In reply to Ghastly Rubberfeet: Thanks. I'm confusing it with one in Cornwall which involves climbing out of a cave I think, and then some complicated rope work that the book tries to describe. Perhaps Arnis Strapcans was involved in the first ascent. I seem to remember his name in the write up......a long time ago. I certianly remember reading about him in the climbing press.
Arnis Strapcans (dubbed ‘the human anagram by Ken Wilson on account of his distinctive Latvian name), went out to solo a route in 1980 somewhere on the Brenva flank of Mont Blanc and was never seen again. It was a sudden end to what looked like developing into one of the outstanding mountaineering careers of the 80s. Strapcans was one of the leading climbers in the South West during the mid-1970s and famous as a prominent member of the anti-chalk ‘Clean Hand Gang’ which was vociferous in its opposition to the dastardly Californian cheating powder. His new routes and first free ascents are scattered around the climbing grounds of the Avon Gorge, Swanage, Wintours Leap, Cheddar, Lundy, and Baggy Point. His best known routes are probably Main Wall Eliminate, Space Oddity, Siberia, Polaris, The Exorcist, Mirage Oasis, and the first free ascent of Heart of the Sun. Outside of the south-west the Strapcans legacy can be found with new routes on Cloggy and High Tor, Derbyshire.
The sheer enthusiasm indicated by such a spread of activity was all the more remarkable given a terrible experience Srapcans had endured when just beginning his climbing career. When just sixteen Strapcans fell off the last pitch of Spider’s Web at Gogarth, pulling his second off as three belay pegs ripped from the stance. The pair peeled 100-ft straight into the sea. A fluke wave deposited Strapcans onto a rock platform but he was unable to pull his unconscious companion Robert Brown to safety. He did, however, manage top secure him with the rope still attached to his harness and soloed up the cliffs to get help. Unfortunately he succumbed to a combination of shock, exhaustion and hypothermia and passed out. When he came to the next morning and finally managed to raise help, his friend had been washed out to sea.
In addition to his later British exploits, Strapcans put himself about in Europe regularly, creating new routes in Majorca and at Fairhead in Ireland (e.g. Wall of Prey). Another indication of Strapcans’ adventurous nature was his third ascent of Aleister Crowley’s totteringly eccentric Ethelreda’s Pinnacle at Beachy Head, so it comes as no surprise that he became increasingly keen on Scottish winter struggling and mountaineering as well, and was scheduled to join a Himalayan expedition to Kashmir before his untimely disappearance.
What they said: ‘For a while he had the hardest and most dramatic routes at a series of South-West crags. He was arrogant in his way but had a compulsive edge to him’. Martin Crocker was impressed
Just one observation, I was in Chamonix in 1980, and when Arnis was missing we were talking to some guys who said he had gone to solo a route on the Gouter face. This is the big triangle of choss below the Gouter, well seen from Chamonix. They were peering through telescopes at the face for several days.
I'm not saying they were right, or disputing the information above, just saying what I heard at the time.
I was a student at Lanchester Polytechnic in the mid-seventies, and Arnis' mum was in charge of the photographic media stores. We chatted about Arnis' exploits a lot. She was very proud of her son and his climbing fame, though she never mentioned his traumatic experience at Gogarth.
In reply to Sewellymon: i heared he got washed off the bottom of britomartis. gog. Old bloke in llanberis, went into great detail, ropes and gear, wet heavy, kerplunk. never doubted the tale... until now...
there is an article in an old copy of Mountain by Graham Desroy - of white trouser fame - about him an Arnie climbing a route on the North Face of the Droites.
It was written in Memorandum. This had been Arnie's last big climb. He went off to solo something on the Brenva Face - Route Major maybe - and was never seen again. I belive his body was found sometime later.
There is also an obituary to him in the Alpine Jornal if you can find someone who has a copy.
Glad someone's finally been able to provide info (and the correct spelling of his forename!) on the achievements and unfortunate demise of this interesting character. He shows up briefly (Brenva Face disappearance) in Joe Simpson's This Game of Ghosts (where he is called Arnie), and is also mentioned in the Southern Sandstone Guide (chalk climbing section - where his name is given as Arnis)...
I have come across the odd mention of the incident on Spider's Web, in one case I think it was even given as the cause of Arnis' death...