It is the day of the Autumn Equinox, from now on for 6 months there is more darkness than daylight. The temperatures have also dropped to low single figures at night meaning dewy mornings. The car needs a minute or two to demist before setting off.
Damn it the A6 is closed due to a serious accident, I have to divert and am 30 minutes late. It doesn’t matter the scenery is superb in the early light as mists rise from the fields. I’m meeting up with M again for a trip to Crag X. He is letting another friend, Richard, into the secret, so I message for them to go on, and I’ll catch up. What did we do before mobile phones?
I stroll up with a light sac, passing the halfway stone and arriving just as M and R are setting off to climb Ammonite a steep crack line. They follow it up with a new route traversing right at mid-height , Trilobite.
I wander off to start ‘cleaning’ another buttress. Those of you with no knowledge or interest in climbing will wonder at my sanity. The rock here is of good quality but the cracks and ledges attract vegetation, hopefully not in ecological danger, which detracts from clean climbing. A poke and a brush clean up the essential holds.
But no matter as the event of the day is about to unfold.
Richard has been cleaning a new line of flakes in the center of the main face. Abseiling down with an ice axe to clean the cracks, another question of sanity. He is revelling in the atmosphere of this lovely crag. The line looks most difficult.
I thought we would leave now to return refreshed another day. But no, Richard was keen to try to lead it. Sitting on a belvedere I was witness to it all. I was just setting up my phone camera when he reached a low flake and pulling up on it the rock detached itself along with him down the hillside. They came to rest with the flake lying on top of his arm. M was needed to free him. Thankfully no harm was done – if it had landed on his chest or head things could have been far worse. The pleasures of climbing. I am sure I would have gone home after that happening to me, bad omens and all that.
Richard is obviously made of sterner stuff and within minutes was setting off again on now more minimal holds. A strenuous thin layback got him onto a ledge and some decent protection. More laybacking and he was faced with the impossibly steep head wall – no way on at a sensible grade. He traversed right for a few heart stopping moves to go round the corner into a previously climbed groove and up to the top. A very impressive lead on sight, considering the frightening start. Flakey by name and flakey by nature.
The walk down in the low evening sunshine was a delight – Summer still trying to push back Autumn. We never saw another person.