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Utopia, Here On Mendip?

By Terry Taylor

It was in the year of ‘Warlord’ that ‘the line’ was first noticed, whilst wandering, aimlessly, down the tourist-infested Gorge, dodging an occasional falling climber.

“Thou shalt not climb”, saith the Prophet (pron: profit) Gough, in his First Commandment of the Bye-laws of Cheddar.  “Thou shalt not get caught”, sez we.  Not that it worried me, as I staggered, plaster-legged, towards refreshment.  It gave me an excuse to daydream unlikely routes, up the leaning pinnacles, and overhanging arêtes.

“But……….what is that?................a huge mass of ivy, hanging down what looks like a big cave, or a chimney, or, or………...”

Before long, and without plaster boots, we were back to gaze.  Bill-of-the-Red-Beard and I, desperate unshaven fellows, laden with suspicious-looking clanking things, crossed the road and disappeared up ‘The Shoot’.

Not for long, though, because we soon followed the two ends of our rope over the top of the cliff. We abseiled three times, cleared a lot of ivy and found that it really was a huge chimney.

One week later, Dennis-one-Kidney was with me, as we swung down, stripping more of the green stuff from the cliff.  “Hmm! It’s a real natural one, Den, up this groove, round the overhand….Bob’s your uncle.”

The next visit was with “Mike-the-Poke” and Paul Leonard, and it rained and rained, just to improve matters.  We’d each failed once on the first greasy-green pitch, so I put on some nylon socks over my P.A.’s and taped them round the ankles.  “I’ll give it another try, never climbed in socks, wonder what’ it’s like?”

Well, I got up, not without some difficulty.  “Good hard VS, in the wet, Mick” (Historical note: Manchester Gritstone C.C. on 1959 did a route here.  “Great Unwashed”, 450’ VS, goes off right just above the overhang, at an ancient peg.) Mick followed, with two interruptions, as he didn’t have socks.  We went on to the ivy-ledge, and in one very wet abseil reached the ground.  Round 3 to them.

The next visit was on a sunny evening.  Paul and I couldn’t fail this time, surely.

“Oh Christ!  I’ve forgotten my P.A.’s” sez I.  Dismal thoughts of failure yet again, second searchings and multicoloured curses, all failed to materialise my boots.  “S’pose I’ll have to wear my Kastingers then, Paul, better than nothin’.”  So, off we go, seconds out, Round 4!

Paul led Pitch 1 up to the ivy-ledge, and we were at the limit of our previous attempts, below the huge overhangs.  The next pitch was up over some poised blocks, into a splayed open chimney-type groove.  “Very good jams here, Paul.”  This took us up to a big ledge, thirty feet to the side of the roofs of “Paradise Lost”, (VS, no sign of the bolts though).

The next pitch, “the chimney”, was a ‘gem’.  Up over several small overhangs into the chimney proper.  “Huge chock runners, no need for pegs here, hmm!  Quite a bridge….sh!  A nice little thread there…..lovely!

“Below!  Jesus!  That was lucky.  D’you see that Paul (not that he could miss a rock the size of his head).  A bloody and ‘old came off, hit my right boot standing on nothing much.  Phew! That was close.”

There were no other ‘events’ (thank Gawd!)  and we were soon standing at the top.  We decided to call it “Utopia”, for us it was of a sort, there were two big peg routes to the left (Paradise Lost” – VS and A3; and “Paradise Regained” - VS and A”) and we had only used on peg, and that as a belay.  And it was good climbing.

P.S.  A B.E.C. party, D. Targett and R. Sell, did the second ascent in late 1968.  Is this an omen (at last) of a ‘real’ climbing section in the B.E.C.?  (Ed. Note:  I hope that Terry is right and that the climbing section will put their achievements onto paper!)