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Climbing? !!!!!

By Kangy King

Stunned by the esteemed Mr. Wilson's climbing article, because I'd become accustomed to reading 'All About Caving', I hunted out some old BBs.  Sure enough those edited by Harry Stanbury in the '50's had lots of interesting climbing stuff in them Dennis Kemp wrote about duff (note for the young, duff means crap) karabiners, Jack Weadon warned about the lack of belays on 'Tyro's Crack' on the Rock of Ages in Burrington (there was nothing to hitch a sling around until the top of the climb was reached at 140ft, climbing ropes were then uniformly 120ft in length and chocks hadn't been invented, leaving twenty feet in which to become creative.  Leaders were considered to be expendable) and Tom Fletcher wrote a huge article about Spitzburgen for the l00th BB.

In those days a primary interest of many members was climbing.  My first climb was 'Piton Route' in the Avon Gorge pioneered by the amazing Balcombe who was also very active in primitive cave diving.  There were very few climbers and lots of opportunity to explore.  The very first Guide to our area "Limestone Climbs in South-West England" by Hugh Banner in 1954, thanked Pat Ifold and Dave Radmore of the BEC for their "great assistance in the production of this guidebook". I still have my copy of this Guide, which listed 98 climbs, from the Avon Gorge to Ebbor and Cheddar, most of which we'd done anyway before the Guide was published.  We met two brothers, Admiral and Commander Lawder, who cheered us on at Cheddar while we fiddled about trying to find new routes and who later showed us the Dewerstone near Plymouth.  The Lawders were wildly enthusiastic and the last time I heard of them they had fallen off 'Square Chimney' - guide book quote - "loose and filthy but provides good exercise" fortunately only breaking bones.

We went frequently to North Wales at weekends in a variety of hired bangers, or by motor bike, with enough support to warrant maintaining a small hut near Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley.  That collapsed and during the '60's we used the Bunkhouse at Gwern y Gof Isaf.

There are plenty of BEC caving reports but the only BEC climbing guide that I can remember was a Club Report entitled "Some Sandstone Climbs in the Upper Frome Valley at Bristol" which has action photographs of "Eaves" showing heave-ho moves under and over an overhang.  I went back to the area later and dug out more.  An article in the 50th Anniversary Belfry Bulletin described these. The best was called 'Golden Daffodil'. It is interesting to see our more heroic efforts picked out in chalky hand marks.  The climbs have been renamed and described again in the latest South West Guide.  We spent hours ripping ivy and loose rocks from the steeper bits and picking out lines. The re-discoverer must have been really pleased to have found these nice bits of bare rock just waiting to be climbed! However I must admit that, now the adrenaline of exploration has subsided, scrambling up the loose rock, dust and dirt of the final yard or so of subsoil was fairly unpleasant.  Nice steep energetic climbs though.

Since those days we haven't really had an organised climbing section which is a pity as "We are The Exploration Club", which sounds as if it ought to be more than just a caving club.

Despite this, I know that some of us individuals still stick together and have tried to sail in a small dinghy to Lundy to climb the 'Devils Slide'.  And thought better of it in mountainous seas!  Or more recently on treacherous terrain, to feel pretty nervous about an unforgiving mountain called Balaitous.