Benighted on Fionn Buttress in 1959 with Robin Smithby Liz Evans Jun/2011
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Liz Evans introduces her article:
In 1959 I became benighted in rather unusual circumstances whilst climbing Fionn Buttress with Robin Smith, at that time a fellow member of the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club, and another friend.
Subsequently I wrote a light hearted article for the Club Journal. Robin sadly died in 1962 on an expedition to the Pamirs, but I kept the article which I recently came across on a spring cleaning spree.
On the second day we found the gin. We returned, rejoicing to our stall. After about an hour and a third of the bottle, Smith's singularly inappropriate monologue on moral obligations and the meaning of life had degenerated into incoherent bursts of current juke box favourites and horrible puns, and we fell asleep.
The first two pitches were, however, accomplished without much more difficulty than could reasonably be expected from a party of three suffering from a hangover. It started to rain as I began the crux pitch - "a delicate slab". Robin laughed like a drain when I peeled on the last move and they hauled me gleefully onto the shelter of their stance. Robin took a long time oner the next pitch and Dick chose to comment that it would be as well if I kept my head. Since I had not so far considered losing it, I pondered this remark in my heart. I admit to a tight rope on this pitch, a very wet, holdless corner. I pondered even more in my heart on the next stance as I heard Robin and Dick mutter again about "loose bollards" protection for me – on a V. Diff.?
Nagging doubt led to a certain feeling of nervousness which was not helped by gathering darkness and the prospect of 200 more feet of climbing in the rain. Robin took even longer over the next pitch but eventually his belch was heard some way above as he heaved himself up a nasty looking overhang. When my turn came, I found the others more than usually forthcoming with words of advice and encouragement, and vastly more than usually interested in where I thought I'd swing to if I peeled. I successfully disappointed them on the traverse which led to the overhang, which was overcome indelicately and with much assistance and I pulled out on to a small, very sloping ledge. I remarked that this was a very odd V. Diff. and that I would like to go home. Robin, however, successfully thwarted this idea by disappearing into the gathering gloom along an exposed traverse. Some time later he returned to say that we could all go home. I stifled a desire to mention last buses and they began to organise the rope.
A brief lesson in abseiling followed and I began lowering myself into nothing. I did have a top rope which, although cheating, is reassuring. I actually enjoyed the first feet quite well but soon became worried and fed up, particularly after I discovered that if I stopped concentrating I turned upside down. I shouted down to Robin to ask where he was and a faint, horribly cheerful reply wafted up "Miles away". At one point during the descent I kicked a loose piece of rock which then rested gently on my feet. Having yelled a warning, I let it go and watched it bounce its way down, sparking as it hit the rock. It took a long time. When I reached Robin, he was looking like the Cheshire Cat. Dick joined us on this slightly larger ledge and we waited anxiously to see if the rope would follow. I must admit to a certain feeling of disappointment when it did as I had a strong desire to remain forever on this ledge which was really quite spacious.
It took four abseils, including one traverse, and four tiny insecure ledges to reach the ground. Dawn broke and I discovered that I had left the seat of my trousers somewhere on Fionn Buttress (V.S). The Colonel kindly invited us to breakfast and we went to bed, as we had risen, in broad daylight. Robin's comment "A fine V.Diff " or alternately " An epic shambles"
The next day they did the climb in three hours while I rested.
Editorial Note: The author of the above wishes the whereabouts of the "epic shambles" to be identified as Carnmore Crag and the hospice in which they were so kindly received by the absent owners as the house of the same name. But as for the gin...
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