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From Other Clubs

by Gordon Tilly

W.S.G. BULLETIN Vol. 5  No.8 

The main feature of this issue is Part 1 dealing with the caves of the Shepton Mallet District by K.E. Barber.  The remainder of the contents is the usual club news.

C.R.G. NEWSLETTER No. 110 (March ’68). 

32 pages ranging from C.R.G. News, publication reviews, a report on the Symposium on Cave Hydrology and a list of some 142 caves located in the Rana District of Nordland, Norway.

GLOUCESTER SPEL. SOC. NEWSLETTER.  (March ’68) 

Makes good light reading and give one the impression that the G.S.S. is quite an active club with reports of their activities in the Forest of Dean, South Wales and Mendip.  There is also an interesting article entitled “Inside the Skycraper Rock” by John Acock in which he describes some 10 caves he visited in Gibraltar.

M.C.G. Newsletter No. 64 (Feb. ’68) and M.N.R.C. Newsletter No. 49 (Spring 1968). 

Both contain the usual club news.  The M.C.G. Newsletter contains a short article on Belgian caves.

A Return to Climbing

Mike Luckwill spent Easter climbing with some of the B.E.C. now in Edinburgh.

Good Friday found us hanging about Jericho Wall.  The previous day we had driven from Edinburgh and by lunch time camp had been set up on the bank of the River Coe, just below the bridge where the new road joins the old.  With not a cloud in the sky and at least six hours before darkness, we picked out a gully on the west face of Aonoach Dubh which appeared to still to contain plenty of ice, and quickly set off in order to make most of our four days.

On closer inspection however, the ice turned out to be mainly water and so we crossed over into Stob Coire nam Beith and plodded up a snow field onto Ant Sron.  Making ourselves comfortable on top we ate chocolate, admired the scenery and discussed plans for the weekend.  I had persuaded my companion, a well known climbing gentleman, to take charge of the more foolhardy end of a hundred foot rope in order that I might ascend some of the classic routes --- nothing too difficult, mind you, but classics nevertheless.  And in Glencoe we had plenty to choose from.

So it was that having risen at a reasonable hour, breakfasted well, and wandered up to the foot of the Clachaig Gully, we managed coincide our arrival with that of the sun, which was beginning to illuminate the east walls.  Shaded from the wind as we were, we could look forward to several hours of delectable conditions.  The first pitch is a waterfall and the green and black slime undoubtedly made its standard about XS.  However it offered us no difficulty at all, and as we refreshed ourselves with some sweet water at the top we remarked that the state of the route surely indicated that everyone has also followed the path that meandered through the saplings on the west wall!  A couple of short pitches showed us why the water had seemed so sweet – the inevitable dead sheep.  Further upstream we had another little drink and roped up for a rather grotty series of slabs.  This led us to the foot of the Great Cave Pitch.  We were very interested to note later on what is in effect a series of awkward, but not too steep slabs, appears from the vantage of the west bank of the gully to be a plane, vertical wall; this would perhaps make for some spectacular cine-photography.  So we came to the Jericho wall.

I should explain at this point that my companion was of much smaller stature than myself and an awkward move some ten feet up the pitch, combined with the black slime which coated the lower parts of the wall led him to believe that I would enjoy the day much better if at that particular point I took the opportunity of leading what, after all, was “only a v. diff and the conditions are superb”.  Having received such a challenge what could I do?  There was no choice – I tied the rope on firmly and said, “No, you have another go”.  However in the end it was my length that proved the necessary and after basking in the sun for half-an-hour at the top my nerves were more-or-less back to normal.

The next obstacle, a short cave pitch was to turn the tables however.  Without bothering to rope up my companion was quickly sitting at the top waiting for me to come up.  But here my length and the sack in my back forced me further up into the roof of the cave as I attempted to get out of it.  After three attempts my arms were beginning to weaken and I requested the moral support of the rope and was then able to extricate myself at the next try. Looking at the next pitch we realised that this was a caver’s climb; straight up a waterfall.  Similarly with the one that followed.    And so we came to the Red Chimney.  Here the waterfall was nearly the route not to take.  The left hand wall offered a path of sorts over very loose rubble but the right hand wall had a clearly marked route for two thirds of the way.  My companion set off on the latter route and was soon surveying the last third of the climb; straight up was impossible, to the right the holds were too sloping and greasy, he must go to the left, into the water!  At first he managed to straddle the water but finally he disappeared form sight, right under the water and emerged a short time later on top. Needless to say, he was very wet. Meanwhile at my leisure, I had been able to spot all the holds he should have used and it was quite clear that I would be able to ascend, straddling the main jet of water and so remain comfortably dry.  With great confidence I ascended to the critical point.  To my great disappointment, but I must say, not to my very great amazement, I saw that my carefully planned holds were all in fact steeply sloping downwards, a fact concealed by the unwary observer below. Still, I thought, I must use the advantage of my height again and entered the water.  Each step took me into the water more and more and in the end I was forced to give up the struggle and entering the water I ascended as quickly as possible.  Drying ourselves in the sun at the top, we reflected what a superb pitch this would make underground – rather like an eighty foot version of the Swildon’s Forty. So we neared the end of a very fine day.

The next day in search of somewhere quieter that Glencoe, we drove round into Ardgour with the intention of climbing the Great Ridge on Garbh Bheinn.  Following the main road alongside the River Tarbert we left the car by Lochan a’Chothruim and walked up over the col to the ridge which is on the east side of the mountain.  To our surprise there were two other parties waiting to make the ascent, but having somne trouble in locating the start of the climb.  With an air of condescension we started them off on the rote and watched their labours in the initial stages which did seem to be a little out of keeping with the grading.

After they disappeared from view we consulted the guide book again and found the correct start was some way round the corner!  Our misdemeanour was justly rewarded a little later however.  Although we located the correct start and chose not the mossy chimney to the left but the slabs to the right.  I suppose a succession of slings, pegs and nuts left behind by others might have warned us, but as it was we soon reached a bulging boulder which turned out to be last possible point of return.  Above this there were no belays of any value and the festoon of slings carefully arranged on the odd pinheads of rock came off when I decided to belay sitting down rather than standing up!  However the lack of belaying points precluded abseiling off and so we, or rather my companion, had to go on.  The crux was difficult to say the least and as the second the only protection I could offer was a series of prayers to all the gods I could think of.

Living to tell the tale, we soon regained the correct route, which is, as the guide book says, not difficult, but full of interesting situations.  At the top we met up with many others and we were very pleased that our forethought had provided us with the shortest route back to the car, and a bottle of lemonade that was cooling in the stream near the road.  Next morning we moved to Glen Nevis. Unfortunately the weather broke on Monday and although we went up to Allt a’Mhuilim with the intention of climbing it, it was quite clear that the wind alone would have made the ridge impossible.  Despite this upset in our plans the weekend was an excellent return top climbing.

Mike Luckwill