Climbing tales of terror

Its a book, in fact. I remember browsing it in the good old days when I used to climb. But today I was browsing Rock Athlete which is Ron Fawcett’s book, and contains the following memorable story, which I will share with you because I liked it so much:

In the old days, a pair of his friends were climbing Malham Cove. They were aid climbing the extensive overhangs in in very bad weather in winter, and were benighted. Not realising they were close to the top, they chose to ab off in darkness. The rope became tangled, and in the cold the first was unable to untangle it, and forced to cut it; he promptly fell 35 feet to the ground, breaking both legs. The second, feeling the rope slack, came down and also fell off the end of the rope, breaking both wrists. They slowly made their way to the nearest farmhouse, and the second knocked on the door – with his head, since both wrists were broken.

Which reminds me, I’ve been eyeing the Pembroke Rockfax.

4 thoughts on “Climbing tales of terror”

  1. Malham is a great place to visit, to be sure. Thoroughly recommended. Great walking. But I personally can’t get the fascination for taking one’s life in one’s hands when there’s an easier route up the thoughtfully provided steps to the limestone pavement up top (might have to do with my inner ear problems, of course), or get off the bus/park the car near the top anyway 🙂

    That said, I do stand in awe and complete admiration of the stupidity of those who do risk themselves. Case in point, I was absolutely transfixed by BBC2’s showing of The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest in the middle of last month. The sight of Leo Holding(?), in his prep for Everest possibly, hanging one-handed from an overhang while he dipped into his pocket for some grip-enhancing powder, with no line for safety fixed to the rock was jaw-droppingly awesome. And then he and Conrad Anker following Mallory’s fateful footsteps (often in in 20s climbing gear) and Anker almost coming to grief while free climbing the Second Step, where Mallory might well himself have met his fate in 1924, was utterly gripping.

    I’d like to go up top, too. But take me in a helicopter please.

    [Not quite sure why hard rock climbing is useful training for Everest. It would be nice to climb it one day, but its absurdly expensive, and there is a lot of the Alps yet to do -W]


  2. I have warm memories of the Superdiretissima route which takes the central face of the cove.

    In those days (1979) the bolts were none too good, lacking brackets in places, and we made progress by slipping the heads of chocks (metal nuts on wire loops used for protectiuon in cracks) over the bolt heads and clipping our etriers (short rope ladders) in to climb up and hook the next bolt.

    On our first attempt our ropes got stuck too and the fight to free them left us exhausted. But we were not so high and could tie them together to abseil into the stream below without accident. But then they stuck again and we had to leave them on the face to be recovered when we got our breath back the next day.

    “Because it’s there” hardly seems an adequate justification but there are few thrills to equal such a long overhanging climb.


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