Mowing Ward,Pembroke,S Wales Photo-Al Leary
"Two days before, we had seen a flight of curlews, flocked for winter feeding, come hurtling over the island. They should have stayed in the quiet lee of the East Sidelands, a zone of deep bracken mulch, wild rhododendrons in Asiatic luxuriance, and plinths of granite where the seals haul out to bask. The moment the updraught caught them they were forced to behave like gulls. changing course at obtuse angles, heeling to flee downwind, the leading edge of each wing sharpening to an apex as they 'bent like an iron bar slowly', in Hughes's marvellous image of the windblown blackbacked gull. How to climb when you could scarcely walk? Yet, as we abseiled cautiously down the chute of gravel and sea-thrift next to the Devil's Slide on the west coast, a sheer plane of granite that slopes four hundred feet from sea to summit, symmetrical as some great ceremonial ramp in a Maya temple, everything became less cold and easier near the tidemark. as though we had passed inside the wind and were looking out through the storm's eyes. And so we padded upwards, clumsy baboons in treble jerseys, to the horizontal break at half-height, a serrated ledge upholstered with thrift which deflates the climb a little because you can step for a moment out of the precarious world. As I stand there, waiting for Neil to come up on the rope. I chat with Norman, who's climbing the Devil's Slide route proper with Terry. Norman is fond of dry quips - you can tell when one is coming because his grizzled beard begins to twitch.In answer to the standard climber's call, 'Is that you?' - meaning `Has the rope come tight between us?' - he's been known to answer, 'Who else would it be?' On this occasion, as the wind cuts through our woollens, I say, `It's colder up here. That wind's finding the bone.' `That's the trouble about climbing with poets he says. 'They make everything sound worse.'