Last Chance for an Epic

or, "From Bad to Worse"

We set off feeling optimistic. The sun was shining and we were in the mood for the first day's climbing of the summer. Much had been said of VS's and VDiff's, but as it was such an inspiring morning, VS it was to be.

The cynics among you may say we were doomed to fail - especially as "we" meant myself (Paulbob) and The Bearded One.

On the way to Cadair, it was so warm that there was discussion of shorts and sunglasses. It was to be short-lived.

Standing below the huge cliff reading the guidebook, I was somewhat awed by the scale and steepness, but the rock looked sound and dry, so we made our choice - Rib & Slab it was to be. We saw Tim & Jane setting off up their route beside us and there were shouts of encouragement. Neither of us turned around to look across to Dolgellau; the block clouds went unnoticed.

Toby drew the short straw and set off to lead the first pitch. In the shadow of the north-facing crag it was much colder than before. Soon I was shivering. It seemed, from below, to take an eternity before Toby had reached the first ledge.

"Climb when you're ready!" came the call. "Thank God," I thought, and with a return cry I set off anxiously up the pitch.

I soon found why my leader had taken so long - the pitch was steep and the rock all either swayed ominously in the wind or came off in my hand. Undeterred, I struggled skyward.

It began to snow. "Odd," I thought, but decided it was just a quick flurry. I reached Toby and saw the next pitch above him; it was even steeper than the last one. Struggling to climb this grade with my rucksack on, my progress was soon halted by the steep slab. My confidence was rapidly disappearing.

Then it began to really snow. It began to settle on the rock. "Bugger this for a game of soldiers," thought I, and retreated to the belay ledge. After a brief review of progress and prospects, we discovered that these were 'bad' and 'worse' respectively.

Down was the best option. One problem - how? There appeared to be nothing at all solid enough to abseil off.

Panic set in. Peering across, I could see a gully I thought we could get down if we could get across to it.

Gingerly we traversed across, using mainly blind faith as protection. Most of the holds succumbed to gravity moments after using them, and everything else seemed to consist of a slippery mixture of mud and grass. I began to pray, but The Bearded One had confidence. We reached the gully, or at least I think we did - I couldn't feel various parts of my anatomy but could only presume they were still attached.

A life-giving chocolate stop and a perilous scree-run saw us safely on terra firma, colder, wetter and much much more scared than two hours previously when we set off in blissful ignorance up the pitch.

Somewhere on the god-forsaken crag I vowed to sell my climbing gear and join the Ramblers Association.

Let that be a lesson to you all.

Paul Palfreyman