog, of looming and elusive shapes."  Ken Jones, Stallion's Crag (2003)

Human intervention through the damming of rivers, the planting of vulgar conifer forests and the incessant incursion of wind turbines has done little to tame this vast 'green desert'.  Essentially, it remains a land of sheep, crows and old grey stones. Native red kites, in now hugely resurgent numbers, sweep majestically across the vast open skies, braying lambs follow ancient hillside trods and cliffs stand sentinel on steep valley sides, silent witnesses to the vagaries of human endeavour. 

Elenydd is, essentially, still a wild and untamed place, so much so that it can project a sense of the elemental and of "being-in-the-world"; an embodied immersion in both nature and landscape. Steep Stone Publishing's exciting new publication is the first ever climbing guidebook to Elenydd, revealing for the very first time, the myriad hidden secrets on rock and ice in the very heart of the Cambrian Mountains. 

Central Wales - Elenydd was originally conceived as a Climbers’ Club (CC) title (an interim guide and new route supplement to replace the 2002 Meirionnydd guide) . However, it soon became apparent that a new and essentially undiscovered guidebook area in Mid Wales awaited publication. When the CC withdrew from the project in early 2015, thus cancelling all plans to replace Meirionnydd (other than the Moelwynion), the guidebook team of local CC members decided to carry on and produce the first ever guide to Mid/Central Wales. Extensive exploration, including the innovative use of geological survey maps to identify potential climbing locations, very quickly developed into an entirely predictable 'new route fever' scenario which was mainly driven by a small, close-knit group of friends and local activists, namely Sy Finch, Doug Kerr, Pete Trickey and Dave Williams. The rest is history.

Written entirely from scratch, the first-ever climbing guidebook to the long-overlooked empty quarter of Wales has been painstakingly and lovingly researched, written, photographed and designed over six years by a dedicated local team. Committed to high standards of quality and accuracy, Central Wales - Elenydd's  authors have produced a definitive guidebook that bucks the current trend for selected guidebook coverage of an existing climbing area. 

Central Wales - Elenydd innovatively showcases, in intricate detail, something different, something completely fresh and new. It also contains definitive details of long-lost climbs whose descriptions have lain forgotten in dusty climbing club archives for well over 60 years. This is also an all-inclusive  guidebook as, in yet another significant break from recent  climbing guidebook convention, it also provides details of previously unrecorded and virtually unknown winter climbing possibilities.

STEEP STONE™    Conceived and created by climbers for climbers, with the sole aim of producing innovative, informative and visually inspiring climbing guidebooks. 



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