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A Mountain Tale


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Surprised that I'm the first TT member with a mountain story that may be worth telling.

I actually wrote it as a footnote in my first attempt at book-writing, a romantic memoir of my rock and lake adventures with my first 'proper' girlfriend who lived near Patterdale in the English Lake District.

As footnotes go, I would agree that this one is on the longish side. Those readers who enjoy being in high places, amongst steep crags, might enjoy the read, whilst those who share no interest in mountains or in me, DHP, nearly coming unstuck in a rocky ravine, may well give it a miss.

Easter, 1960. Whilst attempting my first solo ascent of Scafell, the 2nd highest mountain in England, and having misunderstood the directions, shouted down to me by a couple of climbers on The Pinnacle – I recall them more resembling flies, so high above me were they on this seemingly flat wall of rock – I managed to scramble my way into the appropriately named Deep Ghyll, a massive rift in the five-hundred foot high crag, only to be met by a mini-glacier, the remains of winter’s exceptionally heavy snows, and, above that, a ginormous boulder that had, aeons ago, fallen from above and become wedged tight, between the walls of the ravine, presenting a near-vertical wall of rock.

A series of disconcertingly sloping and slippery steps, cut into the ice by climbers, months earlier, enabled the first intimidating obstacle to be overcome. It was only upon close examination of the rock-wall, above, and the resulting conclusion that it was insurmountable that I realised that my only escape-route was back down the ice-field; applying the rational logic that, if you can get one way, you ought to be able to get the other.

It was at this point that my lunch-box chose to dislodge itself from its containing wind-cheater pocket and to slide, with sickeningly increasing momentum, down the ice and thence to fall out of sight, over the rim of another vertical rock face at the foot of the ghyll, where it abuts with Lord’s Rake. And, just to rub salt into the rapidly widening wound, walkers, following a more recognised route - the West Wall Traverse, which I had planned to take in the first place - several hundred feet above the chockstone, would dislodge the odd stone, which, gravity-propelled, would come fizzing down through the void, ricocheting noisily off the gully walls, before thudding into the frozen snow and showering me with ice flakes.

On one such occasion, relieved that help might be at hand, I could actually hear the voices of the foot-clumsy walkers, as they happily went on their way, but my loudest of shouts of “Help!”, even with hands cupped around my mouth, went unheeded. With no feasible escape, neither upwards nor down, and my cries for help being futile, excitement, at being up-close and personal with Scafell’s mighty crags quickly turned into despair; a strange empty feeling of being totally alone on this mountain on which there were probably another hundred or more souls, practically within a climbing rope’s length, but who didn’t even know I was there, let alone the fact that I was already picturing my lifeless body being stretchered out of that hell-hole.

Angry at this out-of-character negativity, I pulled himself together and, despite my strongly-held view that a spiritual God didn’t exist in my finite world of planks of wood, timetables and sarsaparilla drops, decided that then would be a good time to recite – in full and out loud – the Lord’s Prayer*.

Two hours and six hard miles later, a quietly reflective DHP leant on the wall of the Old Dungeon Ghyll car-park, waiting for my arranged lift home with Dad. Although still agnostic in my religious beliefs, I have often wondered to what extent, if any, I owe my life to the Lord – or his prayer, at least – on that life-shaping monument of a day.

*A step-by-step account of my eventual escape from Deep Ghyll would have occupied a further half-side but, believing the footnote to have served its purpose, in illustrating the hideously sickening sensation, resulting from watching an object slip from one’s grasp and fall, gravity-fuelled, into a yawning abyss, ‘time’ was called. For the full works and other mountaineering tales, please feel free to contact the writer. We could talk for hours.

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We had done most of the Wainwrights walks in the Lakes and from what I can remember the great man himself saying was that when you have climbed Lords Rakes on Scafell 'you have earned your climbers badge' or words of that description. We have done it quite a few times and it didn't seem too bad to me.

Anyway this particular day we decided to do Wainwrights Fairfield Horseshoe, starting in Grasmere and of course finishing there.......but all the best laid plans.

We set off from Grasmere and as per usual we were greeted with the Lakeland mist and to make matters worse my map finished at the very top of Fairfield and my biggest achilles heel as a walker is that I tended to follow my instincts and more to the point my nose (I believe I had a bit of a cold that particular day). Anyway about half of the way round we reached the summit and had our cup of tea and started to head back to Grasmere (or so we thought). We started following an obvious path which had to be the correct one and I remember my dear wife saying "are you sure you're going the right way." Anyway half way down the mountain doubts started to set in, but as luck would have it there were two walkers in front of us, I shouted to them and asked them where they were headed, they said "Grasmere," at this point I asked them if I could have a look at their map and I pointed out that we were both going the wrong way. One of them said "but that is Windermere down there and I told them it was Ulswater.

Anyway it was not the end of the world as we could walk down to Patterdale and catch the bus back, sorted. We reached Patterdale and headed for the bus stop and read the timetable, we did this walk in Feb/March and the next bus was in June, oh dear, we had no other choice but to walk another 9 miles back over Kirkstone Pass, the pub was open at the top so wasn't all bad.

But I always remember the endearing words my wife used to say after a lot of our walks.......last time I'm ever going walking with you again" 👣

 

 

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A good read KC .

My dad was a keen fell runner, pot holer and climber who tried to get his three sons , myself the youngest, to follow in his love of the aforementioned pastimes, unfortunately, except for a bit of climbing at the Cow and Calf , Ilkley , he failed.

 I do remember, as a child, many weekends spent in Ingleton as my dad , along with other members of the Grit Stone Club would disappear down some  “ hole in the ground “ only to reappear, what seemed like hours later, sweaty and covered in mud but always smiling !!

We , as children, would be happy scrambling around the rocks and moorland.

The weekend would always end with tea , pop for us kids , and scones at the Ingleton Café run by Bernard and Alice the proprietors. They were members of a rambling club who would walk to the summit of Ingleborough every Wednesday evening through rain, wind or snow. Bernard held the record of never missing a Wed evening for more than 20 years !!

My dad’s love of these pastimes grew from ,after he left the army after being stationed in Trieste in the Intelligence Corps , finding himself in post war West Yorkshire and realising that without any spare money any hobbies would have to be of the basic kind.

Teaming up with likeminded pals he spent many hours climbing on Baildon Bank and Shipley Glen along with some day trips into the Dales to seek out more adventurous climbs. As their friendship and climbing experience grew they decided to pool together their savings on a trip to Italy, my dad’s Italian language skills being a major factor in their decision.

They successfully scaled Mont Blanc and were returning triumphant to their lodgings in Courmayeur when one of the party , Arthur, fell ,in what was later described as a freak accident , and hit his head dying instantly. My father was chosen to identify the body and had the unenviable task of calling Arthur’s parents back in West Yorkshire to inform them of the loss of their son.

 

My father lost a close friend but the climbing community lost a huge talent as Arthur was no other than Arthur Dolphin who had been chosen for an attempt at scaling Everest, along with Tensing and Hillary, a couple of years previously. Arthur unfortunately could not join the expedition due to the discovery that he suffered from severe altitude sickness. Despite this unfortunate decision to exclude him from the expedition Arthur continued to climb until that fatal day in 1953 some 2 months after Hillary and Tensing, among others, succeeded and became famous !!

 

My dad used to talk about him often but it was lost on us children and shamefully one of us would usually say “ half a dolphin ? “ giggling. 😞

 

About 15 years ago my dad was contacted by an author who was writing a book about Arthur and one of my dear old dads proudest moments was when he received some copies of “ Memories of Dolphin “ by Tom Greenwood, my dad having one chapter dedicated to his recollections of his friendship and climbing days with Arthur. My copy was lost when I made a hasty retreat from a bad marriage some years ago but i should inherit my dad’s copy when his time comes. Right now it sits in the chest of drawers in his care home bedroom, i am looking forward to reading his chapter to him on my next visit home.

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1 hour ago, Marble-eye said:

We had done most of the Wainwrights walks in the Lakes and from what I can remember the great man himself saying was that when you have climbed Lords Rakes on Scafell 'you have earned your climbers badge' or words of that description. We have done it quite a few times and it didn't seem too bad to me.

Anyway this particular day we decided to do Wainwrights Fairfield Horseshoe, starting in Grasmere and of course finishing there.......but all the best laid plans.

We set off from Grasmere and as per usual we were greeted with the Lakeland mist and to make matters worse my map finished at the very top of Fairfield and my biggest achilles heel as a walker is that I tended to follow my instincts and more to the point my nose (I believe I had a bit of a cold that particular day). Anyway about half of the way round we reached the summit and had our cup of tea and started to head back to Grasmere (or so we thought). We started following an obvious path which had to be the correct one and I remember my dear wife saying "are you sure you're going the right way." Anyway half way down the mountain doubts started to set in, but as luck would have it there were two walkers in front of us, I shouted to them and asked them where they were headed, they said "Grasmere," at this point I asked them if I could have a look at their map and I pointed out that we were both going the wrong way. One of them said "but that is Windermere down there and I told them it was Ulswater.

Anyway it was not the end of the world as we could walk down to Patterdale and catch the bus back, sorted. We reached Patterdale and headed for the bus stop and read the timetable, we did this walk in Feb/March and the next bus was in June, oh dear, we had no other choice but to walk another 9 miles back over Kirkstone Pass, the pub was open at the top so wasn't all bad.

But I always remember the endearing words my wife used to say after a lot of our walks.......last time I'm ever going walking with you again" 👣

Thanks, @Marble-eye! Can't those mists be a problem! With you ending up in Patterdale, I'm left wondering which route down from Fairfield you probably took . . . either via St Sunday Crag or the more complex one via Hart Crag. Can you recall?

Wonderful fells, though, and wonderful courting terrain, too, so thanks, again for refreshing those memories!

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27 minutes ago, DwizzleyMatthews said:

A good read KC .

My dad was a keen fell runner, pot holer and climber who tried to get his three sons , myself the youngest, to follow in his love of the aforementioned pastimes, unfortunately, except for a bit of climbing at the Cow and Calf , Ilkley , he failed.

 I do remember, as a child, many weekends spent in Ingleton as my dad , along with other members of the Grit Stone Club would disappear down some  “ hole in the ground “ only to reappear, what seemed like hours later, sweaty and covered in mud but always smiling !!

We , as children, would be happy scrambling around the rocks and moorland.

The weekend would always end with tea , pop for us kids , and scones at the Ingleton Café run by Bernard and Alice the proprietors. They were members of a rambling club who would walk to the summit of Ingleborough every Wednesday evening through rain, wind or snow. Bernard held the record of never missing a Wed evening for more than 20 years !!

My dad’s love of these pastimes grew from ,after he left the army after being stationed in Trieste in the Intelligence Corps , finding himself in post war West Yorkshire and realising that without any spare money any hobbies would have to be of the basic kind.

Teaming up with likeminded pals he spent many hours climbing on Baildon Bank and Shipley Glen along with some day trips into the Dales to seek out more adventurous climbs. As their friendship and climbing experience grew they decided to pool together their savings on a trip to Italy, my dad’s Italian language skills being a major factor in their decision.

They successfully scaled Mont Blanc and were returning triumphant to their lodgings in Courmayeur when one of the party , Arthur, fell ,in what was later described as a freak accident , and hit his head dying instantly. My father was chosen to identify the body and had the unenviable task of calling Arthur’s parents back in West Yorkshire to inform them of the loss of their son.

My father lost a close friend but the climbing community lost a huge talent as Arthur was no other than Arthur Dolphin who had been chosen for an attempt at scaling Everest, along with Tensing and Hillary, a couple of years previously. Arthur unfortunately could not join the expedition due to the discovery that he suffered from severe altitude sickness. Despite this unfortunate decision to exclude him from the expedition Arthur continued to climb until that fatal day in 1953 some 2 months after Hillary and Tensing, among others, succeeded and became famous !!

My dad used to talk about him often but it was lost on us children and shamefully one of us would usually say “ half a dolphin ? “ giggling. 😞

About 15 years ago my dad was contacted by an author who was writing a book about Arthur and one of my dear old dads proudest moments was when he received some copies of “ Memories of Dolphin “ by Tom Greenwood, my dad having one chapter dedicated to his recollections of his friendship and climbing days with Arthur. My copy was lost when I made a hasty retreat from a bad marriage some years ago but i should inherit my dad’s copy when his time comes. Right now it sits in the chest of drawers in his care home bedroom, i am looking forward to reading his chapter to him on my next visit home.

Thank you so much for those reflections, @DwizzleyMatthews, especially the Ingleton connection, since I lived just 10 miles SE of there, at Horton-in-Ribblesdale for about 10 years. I remember Bernie's Café well, having breakfasted there, just before my one and only caving trip, down the Ease Gill system with my 'good pal' Tony who assumed that because I'd done some rock-climbing, I'd be happy pot-holing, too. Boy was I happy when I lifted the lid from the top of Lancaster Hole after 4 hours in the wet and cold, from Pool Sink entrance and the so-called Main Drain . . . never again!

I hope the Dolphin book 'handover' isn't too difficult.

Cheers!

KC

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15 minutes ago, King Cotton said:

Thanks, @Marble-eye! Can't those mists be a problem! With you ending up in Patterdale, I'm left wondering which route down from Fairfield you probably took . . . either via St Sunday Crag or the more complex one via Dove Crag and Hart Crag. Can you recall?

Wonderful fells, though, and wonderful courting terrain, too, so thanks, again for refreshing those memories!

Sorry K Cotten, it was about 30 years ago and have very little recollection of the way down, suffice to say if we could have seen the village we would have made a bee line for it, but in those days we were very fit and walking 9 mile more than planned didn't matter that much to me, to the wife, yes.

Great times though, oh how I wish I could relive those times.

 

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25 minutes ago, King Cotton said:

Thank you so much for those reflections, @DwizzleyMatthews, especially the Ingleton connection, since I lived just 10 miles SE of there, at Horton-in-Ribblesdale for about 10 years. I remember Bernie's Café well, having breakfasted there, just before my one and only caving trip, down the Ease Gill system with my 'good pal' Tony who assumed that because I'd done some rock-climbing, I'd be happy pot-holing, too. Boy was I happy when I lifted the lid from the top of Lancaster Hole after 4 hours in the wet and cold, from Pool Sink entrance and the so-called Main Drain . . . never again!

I hope the Dolphin book 'handover' isn't too difficult.

Cheers!

KC

Thanks KC,

I think Bernard also had something to do with the hostel there, but it is going back 50 years so who knows !

I do remember he was a big fella with a big beard and I was a little scared of him as he had a few fingers missing but always insisted on shaking my hand !!

Funny the stuff you remember as a kid !!

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