Rock climbers accused of giving disrespectful names to Welsh quarries

The abandoned slate quarry at Chwarel Dinorwig in north Wales
The abandoned slate quarry at Chwarel Dinorwig in north Wales - Shawn Williams/Alamy

A row is brewing over “silly and offensive” names at mountaineering spots in historic quarries in the Welsh countryside.

Language campaigners criticised mountaineers for replacing old Welsh quarry place names with English versions – claiming they had degraded 200 years of local culture.

The protesters say the English names, which include Dali’s Hole, Never Never Land, Tunnel of Love, Rainbow Walls, and more are “silly and offensive”.

Campaigners hope to pressure Gwynedd council and Unesco to reinstate historic names for the climbing galleries and deep holes at the quarries across North Wales.

Eilian Williams, whose quarryman father worked at Chwarel Dinorwig – the world’s second largest slate mine, said: “This quarry is the place of our ancestors with more than two centuries of Welsh history.”

He added that the quarry was left alone after it closed until climbers moved in to use it for recreation and replaced the names of sites over the years.

Mountaineering council backs original names

“Many are offensive and immoral, some have sexual connotations. They’re insulting and show a lack of respect to the families of the people who worked there,” he said.

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) said it was committed to promoting the use of original names and said the climbers had also coined new ones in Welsh.

Tom Carrick, BMC access and conservation officer for Wales, said: “Having grown up with the Welsh language and living in Gwynedd for most of my life it saddens me to see the conflict between my native language and my sport, passion and career.

“They’re all interlinked – there is space for both in my eyes. It’s important to remember our history – but also that climbing has brought a whole new industry into the area.”

Posters to Eryri Wen, a Facebook group to remember the region’s quarries, say too many names are disrespectful – and want Welsh names promoted in climbing guides and elsewhere.

The BMC said this is being done already, and that they have Welsh-speaking staff and volunteers “who feel passionately about this issue”.

Life expectancy was 37 years

A spokesman said: “Many climbers are interested to learn more about the history and culture of the places they climb and there has been an effort to ensure the original Welsh names are used in many newer climbing guides.”

The issue was highlighted at an event held on Sunday to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union, which hopes to seek recognition for the estimated 1,500 men killed in the slate quarries of north-west Wales.

The union was established on April 27 1874 and became involved in a series of lockouts by quarry owners when workers complained of poor pay and working conditions.

The average life expectancy of quarrymen in places like Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1875 was 37 years.

Many were killed by rock blasts and falls, but it is thought thousands more died from silicosis – a lung disease.