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Caerfai Southwest Face 1974

Tony Sharp writes 'I submit the enclosed, about which Mr. Oaten assures us we are all longing to hear, with the utmost trepidation.  It is to be part of a book - the same title to be published this year and thanks are due to the publishers for this extract.

Morning, Again.

Sensations associated with waking up have become familiar.  Bucket mouthed eyes bloodshot and raw, waves of nausea.  Outside the tent, miraculously still erect, the sounds of coughing, choking, haemorrhaging and painful expectoration are more than vaguely audible.  In all, the unmistakeable symptoms of a party ravaged by the effects of altitude.

After lying awake for long enough, ones inertia is overcome by the impossibility of further sleep; the smell of the sleeping bag and its immediate environs, coupled with the sounds from outside make a painful emergence the only solution.

I crawled out to the accompaniment of an unexpectedly healthy gob from Pete, his stubbled face radiant with enthusiasm.  On this, the morning of what was to be our first summit attempt, the excitement of a traditional B.E.C.  Alpine start was still able to overcome the effects of accumulated weariness. Although we had had ample time to relax during the previous two days, a number of factors among them our somewhat repetitive trot had assured a certain degree of physical deterioration, dizziness, wild hallucination and even enthusiasm in some individuals.  Although the weather seemed favourable (vague suggestions of cloud in the direction of Haverfordwest did not indicate any impending danger from the monsoon) it was -obvious that time was not on our side.

A certain lethargy seemed to impede our movements as we prepared to move off.  Finally geared up, we set out to follow the top of a curving line of cliffs, leading to a steep gully which took us down to the base of the final wall, rearing up to the vertical, steep and white above us.  A vertical crack appeared to indicate a possible break in the cliffÂ’s defences; without mentioning names or dwelling unduly on individual feats of heroism, I should only record that this intimidating obstacle was overcome without undue difficulty, and a final heave deposited us in turn upon the summit plateau - surprisingly large in area - where we were able to recover and gaze in awe to the North and the towering face of Coeran, and secrets yet un-probed.

No champagne, no photographs; really, very little more than a great sense of anticlimax, sharpened by the advisability of a hasty retreat.

Final success in feats of this magnitude inevitably raises basic, fundamental questions, some general, and some specific to the expedition undertaken.  Should we have taken sherpas?  Scott, of course, did not take dogs.  (Should we have taken sheep?)  It should be pointed out that Caerfai may hold summits which will not be attained without sherpas, as Pembroke is developed their use may become widespread. Our determination that this should be a 'sporting' ascent also meant that we climbed without oxygen; without two-way radios; subsidised cans of Tyne Brand pie filling; Olympus earners or Jumars.  Indeed, it is our proud claim that almost all the accoutrements of modern Himalayan climbing were absent from this ascent.  There is, apparently, still scope for the ill-equipped sporting amateur.

Editor's Note.     And there is still scope for the well written leg-pull that lets you down so gently and with no little skill.  Thanks very much, Tony.