UKC

Close Call on Cloggy. (story)

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 Slackboot 04 Jun 2021

It was definitely starting to get dark. 'Bugger' I thought to myself. 'We have to get off here and quick'. But half way up Octo on 'Cloggy' things were swiftly getting out of control.
The day had started so well. We were young back in the 70's. I had only climbed with this lad a couple of times on small Northumberland sandstone crags and now we were here, on a pilgrimage to this huge Cathedral of Climbing. The great walls and slabs echoed with the whispers of heroic deeds and legends we had only read about, dreamed about. I was in awe. We did Llithrig. He climbed well for someone so young. I have no recollection of what we did at 'the spike'. It's so long ago now. On completing the route we headed for Octo to take us to the top of the crag. When we got to the foot of the climb I was dismayed to see someone on it. And they were struggling! Time passed by. Did we even have a watch? Peering out from that section of the cliff the word 'black' didn't even enter my head. I saw a bright blue sky out there over the rest of the world. More time passed by. Eventually, after aeons, the 'second' started moving up. I was snapping at his heels, pushing him. It was wrong I know but I was young and something in me was beginning to fret. An inbuilt warning system was sounding deep inside even though I was too ' green' to even understand what that warning meant. And then it got dark! Just like that. Sunny daylight then dark. I lowered off the runner back to the foot of the climb with thoughts of abseiling off the now very black cliff. But we didn't know it's topography. Another 'noob' mistake in the error catalogue of inexperience. My thinking went from getting off the cliff to being resigned to spending the night tied onto a good ledge in a matter of minutes. In the end it was so dark we couldn't even find a good ledge. It shames me to say it  but we couldn't even find a sound belay to make the small ledge safe. 
 We spent the longest night ever on that ledge, not daring to sleep in case we fell off. It was cold. He was in a t-shirt and started to shiver uncontrollably. Someone had given me a worn out highly decorative climbers jumper, the sort that you saw on climbing adverts. It was full of holes but it was a life saver. He shoved his body into it next to mine. We sat on the small ledge half way up this huge cliff in absolute inky blackness, shoehorned into a decorative woolen straight jacket. If one of us went we would both go. I cringe at the memory 50 years later. In the morning we found our way off and it seemed straightforward. You just needed to be able to see. We met our friends coming up the path to look for us. I had wondered if they might have alerted the rescue team when we hadn't returned the previous night. I had dreaded being rescued to be honest. The shame. But it was good to know they were there just in case. Needless to say I learned a lot of lessons that day. I can't speak for my mate. I never saw him again.

 Mick Ward 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Slackboot:

Mistakes (I can relate to these so well). Priceless lessons learned. Luckily you both survived. Innocence yielding to experience. A hard school.

Mick

 Rick Graham 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

One of the advantages of being in a climbing club. Even if you did not climb with the more experienced members , you heard all the tales and lessons learnt in the pub nights.

" I would not be so daft to do that" you thought to yourself. Had to find your own errors, fortunately

Possibly climbing forums share info as a modern method ? 

In reply to Slackboot:

Great story and one that resonates on several levels

 Slackboot 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Rick Graham:

I think if you are lucky enough to be with the right people in a climbing club it must be a great thing with regard to mentoring etc.

 Lankyman 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Slackboot:

> I think if you are lucky enough to be with the right people in a climbing club it must be a great thing with regard to mentoring etc.

Some 40 years ago I was about to abseil to the bottom of Alum Pot when one of my club 'elders' (aged about 30) pointed out my rack. Older cavers will remember them - alloy bars hinged across a steel frame. I'd absent mindedly threaded the rope the wrong way so that the bars would pop open as soon as I loaded it! Without him I wouldn't be here now, just another rescue statistic.

 Mick Ward 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Slackboot:

> I think if you are lucky enough to be with the right people in a climbing club it must be a great thing with regard to mentoring etc.

Agree. But the key words are 'the right people'. I went from 'self-learning' (and there's a UKC article in the pipeline showing just how horrendous that was) to joining a well-established club. Problem was... some of the more eminent members were of highly limited competence. Although I'll always be grateful to them (they did the best they could), it's left me questioning people's competence for the rest of my life. And maybe that's no bad thing.

But when you do get 'the right people' - in any avenue of life - then great!

Mick

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