Thursday, 16 June 2011

Be seeing a few weeks!

For the next few weeks Footless Crow will be flying off into the sunset while I take a holiday and catch up on a million and one things including sorting out new Footless material.

In the mean time,if you've only discovered Footless Crow lately, you will enjoy many of the previously published articles which date back to October 2009. Many of which have not appeared in any media before.

From Samuel Taylor Coleridge to John Redhead...George Leigh Mallory to Steve Dean. Robin Smith to Harold Drasdo.Here's the full run down.......

October 2009
Falling about and not laughing- David Craig ( A previously unpublished piece from the master of exquisite climbing prose kicks off proceedings) Pictured

Aging Cumbrians in Desert Storm-Paul Ross ( A news piece about Paul Ross and Chris Bonington making a first ascent in Utah with photos by Paul)

New Lands for old hands-Harold Drasdo ( The old fox contemplates finding an easy route up Cloggy?)

Ronnie's last long climbing-Terry Gifford ( A poignant piece about one of climbing's characters-Ronnie Wathen)

Never on a Sunday-Pioneers on Tryfan and the Glyders-Mike Bailey. ( An historical piece from the experienced North Wales climber and guidebook writer )

November 2009

Diamonds and rust-David Craig ( Another beautiful unpublished piece from David)

Come Walk with me-Richard Haszko ( Trekking in the Karakorum-unpublished) Pictured
You are being watched-Steve Dean ( Climbing at Gogarth-unpublished)

Why we never went climbing-Ken Latham ( Scouse fun and frolics!)

December 09

The art of a climber-Harold Drasdo ( An appreciation of the brilliant late climbing artist, Bill Wynn)

Gentleman Fred- Fred Botterill ( A slice of Edwardian whimsy)

The Leader-Don Roscoe ( Rock and Ice legend's charming tale of youthful exploits)

January 2010

Heart of Darkness-John Appleby (Drasdo and Appleby belatedly close the gully epoch on Arenig Fawr)

Fast Forward parts one and two- Ken Latham ( A humorous trip down climbing's memory lane) Pictured

Early days in Cwm Cowarch-Tony Moulam ( An unpublished piece by Welsh legend and pioneer of Mid Wales climbing)

February 2010

The users guide to Edward Abbey-John Appleby ( Tribute to US conservationist and inspiration for the Earth First! movement Edward Abbey)

Stacks to do-Richard Haszko( Richard and his team which includes Joe Simpson -take on a Scottish sea stacks challenge)

Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia,parts 1 and 2-Steve Dean ( Steve appraises the seminal work which came out in 1971. Illustrated with many of John Cleares' original iconic shots)

March 2010

The subtle knife of Carnedd Filiast-Terry Gifford ( Futuristic climbing fiction)

An intriguing failure-David Craig ( The perils of climbing chossy,vegetated Lakeland V Diffs!)

Life on the Edge-Barbara Jones ( Ecologist Barbara Jones puts on her harness and searches for the Snowdon Lily)

On a new Mountain-part one-George Abraham ( One the the Abraham brothers describes a 'new' Welsh mountain arena-recently re-discovered and described in the introduction by John Appleby)

April 2010
The Night Shift-Steve Ashton ( A young Ashton gets swept up with Alpine fever: New photographs from Steve)

The view from Plato's Cave-Harold Drasdo ( Twenty five years to complete a 200' Llanberis VS!)  Pictured

Up against it- Menlove Edwards ( Classic piece by the troubled genius)

Bouldering at Harborough Rocks-Steve Dean ( The delights of peak bouldering)
May 2010

Sleuthing up Snoopy-David Craig ( Dad and lad get spaced out on a rare summer ascent of a remote Scottish HVS

Archibald Aenaes Robertson-The first Munroist-Richard Gilbert ( Historical piece which asks...well..was he?)

Obsession-Terry Gifford ( Terry climbs a mid Wales classic VS)

Between the ridge and the beaten path-Mike Bailey ( Mike dons his rock boots and chalk bag and solos every mountain route on the east face of Bristly Ridge..impressive huh!)

June 2010

Wall End Barn-George Kitchin ( the legend of the WEB from someone at the heart of the scene)

The Assault-George Leigh Mallory ( Galahad of Everest sets the fatal scene) Pictured

The climb that time forgot-John Appleby (  A lost Rhinog mountain route rediscovered)

The Abraham Brothers-photographing the past-Harry Griffin ( An appreciation of Lakeland legends by another Lakeland legend)

A winter's day at Harrisons-part one-Steve Dean, unpublished ( Steve goes back down south to touch base)

July 2010

A winter's day at Harrisons Part two

A letter to Sara Hutchinson-Samuel Taylor Coleridge( STC goes walkabout in Buttermere)

Eco Defence-A field guide to monkey wrenching- Harold Drasdo ( Drasdo considers Doug Peacocks eco-anarchist tome and the philosophy of radical environmentalism)

Mountain Rescue in North Wales-the early years-Barbara James ( Barbara goes back to the sixties and looks at the MR service in those early days)

Jim Perrins West-The loping hare kicking rainbows from the dew-John Appleby ( Book review which now appears surprisingly dated in light of the public unravelling of elements of the tale)

August 2010

A solo ascent of Craig Lloer-Colin Kirkus ( the Welsh legend describes an early epic)

Millican Dalton-professor of adventure - Terry Gifford ( The legendary wild man of Borrowdale)

The Drowning Season-John Appleby ( The destruction and ethnic cleansing of a remote Welsh mountain valley in the early 1960's)  Pictured
The good lads always have two-part one-Don Roscoe ( Rock and Ice days and nights)

September 2010

The Good Lads-part two

Fifty Years of Lakeland Climbing-Harry Griffin ( Harry looks back on the pioneers of Cumbrian climbing)

Bolton Wanders-Steve Ashton ( A humourous trip across the Lancashire slag heaps!)

Alister Crowley-mountains and other goats- John Appleby ( Alister goes a bit mad on Kangenjunga)

October 2010

The gentle art of Hitchhiking-Ken Latham ( A subject worthy of humorous anecdotes)

The Adventures of Wheech-Life and times of Robin Smith-Steve Dean ( Historical tour de force from Steve)

The Bat and the wicked -Robin Smith (Wheech himself pens one of the most famous climbing essays ever) Pictured

Forty Years of Lakeland skiing -Harry Griffin ( Pioneering stuff from Harry)

Bowfell Buttress- Lehmann J Oppenheimer ( Days of innocence before the storm)

November 2010

Water and Stone-David Craig ( Elemental climbing above the briny)

One step in the past-John Appleby ( A Nantlle excursion beyond the madding crowds)

Crag Climbing-WT Palmer (  Edwardian tales of derring do from a country gent!)

Mount Analogue and Free Will-Harold Drasdo ( Climbing intellectual writes the ending to an unfinished classic)

December 2010

In search of Elizabeth Coxhead-Terry Gifford ( The author of 'One Green Bottle' appraised)

Forgotten Tigers-Steve Dean ( Steve looks at climbings..errr..forgotten tigers!)

A Great Effort-Menlove Edwards ( Another classic Menlove essay)
January 2011

For Whom the Bells-The Bells toll: A meeting with John Redhead) Brian Trevelyan
( Brian and Jude travel to the UK climbing capital to meet Welsh 'enfante terrible' John Redhead)

Jonah and the Whale-John Redhead ( The artist himself; proving he's no mean writer either) Pictured

The brief mountaineering career of Alister Crowley-Robin Campbell ( Masterful historical piece by the SMC archivist)

The first ascent of Matterhorn's Zmutt Ridge-A Mummery ( From the horses mouth,an early ascent of the Matterhorn)

February 2011

Too Cold For Crow-Harold Drasdo ( The art and climbing history of Arenig Fawr)

Lakeland Pioneer-Bill Peascod-Bill Birkett ( An appreciation of the late great Lakeland artist and climber)

Fay Godwin-poetry through a lens-Margaret Drabble ( An appreciation of a brilliant landscape photographer)

Portrait of the artist as an old man -Terry Gifford ( Another artistic appreciation,this time of Lakeland artist William Heaton Cooper) Pictured

March 2011

North Country Fair-David Craig ( Exquisite prose once more from the Cumbrian based Scot)

Everyone knows this is nowhere-John Appleby ( Climbing a lost mountaineering route on Snowdon and finding King Arthur's grave!)

Landscape photography-clearly defined,so I've heard! Glyn Davies ( Acclaimed landscape photographer (by royal appointment!) considers..'yes..but is it art?')

Angel Pavement and other stories-Tony Moulam ( A new work by the old master)
April 2011

Bentley Beetham-The song remains the same -Ken Smith ( An historical overview of the life and times of BB)

Dwellings and Yellings-John Redhead ( Extract from John's new book 'Colonist's Out!)

Vestige d'Ocittania-John Redhead ( and another slice of 'Colonists)

In the beginning-Michael Combley ( Aussie exile considers where it all began for him)

Gritstone visionary-Steve Dean ( An appreciation of late legend-John Syrett) Pictured

May 2011

First and last climbs-David Craig (Poignant piece of Scottish mystery and imagination)

So briefly he roamed the gallery of marvels-Terry Gifford ( eco piece about Ted Hughes and his efforts to keep the south west rivers unpolluted)

James Dickson Innes-artist of the sacred mountain-John Appleby ( Coinciding with a BBC4 programme on The Arenig School,an appreciation of its lynchpin)

Colin Kirkus-Gemini rising-Ken Smith (In depth study of the tragic pre-war super nova)

The positive dialetics of Moac Play-Micheal Combley ( Michael considers the cultural significance of a lump of metal!)

Climbing in North Wales-George Abraham (Early guidebook writer explores the Cader area of south Snowdonia)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Climbing in North Wales

Welsh climbers witness a Cumbrian legend in action.

Dolgelly is the best centre, and, by means of the Great Western Railway, possesses a splendid communication with the larger cities. The presence of this convenience brings other famous Welsh mountains within reach.
Though the Arans provide little serious rock-climbing, an interesting day can be spent amongst the crags on the east face of Aran Mawddwy, and the walk along the ridge to Aran Benllyn attracts many mountain ramblers.
The crags which overlook Craiglyn Dyfi are specially suitable for beginners, and these can be reached from Drwys y Nant Station in 2 hours, and for the return journey Llanuwchllyn is best because practically all trains stop there.

The writer would suggest that the climber who wishes to taste the pleasures of the Cader climbs should make it a sort of movable feast, and four days would suffice in which to sample all the good things  worth attention. The first day could be spent on the Cyfrwy aretes, and in theevening a descent could be made over Mynydd Pencoed to Talyllyn, on the other side of the mountain, one of the prettiest places  in the district. Next day the return to headquarters  might be made by way of the Great Gully on Craig y  Cae. It used to be the proud boast of Dolgelly that its walls were 6 miles high, and the following two days could be spent climbing these, or, in other words, the north face of Cader Idris. If Cyfrwy is included, this extends for about 3^ miles, but the actual climbing is concentrated on the central portion in close proximity to Pen y Gader (2,929 feet), the highest point in the group.

The ordinary pedestrian route up Cader Idris is followed by way of Llyn Gwernan, where, it may be mentioned, an hotel is shortly to be opened which will give accommodation two miles nearer the climbing, and at a considerably higher level. The huge, crater-like hollow where the track diverges to the left to the Foxes' Path is encircled by fierce crags with the columnar ridges of Cyfrwy rising most invitingly on the right.

The little tarn of Llyn y Gader, surrounded by the " tumbled fragments of the hills," adds to the beauty of the scene. Supposing that the climber intends crossing  the mountain to Talyllyn and taking Cyfrwy en route, he will turn to the right at the outlet of the tarn.

The Eastern Arete This is the best course on Cyfrwy, and when seen from the Foxes' Path has the appearance of a finely serrated ridge with a curious truncated tower as central object of interest, about half-way up. This is known as the " Table," and most parties begin the ridge by walking up an easy gully which rises on the east side of the gap between the " Table " and the main mass. When approaching the arete from the foot of the tarn these details are difficult to locate because the ridge is seen " end on."

Cader's Cyfrwy Face

As the crags are approached the "The Table " becomes more distinguishable, especially if a movement is made to the right. It will be noticed that the gap may also be attained from the north-west by a steep, grassy gully, but the rocks are unreliable, and this approach cannot be recommended to one's best friends. The most sporting way begins immediately to the left of this gully, where a small pinnacle will be noticed almost directly below the " Table." Above the pinnacle a narrow, well-defined ridge leads upwards. until its disappearance in the steep, columnar front of the " Table " suggests a passage to the right. Here the rocks are more easily inclined, and a way can be found to the top.

The huge wall of the ardte, which now rises in front, looks impossible, but after the easy descent into the gap it can be confidently attacked from a point a yard or two down the gully on the left. There the rock is well broken up, and provides magnificent holding.
About 45 feet above the gap a step is taken to the left into a wide, grassy gully which leads directly upwards to the crest of the arete. An easy buttress now lands the climber at the start of a narrow 15-foot crack, which, from its situation, gives the best bit of climbing on Cyfrwy. It is best ascended by jamming the right leg and arm in its recesses and using some small holds on the outside for the unemployed limbs. Once the good hand-hold near the top is grasped the rest is simply a matter of " brute force and ignorance " ; but the lower part requires genuine skill. Then the ridge stretches away with a steadily diminishing inclination and interest until the top of Cyfrwy is reached.

The climber would have been well advised to have left the rucksack at the foot of the climb, and the descent to recover the luggage may be made by one of the wide gullies to the east of the arete just visited. After this the base of the crags may be followed to he foot of the North Arete, which, despite its striking outline and reputed difficulty, gives a comparatively easy course to the summit.
The climb starts just to the east of a wide scree gully with a short pitch near the top. This is known as the One Pitch Gully, and the North Arete forms its left retaining wall. After an easy initial scramble, a short chimney slants up to the right ; from its exit there is a fine view downwards into the gully.

Thirty feet of simple hand and foot work end on a small platform with the ridge rising vertically in front. A passage to the right on the face of the cliff discloses a crack filled with good, splintered rocks, which allow the actual crest of the arete to be regained easily. Thence onwards the ridge is disappointing, for by keeping alternately on its right-hand side and on its summit it is almost a walk for some distance. The fine tower of rock which is so conspicuous a feature in distant views of the North Arete can be easily avoided, or surmounted direct by a crack which runs up its centre.

The steep rock-face beyond the "tower-gap" can be circumvented by a stroll to the right, where two short slabs mark the end of the climbing. Numerous other ways can be made up the front of Cyfrwy, but though practically all have been visited, they are of too indefinite a nature to favour detailed description.

The enthusiast will prefer to wander over to Mynydd Pencoed and, after enthralling glimpses down into the vast abysses of Craig y Cae, make for the south- westerly grassy slopes leading down to Talyllyn. The Pen-y-bont Inn is picturesquely situated at the further end of the lake.

Craig y Cae and its gullies may be easily reached in an hour and a half from Talyllyn by following the ordinary track up Cader Idris, until at the base of the great hollow on the left some easy grass slopes slant up into the magnificent Cwm. The Great Gully stands at its head, but in a recess on the left, and it is scarcely visible until close at hand. When reaching it by keeping on the left-hand side of Llyn y Cae, the outlets of several smaller gullies are passed and two of these would entertain any parties who scarcely feel equal to an attack on their more impregnable neighbour.
The wonderful rock, which forms the left wall of the Great Gully throughout, is called the Pencoed Pillar, and just to the left of it the East Gully cuts the crags from bottom to top. The course, as described hereafter, gives quite 400 feet of continuous climbing, and begins with some slabs somewhat like those at the foot of the Central Gully on Lliwedd. Above these the gully is straight and steep, with a noticeable scarcity of screes.
A jammed rock is soon in evidence, and this can be surmounted direct or circumvented by a crack on the left. Higher up some backing-up practice can be enjoyed between the narrow walls, and enjoyable scrambling continues until the gully divides. Neither branch contains anything of further interest, but the curtain of rock between them affords a pleasing little climb to the summit.

The Little Gully is a conspicuous and winding cleft east of the former course. It contains but two distinct obstacles ; the lower one is easy, but the upper cave pitch requires some careful backing-up until the cap-stone can be negotiated.

The Great Gully commences with a short 12-foot pitch, which serves as introduction to the more difficult obstacle just above. This is of the cave variety and though the roofing-stone may be passed on either side, both exits are awkward ; after the first step, that on the left rather belies its first impression. The third pitch is the reverse ; it is even more slimy, smooth, and rotten than it looks, and the best plan is to climb up the grassy, left wall, whence a broad, grassy ledge leads easily back to the bed of the cleft. It should be noted that this ledge is of importance for those who wish to escape easily and quickly from the gully, or for others who do not prefer the attack on the three lower pitches. In wet weather their neglect is both advisable and justifiable.

A narrow chimney,  quite 35 feet in height, now rises straight ahead, and in dry weather only gives trouble in the upper part where the rocks are smooth and water- worn, under normal conditions it bears a strong resemblance to a waterfall, and at such times may be circumvented by grassy ledges on the right. Indefinite scrambling follows for quite 150 feet, whilst the structure of the gully gradually changes. Huge, unclimbable walls rise on either hand, and gradually narrow down until, below the notorious fifth pitch, the gully is scarcely 15 feet in width, whilst near the summit, about 80 feet higher, the two walls are only a few inches apart. In this roughly inverted funnel great rocks are wedged in the most neglige manner imaginable, but the central boulder and a chimney between it and the left wall give the solution of the problem.
An apparently impossible problem it certainly is, and has been, for several parties, because this central boulder is almost impracticable of approach from directly below, while the chimney on its left has no bottom. Close inspection will show that there is a square recess in the overhanging right wall of the gully, which may be reached by some careful climbing from the upper part of the cave. The second man can join the leader in this recess and steady him with the rope belayed during the step thence across to the central boulder.

The holds prove good, and it is soon possible to swing the left foot across into the "bottomless chimney." The transfer of the body is but the work of a moment and thence upwards the way is obvious. The narrow hole which is the natural exit from the chimney has made more than one climber seem small arete in fact, a party were once defeated here and retreated by means of a fixed rope which had to be left behind. The writer is inclined to the opinion that a leader who could penetrate thus far would find no serious trouble in avoiding the narrow way by backing up outside the chock-stone.

The three remaining pitches are short, and possess no intrinsic difficulties. The outward prospect from the upper reaches of the Great Gully of Crag y Cae is, in the writer's opinion, unsurpassed in Great Britain. Curtain after curtain of huge, storm-battered, frost-riven rock form the framework of the scene, and, nearly 1,000 feet below, the gloomy waters of Llyn y Cae lie embosomed in the craggy recesses of Pen y Gader.

Dave Williams on Pencoed Pillar

The Pencoed Pillar, which is the crowning glory of this, one of the " truly delectable places," remains untrodden by human foot as far as its impressive north face is concerned. In June, 1903, those genial pioneers of real, British mountaineering camp-life, Messrs. Millican and Henry Dalton, discovered a somewhat circuitous route up the Pillar, but mostly on its easterly side. The presence of much vegetation and the possibilities of numerous variations will militate against the climb becoming popular. Of the remaining climbs on the northerly side of Cader Idris, the Central Gully of Pen y Gader, overlooking Llyn y Gader, is the best known. It consists of three sections formed by two wide terraces that stretch across the face. Each of these sections contains more or less well-marked pitches, though the uppermost is so indefinite that probably no two parties follow the same route.

The first pitch is about 70 feet high, and after climbing for about 30 feet on he right-hand side a watery traverse may be made to the left, and thence to the top. The second pitch is more deeply set, and after mounting the bed of the 50-foot chimney pitch for a short distance, splendid ledges suggest the ascent by the right wall. Above his the gully may be neglected or followed at will beyond the upper section.

Twr Du

These crags are situated about half a mile north- east of Pen y Gader, facing Llyn Gafr, and two well- defined gullies seam the easily inclined and somewhat vegetation-covered, northerly face. At their outlets the gullies are about 150 feet apart ; higher up they seem to converge and roughly resemble an inverted V. The East Gully slants upwards on the left, and proves quite easy until a smooth slab suggests the use of the rope. A stone which is jammed in the narrow bed of the gully can be climbed on the right, and, unless perfectly dry, a mossy, overhanging crack higher up should be circumvented on the left wall. Two neat chimneys end the serious climbing, but pleasing scrambling can be continued to the sky-line by following the ridge on the left.

The West Gully proves the stiffer of the two courses ; the first obstacle consists of a narrow crack about 50 feet from the start. It can be climbed direct, or by way of a leaf of overhanging rock on the right.
After some easy work a vertical, mossy crack is encountered, which is smooth and holdless on the right wall and overhanging on the other. This has not yet been climbed direct, and an awkward buttress on the right seems the best means of ascent. The beginning of this is especially difficult, and the leader will probably require assistance from those below. About half-way up the buttress a traverse can be made to the left to the top of the pitch ; a mossy crack above this gives no serious trouble. The gully then sends a slight branch up to the right, and it is advisable to follow this up for a few feet until a step across to the left can be taken into the steep crack which here forms the main bed of the gully.
This is now followed past an overhanging leaf of rock, and after a traverse across some slabs on the right the climbing is finished.

Further eastwards than Twr Du there is plenty of indefinite scrambling, notably on Ceu Craig and Mynydd Moel. The magnificent views from this outstanding shoulder of Cader Idris are the chief reward of the explorer.

George Abraham: British Mountain Climbs: Mills and Boon 1911.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Coming Up: George Abraham's Climbing in North Wales

Dave Williams on the rarely climbed John Sumner route 'Red Crystals on the Cyfrwy Face

"Craig y Cae and its gullies may be easily reached in an hour and a half from Talyllyn by following the ordinary track up Cader Idris, until at the base of the great hollow on the left some easy grass slopes slant up into the magnificent Cwm. The Great Gully stands at its head, but in a recess on the left, and it is scarcely visible until close at hand. When reaching it by keeping on the left-hand side of Llyn y Cae, the outlets of several smaller gullies are passed, and two of these would entertain any parties who scarcely feel equal to an attack on their more impregnable neighbour.

The wonderful rock, which forms the left wall of the Great Gully throughout, is called the Pencoed Pillar, and just to the left of it the East Gully cuts the crags from bottom to top. The course, as described hereafter, gives quite 400 feet of continuous climbing, and begins with some slabs somewhat like those at the foot of the Central Gully on Lliwedd. Above these the gully is straight and steep, with a noticeable scarcity of screes. A jammed rock is soon in evidence, and this can be surmounted direct or circumvented by a crack on the left.

Higher up some backing-up practice can be enjoyed between the narrow walls, and enjoyable scrambling continues until the gully divides. Neither branch contains anything of further interest, but the curtain of rock between them affords a pleasing little climb to the summit. '

This Friday, wind back exactly one hundred years and Lakeland legend, George Abraham finds himself in the heart of north Wales.Describing the climbs in the area for the growing number of climbing activists who will use his book as a contemporary guidebook. This extract concentrates on the area of South Snowdonia with Cader Idris at it's heart.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Positive Dialectics of Moac Play

The Moac eating 5a corner of Kreen Akrore.Craig Rhaeadr Ewynnol.(Swallow Falls Buttress:North Wales.

The rising fear grows exponentially as the lead rope runs out, perhaps a couple of micro’s are shoved tentatively in a crack somewhere below but the reality is that those wires are just there to prop up the fast fading self confidence.The single red 11mm rope creeps slowly out and the space below yawns, an open mouth waiting to swallow the hapless leader into oblivion.

The curtain of nuts on slings that hang from both sides of the harness right now are currently totally useless and purely decorative.Then, scrabbling over an edge and onto a narrow balancy ledge there is the crack, smiling sweetly and beckoning.
A shaky hand reaches down and selects a runner from the harness. With a satisfying clunk and a robust snatch on the 9mm double fisherman’s knotted sling, a Moac pops snugly into the crack and the lead rope snaps into the krab.

 A deep, deep series of breaths are inhaled and exhaled, the tension quickly evaporates and the gaping maw closes shut. At least for now.Perhaps it’s a belay or perhaps it’s a critical runner but John Brailsford’s Moac allows the leader’s mind to momentarily rest easy.The Moac was and is one of those quintessential designs that is a developmental turning point. The Moac still largely defines passive climbing protection, and the basic design is still running today as the cornerstone of modern traditional rock climbing equipment.

 It is fair to say that in the past, three Moac nuts were the probably main stay of most traditional climbers protection portfolios.One would used in a standard format and then the trickery and positive dialectics of Moac play began:The Moac standard rig with a 9mm cord forced through it and tied in a double fisherman’s knot was the perfect nut for a perfect placement. There were many perfect placements and a decent space for this super nut popped up on just about every pitch that we climbed; It is true to say that many Welsh classic pitches could be comfortably led with just a couple of good placements of this wonderful piece of kit.

 Almost always but, as always there were exceptions…..

 The rope sling ran high and proud of the top of the nut so sometimes the protruding rope would stop the nut placing well in a short crack or pocket. In these instances the number two Moac would be brought into play. Number two was threaded on ¾” tubular tape, the tape sitting more snugly in the crown of the nut and therefore fitting more easily into those short pockets or closed cracks.Then there was the ‘epic’ or ‘cheat’ Moac. This is nut had the knot placed as low as possible away from the nut. The upper part of the sling above the knot was tightly wound with insulation tape, often with a couple of strands of copper wire bound into the tape in parallel with the sling. The rigidly bound 12 inches or so of sling allowed the nut to be ‘stick’ placed really high overhead and clipped into the lead rope. This overhead shenanigan effectively allowed for a morally corrupt, but reassuring top rope over a tricky move or difficult section of climb.

 The bound section of the sling also allowed the nuts to be placed and retrieved from much deeper cracks and fissures than normal.The slingless number 3 Moac nut had been taken to work or to the shed, This nut would be placed in the workshop vice and a couple of 10ths of an inch would be savagely cut back from both of the large faces with a very coarse hand file. Re-slung, this modified nut would now fit beautifully into the cracks that had previously rejected the slightly larger standard sizes and protected locations that otherwise would have been impossible or a serious fiddle with the standard sized Moacs.

We rejected the standard sized nuts swaged wire slings. The wires lifted the nuts from cracks and the wire slings were always a smidge too short. In any case, if you were climbing on double 9mm ropes and the rope through the nut was 9mm we always felt it was a pretty safe bet.
The next question is what came first because later we discovered that another trip to the shed and the application of a large round file to the nut that cut a semi circular groove down the main faces of the nut towards the bottom of the nut enabled even better and more secure crack placements.

 The core to this question is if we discovered this first or just copied the manufacturers?I prefer to think that we got there first and distinctly recall a friend showing me his newly doctored gear in the car park prior to a climbing session.Moacs were expensive and it was a large matter of absolute pride never to leave our gear behind on a climb. In actual fact, to recover jammed gear left by previous parties conferred a significant degree of personal supremacy. To this end a stout piece of galvanized fence wire about a foot long was procured - usually from a bit of scrap fencing. A looped handle was hand formed in one end and a short right angle bent about half an inch from the working end. This crude hook was remarkably effective in lifting nuts jammed in deep crevices and levering out stuck gear.

 The pliable nature of this retriever wire enabled it to be bent into a safe circle when not in use in order to avoid accidental self stabbing in the event of a plummet or sudden move. The handmade tool was 'professionally' finished with a loop of tape or climbing string that also doubled as a disposable 'epic retreat' item Our prowess in retrieving abandoned gear was such that on rainy days when there was nothing else to do we would mount expeditions to known ‘nut eating’ locations and re equip ourselves with lost and abandoned gear.

 Recently I did try to purchase a couple of these marvelous antiques via the internet.Sadly to no avail, so perhaps an expedition a certain series of known nut eating cracks on the south side the Llanberis Pass might see me still rewarded with a couple of these white, antique oxidized prizes!

Michael Combley:

*This title is stolen from “'Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play' by Ben Watson.