>Knowing when to stay quiet

>Sometimes you arrive at a crag and contemplate whether the best thing to do, is to turn around and go back home again. Sunday was one of those days.

After a late start, waiting for the rain and hill-fog to clear, we chose to drive around to Shepherds Crag for an afternoons climbing.

It was buzzing, tree surgeons waving chainsaws around clearing rotten trees from the path and all of the classic lines at VS and below buzzing with many, many teams. So we walked on by, past Brown Slab, past Adam & Eve, eventually arriving in the area of Fishers Folly to find Kransic Crack with no-one else on it, everything else around it was teeming with people. At the bottom, another 6 or so people were milling about. In short it was crowded.

So it was the steep and intimidating start to Kransic Crack Direct (HVS 5a), an initial crack line that is steep, with positive crimpy holds in its lower section, followed by good jams to an ledge. I paused as I began the traverse to allow one of the lads, who was top roping the Grasp I think to finish, before stepping right and then pulling through. Another guy at the bottom was shouting up to his mate, to hold off abseiling as there was a climber (me) below.

As I topped out, I spoke to the two lads waiting to abseil. Both thought the walk down was too awkward. I chatted to them politely, one was very new to it all, the other a little more experienced but both seemed willing to accept some friendly advice.

So I set up my belay and sat down and contemplated what a mess this all was. People abseiling down routes when you can walk off, people standing around in big groups at the bottom of crags with no lids, people throwing ropes down lines, all in an area where there are four or five routes in very close proximity to each other, all popular and all clearly busy.

As steph came up on second, a guy wandered over to my belay. “Do you mind if i throw some ropes down? I want to do a bit of shunting” He asked. I told him I did mind and that given the crowds perhaps, if he insisted, he should carefully lower his ropes down once I had I had a chance to make sure that Steph was clear. Thirty seconds later a friend of his turned up, grabbed the mass of rope and threw the lot straight off the top. His mate was clearly slightly embarassed by this.

You Fxxxing idiot was my terse response to this total moron. For the record, despite thinking it many times, this was the first time I have ever said that to someones face. Not only did he not give a second thought to my partner (who incidentally was hit on the head) but gave no thought to all the other people either climbing or standing at the bottom of the crag, few of whom were wearing lids. He was clearly taken aback by my response, and perhaps realised he had just done something he should not have. As he sheepishly went to abseil down, he patted me on the back and apologised. This was a nightmare, and i decided we should be elsewhere.

Before that thought had the time to settle, I heard the unmistakable and unpleasant noise of a person fallling through the air. Thrutching desperately up the Grasp, the guy had hit the deck from 25-30ft, with no helmet, having landed only inches from protruding rocks, this guys was lucky to be alive.

I could say far more about the following events but it will not help, the guy was lucky and was at least made comfortable before the rescue team arrived and he was flown to hospital. A day or route he will not forget in a hurry. For me, it is a day at the crag I will choose to forget.

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About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
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