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An Adventure with Pat Ifold

When John Stafford suggested that we join the BEC to climb Pat Ifold took us under his wing.

One of his typical outings with us was to load Dave Radmore and me into his old banger and head for the Brecon Beacons. Pat was an ingenious fellow and kept bangers alive although on one occasion a floorboard collapsed under his seat, which left him with little vision, trailing sparks from the metal bits of the seat down Park Street Bristol.

It was 1953. We had bought ex-WD ice axes from Thomas Bests of Bath and we were itching to use them. I couldn't think what we did about crampons and then I remembered that were no vibrams available, we climbed in nails. Pat almost certainly had clinker nailed boots whereas Radmore and I had a species of tricounis which were sharper and could be used on ice. They played hell with the local limestone so there, conscious of conservation, we used plimsoles. We met at the 'Waggon and Horses' St Mary Redcliff Bristol on Thursday evening to plan the weekend and because we worked Saturday mornings and we couldn't go far decided to head for the nearest high hills in South Wales.

We got to a snowy Brecon and sang in a pub until closing time being very careful not to offend the feisty young soldiers from the local barracks, then went of to find somewhere to bivouac. Dave and I found a road-mender's hut built like a gypsy caravan. Pat took one look and slept in his car with a seat removed. We slept well but when we woke we were covered in fleabites. Pat was amused in kindly way!

Breakfast was taken making porridge with melting snow over a primus stove because that's what explorers did. Then we went for the steepest way to the summit of Pen y Fan that we could find. Our nail boots were fine. Our ice axe technique benefited from Pat's teaching so that he ensured we could carry them without transfixing each other; stop or brake if we slipped on a steep slope and fashion steps in ice using pick and blade. And he showed us the several ways of using the axe as a walking stick, ice axe belay or hand hold to help balance on steep snow climbing up - or down. He was keen on being able to descend safely. I suppose he'd been there. Even today I catch myself on the hills remembering Pat's instruction with the long axe, all given in high humour with the Ifold grin.

 

The route we took was straight up from the base of the east face to a line of cliffs below the summit. You have to imagine the snow. The last part, up a wide vertical crack for about twenty feet, was a memorable way to finish a great experience.

Kangy, October 2006