Stomping Grounds with Katy Whittaker and Tessa Hill

Words by Katy and Tessa | Photos by Alex Haslehurst

For mountaineers, alpinists, skiers, climbers and runners the mountains all hold a special place in our hearts. It is where our passion began. It allows us to forget the stresses and worries of life and blows away the cobwebs. Time spent in the mountains is good for the soul.

Arc’teryx athletes Tessa Hill and Katy Whittaker took a break from running and climbing to tell us about their favourite places to spend time in the mountains.

The mountains of North Wales have always been special to me, I spent a lot of time as a child walking and scrambling around here and now as a climber there is still plenty more to explore. One area that never fails to fascinate me is the Dinorwic Slate Quarry, buried into the hillside they over look the village of Llanberis and up into the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia National Park.

Pass photo

The quarries are steeped in history and have an eerie silence about them, only the distant clangs of moving slates can be heard echoing across the quarry walls.

They opened in 1890, stayed open for 170 years and employed 17,000 men. The quarries eventually closed due to a decline in the industry and difficulty of removing the slate. After many years of unsystematic slate dumping, the huge towers of waste began to slide into the main pits. The huge rock falls and landslides are still changing the dynamic of the quarries.

Katy Horizon

The remains of the quarry industry are still a prominent feature whilst exploring the hillside. Old passageways, rusting ladders, huge chains, small slate huts and derelict tramline systems are just some of the things you can find. It is totally awe inspiring the huge architectural structures that have been made by these men and you are constantly reminded as you wobble down a rusted old ladder what a dangerous life it must have been working here.

Wall photo Ladder photo

The climbing guides have given areas names such as Mordor and The Lost World, so you know you are in for a treat, yet you don’t really know what to expect. Navigating your way around can still be a challenge even with a guidebook as there are so many hidden areas.

I think the quarries are so special because every time you visit something has slightly changed, whether that is the atmosphere, the landscape or sometimes even the artwork! You are always rewarded for your visits.

Painting photo

It is a beautiful place in its own quirky way, a place filled with ghosts and history.

Edinburgh is an amazing city to live in or visit, but for a mountain lover the real highlight is having Arthur’s Seat on the doorstep. The extinct volcano lies only a mile from the centre of town but it feels like a different world.

tess town

On a good day, the view from the 251m summit stretches far into the mountains of central Scotland and out to the peaceful East Lothian coast. Peregrine falcons swoop down the rock faces and barn owls glide over the yellow gorse at dusk. On a bad day, the experience is more akin to a day out in the wilds of Scotland. The wind whips over Salisbury Crags and driving rain coats the steps of the Guttit Haddie making it a treacherous descent. Even the locals need to keep their wits about them when the sea-haar moves in and takes away all sense of perspective.

Like the rest of Edinburgh, there’s history under every step. Thought to have been formed over 350 million years ago, Arthur’s Seat and its rocky outcrops are an important geological site. It is a possible location for Camelot, the legendary castle of the King Arthur. The remains of a 15th century chapel (St Anthony’s) are still evident, perched on a small ledge mid-way up a steep incline. There are also rumours that Burke and Hare roamed the hill in the 1800s.

I will never tire of Arthur’s Seat. It’s a place to lose all my working-day thoughts and replace them with ones of adventure. I’m forever discovering new trods and left wondering whether the name I’ve given it will ever make it onto a map alongside the more well-known Radical Road, Piper’s Walk, Lion’s Haunch and Samson’s Ribs. As back gardens go, Edinburgh’s got a good one.

tess walk

– Tessa and Katy

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