Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Coming Up: George Abraham's 'On a new mountain'...part two

On either hand, or foot, nailed boots overhung the depths. A sideways vault would have ended 500 feet lower and Cwm Goch would have had further justifica­tion of its name: G Abraham.

Luke Appleby on the outrageously exposed- V Diff..The Tower Ridge.


This Friday,the conclusion of George Abraham's account of his visit to the remote and complex cliffs of Craigeu Gleision in Cwm Goch high above Nant Francon. A visit which begins with a first ascent of a 400' mountaineering route and concludes with an exposed and thought provoking ascent of Archer Thomson's Tower Ridge.

Friday, 26 March 2010

On a new mountain

George Abraham is of course, better known as being one half of the Abraham Brothers than as a mountain activist, writer and photographer in his own right. The aforementioned duo are of course ,central players in the early history of British rock climbing. Their beautifully crafted and haunting black and white photographs have become iconic images of the sport which today are instantly recognizable around the world. Although the brothers are best known for their photographic work, they were very much mountaineers and pioneers in the true sense of the word. Establishing new climbs and revisiting established climbs which were detailed in their well regarded and illustrated books.
After their co-operation with  the legendary OG Jones for his very successful Rock Climbing in the English Lake District (1897), they produced companion volumes, Rock Climbing in North Wales (George, in 1906) and Rock Climbing in Skye (Ashley, in 1907).
George was said to be the more thrusting and dynamic rock athlete if we can use that word to describe a climber who was already well established in the sport when Victoria was still monarch! Five years older than brother Ashley, it was George who usually took on the lead role on their cliff exploits, whilst the more stolid and genial Ashley took on himself the role of the enthusiastic and reliable second. Carting massive plate cameras up to the high cliffs was an effort in itself but once established, the pair took great pride in composing the rock stars of the day. People  like the dynamic Jones, Archer Thomson and Oscar Eckenstein in positions of high drama. Persuading them to pose in precarious positions whilst they balanced on rock ledges and captured what were to become in many cases, classic images which still have the power to impress today.
Although the Keswick brothers are of course best known as Lake District activists,they climbed and recorded all over the UK and Europe; establishing climbs which even today are considered classics,,,Crowberry Ridge Direct, New West Climb, Amphitheatre Buttress and Slanting Gully. Despite being older by five years,George outlived Ashley by 14 years. His long and active life closing in 1965. Hard to imagine that someone born in 1871 and who was in his forties by the time of the outbreak of world war one was still alive to witness the first manned flight into space, the Beatles, Coronation Street, the Vietnam War and the first computers !


The grey cliffs of Craigeu Gleision high above Nant Francon has always been one of north Wales's most mystifying venues, despite having once been described as 'the most important addition to the climber's domain since the annexation of Craig yr Ysfa in 1900'. The man who uttered those words, James Merryman Archer Thomson is one of the giants of the era. A local schoolmaster and obsessive explorer of the high crags of Snowdonia. A superb technician on rock,Thomson left the gully epoch behind and moved out onto the ridges and faces,establishing scores of new routes within Ogwen Valley, Lliwedd, Craig yr Ysfa and on the aforementioned Creigeu Gleision. Despite attracting many of the great and the good of that era, Thomson's enticing description of the cliffs inevitably proved to be something of an anti-climax when these visitors which included George Abraham actually arrived and attempted to fathom out the complex matrix of rock architecture held together in a green maw!
It is fair to say though-as George Abraham's following piece proves-that not all mountaineers were put off by the complex nature of Creigeu Gleision. Indeed, Abraham finds the rock quality and general climbing preferable to Lliwedd!
However,after Climbers Club editor H.E.L Porter rather snifflily suggested that Archer Thomson's description of Creigeu Gleision was rather over stated when writing an update to the 1921 Ogwen guide,the cliff started to drift off the radar of contemporary activists. Given it's remoteness and position as a high north facing complex crag then perhaps that is not surprising.
The final ignominy for Creigeu Gleision was when it was quietly dropped from Climbers Club guidebooks after it's final fully detailed appearance in Tony Moulam's 1966 Carneddau guide. In the 1982 guide Tom Leppert briefly mentions the cliffs but goes on-  When amongst the many isolated towers and pinnacles one is seemingly surrounded by ghostly multitudes that furtively drift into focus,to sink back once again into the mist and give no suggestion of their stone affinity. Thus,while the time has probably arrived to lay these individual climbs to rest,embalmed in the pages of antiquity,it is not without some lingering regret.  Tom has a surprisingly good stab at Edwardian writing here!
In the middle of this decade in the new millenium, The Climber's Club persuaded local activist Mike Bailey to take on the role as author of its latest Ogwen guidebook.To this end,it would be hard to find a more thorough and assiduous author. Leaving no stone unturned, Mike has unearthed lost crags and climbs by trawling through club notes and hut logs and brought in a team which would take on the task of re-climbing and re-evaluating climbs which in the past had not surprisingly been just described verbatim from previous guides. It is fair to say that the forthcoming Ogwen guide will be one of the most comprehensive CC guidebooks ever. As one of the guidebook team,I found myself satisfying a long term and some would say,unhealthy penchant for obscure and unfashionable cliffs and areas. One of these areas you will have guessed was Creigeu Gleision which was to be brought back into the fold after an absence of over forty years. My experiences have been detailed in an article 'Following Archer's Arrow' which appeared in the 2006 CC journal so it's not appropriate to re-jig that article here. However, one of the most interesting aspects of exploring and re-writing this area came when Mike sent me an email after I had completed all the routes hereabouts and written it all up in a new C y G section. He had found hidden away in a journal,a description of a route by George Abraham in 1913 called West Ridge which had never been written up in a guidebook after apparently being missed by successive guidebook editors.
In 2008 we tackled West Ridge- a 400' mountaineering V Diff ( US 5.5)- which we feel may well have been a second ascent....95 years after the first! Ironically, it wasn't to be too long before West Ridge received a 'third' ascent when recent Footless contributor, upland ecologist Barbara Jones, hot footed it up into Cwm Goch after Mike had suggested that we may have spotted the rare Snowdon Lily up there. False alarm I'm afraid.

When I was looking through some archive material recently I was delighted to find George Abraham's actual first hand account of visiting Creigeu Gleision and establishing West Ridge and re-climbing the dramatic Tower Ridge. What follows in two parts is that account. Despite the rather high flown Edwardian style of writing, Abraham's accurately captures the spirit of Creigeu Gleision and his route descriptions are spot on.

John Appleby


" There is a thrill of strange delight That passes quivering o'er me, When blue hills rise upon the sight ,like summer clouds before me"  Ruskin

STAND not upon the order of your going but go at once, is sound advice to the increasing numbers of British cragsmen who have hitherto found more than a full sufficiency of climbing amongst the mountains of the Lake country. Yet it is a wonderful revelation of the many interests of our mountain sport, and an education in its various technic­alities to turn from Cumbria to Cambria. Truly,  What do they know of Lakeland who only Lakeland know ?
The writer's recent " going " was by motor, and to one who has reached Snowdonia on foot, as well as by carriage and by rail, the new means of approach seemed best of all. Moreover, the advantages of the motor amongst the mountains were undoubted, a point which had been scarcely appreciated. It had not realized what vast, outlying attractions lie ranged a round every side of Snowdonia and in the widely scattered groups, especially those to seawards. Except for incidental visits by motor as part of the days outing  these latter crags might scarcely be worth the trouble involved in reaching them.
Moreover, now that the Snowdon Ranger Inn on the shore of Llyn Quellyn is closed, there is a difficulty in finding accommoda­tion. However, this is somewhat premature; let us first arrive !
Chester was far behind. We had come by Llangollen, through woodlands rich in the hill golden splendour of a wonderful autumn day, up and up to the grey moors above Pentre Voelas. Then came the sudden mountain revela­tion, one of those strange contrastful changes which form the greatest of the charms of motor wandering. Overhead was a grey sky, all round stretched the dark moors, olive and ochreous, and silent but for the plaintive call of the last lingering curlews. The long straights called for speed and not in vain.
A waning shower chased us feebly up to the heights, and on the crest the mountains stood forth ahead in wide array, an azure screen against tlie orange glow where distant sunshine flooded the western seaward littoral. The dimness of the nearer underlying lands added to the impression of great height.
Henry Hobson on Creigeu Glesion's entertaining Central Arete: V Diff ( US 5.5)
There on the left was shapely old Snowdon, unmistakable amongst a host of giants rendered disproportionately big and bulky by their contiguity. Moel Siabod, cloud shadowed and sombre was greatest and nearest of these; and then the Glyders led the eye around to the wonderful central dome of Tryfaen, with the deep northerly notch where ran the seaward road by Ogwen and its lake. Away to the right stretched the long, curving crests of the Carnedds to swerve finally down­ward to the valley of the Conway.
Surely it was a stirring sight, and one over which there was some temptation to linger. It stirred my companion in another way, for he belongs to that adventurous type of Briton who is only happy in a fierce speed draught, or on a steep crag with open heaven above and little else below. The forward call was irresistible. Down from the 750-foot levels we flew, the speedometer readings being such that one was sorely tempted to break the old rule, " Never speak to the driver ! " Then swiftly the pine trees came up to meet us, and we entered the mountain gateway where gaunt, grey rocks hung overhead, and far below us the Conway glistened amidst the tree-girt gorges.
It was a fascinating run up to Ogwen Cottage with welcoming mountain friends, crags of many a lofty endeavour of years ago greeting one on every hand. There was little change in the much-favoured climbing haunt. The incursion of Englishmen was represented by a well-filled climbing book recording new routes and varia­tions, mostly the latter ; the American invasion took the form of a motor-car, with which Mr. Jones, the genial landlord, meets his rail bourne patrons at Bethesda as smilingly as ever.

There was yet time, to pay an afternoon call on the Milestone Buttress, a place of pleasant memories', for it was one of the happiest dis­coveries made during the Easter of 1899, that last holiday before the Dent Blanche claimed the best of comrades and friends, 0. G. Jones. It was strange, after fourteen years, to grip many well-known holds which, during the interval, have probably served for the support of more cragsmen and cragswomen than any other in Wales. In fact, few climbs in Britain have served for the weaning of so many enthusiasts from the milder delights of fell-walking to the more solid delights of real rock-work.
There were innumerable evidences of the great popularity of the Milestone Buttress. The heathery lower glacis, up which we had floundered knee-deep in vegetation in early days, had dis­appeared, and the more solid rock, though polished with the tread of many nailed feet, afforded safe abiding. It has been written that the old route had been varied and improved, yet one found that the original way was followed exactly.There have been many variations made on the popular buttress and in its vicinity, some quite new, some otherwise. Amongst the latter the so-called Rowan Tree Route was used by one of the pioneering parties for the descent. The Castle Rocks were also visited more than once as a continuation from the finish of the buttress, and the descent from them was made on the west. The enthusiastic search of Dr. Guy Barlow, a member of one of the pioneering parties on the " Milestone, was rewarded by the discovery of several new and useful varia­tions. That up the true ridge line of the crag and to the right of the original route bore little signs of traffic. To expert parties this Direct Route would give about a hundred feet of excellent initial sport.
The principal object of our present visit to Ogwen Cottage was, however, the inspection of the climbs of Creigiau Gleision. Authorities have described these crags as " the most important addition to the climbers' domain since the annexation of Craig yr Ysfa in 190O."
The Creigiau proved a strangely intractable problem. First of all the attempts at the pro­nunciation were scarcely successful, which doubt­less accounted for the inability of some passing shepherds to understand our inquiries. Mrs. Jones came to our rescue, but though she could assure the natives of our polite intentions, neither her local knowledge nor that of the shepherds could reveal the whereabouts of the new crags.Fortunately, Mr. Jones had more information to offer, though this was characteristically vague, but we learnt eventually that Creigiau Gleision '­Cray-ge-i Glice-eon'---as the local pronunciation ran--were situated above Cwm Goch. They were invisible from near Ogwen Cottage, but their position was fairly obvious from tile fact that they faced the shoulder of Foel Goch  which sloped down from that shapely peak towards the Nant Francon Valley.
Thus we set forth along the old road towards Bethesda, little reckoning that the hardest problem of the " Grey Crags " was yet to come. The rough front of Y Garn loomed grandly overhead on the left ; a fine-looking buttress, which had been explored and climbed by Mr. F. H. G. Parker and his brother, looked especially alluring. A short descent of the grassy road brought us to the bridge over the stream which Came down from Cwm Cywion.
Immediately beyond this we left the road and turned upwards towards the unshapely looking mass which according to the 1 inch ordinance map, separated Cwm Perfedd and CwmGoch. It had be­come the modern practice to change the name of the former Cwm to that of Cwm Cywion. After crossing some wire railings a much-weathered wall was gained and followed on its farther side up steep, grassy slopes, as far as a large sheepfold. This should be an unmistakable landmark, even in misty weather, for those who have so often failed to find Creigiau Gleision.

The view from near this place was remarkably fine, and probably all the more attractive by reason of its unfamiliarity. Tryfaen lifted its purple pile grandly over the silver streak of Lake Ogwen. The sun flashed on the few foliaged knolls where the smoke of civilization curled lazily above the little cottage, and lower, the white cottage of Benglog trailed ribbon-like from the jaws of the pass, to find peace seaward-borne in the richly vestured bosom of the valley.
To the left, Carnedd Dafydd thrust forth a shadowy " black arm " whose side carried the straight high-way of communication between those mountain wilds and the great outside world. On the right, ridge beyond ridge, the Glyders upreared their wild recesses into the morning mist, their hidden beauties of crag-girt llyn as yet unrevealed.
Then the nearer scenes demanded attention. The crags we sought were at last partly in view. The grotesquely carved face was seen somewhat in profile, but nearer, and not far above us, were gathered the weirdest array of rocks that Wales possesses. Closer approach showed us the quaintest forms, stuck, as it seemed, on the scree-draped slope of the mountain. Here a colossal cat peeped pertly, and there a toppling toadstool overhung an upturned ogre-like face of felstone ; a crouching lion guarded a grassy knoll, and doll-shaped figures massed like a showman's array above the recesses of a storm-weathered gully.

This quaint portion of the mountain was named the " Mushroom Garden " by the pioneers, and somewhere midst the collection of shattered shapes stands " Grey Matilda." The name might aptly apply to dozens of these rocks, and we soon became tired of hunting her. Innumerable climbing problems could be found here, and ir­respective of this the bizarre groupings were well worth a close visit from all mountain wanderers. However, the real climbing had yet to be found. Thus we skirted along at the, base of the main mass of the bigger cliffs, working across the slopes of Cwm Goch. We carried with us the volume of the " Climbers' Guides " which deals with the Ogwen District, but, unfortunately, two days were required to find that its information was practically useless. There was a North Arete, a South Arete and a Vanishing Arete somewhere„ but all had acquired the latter tendency. The pioneers seemed to have mis­taken the orientation of the crags, which our Com­pass showed, to face in their main line of bulk just slightly west of due north. Thus, instead of being, as stated, on the southern flank, the Mushroom Garden was on the easterly end of the crags.
We followed diligently along to the westerly end, hoping to find some cairn or sign of the climbs but nothing was found. Surely this could not be Creigiau Gleision!

'When amongst the many isolated towers and pinnacles one is seemingly surrounded by ghostly multitudes that furtively drift into focus,to sink back once again into the mist'
Creigeu Gleision's surreal and complex rock architecture. Lower Cliff






To be continued next Friday: April 2nd.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Coming Up: George Abraham and a mysterious lost Welsh climb

" The real climbing now began with a sharp struggle up a 20-foot nose, and there we found that the ledge above it might have been gained by a simple walk up the grass gully on the left. However, this characteristic feature of so much of the Welsh climbing was accepted philosophic­ally for we were determined to make the most of the ridge's opportunities and adhere to its true crest as much as possible.
A really stiff confronting bulge had now to be surmounted. It was about twenty-five feet in height, and proved in the end to be the most diffi­cult part of the day's work. After a steep start a step to the right, followed by a delicate balancing movement back to the left, landed me in an airy situation with little for the fingers to grasp. My companion below was out of sight under the overhanging bulge. The difficulty of retaining the position of the left foot on a small hold until a loftier distant knob of rock could be partly grasped was somewhat of a strain, and even when this hold could be secured the final upward haul was trying on such sloping support.This agreeable section would disagree with many thoughtful scramblers, Above it some easy steps led to the foot of the noticeable overhanging " nose." Its black recesses pro­vided safe sanctuary for a luxuriant wealth of beautiful ferns, whose delicate emerald fronds spread verdant in the dripping depths whilst all the outside world was tinged with the brown of autumn's progress.'


This week, a first hand account from George Abraham of a mysterious 1913 route which only recently came to light when the author of the forthcoming Climbers Club guide to Ogwen, discovered this 'lost' route whilst searching through club archives and local hut logbooks.The probable second ascent was made in 2008. 95 years after the first....a world record ?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Lloydia Serotina: Life on the Edge

You would think that coming from Lancashire within a short distance of the Wilton quarries and not too far from the Peaks and the Lakes would have resulted in Barbara Jones starting climbing at a tender age. Not so: apart from playground climbing frames and the back yard walls of the terraced houses in Bolton where she grew up, the idea of climbing rocks didn’t even enter her head until she moved down to Surrey to study geography at Kingston and joined the Mountaineering club. 
Her first climb was something of an epic, when she was taken on a ten hour (partial) ascent of Bluebell Cracks on Dinas Mot, with the bewildered Barbara wondering whether all rock climbs took this long!  Undeterred,she tried again the next day and the rest is history as they say. Once hooked the addiction was there for life and since then mountains and climbing have steered work and play. The play part has taken her all over the world with her husband and fellow addict Nigel, from ascents of Himalayan and African Peaks to rock climbing in Europe, the Americas, Australia, Africa, the Middle East . 
The work part began in mountaineering shops in London and Cambridge,progressed to being an instructor in outdoor education centres before finally focusing on conservation and ecology, particularly of mountain environments, which had long been an interest.  Barbara has been working in conservation since the mid 1980s, initially with the Nature Conservancy Council in the Scottish Highlands as a regional conservation officer then transferring down to Wales covering Eryri in a similar role.  Lots of mountains – wonderful!  She is currently CCW’s Upland Ecologist for Wales, involved in many aspects of the ecology,research, conservation and management of the Welsh uplands.  Her main interest is in arctic-alpine vegetation, usually found in the high mountains and latitudes of the world.  Researching for a PhD into the ecology, genetics and conservation of the Snowdon Lily further developed her interest and specialism in arctic-alpine, cliff and montane flora.

She has written conservation notes for many of the North Wales climbing guides and is a specialist adviser to the BMC on access, conservation and environment issues.  Having a foot in both camps, she works to defuse potential conflicts between the recreation and conservation worlds and has organised seminars, given lectures and written articles on issues such as gorge walking, winter climbing, protection of rare mountain habitats and the effects of climate change on our future recreational use of the mountains.  She still climbs whenever possible; climbing on summer evenings after work at Gogarth or in the Pass still being one of the joys of life (well it would be if we ever have a summer again!)


Suddenly, being deposited ten feet back down at the base of the cliff with my handhold still firmly clutched in my right hand was not what I had expected or wanted.  The cliff had shrugged us both off, me and the handhold, to a painful landing. Whilst contemplating my next move, the feeling came upon me that I wasn’t alone. But, who else would be in this remote, seldom visited part of Snowdonia?  Looking around, I slowly became aware of a number of black shapes on the surrounding rocks, high and low, ranged almost in a semi-circle around me.  There must have been eight or nine of them, hunched up and staring intently at this human form sitting on the ground.   Death’s harbingers?  Was this the end or was I being fanciful?  Of course I was.  I’m a scientist and seldom taken to flights of fancy and it only took a second or two to recognise that I was almost surrounded by a group of my great mountain friend, the Raven.   Perhaps they were tired of a diet of dead sheep and small mammals and thought I was soon to be fair game or possibly (and nice to think) they were looking out for me as a potential comrade – after all, I am coming back as a raven or chough in my next life.  It is an eerie feeling to have sixteen eyes all focussed on your every move, so I self-consciously got up and busied myself in limping around my perch on a shelf of land above the valley floor, hoping that they would soon leave their perches and find another potential food source.

Here I am high in the Welsh mountains, not climbing to the summits, but researching the ecology and genetics of one of the rarest plants in Britain, the Snowdon lily.  This is no member of a flowery meadow though.  No locations in a flat meadow landscape or a southern heath for this survivor.  Only the steepest, coldest, most exposed mountain cliffs will do as a habitat for a plant which is so delicate looking that you would think it couldn’t even survive in a greenhouse.  In fact it survives much better on these exposed cliffs than under cultivation and most botanic gardens and gardeners have given up on its domestic possibilities years ago.

So what is the attraction of studying this and other plants of the mountains?  If the cold and wet weather, loose rock, long walks with a heavy load, bruises in unmentionable places are all accompaniments to a life of mountain botany, why do it?  I often have to spend hours suspended from a rope, taking notes with numb, cold fingers and trying not to drop anything down the cliff face as I survey these mountain plants.  Sometimes I arrive at the bottom of the cliff vowing my next research will be into desert ecology.  Why not chose a nice rich meadow with 100’s of species and somewhere comfortable to sit?  Well, I could cite the wonderful plants and superb scenery as rewards after the sheer physical effort of getting to and studying these gems hidden away in our generally botanically impoverished hills.  There is also the satisfaction of learning new things about the biology and ecology of these plants and their environment.  These are all important, but there is more.  I am a scientist, but it is partly the non-scientific part of me which relishes the challenges and the pleasures of studying these plants - the part which is a climber and mountaineer and which identifies with and almost shares the attractions and trials of coping with this environment.  These tough little plants look so fragile, but they cope with and have adapted superbly to their environment, just as I try to cope with and adapt to the mountains in which I work and play.

These plants aren’t there because they can’t grow anywhere else, but because they have adapted to what we consider a hostile environment.  Most of them hug the rocks or the ground to keep out of the wind and have a cushion shape to retain heat and allow slow growth from one year to the next.  The Snowdon lily, however, is a bulbous plant which cheekily pokes its slender stem and grass like leaves up out of cracks in the rock as if challenging the wind and rain to do their best to dislodge it.  The single white flower looks similarly delicate, but this plant occupies some of the most hostile mountain terrain in Britain on north facing, cold, wet cliffs where it has hung on for at least 10,000 years since the last retreat of the glaciers.   This is in contrast to its habitat in many other parts of the world, where it grows on sunny, rolling alpine tundra and copes with bitterly cold conditions during the winter months.

Studying these plants is fascinating and hopefully will eventually help us to understand how to conserve them through the challenges of climate change.  This is a tough challenge for plants growing right on the edge of their range; plants normally adapted to extremes of cold at high altitudes or latitudes.  How will they respond to rising temperatures and possibly increasing wetness?  In the UK the Snowdon lily is only found on a very few high cliff sites in Snowdonia and has nowhere else to go if conditions become too unsuitable.  Should we care?  After all it is found in abundance in many other mountains ranges of the world.  In one gully in Mongolia, I once saw more Snowdon lilies than occur in the whole of Wales – in one gully – how many more of those must there be? 
I think we should care.  On a scientific basis, plants and animals on the edge of their range are often special and can have attributes and adaptations which don’t occur in individuals in the centre of their range.  These differences are the stuff of evolution and if we lose these, then we lose an important part of the variety and diversity of life and of future possibilities.  They are also the pit canaries of modern times – they can give us an early warning that things may not be quite right.  We should also care on a personal basis.  Conservation is important on a individual as well as a global level and the loss of something like the Snowdon lily in Wales would be extremely sad for many people as it is more than an edge-of-range species, it represents something special to them and to their perception of the mountain environment in Snowdonia.

Even the scientific name Lloydia serotina is important in the Welsh context as it is named after the first person to discover it in Wales.  Edward Llwyd, a botanist and polymath discovered this small, bulbous plant growing on high rocks in Snowdonia in 1682 and it was later named after him.  The discovery stimulated interest in the plant in the eighteenth century when a number of intrepid botanists braved the then relatively unknown and challenging Welsh mountains to find it.  Records of botanists nearly losing their lives on the ‘summits where it grows wild’( Salisbury ) or on the cliffs: ‘..others held fast to the other end of the rope, he lowered himself down the face of the cliff and reappeared a few minutes later with a few specimens held in his mouth and more in his hat’ (Jones) show the risks these men were prepared to take to find this rare plant.  Unfortunately, they were not there to record and admire the lily in situ, but to collect for their own personal herbaria.  Records of ‘basketfuls’ being collected still send shivers down my spine, as does the account of a vase full of  Snowdon lily plants decorating the dinner table at the hotel where many of these intrepid explorers lodged!  It is easy to criticise these actions from our 21st century perspective, but these explorers did not know that their activities would contribute to the rarity of the species in Wales.  Indeed plant collecting was all the rage in the 18th and 19th centuries, with local guides being employed to take the botanists to the best sites and, if this was not possible, to sell samples of the plants which they had collected themselves!

In the UK, the Snowdon lily is only found on a few cliffs in Snowdonia; confined by  collecting in the past and  heavy sheep grazing in the present.  These cliffs represent some of the sites in the UK least affected by man.  We have modified and tamed most of the land in one way or another, but generally cliffs are affected only by airborne pollution making them more ‘natural’ than most other places.  So much of our conservation is ‘gardening’ where we manage a habitat for one or more species, but the few mountain plants we have in the UK have so far managed to grow without our intervention.  The challenge is to keep this the case and stop things getting to the state where ‘gardening’ is needed.  What could we do; plant the Snowdon lily further north where it could become the Ben Nevis lily?  A sad thought.

It is abundant in many mountain ranges of the world, such as the European Alps and the Rocky Mountains of North America, where my studies have focussed on how the Welsh plants compare with its more abundant, distant cousins.  Working in the Welsh mountains has its fair share of difficulties, mainly due to cold and wet weather, but research abroad can present challenges of a different sort.  On Vancouver Island I was faced with a bear in the forest just at the beginning of a search on one mountain.  What do you do?  I followed all the text book instructions, I tried to look big (not easy for me), didn’t turn my back and made no threatening movements.  Then what?  After about 10 minutes of this, the bear stood up on its hind legs, took a good look and then ambled off, probably deciding I wasn’t worth the effort.  Neither was my search that day as, despite coping with glaciers, crevasses and bad weather, no lilies were found.   Other challenges threatening to halt survey work include a lightning storm which literally shook the ground on a mountain in Wyoming, Elk eating my samples, a foot of snow obscuring survey plots and food poisoning in the Polish Tatra Mountains.   This may all seem like hard, unpleasant work, but I like to think of it more as a challenge to  visit a distant friend, one who has a fascinating story to tell and I feel privileged to be unravelling that story which has been hidden for all these 1000’s of years in the Welsh mountains.


I am particularly interested  in studying the genetics of these plants.  To most people, including me at one time, genetics is a subject to avoid, seemingly too mathematical and complex.  In recent years, however, it has been used to study the history of evolution and migration of many plants in Britain.  This produces some fascinating results and works like a detective story.  Consider the Snowdon lily.  Why is it only found in Snowdonia in Britain when most alpines are found in greater numbers in Scotland?  Why isn’t it in Scandinavia?  Do our plants relate to their nearest neighbours in France and if so how different are they to them?  Did our plants survive here during the last ice age?  All these questions and more can be addressed by research including genetic methods to give answers which can really help in our attempts at conservation.  I do sometimes feel a little guilty though.  I consider Lloydia (the latin name for the Snowdon lily and one I use affectionately) as my friend and it can occasionally feel intrusive to be dissecting its every secret and studying everything from its sexual habits to its distant ancestry.  However, it doesn’t give in easily and retains some of its mystery  by refusing to allow me to grow it successfully.  I know few plants which are more difficult to grow.  Most botanic gardens have given up and I know of only one specialist nursery in Britain which has been successful in recent years.

These years of work and play in mountains all over the world see me see-sawing in my approach to conservation in the Welsh hills.   Often when I return from a trip abroad, particularly if I’ve been doing some fieldwork in the European Alps or the Rocky Mountains in the USA, for the first few days I see the British hills in a different perspective.   They seem depauperate, over managed and subdued.    The ice ages removed much of our flora and our island status has cut us off from most immigration of new plant species from the continent.  This has combined with years of heavy sheep grazing in the uplands which has removed much of the remaining interest (except on the inaccessible cliffs) leaving range after range of ‘bare’ hills with only isolated islands of a more natural vegetation.  Look at many of the hills of Wales, the Lake District or the Pennines; several of our treasured landscapes are far from natural and as an ecologist I sometimes despair at the lack of trees, scrub, heath and specialist mountain plants.  Despair quickly turns to delight, however, when I do find a copse of stunted hawthorn high on a hill or a clump of Saxifrages growing out of a rock outcrop.  The little we have becomes even more precious and makes me even more determined to protect them and increase their numbers.

I don’t consider that we have ‘wilderness’ in Britain any longer.  Some places are wilder than others and the term wilderness can be relative – what is a managed agricultural environment to one can be wild and untamed to another.  Wales still has a few wild places where you could imagine the imprint of man to be absent, but the trouble with being an ecologist is that you know how much more natural the land could be. For me, conserving arctic-alpine or mountain plants is an attempt to restore some of the essential wildness which is so absent in Britain in the 21st century.  The physical and intellectual challenges of how to do this can be daunting, not only is there the whole issue of European and British agricultural policies to deal with, but also the more prosaic matter of getting to the plants.  In many of the bigger mountain ranges of the world, access to study mountain plants can be relatively easy.  Many grow within metres of the road as in the Alps, or are accessible by telepherique or just a short walk along a wonderful alpine path.  No such advantages in Wales, however.  We may have a train to our highest mountain, but that doesn’t help if the plants are on any mountain other than Snowdon.

When I first arrived in the Rocky Mountains, I tried not to stand on any Lloydia plants, being conditioned into working with its rarity.  If you have ever tried to avoid standing on buttercups in a buttercup meadow, you will know how difficult that is.  The amusement of the local botanists together with the sheer impossibility of avoiding the 1,000s of Lloydia plants soon saw me crushing it underfoot with the best of them.  We won’t ever achieve this abundance in Wales;  the environment is not suitable for it to grow in profusion in our mountain grasslands, even if grazing was greatly reduced.  It will always be a rock dweller here, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was abundant enough so that people could see it easily without needing ropes?  Or would it?  Perhaps we need our rarities?  Perhaps we like the feeling that this is something special and to make it more commonplace would destroy its mystique and its attraction ?  If we could guarantee that it would remain rare but not decline further, that could be an option, but such rarity can presage extinction, even if it is just a local extinction, so we do need to keep up our conservation efforts, even if it just means running to stand still.

Ravens often accompany me in my work in the Welsh mountains, their throaty cronk piercing the mist while they wheel around keeping an eye on their domain.  The collective term for a group of ravens is an Unkindness of ravens.  I think that a little harsh for a bird which is more aloof than unkind. The raven is large, robust and at ease in the ruggedness of the Welsh mountains, whereas the Snowdon lily looks delicate and fragile, seemingly completely unsuited to its mountain setting.   However, both are superbly adapted to the cold and shaded heights, whilst we struggle to cope with this environment even for a short time.

A botanist friend who died many years ago once said that as mountain botanists in Wales we spend our lives in the shadows, seeking out the hidden gems in the cool, north facing, shaded environment which they favour.   We are nowhere near as adapted to this environment as are the Snowdon lily or the raven, but perhaps our intrusions into their world can help to ensure that they continue to enjoy life in the Welsh mountains and that their environment is improved enough to encourage them to increase in numbers and for the plants to spread out of their cliff refuges and continue to delight us for another 10,000 years.

Barbara Jones©

References:

Jones, D.   1996   The Botanists and Guides of Snowdonia.  Gwasg Carreg Gwalch.

Salisbury, R.A.  1812   Transactions of the Horticulture


First published as  Lloydia Serotina :Life on the Edge  by Barbara Jones;  from 'In Her Element' Women and the Landscape - An Anthology.  Edited by Jane MacNamee and published by Honno Press,Aberystwyth in 2008.

Thanks to Barbara and The Honno Press for permission to republish this work. All photos Barbara Jones collection©

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Coming Up: Barbara Jones...Life on the Edge

Barbara Jones far from the dank grey cliffs of North Wales. Powering up a delicate crack line at Red Rocks in Nevada: Barbara Jones©

"Suddenly, being deposited ten feet back down at the base of the cliff with my handhold still firmly clutched in my right hand was not what I had expected or wanted.  The cliff had shrugged us both off, me and the handhold, to a painful landing. Whilst contemplating my next move, the feeling came upon me that I wasn’t alone. But, who else would be in this remote, seldom visited part of Snowdonia?  Looking around, I slowly became aware of a number of black shapes on the surrounding rocks, high and low, ranged almost in a semi-circle around me.  There must have been eight or nine of them, hunched up and staring intently at this human form sitting on the ground.   Death’s harbingers?  Was this the end or was I being fanciful?  Of course I was.  I’m a scientist and seldom taken to flights of fancy and it only took a second or two to recognize that I was almost surrounded by a group of my great mountain friends....the Raven.'
 
This Friday, Upland Ecologist, Barbara Jones writes about her conservation work in the mountain environment with the Countryside Council for Wales. A role which has seen her particularly involved in the study and protection of the rare Snowdon Lily- Lloydia Serotina. As a passionate climber Barbara has happily combined the recreational side of climbing with a professional career which regularly sees her hanging from a tight rope in the interests of science!

Friday, 12 March 2010

An Intriguing Failure !

David Craig on Al Evans' classic Lancashire VS-Jean Genie. D Craig©

Really it's quite weird, what we do. On Thursday I spent an hour and a half spreadeagled on a mass of wet, Mossy rock with my life depending on a piece of alloy a centimetre square and half a centimetre thick while my toes and fingers tried at full stretch to keep their grip on two-inch ledges festooned with moist plant-life. The day before I'd been quite normal shopping for cauliflower and spring onions at the supermarket, playing bowls with three other retired people. The day after I was correcting an article for a poetry magazine and phoning my son in London. On Thursday I was inching my way to bare safety on a route called Pollux at the wet end of Black Crag, Dovedale.

Usually I take climbing for granted. It's how I want to live - amongst nature - and the balancing and reaching and pulling-up are what the body seems made for. What jolted my vision of. rock into new focus was that the crucial part of the day was spent down-climbing - about ninety feet on a so-called Hard V.Diff.
The new Eastern Crags guide is jauntily positive about Black Crag: its vegetated appearance is off-putting at first sight and although the routes to the right of centre tend to be wet, they are not unduly spoiled by this. The climbing is good and the routes deserve greater popularity. 

The old guide is more guarded: the ridge behind it is flat-topped and boggy and the routes at the right end take the drainage from this area... Just right of the centre, there are some more grassy routes, often wet. Is this because, these days, we go in more for promotion, and what is being written about must be presented as great, top of the range, and the consumer must be 'reassured'? At all events, after a wet spring and early summer the crag was sopping. Because it is a jungle of ferns bilberry, juniper, heather, and grass, it holds the water in the dense root-mat of all those flowers and bushes and releases it slowly down the rocks - which are blotched with lichen up to half their surface area.
So why go there? Because it was new to me and only slightly known to my climbing partner, Chris Culshaw. And because the  routes are 'better than they look', etc, etc. And because Dovedale is a place of perfect 'beauty, folding between steep slopes adorned with great tabular boulders. The ashes and hazels are like flocks of furred green creatures grazing up the slopes until they give way to the darkly needled thickets of juniper. Bright threads of beck and waterfall pulse in the seams of the fellsides. And the great crag at the head of it all houses Westmorland's Route and Extol in its giant elephant brain.
The left or western half of Black Crag is made of short walls and spikes with a Pavey roughness. The rock is clean because it stands proud of the herbage. As you pull up Bilberry Rib, your fingers hook time after time onto nicely serrated edges and apexes. It's steep and the moves up the short faces are quite technical - about as comfortable and as tricky as, say, Trout­dale Pinnacle in Borrowdale, so why is it graded only Diff. and not, say, Mild Severe? But never mind the grades, for the time being.
So we paddled down the steep bog that flanks the crag and went for Pollux on the right, the route the guides call 'interesting'. A slippery adjective. A slippery crag. The one clear-cut thing about it was the pedestal from which you start, a square-topped little pillar on which you pull up and from which you embark on the fine old English jungle. The 1987 guide does use this word, so why were we so cocky? It must be the elation of exploring, like Jim Fawcett in Amazonia. I knew roughly where we were aiming, an alleged groove. Grooves, I've found, are vague features which disappear as you get nearer them, leaving only their smile. And serious navigation was fading fast as I followed the only sequence of holds and protection points that seemed to offer amongst holdless bulging slabs freckled darkly with lichen, grassy joints which turned out blind when I broddled them out and exposed their glistening innards, heather tussocks with 2-foot stems which did occasionally mask small, earthy ledges.

I said 'protection points'. I found a decent slot for a small hex at 25 feet, then nothing until I arrived at a platform knee deep in bright green grass at what may or may not have been the end of pitch 2. Probably not. I may well have strayed off rightwards. The platform was a haven and I went for it in a state of edgy thankfulness. It was about 90 feet up. It would obviously provide some sort of security. Not all that much. The blind quality of this end of the crag was almost
complete. No joints deepened into cracks. No rocks separated into flakes. Any holes or pockets were insignificant dimples. I probed and delved. A growthy crack, once I'd spent ten minutes digging it out., widened downwards, not upwards, and every size of nut slithered out. In the end I established a No.2 Rock, sideways, in a rough-edged slot and yanked my hardest on it. It held. I extended it and prepared to move on up. A pair of footholds gained me six feet. Bridged, I stared upwards, and saw no groove, no positive holds, only a shallow valley between wet bulges which you might have fancied padding up in dry conditions - not today, not this year, not above that run-out and that little sideways-sprouting wire.
Hoarsely shouted conference with Chris. Should he untie, pull the rope through, and throw it me from the top (where 'Belays are hard to find')? I'm too far from the top and the crag is much too overgrown for a clear throw.
I'll have to down climb.

The moves aren't hard. And this is only Hard V. Diff. - isn't it? Each two by six inch ledge looks impossibly far away as I stretch for it with my toes. If only I could grow longer, like a slug! As I peer downwards, it's oddly hard to estimate height or distance. Gradually I discover, and don't altogether believe, that the points of rock below are always nearer than they look. Still I feel a little spider wafting into space on the end of a frail thread, or possibly a shipwrecked man as the boat turns turtle and he must crawl backwards down the hull, trying to cling by his fingertips to the rivets.
At mid-point I have to thrust my feet through springy heather clumps to rediscover the hidden earthy ledge. Further down Chris can start to talk my toes into slots invisible below little eaves. I can even adjust my one piece of protection, substituting an ordinary krab for the more expensive screw-gate - because all the gear, such as it is, will have to be left in situ. On firm - well, spongy ground again- we have a giggly reunion and I find I'm a bit shaky, as I've never been after such epics as I've had, on Harlot Face- Castle Rock, or Cascade on Pavey East, or even Snoopy on Mainreachan Buttress, Achnashellach. It was the forced downward moving that did it, the unnatural spooling backward of the film, the continuous series of moves downward during which the hands couldn't exert full leverage while at same time the feet hadn't yet lodged.
Of course I brought this ordeal, this intriguing failure, on myself. I'd like to have been prepared for it by a more realistic grading than Hard V. Diff. Pollux is roughly as hard as Stoat's Crack on Pavey, which gets Hard Severe. And talking of Pavey, why is Crescent Slabs only Severe when the 'oblique traverse into a shallow groove' on pitch 2 is delicate 4b? And why is Crescent Climb a Moderate and a 'good mountaineering route' when the guts of it is 200 feet of clean Diff  rock. and the 'pleasant traverse' is thinnish for the feet and would scare the daylights out of most beginners? My point is that the guidebook sections on the easier routes often simply repeat the grades, and often the very sentences, from earlier guides. Too often this perpetuates old mistakes or misperceptions. Surely the older, easier climbs deserve as careful attention and rethinking as the newer, harder ones?
I don't think it's a case of an ageing climber starting to find things difficult. I followed an El fluently enough on Mingulay three years ago, and I wasn't fazed more recently on Dow Crag with Dick Renshaw when we got lost on the 'A' Buttress section of the girdle and had to climb out
on unknown rock. Of course grades are subjective, not measurable. They
are an agreed code, with numbers defining technical difficulty and adjectives defining how we experience the moves. On those counts Pollux should score harder on the words than on the numbers, because the moves and the angle aren't desperate while the amount of blank rock, the lack of protection, and the besetting wetness make it more formidable than Hard V. Diff. It is about as technically demanding as Dandle Slabs on Buckbarrow- Longsleddale, or Route One on White Ghyll Slabs, or Suaviter on Grey Crag, Birkness Combe, to name three Severes, and it is a lot less clean than they are. Maybe the best way to tackle the jungly section of Black Crag, Dovedale, would be to rope down from some boulder among the summit bogs and hang comfortably while enjoying its marvellous cladding of conifers and broadleaved trees, and ferns and flowers and grasses.
First published in the Fell and Rock Club Journal. Thanks to David Craig for permission to republish this article and the F&R club for their cooperation. David Craig©

A potted biography of the author can be found in the October archives 'Falling Down-Not Laughing


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Coming Up: David Craig finds his nemesis in Cumbria.

The moves aren't hard. And this is only 'Hard V. Diff' - isn't it ? Each two by six inch ledge looks impossibly far away as I stretch for it with my toes. If only I could grow longer, like a slug! As I peer downwards, it's oddly hard to estimate height or distance. Gradually I discover, and don't altogether believe, that the points of rock below are always nearer than they look. Still I feel a little spider wafting into space on the end of a frail thread, or possibly a shipwrecked man as the boat turns turtle and he must crawl backwards down the hull, trying to cling by his fingertips to the rivets.

This Friday, David Craig finds himself far from the madding crowd. Pondering inglorious retreat and ultimate failure on a lowly graded,dank and vegetated Cumbrian sandbag!


Friday, 5 March 2010

The Subtle knife of Carnedd y Filiast

Nigel Parry on a cold ascent of Left Edge on Carnedd y Filiast Slabs: Dave Williams©

This weekend we must go West,' said Roger 'We need to find the subtle knife while this weather lasts.'
'I wish I knew why,' said Lora. 'Lord Asriel said nothing of what we should do with it when we find it. He just disappeared on his expedition to the for North. 'It's in the wet West," was all he said.
They were sitting under the digital weather screen at Jordan Climbing College on a Thursday evening where the senior scholars met each week to plan their re­search trips to what used to called 'the cold North', or 'the wet West' in the days when little was known of the potential effects of the esoteric boulders below the Edges. In BCC these brief and regular journeys into altered states of body and mind used to be dismissed as 'leisure'. But After Climate Change climbing had become recognised as 'experimental theology'. In ACC climbing research had become so urgent a need for the human species that the New United Nations had set up re­search centres throughout the world like Jordan College in Sheffield. All scientists in all fields were now climbers trying to discover a way to see what was happening to the earth and its atmosphere The profound disturbance in the earth's magnetic field clearly required adjustments in the human state of mind for the human species to be able to survive in ACC. But the climbing experiments of the scientists were slow in producing major breakthroughs. Personal competition in the peer review process kept distorting their results.
Lora's uncle, Lord Asriel, was at the cutting edge of this research and visited Jordan College from time to time to make his enigmatic presentations to the scholars there from his expeditions to the mountains of the Arctic circle. The younger ones, who were working on the boulders, tended to dismiss his evidence with derisive parodies: 'Listening to the mountain!' 'Feeling the mountain was ready for me and I for her'... 'Seeing sudden brightness in flowers when walking down"
Lora and Roger, regarded as merely the teenage children of servants at the college, were tolerated and largely ignored But Lord Asriel seemed to recognise their alertness. Nothing was said, but he seemed to know that they had learned something on Dandle Buttress last weekend. Before he left for the North he passed Lora in a corridor of the college
'It might help if you could find the subtle knife It's in the wet West,' he said, and was gone through the doorway with a turn of his backbag and his agile plastic boots.
So it was that on another unseasonally warm Saturday March morning Lora and Roger were sitting in the sun discussing the climb of the day over cups of powerjiuce.
'In the old wet West,' mused Lora. 'Do you remember the old story of the sword that rose from the lake?  'Did you notice in the archives back there the way climbers wrote in BCC about the Atlantic Slabs' They often wrote things like "Good value' or "Great solo" in shaky inkwriting. I think in those days such words hinted at altered states'
She nodded back towards the doorway of The Helyg Museum Hut. They were sitting on the transparent wrapping of the historic Trevor Jones Memorial Bench, a curious artefact, preserved for visitors to try for comfort in this interactive museum site
'I wonder if we might just find our subtle knife rising out of the waves up there.' Roger consulted his palmbook for the twentieth century names and pale pic­tures obscured by white lines
'Well, there's rather a lot of water up there" he joked.
After the mysterious words 'F-stop Fitzgerald' he found in larger letters the words 'Carnedd y Filiast (Cairn of the Greyhound Bitch) OS Ref. 623 627'
'There are nine lines on the old photogram and none of them has the name that they all mentioned in the archive's 'logbook' - Left Edge. Ah, and here's the name further on, with two little stars beside it. '600 feet. Very Difficult. 1921," it says here
'Well, I think that's where should start searching,' said Lora. 'Perhaps we'll even find out why it's subtle and what it's for.'
Dominic Appleby on the magnificent 1000' scramble..The Ridge

The lark was on a rising song of delight as they stepped up the steep turf left of an ancient wall. The lark was tara's daemon. In children they are not yet fixed. Lora's daemon liked to take the form of a lark in a place like this, on a morning like this. Roger's took the form of a ring ouzel, excited to be newly returned to this habitat at this time of year. Last weekend Lord Asriel's raven on Dandle Buttress had taught them to be more attentive to the daemons of place that might also be the daemons of people. Now they gave a new attention to the ferns, mosses and heathers that they trod among under the already searing sun.
Pausing to wipe away sweat from their eyes, they turned to look down on the river running through its water meadows, bounded by two roads on either side of the valley Under them was the original road up the Nant Francon, still maintained by the National Park Church, and on the opposite side was the new highway for approved solar cars.

Across the meadows a solar tractor was spreading, with its wide arms, the latest generation of fertilizer. This, Lora knew from what she'd overheard, was why Lord Asriel thought that the results of experimental theology were so ur­gently needed
After an hour's walking, smelling, listening and meditating, all slightly re­moved from their forms in the valley, Lora and Roger paused by the ancient stone wall under the lower part of waves of slabs that fell from the mountain in long ripples of overlaps. They were mostly grey, but had sections of orange and white and black To the right, the slabs merged into the heather of the hillside But just before they did, a last edge that dropped away to its left with a narrow and then a wider rippled slab, caught their eyes
'It's the left edge of the last scrap of slab" cried Lora 'That's it! The gleaming subtle knife"
'Let's go up and take a look,' said Roger, not entirely convinced
At the very foot of the arete was a flat belvedere in the slightly worn turf where others had sat and engaged their harnesses. From here, looking up, was a brilliant blade of hard white quartz.
'Do you remember,' Roger suddenly said, 'in the archive, that old hairy hero, Rab Carrington, is recorded as saying, 'Left Edge'. I think Martin and I soloed it in winter. We thought it was ice.' From below, in the winters of those days, it must have challenged even the limited perceptions of those 'leisure' climbers.'
As plastic boots, the lite lunch and the poles were packed in the backbags each would carry, Roger spotted another pair of people breasting the rim of their high cwm. Were these scientists who were also seeking knowledge of the subtle knife? Did they already know what it could do and how to use it?
He turned his back on them and grasped the edges of the quartz teeth on the blade's long upward sweep
At first it struck him as quite unsubtle- Chunky and easy angled, it invited a rushed approach. But as he rose, the space grew beyond his left hand and foot, always placed on the sharp edge of the blade. At the full length of his rope he belayed, resting his back on the blade. Its elegant purity was what was utterly mes­merising. He looked out from a place he'd never let into his head before and it produced a mood he'd not quite had before. There was no rush. This was a place to absorb, to be attentive, to learn from.
Smiling, Lara led through, already showing signs of beginning to be changed herself. Only twice did they step into a crack on the right, when the edge offered no holds. But quickly they were drawn back to the blade edge and its effect.
At the second belay they paused to take in the even undulations of the Wave Slab below that seemed vast and beyond them. It really was a tilted sea of stone, rippling from sky to earth
From the third belay, shoes off, sitting in a big bucket of rock, Roger couldn't stop talking to Lora, as she approached, about the qualities of the knife. She too, kept resting to savour the next moves up the blade
When, finally they sat down together they realised that the heather had, for some time, been encroaching from the right and was now within reach. True, the knife appeared to make another final thrust skywards. But to reach it meant stepping through heather.
'Look,' pointed Lora. 'All the time we've been concentrating on the knife edge on this last pitch, the heather has been only a metre away to the right.'
They had discovered the subtlety of the knife that had kept their minds so focussed on its edge that now they sat here smiling, calm, definitely in a theological state they'd not visited before. They knew that, somehow, they cared about this place, although quite how to do so they'd not begun to think. If put to the test, they would defend it even if it meant never encroaching upon it again. The knife had cut for them a window into another world that was also in the same world.

They had passed through a doorway Now everything had its aura clearly visible. 'Look. Dust,' whis­pered Lora, pointing to stones, heather, the far horizon and the blade itself.
The ring ouzel below them appeared to have found a mate. The skylark seemed to sing a little louder, although actually its singing was unchanged.

John Appleby on The Subtle Knife of Carnedd y Filiast..Left Edge.

Terry Gifford©
First published in the Climbers Club Journal. Thanks to Terry for permission to republish this article and the CC for their cooperation.

A potted biography of the author can be found in the October archives 'Ronnie's last long climb'

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Coming up: Terry Gifford goes back to the future in North Wales

This weekend we must go West,' said Roger 'We need to find the subtle knife while this weather lasts.' 'I wish I knew why,' said Lora.
'Lord Asriel said nothing of what we should do with it when we find it. He just disappeared on his expedition to the far North. 'It's in the wet West," was all he said.
This Friday,Terry Gifford offers a work of fiction set in the rough bounds of Cwm Graianog above Nant Francon.
Photo: Mike Peacock©