Video: Gee Atherton in Slate Line Rampage

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Slate is a great material for things like roofs, souvenir coasters, and gastro-pub plate alternatives. As a trail material, it’s not so appealing. So where better to build a trail with huge exposure, drops and gaps than a slate mine? Join Gee Atherton for his description of building and riding this new line, in what is surely Red Bull Rampage preparation.

It’s such an intimidating spot to turn up to; as soon as you arrive and start hiking up you just feel like you’re going to slide off the edge or fall down a mine, there are cliffs everywhere 4,5,600 feet drops. It’s like the mountain is never still, fragments of slate are constantly breaking free, every step starts a mini avalanche and it’s kind of eerie, super quiet except for the odd crow.

There’s a mortuary at the bottom of the track – one of three small stone buildings, I’m glad I didn’t know what it was till we were finished filming. The fear at the top of this line is incredible – you’re balanced on the edge of this mountain and you feel like as soon as you start moving you’re just going to get carried to the bottom and smashed to pieces and there’ll be nothing you can do about it.

Gee Atherton
Gee Atherton

Building a line like this is very much a process. The initial reason I’m drawn to a location is that it’s unique, spectacular but it seems that’s likely to equal ridiculously difficult! I’ll always stand at the top and wait; piece by piece the line reveals itself, it shows itself in segments, gradually, you have to tease it out, very slowly a possible line crawls out of the mountain.

Gee Atherton
Gee Atherton

The step down at the bottom is one of the biggest gaps I’ve ever hit – 81 feet we measured, and it’s complicated by the fact that as soon as you start to move, the whole surface of the mountain starts to move with you. It’s like an avalanche trying to drag you down and super-sharp shards of slate are flying up everywhere.

It’s a huge mental challenge not to ride defensively, you drop in and it’s so tempting to lean off the back and skid slowly down but you haven’t enough control like that. I had to hit it hard, like it was a DH track, force myself to ride faster, to attack, pushing my front end into stuff.

Gee Atherton
Gee Atherton

When you look up from the bottom of the track you can see the whole mountain, top to bottom and it stares down at you. I look up, I look at my bike and there comes a point when I know that I’m going to do it, I’m going to conquer the mountain and it feels like the perfect progression from the Ridgeline, I remember how much I love needing to bring my A game and that’s all I need.

Gee Atherton
Gee slateline

After that introduction, are you ready to watch the video? Spare pants at the ready, here goes…

All the ingredients are there for Red Bull Rampage preparation: vertical drops, exposure, eking a trail out of the landscape, loose and unforgiving terrain…is this an audition to gain entry to Rampage, a proof of concept attempt to trial a Rampage-UK, or just Gee’s strange idea of fun?

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