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Hot aches or sex? - Nick Bullock reveals all...
Neil Brodie and I drove from an abortive attempt of a new-ice-route on the Bargy's – a large limestone cliff high above the industrial town of Cluses – and as we weaved around the hairpins back to Mont Saxonnex village, Brodie pointed out the top of the local crag where he had climbed several new routes. He spoke of dry tooling up good limestone and aiming for blobs of ice before launching onto hanging icicles. It sounded brilliant but I was not convinced. My only experience of dry tool, sporty crags was Le Fayet and the very overhanging Zoo near Sallanches: good training venues, but with drilled pockets, hanging logs, bolt-on holds and many bolts, neither had much character or resembled what I considered to be real climbing.
The following winter Brodie called me sounding very excited. Ice had formed like never before on Mont Saxonnex.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
I plunged steps into the deep crunchy snow piled between mature pines until sweating and wide eyed I stood at the base of the crag. Although only 30 minutes walk from the car the crag felt remote and isolated. The crag towered 100m high and 300m wide, bristling with chandeliers and daggers. Large cauliflowers blossomed from ledges that were connected by blobs, cracks and pockets, and in the middle of the wall a continuous line of steep and fragile ice cried out for our attention.
Tim Emmett's Torquay
South Devon is home to the full range of experiences available in British climbing from multi-pitch tottering seacliff adventures to single pitch sport climbing testpieces. It therefore comes as no surprise that with such a varied stomping ground Tim Emmett has gone on to become one of the UK's leading all rounders.
Whether it's sport climbing 8bs, headpointing E9s, swinging onto hanging icicles or new routing in the Himalaya, Tim has undertaken his adventures with a big cheeky grin on his face. Here Tim picks the formative Devonian climbs that put fun as the bedrock of his climbing.
A good friend of mine had a dad who serviced and repaired Land Rovers, you know the old-school box shaped ones (before the era of Chelsea Tractors). One weekend we planned to head down to Chudleigh, our local crag about 1 1/2 hrs from Taunton. Nathan had offered to pick me up, and appeared at the front door with a big grin on his face.
"Alright mate, have you seen our vessel?" pointing to a vehicle parked on the other side of the road. It was a green ex-army Land Rover that had been converted into an ambulance. There was no mistaking it, with a bright red cross not only on both sides but even on the roof too. Wow this was pretty special. I picked up my climbing gear and clambered into the 'Ambulance of Power' (named due to all the big plus signs it exhibited). This was the ultimate machine for our weekend quest, as we cruised down the motorway at 45 mph! I distinctly remember thinking at the time that the Ambulance of Power would be the perfect vehicle to go to a fancy dress party for doctors and nurses. In fact I was sure I could assist a nurse with some CPR in the back if I had to!
The other thought that crossed my mind was that if we were to try climbing anything at our limit, would we be tempting fate by having an ambulance at the ready? If something went wrong we would be ready for a snail paced delivery to hospital.
The scene was set, after arriving at the crag we warmed up on Twang to the left of the Cow Cave. Conditions were good and the team psych was strong. We decided to go for it and try Inkerman Groove. I had lead one climb graded VS before, so felt vaguely confident.
The climb was wicked, both Nathan and I enjoyed it immensely, a little polished but a striking line up the steep wall. As we walked back to the ambulance my mind raced as to how we could organize the doctors and nurses party. (Little did I know that 10 years later I would take a nurse up the route!)
Gear - Helmets
At one time it was easy, we could take guidance from Joe Brown. Joe Brown was (and still is) widely regarded as the outstanding pioneer of British rock climbing of the 1950s and early 1960s, being the creator of an unprecedented number of classic new routes which were, at the time, at the leading edge of the hardest grades, for example Cenotaph Corner (1952, E1, with Doug Belshaw) and Cemetery Gates (1951, E1, with Don Whillans) in Snowdonia.
In addition to many alpine routes he also made the first ascent of the third highest mountain in the world, Kangchenjunga in the Nepalese Himalaya, with George Band in 1955, and the first ascent of the west summit of the Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram with Ian McNaught-Davis in 1956. So, no argument over his CV.
One of his many inventions was a new and improved climbing helmet, the ubiquitous Joe Brown helmet. It seemed for many years to be the UK standard and was made by the legendary Mo Anthoine and his team in a converted chapel in Llanberis, North Wales. The Joe Brown helmets were very strong. They were made of fibreglass with a thick foam lining and mostly they seemed to be orange.
Whenever we saw Joe on the telly (for example climbing The Old Man of Hoy) or in the climbing press in the 1970s and early '80s he wore a rolled-up woolly balaclava most of the time, one of his own helmets if he was on a route and both together in the high mountains. Good enough for me. Most people followed his lead and bought both. The helmet weighed a ton and the balaclava itched like hell, but, hey, if it worked for Joe...
In early 1980s I moved to Sheffield taking, amongst other things, my woolly balaclava and Joe Brown helmet with me. I soon realised however that the world was changing. On my first day out as an 'also ran' with the then Sheffield climbing scene I noticed nobody wore a helmet. In fact helmets were only really worn for Scottish winter climbing, alpinism and beyond. I discreetly left my helmet in my sack and never brought it out again. Social pressure, yes,
fashion, certainly. This was after all the '80s - tights and ear rings were on their way in.
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