Friday, 30 May 2014

The Battle for Kinder Scout

The problem of gaining and preserving freedom of access to crags and mountains is becoming acute in certain areas. Where access itself is unrestricted, mountaineers may still find their freedom threatened by increasing interference from sundry officials. In the United States, control over climbers’ movements is in some areas already a common occurrence. In this article an historic mountain incident is recalled, one whose lessons are no less valid today. Kinder Scout is the wild heart of the Derbyshire Peak District: it is the final Southerly clench of the backbone of England.

On every side of this area of ‘outstanding natural beauty’ industrial towns bristle. For the millions in the conurbations of Manchester, Sheffield and the West Riding, a short road or train journey brings these moorland fastnesses within reach. ‘The Manchester Rambler’ can be up and away before his Southern counterpart has reached the station. In 1932, although these moors lay on the doorsteps of many who considered them their birthright, they were owned by a handful of landlords, who had reserved these unrivaled acres for their own private enjoyment. A few score of very wealthy ‘sportsmen’ spent the autumn months slaughtering the grouse that flourish there. The local record for one day was 1,421 brace, shot by nine guns over the Broomhead Moors in August 1913. To make such carnage possible the people were excluded not only during the nesting and shooting seasons but throughout the whole year

In 1932, P. A. Barnes, author of Trespassers will be Prosecuted, a famous pamphlet campaigning for free access, wrote: "Throughout the moorland areas in and adjacent to the Peak District (about 215 square miles) there are only about twelve footpaths." Ramblers and climbers were affronted by "Keep Out" signs everywhere, and small private armies of gamekeepers patrolled their masters’ estates with forelock-touching earnestness.

There is a long tradition of moorland walking among Manchester and Sheffield workers. At this time, tens of thousands of young people would hike from tram termini each weekend, bound for the Peak. As the dole queues lengthened, more and more turned to rambling as one of the few sporting activities they could afford. In 1932, there were 66,000 unemployed in Sheffield. At a time when many were questioning the institutions and ideology of capitalism, the almost feudal restrictions on access to the moors were an intolerable outrage. Confrontations with gamekeepers became more frequent and more violent. Obviously working to instructions from the landlords, moorland patrols increased their vigilance, and the indignation of the ramblers escalated apace. As early as 1923 the Manchester Evening Chronicle had contained an amazing Wild West style "wanted" notice. It showed two photographs of walkers on Kinder Scout, and underneath it read: "Kinder Scout Trespassers, £5 reward will be paid for the name, address and occupation of any of the persons represented in the photos. Apply Cobbett, Wheeler 8 Cobbett, Solicitors, 49 Spring Gardens, Manchester”. Grandfather William Cobbett, the early nineteenth century radical, must have been squirming in his grave at the role his offspring were playing.

The "Access to Mountains Bill" was first brought before the House of Commons in 1888, but its main clause, stating that " . . . no owner or occupier of uncultivated mountains or moorland shall be entitled to exclude any person from walking or being on such land for the purpose of recreation or artistic study, or to molest him in so  walking or being," caused apoplexy among the predominantly Tory members. Successive attempts were backed up outside Parliament by the Ramblers’ Federation and the Footpaths Preservation Society, whose campaigning went no further than polite petitioning and the holding of an annual rally at which ramblers were merely asked to support the actions of M.P.s and officials. By and large the predominantly middle-class leadership of these ‘responsible’ bodies looked with some alarm at the increasingly bitter clashes between keepers and working class ramblers.

In fact the idea of a ‘mass trespass’ seems to have first arisen at one of the camps organized by the British Workers’ Sports Federation, held at the village of Rowarth in 1931. This organization had been set up on the initiative and under the influence of the Young Communist League, the Communist Party Youth Movement, and it presented the question of access to the hills in open class terms. A ramble from the camp, led by Benny Rothman, thesecretary of the Lancashire Federation of the B.W.S.F (and now a Trade Union Convener in a Manchester Engineering Factory), who more than anyone can claim to have been the organizer of the mass trespass, was turned back by the keepers before the objective, Bleaklow Hill, had been reached. New plans were laid during the bitter and angry hike back.

Rothman visited the Manchester Evening News on April 18th, 1932 and gave an interview to a reporter (who was later used as a witness by the prosecution that had Rothman convicted for his part in the events), and next day the plans were headline news: "Mass Trespass over Kinder Scout", with suitably lurid references to "shock troops" and "assaults”. The Sheffield Ramblers’ Federation made its position quite clear: "We have nothing whatsoever to do with this demonstration of which we thoroughly disapprove. We do not consider these people to be bona fide ramblers." Those damn Reds even get under the heather.

Unemployed like at least half of those taking part, Rothman and a friend cycled to Hayfield early in the morning of Sunday April 24th, the day of the trespass, to reconnoitre the proposed route. Had he been able to afford the train fare he would have been stopped at the station by the police with an injunction restraining him from taking part in the meeting at Hayfield Recreation Ground with which the demonstration had been advertised to start. Rothman estimated that the sunken playing field was a natural trap, and that the one-third of the full Derbyshire Police Force present in the village intended the meeting to be the start and finish of the day's proceedings. Word was immediately passed to the assembling ramblers to set off at once along the footpath to William's Clough, and the high moors beyond. Police desperately ran along the column to try and head it off, but they were too late. Unused to such exercise, a contingent of perspiring bobbies fell in at the rear.

The delayed meeting was held in a disused quarry amphitheatre beside the path. Rothman scrambled on to a boulder and spoke to the crowd, now numbering about 600. He emphasized that they wanted an orderly and disciplined march. "Our grouse is against grouse", he said, "we are determined to trespass en masse everywhere where we canclaim with justice to have a right to go." The crowd of young people wheeled eastward out of William's Clough, striking up the hillside towards the forbidden crest of Kinder. Spontaneously this unorganised and picturesque demonstration adopted self-protective tactics to prevent any arrests by the following police. At each stile the entire march would halt and only proceed when the last straggler was safely through.

The keepers had anticipated this route and were waiting on the crest. What followed has passed into legend. A dozen or so keepers and specially enrolled villagers raised their cudgels. From the press reports one could be forgiven for assuming they were describing ‘going over the top’ in a First World War battle. The most ‘accurate’ of them was the Sheffield Independent: "Over the rough moorland men struggled and rolled down the steep slopes. Every minute it appeared that somebody would hurtle to the bottom." in fact a few brief scuffles were all that were needed to brush the keepers aside. One of them, Edward Beever, was injured, the occasion for later charges of grievous bodily harm.

The ramblers had reached the summit plateau, sacred ground from which they had hitherto been officially excluded. A contingent from Sheffield who had 'trespassed’ from Edale joined them for a victory meeting. They brought news that the roads to the east were lined with police, and it was decided to return by the same route. As they marched back the hills echoed to shouts of ”Down with the landlords and ruling class". At Hayfield a line of police awaited them. Five ramblers were arrested and variously charged with unlawful assembly and committing a breach of the peace. ‘Trespass’ was not amongst the charges. The law had long since been repealed l The day's events were headline news, as were the trials of those arrested. Rothman conducted his own defence on what amounted to the political platform of the British Workers’ Sports Federation, but politics were brought into the case by the prosecution too.

Much was made of a copy of the Communist Review found on one of the defendants, and the sinister discovery of a pamphlet by a "Mr. Lenin" was emphasized. "ls that the Russian gentleman ?” asked the learned judge. Five of those on trial were members of the Young Communist League, and according to the Progressive Rambler, a magazine of the time, the jury consisted of "two Brigadier Generals, three Colonels, two Majors, three Captains, two Aldermen - and eleven of these were country gentlemen"  Sentences ranged from two tosix months, with one dismissal.

Mr. Stephen Morton, secretary of the Sheffield Ramblers’ Federation, was quoted as saying: "For many years we have been endeavouring to obtain access to mountains and moorlands by legitimate means. This move, on the part of the Lancashire people, would throw the whole thing back at least twenty years.” The opposite was the case. The mass trespass gained the cause of free access to mountains more sympathetic publicity in one day than the Ramblers’ Federation had won for it in the previous thirty years.

Demonstrations of solidarity with those jailed, and the organization of other trespasses, such as the ‘Abbey Brook’ march in September of the same year, carried forward the tempo of the movement. Many more battles were necessary before the Access to Mountains Bill was finally put on the Statute Book by Atlee’s Labour Government, but it was "The Battle for Kinder Scout" that lifted the movement from the level of private members’ lobbying to that of mass politics. Its  memory still echoes whenever the right to ramble or climb is threatened.

Original Photo: Ken Wilson

Dave Cook:
First Published in Mountain February 1974

Friday, 23 May 2014

Catastrophe on the Jungfrau

FROM the Jungfrau on Friday, the 8th July, A terrible disaster was reported. Two tourists, Alfred Kuhn, of Strassburg, aged about 45, and Hans Harthold, of Saarbrucken, about 35, set out on the 8th July to climb the Jungfrau, or at any rate to go from the Bergli hut over the Monchjoch to the Concordia hut. They were accompanied by the guides, Alexander Burgener, father, his sons, Adolf and Alois, and the Grindelwalder, Fritz Brawand. They were joined at the Station Eisrneer by the guides Peter lnabnit, and his nephew, Rudolf Inabnit. At the place where the disaster occurred they met guide Bohren; who was preparing the path for those approaching the Bergli hut. Independently of this column there came, only a little behind, the guides Christian and Fritz Bohren, Bleuer and Kaufrnarm, who were carrying provisions to the Bergli hut.

Both the tourists, Kiihn and Harthold, as well as the guides Alexander and Alois Burgener, the old Bohren and the two Inabnits perished; Brawand and Alois Burgener are seriously injured. We publish from the N Zurich Zeitung the following particulars as to the circumstances of the disaster. Christian Bohren, the son, narrated to a reporter as follows..... 

" We four, my brother Fritz and I, Bleuer and Kaufmann, had set out on Friday from Grindelwald and the Station Eismeer for the Bergli hut. We two wanted to bring provisions to our father, who is hut-keeper at the Concordia, and Kaufmann and Bleuer also to the Bergli hut-keeper Kaufmann.The weather was fine. We went roped, and made good progress. We must have been still a good hour off the Bergli, to which meanwhile a caravan, eight men strong, had approached within about ten minutes’ distance. A man was making a track down from the hut for the new-comers. That was our father, who then joined the foremost caravan. Then a mass of snow appeared suddenly to split off, just at the spot where the caravan found itself, or, speaking exactly, a little above it. On the Bergli rocks the mass divided itself; one arm drove straight down; all the foremost caravan disappeared with it. The left arm took a direction straight for us. We dived into the ice-wall of the Bergli rocks, and made ourselves as small as possible, hoping that the avalanche would go clear over us. But it seized us, tore us away with it, and whirled us downwards, so that we no longer knew who was foremost and who last. So it went on-on. A sharp jerk; we were fixed. I found myself on my feet right in front of a crevasse, up to my breast in snow.

Bleuer stuck fast on my right, also up to the breast in snow. My brother Fritz lay in a crevasse, buried up to the head. Kaufmann hung over a ‘Gletschertiissel ’ on the rope. Bleuer and I worked ourselves out, and released my brother Fritz, who was unconscious; the too tightly drawn rope had robbed him of his breath. Kaufmann had meanwhile unroped himself, and sprung clear. We then drew him up again over the ‘Tussel.’ All this did not pass so quickly as I have told it you. The avalanche had surprised us at six in the evening; the work lasted quite three-quarters of an hour. As soon as we were again together, and had inspected the damage, we turned back to our track.

We soon met a rescue column that was coming from the Eismeer; we let them go on further to the head-caravan, and set out alone on the way to the Station Eismeer. We arrived there at half-past eight. We reached Grindelwald this morning. We know moreover that the Bergli hut-keeper, Kaufmann, had just begun to get ready something’ hot for the arriving guests as the avalanche fell.

The disaster had already happened when he stepped out. He took a good mouthful of brandy, and then climbed down to render assistance. He found three still living-Rudolf lnabnit, Fritz Brawand and the son of Alexander Burgener. The other six were dead, and frightfully disfigured. Kaufmann helped, and made such arrangements as he could. Then the above-mentioned rescue column from the Station Eismeer arrived to recover the injured. The son Burgener had a huge hole in the head; one eye is lost. Brawand had his head split; Inabnit, amongst other injuries, a compound fracture of the leg. The leg only just hung on him by the skin, so that he wanted to cut it away; only the strength to do it failed him. On the way to the Eismeer he also, poor fellow, was released from his sufferings through death.

About midnight the rescue column, with the two injured and the dead man, reached the Station Eismeer. Brawand and Burgener (son) were taken as quickly as possible to Interlaken.”

So far Christian Bohrens’ simple narrative.... Quietly did he relate it, a worthy son of the mountains. But nevertheless it will overcome him. All Grindelwald knows that now, at about eight o’clock, the dead are coming in, and Christians' father is amongst them. The same reporter added the following particulars; Alexander Burgener, father, was valued as a guide of the very first rank. He was a powerfully built, weather-beaten man, for many years familiar with the dangers of the high Alps. Whoever went with him might feel himself secure. To add to the security of the party, the two climbers wanted also to take with them the experienced old Grindelwalder, Rudolf Baumann. He had, however, shortly before met with a slight mishap, and had to call off. In his place went the young Fritz Brawaud. The snow must, however, already, near the Station Eismeer, have proved to be in a very treacherous condition, for the caravan was there augmented by the two Inabnits, uncle and nephew. The two went in front, and, as the lighter members of the company, helped to make a track.

Thus the party pushed forward up to a short distance from the Bergli hut, whence Christian Bohren, father, always ready to help, was making a track for the caravan. Then the snow began to move. Whether the making of the track gave the first impulse to it remains undecided. Certain it is, that the coating of new snow, softened by sun and ‘Fohnwind,’ adhering badly to the older snow underneath, no longer held firm, but began slowly to slide away. The place of fracture is as high as a man. The break occurred at a trifling distance from the hut, extended over the whole wall, and detached portions of snow that, so to say, hung near the hut, fell with it. This new snow, that in the last fourteen days had fallen in great masses, gave way at the point of contact with the old hardened snow. Thus it shot away, as if torn off by a giant’s grip, dragging with it the great caravan on the far side of the Bergli, whilst a smaller arm went down in front, and there, as already described, surprised a column of porters four strong.

At the place where the avalanche tore away with it the big caravan, points of rocks everywhere project upwards. Down over these rocks, more than 200 metres deep, the nine were hurled, until they came to rest in a hollow. They were,found almost on the surface, buried only a few inches, with the exception of one who stuck up to his armpits in snow. The hut-keeper, Kaufmann, an old Caucasus guide, after the thunder (of the avalanche), climbed down with incredible rapidity. But also someone at the Station Eismeer, with Zeiss-glasses, had observed the occurrence, and at once directed the three available men to the scene of the disaster. Director Liechti, of the Jungfrau Railway, did still more, for he sent up from the Station Eigergletscher forty men from the staff‘ of guards and engineers that they might, from the Eismeer at least, recover the wounded.

We know already that this rescue work, carried on by acetelyne light under the most difficult conditions, lasted up till midnight. The rescue work was brought to an end on Saturday by a party of Grindelwald guides. That was a difficult bit of work. Over the windows of the Jungfrau Railway, too, masses of snow broke away incessantly into the valley. However, the labour ended without fresh sacrifice of life.”

Translated from Alpina  5th July, 1910.

The Alpina appeals for help on behalf of the widows and children of the victims of this unheard-of catastrophe. Peter Inalbnit leaves a widow and ten children, the eldest only I7;an eleventh child is expected. Christian Bohren leaves a widow and children, with little property. Rudolf Inalbnit was the mainstay of his parents. Donations may be sent to Pfarrer Gottfried Strasser, S.A.C., Grindelwald, or The Editor, Dr. E. Walder, Bergstrasse I37, Zurich.

First published as ‘the Catastrophe near the Bergli club Hut, 8th July 1910.

Herbert Carr: Climbers Club Journal 1910.

Friday, 16 May 2014

In the footsteps of Coleridge.

Shortly after midday on Sunday 1st August 1802, Samuel Taylor Coleridge strode down the hill from Greta Hall, his Keswick home, a knapsack over one shoulder and a broom-handle for a walking-stick, at the start of a nine-day walk around the Lake District. On Sunday 13th August 1989 - 187 years and 12 days later I set off from the same spot to follow, as closely as possible, in his footsteps. Like Coleridge, I walked alone. Like him, I did not book accommodation ahead but advanced hopefully, trusting that I would find somewhere to lay my head each evening. I tried to do the journey in his daily stages, and succeeded – up to a point.

The ‘footsteps’ form has become a popular one with writers. In the summer of 1964 Richard Holmes  followed the route through the Cevennes that Robert Louis Stevenson had walked, with his recalcitrant donkey, 86 years before. Bernard Levin traced Hannibal’s path across southern France and over the Alps to produce a book and a television series made memorable by his ‘Big White Carstairs’ tropical shorts. Others, for various motives, have tracked the evangelising journeys of St Paul, the road to Canterbury that Chaucer’s pilgrims took,the trail that John Muir blazed across the Sierra Nevada of California. At least two writers - Geoffrey Moorhouse and Beryl Bainbridge - have toured the places that J. B. Priestley visited on his English journey, published in 1934, to update his report on the state of the nation.

My aim was different from any of theirs. The idea was to look out for all the things that Coleridge noted on his walk that are still to be seen, virtually unchanged; also the things he sawwhich are no longer there, and the things that are there now but were not when he passed by; and, in this way, to try to form some picture of what has happened to this unique corner of England in the intervening years. So this is an account of three journeys: the one that Coleridge made, which was an exploration and an escape; the one I made, which was more of an investigation; and the long, complex journey that the Lake District has made in almost two centuries.

Luckily, much is known about Coleridge’s walk. He carried a small notebook and stopped frequently to jot down, while they were still fresh in his mind, all his observations and adventures, the feelings they inspired, the responses they aroused in that teeming and tireless mind. He then used these notes to form the basis of long, vivid and more literary letters that he wrote to the woman he had fallen guiltily in love with, Sara Hutchinson. These primary sources have survived almost intact and, thanks to assiduous modern scholarship - much of it North American -they are available in published form. Coleridge, who enjoyed coining new words, called his waik a ‘circumcursion’.

He ended where he started. His route followed a wavering but roughly circular course, anti-clockwise in direction, well over 100 miles in distance, involving the ascent and descent of more than 10,000 vertical feet, often on steep and stony ground. He saw all the higher mountains of the Lake District and most of its lakes and valleys, though he missed out Ullswater and Hawes Water and the eastern fells. He passed through three counties, for at that time - and for a further 170 years, until the county boundaries were  redrawn - Keswick was in Cumberland, Coniston was in North Lancashire, Rydal and Grasmere were in Westmorland. He touched the shore of the Irish Sea at St Bees. He rested and wrote part of a letter on the summit of Scafell, the second highest point of land in England. Descending from there, he took a short cut that involved him in the first recorded rock-climb ever made in this country.

Mountains were still seen as dangerous and repellent places, treacherous and profitless. Even William Wordsworth, a Lake District man by birth and upbringing and a powerful pedestrian, hired a local guide when he wanted to go to the summit of Scafell Pike. Coleridge’s achievement is all the more remarkable in the light of his condition and circumstances. These could hardly have been more discouraging. He was nearly 30 years old and had long suffered from a variety of physical complaints, most notably rheumatism. To suppress the pain he had been taking ever-increasing doses of laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol. By 1802, according to most accounts, he was addicted.

He was a married man with two young sons and a third child on the way. But the marriage was in trouble. His love for Sara Hutchinson, at odds with his strong belief in the sanctity of Christian marriage, tormented him with guilt. The household, which was sometimes awakened in the middle of the night by his drug-induced nightmare screams, was often shattered during the day by fierce connubial shouting matches. In addition, the power of poetic creation, which he prized above all else, seemed to have deserted him. And this at a time when Wordsworth was writing more prolifically and more powerfully than ever. His long walk gave Coleridge an escape from all these problems and pressures.

The urge to escape has rarely been given the recognition it deserves as a motivating force among those who go off on adventurous expeditions. When they come to write it up afterwards, as they frequently do, these people - explorers, mountaineers, lone navigators - tend to play that aspect down, presumably because they do not want to further upset the loved ones left behind at home. So we read much about the call of the wilderness, the spirit of adventure and man’s instinct to explore. But man’s instinct to escape is also powerful, and has been intensified perhaps by the crowded conditions, rigid routines and nagging anxieties of modern life. It was the relatively new urban, industrialised society in Britain and Germany in the mid-nineteenth century that produced adventure sports .It is hard, nowadays, to appreciate the sheer boldness of his undertaking. It was a journey without precedent. No one before him, and no one but Coleridge in his time, dreamt of walking over and among the high fells, alone, in all weathers, getting off the shepherds’ tracks, for the sheer fun of it, mountaineering and rock-climbing, pot-holing and small boat sailing.

Greta Hall: Keswick

The idea of breaking out and ‘getting away from it all’ is perennially attractive. Nothing is more liberating and enlivening - for a while. Coleridge had always been a natural escaper. As a child he escaped into books and solitary reveries. When he ran into trouble at Cambridge he bolted to enlist as a trooper in a cavalry regiment. As a husband, even in the first happy years of the marriage, he was rarely at home at times of crisis. He could always find reasons for his derelictions, but the pattern was repeated too often for them to carry conviction.

In the summer of 1802 he certainly had much to want to escape from, and for the nine days of his walk he escaped completely. He was never many miles from home but he was, in effect, in a different world. The delight, the exultation of this shines through his writing. It made a marvellous break for him,stimulating and fascinating and exciting, perhaps the last time in his life when the whole of his being - mind and body, heart and soul and will - were working harmoniously and vigorously together, at full stretch.

Alan Hankinson 1993.

From-Coleridge Walks the Fells-A Lakeland Journey retraced.

Mapping the Lakes/Gray and Coleridge.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Fast and Free-Pete Livesey....Review.

Pete Livesey on Wellington Crack-E4: Original Photo John Cleare-Mountain Camera Picture Library.

When I started climbing in earnest in about 1987, two names immediately sprang out of the new culture I was immersing myself in. Ron Fawcett and Pete Livesey. Sure other names peppered the rock notes in the climbing magazines...Moffatt, Moon, Dawes, Redhead et al...but despite the latter names being well on their way to legendary status themselves, Fawcett and Livesey were the real  Big Time Charlies. As something of a rock innocent in those days, I was not aware that Livesey had actually quit climbing some years before and was now heavily into orienteering. I also had no idea that he had once been a top drawer paddler-GB Olympic selectors had pencilled him in the GB Slalom Olympic Team- a leading caver and champion fell runner.

All I knew back in those early days was that he had an extremely entertaining column in Climber & Rambler magazine so I guessed  that he must still in the business of  putting up classic routes like Footless Crow, Das Capital and Mossdale Trip. In fact, hadn’t I just watched him climb Footless Crow with Chris Bonington in the Lakeland Rock series? It all seemed perfectly natural; Pete was still an active top rock athlete...wasn’t he?

With the publication of John Sheard and Mark Radtke’s ‘Fast and Free...Pete Livesey’ (Stories of a rock-climbing legend) those early misconceptions are answered and put into perspective. The complex ebullient Yorkshireman is revealed in his ragged glory. Fanatical, laid back, devious, accommodating, selfish, generous.  A  mish-mash of contradictions who nevertheless,was at heart a true climbing romantic who was drawn from the same traditional mould as a Kirkus, Edwards, Brown or Whillans. It is this ethical approach to climbing which makes his achievements all the more remarkable in light of the technicality of the routes he was putting up in his pomp. This statement will raise some eyebrows given his reputation for ofttimes cutting corners when prepping a new route or occasionally being less than pure in his style. However,many of these accusations it appears, were without foundation and emanate from figures in the climbing world who had an axe to grind with Livesey. The occasional ethical lapse notwithstanding,Livesey remains still a much more interesting individual than some of our modern day climbing  automatons who are high on ability and low on personality!

It is these contradictory elements of his character and that mischievous element which continues to attract people to the Livesey myth and which underpins the fascinating collection of essays within the book.  ‘Fast and Free’ might at first glance appear a Pete Livesey biography. It isn’t. What it is,is a well conceived and skillfully assembled collection of essays and articles relating to the man. Some of these pieces were written by Livesey himself and includes classic essays  like Travels with a Donkey, Jonathan Livingstone Steelfingers and the ‘I feel rock’ articles which appeared in magazines like Crags back in the seventies. The majority however, are written by Pete’s closest friends, partners and climbing associates.

Geoff Birtles rear cover pic of Livesey soloing New Diversions, Yosemite 1976.

Whereas a conventional biography generally dissects it’s subject from cradle to grave-or if you are a modern celebrity, from cradle to early 20’s!- Fast and Free is purely concerned with Livesey the athlete. Essentially the rock athlete although his activity in other areas, particularly caving gets a mention. This leaves the field open to anyone who might feel motivated to write the definitive PL biography in the future, but until then, Fast and Free more than fulfils the authors ambition to bring Livesey, the mythical Rock God into sharp focus.

One thing which struck me from those early Climber and Rambler articles, was the fact that Pete was a fine natural writer. Not inclined towards dense philosophical ramblings or purple prose, Pete told it as it was, but more than often, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. One C&R article which springs to mind, pondered whether or not, fist jamming up a gritstone crack, you could become HIV positive if a previous ascendant was HIV themselves? The theory being of course, the climber would have deposited skin in the crack and the rasping  qualities of the rock could leave those following vulnerable. I’m sure climbing’s PC elements must have grimaced at these ponderings and I still don’t know whether he was being serious or if it was an early attempt at what we know today as trolling? Whatever it was, I found this and other similarly surreal articles a lot more entertaining than the often turgid writing on offer in the climbing mags in those days. Livesey’s  Climber & Rambler column continued into the 90’s . Long after he had hung up his chalk bag and dug out his running shoes.

The reasons Pete Livesey suddenly gave up climbing when at the top of his game, has produced various theories. A popular take has been ‘the ego theory’. As a hugely competitive individual who was driven to excel in all fields, the 37 year old rock athlete could not stand the thought of a new hungry generation of climbers elbowing him aside in the eternal pursuit of the cutting edge route. Not one to contemplate a gradual readjustment to a new order where he was no longer ‘the Guvnor’, he exited stage left. Another popular theory is that he was simply bored...  been there, done that and bought the T shirt. It’s left to his long time climbing partner and Fast and Free co-author, John Sheard to explain the truth of the matter. And the truth is-as it usually is-somewhere between the two theories.

In addition, John Sheard offers Livesey’s increasing disillusionment with the trend towards bolted sports climbing as an additional concern. As a committed free climber who apart from establishing cutting edge routes, liked nothing more than freeing bolted climbs, it must have been jarring to see climbers like Ben Moon put up the provocatively named bolted route, ‘Statement of Youth’ on Pen Trywyn in North Wales. In fact, co-author Mark Radtke mentions a conversation he had with Livesey in his cafe in a closing chapter- ‘Legacy of a Leader’. Livesey still with a proprietorial interest in climbing ethics grumbled ‘Personally, I don’t see how a seventy foot climb with seven bolts in it can be E7!’.

It was clear that as far as Livesey was concerned, the game was up. Time to move on and take up a new outdoor activity. In this case, orienteering. Before he hung up his rock boots he offered this valedictory message which ended...

Sport climbing is simply mastering moves. I haven’t the remotest inclination to join this band of climbers nor have I anything against what they are doing.The BMC has made two big mistakes. Firstly, getting involved with access, and increasingly playing the role of policeman. Competition is the second. The BMC should take the position that mountaineering is what they are about, and have nothing to do with sports climbing. Other problems are on the horizon with access and professionalism. Anyway....I don’t care-bye!’.

Pete Livesey died in 1998 aged just 54. It’s incredible to mere mortals like myself, to think that Pete Livesey, the super-fit rock athlete who, on the face of it, was a picture of health, should succumb to a ‘nasty little tumour’. If he was still alive today he would be 70. An age when those who have spent a lifetime involved in outdoor activities and who have come through unscathed by accident or disease, are often still pounding the mountain tracks, breaching the waves or clinging to rock faces. It’s interesting to ponder just what Pete Livesey might have turned to in his eighth decade? Sailing, Paragliding, Sea Kayaking??? Whatever it might have been, you just know he would have blown his fellow veterans out of the water!

Fast and Free-Compiled and Produced by John Sheard and Mark Radtke . Writers include, Ron Fawcett, Geoff Birtles, Tom Price, Denis Grey and Andy Cave amongst many others. Available from...Cordee Publishing.

John Appleby:2014

Friday, 2 May 2014

In Praise of Cheating

Though play as such is outside the range of good and bad, the element of tension imparts to it a certain ethical value in so far as it means a testing of the player's prowess: his courage, tenacity, resources, and, last but not least, his spiritual powers - his ‘fairness’; because, despite his ardent desire to win, he must still stick to the rules of the game.The player who trespasses against the rules or ignores them is a ’spoilsport'. The spoilsport is not the same as the false player, the cheat; for the latter pretends to be playing the game and, on the face of it, still acknowledges the magic circle. It is curious to note how much more lenient society is to the cheat than to the spoilsport. This is because the spoilsport shatters the play-world itself. By withdrawing from the game he reveals there relativity and fragility of the play-world in which he had temporarily shut himself with others."

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens

Over the past few years monologues and dialogues on what have come to be called climbing ethics have become a regular feature of climbers’ magazines. Tejada-Flores and Robbins have presented intriguing and comprehensive descriptions of how the ethical machinery works or ought  to work, and recently Robin Campbell has offered a shorter decalogue. To be sure, Campbell and others have mentioned their discomfort at talking about ethics in this respect - as if climbing had dilemmas as weighty as those of the medical and legal professions. Recall, though, that in a famous essay on conservation written no less than forty years ago Aldo Leopold urged a further extension of ethical concepts: ethics dealt with property and people at first, he said; but ethics ought to consider unimproved land and the life-forms it supports. Clearly there is a sense in which many young climbers agree with him and want to go a step further by protecting the inanimate world of rock.

Ought one to apologise for adding to this literature? If so, I offer two apologies, alternatives if you like. First, climbing and mountaineering have been great fun and very satisfying. But the threats from technology and population pressure in the past are nothing to the threats looming in the immediate future. I find myself reluctant to agree with David Roberts that the sport is probably doomed and may already be in its last throes. But I am sure that if we want to enjoy these pastimes in roughly the same sorts of ways as in the past, it would be wise to ascertain whether and how we ought to protect them. Second, at some time or other I have flouted almost every rule within an English climber’s reach. And yet, in the very act of committing each misdemeanour, an utterly plausible excuse has been taking shape in my mind. So perhaps I write with unusual  authority and have important new material to contribute?

lt makes sense to begin by scanning the entire field of unethical behaviour on mountains, using ‘unethical’ in our contemporary sense. Some readers may be upset at the inclusion of certain items in this list but all these practices have been complained of by someone at some time. It might be worth adding that less heinous offences, best referred to as breaches of "climbing manners", can also be identified; some of the prototypes of these peccadilloes were excellently dealt with by Winthrop Young in Mountain Craft and more modern forms can be extrapolated. So we begin, obviously, with the use of a power drill to get up a mountain and of a helicopter to get down; with the use of light aeroplanes to look for or at prospective routes; with the use of helicopters, aeroplanes, skidoos, jeeps,scramble bikes and so on, to get men or material nearer to the climb than other or earlier visitors.Next we have the use of pegs, bolts, nuts and slings to allow one to stand or hang in comfort where might otherwise be difficult or impossible; and the abandoning of this or other material on the mountain.

Then there is the whittling away of climbs from below by the use of siege tactics; and the softening-up of climbs from above by inspection or rehearsal by rappel or top-rope and by the placing of useful or displacing of unhelpful material. Here we might add the dissemination of detailed information about the mountain and its climbs in the form of guidebooks,magazine articles, route descriptions, photos and topos. And then comes the guiding on mountain excursions of people who want to go that way but daren’t go there on their own; or of those who might just drift there by chance but who don't understand what the mountain is for; or of people who don't admire the mountain and are scared stiff anyway.All sorts of other complaints have been lodged about the presence on mountains of people with uniforms, or with badges and certificates to prove it; about the building of shelters and refuges; about the overdevelopment of rescue facilities; about the use of rock shoes on easy climbs, and so on. But that will do for a start.

Now it is clear to me that matters of right and wrong in climbing involve actions with effects of two quite different categories. First, they involve actions detrimental to the scene in its widest sense: conservation ethics, called here environment ethics. Second, they involve actions that threaten the accepted styles of climbing : game ethics, is called here competition ethics to emphasise the dominant aspect of their nature. Some activities certainly lead to both sorts of damage but it remains possible and important to separate the categories and effects.We can list the main offences against environment ethics briefly. First, there is damage to the biological life-bank of the cliff or mountain, its plants and bird or animal life, Second, there is damage to the rock itself, considered as something natural and admirable rather than as a climbing problem that might need re-grading after rough treatment.Third, there are the litter nuisances: bog paper on every ledge and bolts in every wall. And, fourth, there is the erosion of the absolute mystery, dignity and privacy of the mountain and the contamination of the local or native culture the mountain stands behind and is coloured by.

Royal Robbins...ethical dude.

There are other problems as well. But in summary these are the sorts of complaints that might be made by non-climbers who love the mountain in an entirely platonic sense. The general type of offence is disturbance. One could say a lot about these matters and if it were claimed that they are outside the scope of climbing ethics the reply is, no, absolutely not, the two areas are inseparable in many instances. But it is true that the most heated arguments at present are about the ways in which climbs are carried out. Competition ethics are based upon a number of factors or desiderata. There is the need to exert oneself; there is the need to scare oneself; there is the need to excel; and there is the example of archetypal climbs.

 Beyond this, competition ethics respond to change: advances in techniques; advances in technology; increases in wealth and leisure; and the effects of population pressures. ln mentioning the more important of these factors, Tejada-Flores’ indispensable description of 'climbing-games' has to be used as a model yet again. One assumes that the reader is familiar with his terminology and ideas and I use these freely here, without keeping bowing to the inventor. One notes that he remarks that the climbing-game hierarchy isn't the only way of thinking about climbing and no doubt he went through a number of alternatives. But an obvious way of describing breaches of competition ethics is by saying that they amount to the use of a handicap-system to assist the climber rather than to defend the climb. The subversive purpose of this essay is to ask how much competition ethics matter; but the question will have to wait a moment.

Having listed offenses against environment ethics we can now look at the flouting of competition ethics. And here the cardinal sin is simply the use of too much advantage, especially in support of a pre-emptive strike. To this we can add the leaving of aid in place, a temptation to subsequent parties. Over the past few years remarks about the use of excessive protection have also been voiced from time to time. And then there is the creation of a variation or traverse which, whilst giving a new climb, detracts from the ambience of an existing line, a question of manners possibly. But the general type of offence is that of reducing the personal handicap in relation to other climbers likely to attempt the same route. It was remarked earlier that some activities offend both ethics and some only one or the other. So, for example, a pure bolt ascent might be held to flout environment ethics (by leaving litter on the wall) and to flout competition ethics(by eliminating the personal handicap). Gardening, on the other hand, violates environment ethics but ratifies competition ethics because it leaves the climb in a more permanent condition; whilst rehearsal by top-rope may be held to offend competition ethics but does not threatenenvironment ethics in the least.

Excursus on sentiment. The great climbs can stand anancient victory piton and the odd retreat pegs; even, perhaps, extended peg and bolt ladders in certain situations depending mainly, rightly or wrongly, on how much anxiety the situation arouses in the average climber undertaking the route. Climbing is an art-form, engaging our feelings; and these mementoes, speaking of the struggles of our predecessors. of success and failure, arouse emotions in us. Even litter, then, may add to the impact of a climb. So here is the related crunch question for frustrated ethicists. Does an unrecorded bolt ascent of an otherwise unvisited wall breach environment ethics ? Or competition ethics Or both? Or neither?

Another general observation on breaches of ethics centres of the relative permanence of the effect. l began by mentioning the use of a power drill to get up a mountain and of a helicopter to get down. Each of these bits of assistance‘ constitutes a total breach of both ethics. But note that the bolting is a relatively irreversible gesture against both ethics: the use of the helicopter insults the environment ethic only until the echoes have died away; whilst it damages the competition ethic for as long as we say it does. Here's an odd difference then. Environment ethics can be breached temporarily, with perfect repair, or permanently and irreparably, or something in between. But how competition ethics are breached depends purely on what we say about the matter. And we are influenced by factors that tend to make us change our minds and construct new rules. One can observe the rules, or one can pretend to observe them, or one can ignore them. And it is those who assume the last two roles who interest me now: the cheat and the spoilsport.

ln climbing, a spoilsport is something more than just a climber who takes an advantage one had not thought of oneself. A spoilsport might be described as a cheat who admits, announces or boasts of his cheating; or, retrospectively, a cheat who gets found out. But, to confuse matters, British climbers use the expression ‘cheating’ in two ways. First, we joke that we are cheating when we use more assistance than is usual; but by this self-accusation we resign from the contest and clear ourselves. Second, we cheat when we don't tell the truth about the aid we've used. The opportunities for this on smaller crags have become less with population pressure. But even on British cliffs there can be few leading climbers who have never found themselves with a foot ‘caught in a sling’, whilst gardening holds. And if any essential aid has been admitted to, dispensable aid is less likely to be recorded. Something can be said in support of both cheat and spoilsport. In defence of the cheat it has to be said that, in contrast to the disturbing practices mentioned earlier, cheating stands alone; it does not really threaten the game of climbing.

Hence the title of this article. In defence of the spoilsport one can say what Durkheim said of other criminals. That his existence is inevitable because he is the agent used to clarify and define the edges of permissible behaviour. Perhaps both cheat and spoilsport might be regarded as the guerillas of the mountaineering world, sabotaging the ethics machine when its workings are causing absurd or undesirable effects. So here's a health to Keith McCallum. Half cheat, half spoilsport, ably seconded by his three fantasised companions (how real and individual were their personalities to him Who was the best of the three? Where did J. S. Martin spend his August holiday in 1967 ?) he blazed his way to glory through fifty dream climbs. One has to give credit where it is due. In The Decay of Lying, Wilde speculates on the character of the true liar - "his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility” - and defines the really breathtaking lie: "Simply that which is its own evidence".The genius of McCallum was of a very unusual, very broad and visionary nature, easily damaged by the cynicism of the a world.

He was able not only to look at cliffs and write up fairly plausible descriptions of impressive lines: but he was also willing and happy to attend climbing club dinners as guest of honour and to make long and stupefying boring speeches about his latest achievements and the state of the campaign. There's conviction for you l One hopes that he has not been too distressed at the response the uncovering of his initiatives drew. It would be nice to think that he might one day return to the climbing scene with new ideas. I will assume now that most of us agree that breaches of environment ethics are matters worth serious thought, even if some alleged abuses need to be looked at rather sceptically. But these are not the main subject of this article so only one question now remains: do competition ethics matter? There are certainly points to be made for and against  them.

Clearly, competition ethics are essential for competitors. They enable them to sort themselves out and to get into order of size, this operation giving great happiness, anguish and excitement. Further, it is surely the case that the better one climbs a route, the closer to the archetypal style, the more pleasure one gets. For the most brilliant climbers, ethical climbing is the only means by which a high enough level of tension can be achieved and that goal becomes more elusive as technique and technology progress. Finally, ethical climbing ensures that some problems are left unsolved; and apart from the fact that this conserves a field of action for the experts of tomorrow it is also claimed that there is an intrinsic virtue in modesty and self-denial.

What, then, can be said against competition ethics? First, that they should only apply to competitors. Might it not seem reasonable for a man to ask to compete, not with other climbers - the collateral competition - but only with the route and his own limits - the vertical competition: and therefore to use whatever assistance he feels to be necessary ? This seems fair enough to me. The joy of climbing includes elements other than the pleasure of excelling, including, as claimed already, the catharsis of exertion and fear; and that satisfaction is quite independent of one’s performance as compared with the standards agree by groups.

lt might be said that unethical climbing is simply a means of avoiding any such catharsis, but this is usually true only for the scornful bystander in a particular situation; the unethical climber is probably finding his unethical solution amply exciting. The excellence of climbs, given a certain length of route, also depends more upon such aesthetic factors as beauty ofmposition, rock architecture, setting and view, than upon the actual method of achieving the hardest move: and on a fairly long route the experience is not much affected whether the crux has been climbed by layback, by jamming, or by standing in a nut sling. So that 60-year-olds, I think, ought to insist upon their right to nut the crucial sections of routes climbed free by 30-year-olds. The fact that this right is derided in Britain at present is lamentable. We have reached the point at which sensitive climbers are having to spend their holidays in Patagonia, where the wind is too loud to permit prolonged discussions on ethics.

But now, unhappily, I reach the problem on which the theorists break themselves: that posed by climbers who, in using extensive aid, reject the competition ethic (since they're achieving a high enough level of tension as it is) but who record their claims to first ascents. Is the First Ascents List a competition ? Does it pre-suppose adherence to the competition ethic of a particular time and place? Or is it no more than it calls itself, a historical record ? At this point I find myself in a bit of a fix. I cannot help commenting here on how irresistible the sexual metaphor appears to be. Don't rape the mountains, says Campbell; leave a few monuments to Virginity, says Robbins. It is a commonly held opinion nowadays that a false value has often been placed upon virginity; and many readers, no doubt, share Dr. Comfort's view that chastity is no more a virtue than malnutrition. Perhaps, then, the metaphor is misleading And yet, in mountaineering the image of the undespoiled seems to remain central and essential. Even those who imply that too much is made of this legend of purity seem, by the very act of recording their unethical ascents, to shake their own case. (Curious, too, to note how many climbers have put on record the fact that they've made new routes without recording them.) From this point several trains of thought depart and it's not possible to catch all of them at once. So I content myself with saying that metaphors of violation ought to be scrutinised carefully. In fact, I suspect that some interesting understandings of the nature of the wilderness experience might result.

My own predilection, and my practice, is for doing new routes as best one can; and, despite my title, for being reasonably honest about the methods used. It doesn't  perturb me in the least if someone has made a new route by using more aid than I find to be necessary on my subsequent ascent. If someone repeats my own climb with less difficulty, I'm suitably impressed; with more, and I'm childishly delighted. I think I know who made the first ascents of the Mont Aiguille, the Devil's Tower, Lost Arrow and whatever, and I know how they succeeded. In a strange way the histories of climbs made outside the competition ethic are often as interesting as those of climbs made within it. So I think that the moderate climber ought to reject the spectatorial role the é/ite have assigned to him.If I find a desperate crack, accessible to me with two or three nuts and slings, I'm not going to watch it for years until someone arrives who can finger up it. His aching fingers will be his eventual reward as my dry throat was mine. His ethical ascent can be used to underline the advance of the generations or simply my lack of skill.

But note that it might also be necessary to record the weather and perhaps other variables; unless it is proposed to forbid the use of aid (or top-roping or gardening en rappel) on new routes except in fine weather. Clearly, the freeing of hard British rock-climbs is basically a fine-weather sport for gentlemen of leisure who can wait for perfect conditions; whilst British rock-climbing itself is (surely?) an alI-weather sport. (I must add here, in relation to the use of aid, that the problems of speed and manners are often present. The objection to the use of siege tactics surely stems in part from a response to the arrogance of blocking and claiming a route in an area In which there is a population pressure problem. And when I encourage old men and poor performers to use aid on difficult routes, I beg them to consider whether they have a right to hold up a queue of climbers who are genuinely longing to ascend that particular climb.

This article has changed shape a dozen times since first I sketched it out. I had a hundred dazzling insights, which I could not accommodate at this length, and. I met a hundred baffling problems, which I could only evade or ignore. The general field of environment ethics, the critical problem of people pollution, the intriguing area of the influence of archetypes. and the matter of orders of preference in the use of advantage. nave had to be passed by. The basic structure of the article to me to be a reasonable way of looking; at the practices of climbers. But now I begin to notice a suspicious resemblance  between the different pronouncements on the subject. each having a catch clause at the end.

Tejada-Flores’ hierarchy of climbing-games allows an ultimate judgement from the concept of good and bad style. Robbins proposes a revolutionary First Ascent Principle and his benevolent ethic allows the moderate climber to have as much fun as he likes; but then he announces a class of actions called Outrages and these cannot be permitted. Campbell outlines three restricted Categorical Imperatives and then comes up with a fourth, Love the Mountain, which can be used to deal with any abuses he may notice. Some readers may think my own suggestions disgustingly permissive; they have probably forgotten my Environment Ethic, which enables me to forbid anything that makes a mark or a noise. Perhaps, from the beginning, I ought to have distinguished more rigorously between clean aid and dirty aid, nut and piton, as the Americans keep doing. At any rate, I write in the certain knowledge that people will let me know where I went wrong.

In the end, especially for those who climb in public, it's a dialogue. It's a good thing that a climber should recognise his capabilities. He should see the world as it is and understand, if he doesn't already, that he may not be the best performer in the game. And it's a good thing also, provided that the environment ethic isn't brutally offended, that a climber should feel free to do his own thing and to reject the rules of others. I take J. E. B. Wright's account of an incident during the German attempt in 1936 on Lliwedd’s then unclimbed Central Gully Direct as a model for this dialogue: Stoeppler had been warned about the Welsh weather and he had a tube fitted to his Bergen Sack which took an umbrella. He was leading with the umbrella open keeping off the rain. Teufel was leading me up Reade’s Crack. Along came five climbers. As they arrived at the foot of Central Gully, bang, bang, went Stoeppler's hammer. The spokesman of the five shouted, "What do you think you're doing?" Bang, bang, went the hammer. This question was addressed several times, in a rising crescendo, to Stoeppler and Schneider, neither of whom could speak English. The banging and shouting went on alternately. Finally Stoeppler said to Schneider in German, "if he shouts again, throw a rock at him."

The stone was not thrown but the banging went on and the party of five continued on their way.’ There are some extraordinarily puzzling questions in the field of climbing ethics and it's rather amusing to see the young philistines torturing themselves with new forms of the sorts of conundrums that have teased philosophers for centuries.But if matters of environmental damage aren't involved perhaps the really crucifying dilemmas are for very small groups of people - the freakishly talented, the disgustingly rich, and the clinically disturbed: but not for you and me.

Harold Drasdo: First Published in Mountain 39