Eating a piece of The Cake of Mortality

A small epic in Swanage

Some of you may remember Andy Hemsted, a chap I met through UKC and who took my place on The 2006 Lundy trip. He is the current Newsletter Editor for his local club – The Cave and Crag – and he has told me of an occasional column they have which goes under the title of “The Cake of Mortality”.

It is based on the tenet that “to err is human” and that in doing so one tastes said delicacy.

In a recent edition a chap reports how he set out on a well-known walk in North Wales but when the weather turned a little nasty and he decided to head for home by a shorter route he discovered that the map he had packed was for the area just south of where he actually was. Oops. He told the tale with a wry smile of embarrassment knowing that though his local knowledge and compass-using skill had got him home safely it was a timely reminder to check and double check before setting out.

This is not a place to embarrass others but somewhere an errer can admit to, and mayhap laugh at, their own error allowing all to learn from it.

Recently I “enjoyed” a slice of said cake whilst climbing with Steve Culverhouse in Swanage.
Forgetting to take a rope down with me was just the start, and I think studying the guidebook and the route description with a bit more care before I set off may be on the cards.

As Steve has written about this so eloquently I’ll let him tell the tale.

“As the weather was set to continue fair after the September IMC weekend in Swanage Guy and I decided to stay on for an extra day and on Monday it was Boulder Ruckle again, but this time the Marmolata area. We eyed up The Tool (E2) as a potential ‘warm-up’ but in the end started on The Heidelberg Creature (VS 4c) – and if you thought I was sandbagging you on Batt Crack Ian, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

After battling The Heidelberg Creature the mojo was returning a little so we decided that it was time for The Tool. The plan was for Guy to lead the 5a first pitch and me to do the 5b second pitch. I abbed down first and things started badly when Guy appeared and promptly started holding his head in his hands and making D’oh noises – No rope! A quick glance at the guidebook put the pitches as 23m and 15m so we decided we could do it on a doubled single. So Guy set off on and took a cramped belay where the Rockfax topo showed, saying ‘this belay’s horrible’. I followed and managed to contort in next to Guy and swapped the gear and we looked up at the start of the top pitch. Just above our belay spot was a nice corner with good foot ledges so we decided to move the belay up a few feet so Guy could avoid a widow’s hunch. After sorting that out I set out again up the nice corner though we were both a bit confused by the guidebook which mentioned no corners but a ‘step left to a thin crack’. Ah well, the corner looked nice and was the obvious line (and there were no thin cracks off left) so I set off assuming that we had somehow got off route onto a VS. So up the corner to a small roof I went and then stopped – the roof looked hard and so did the face off to the left. Guy had obviously been attentively belaying for at this point a voice came up. ‘Are there some pegs there?’ – There were I replied. ‘Ah, well that’s the belay for Pitch 1 then ‘ I looked around to the left again and, sure enough, a thin crack. So I set up belay Number Three under the roof and brought Guy up again. At this point my motivation levels had dropped (the face looked rather hard and anyway I’d just led 2 pitches) so the gear was handed over to Guy who proceeded to power up the sustained 5b final pitch. We finished at 5.00pm in the end and made it back to Ipswich at 9.30…

Good old Swanage eh!”

Guy (aided and abetted by Steve Culverhouse)

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