Steve Pardoe's Slack Page
Slack, Clogwyn Yr Oen, Moelwyns
10. June 2001

Marek P and I had been climbing as part of a "Youarsey" meeting with Tony B and Ant R, and had already completed Kirkus's Climb Direct (Severe) and a variant of Bent (V Diff), both 90 metre (300 foot) multi-pitch routes.

We were now part way up Slack, another four-pitch Severe. This page is based on my articles on the uk.rec.climbing newsgroup, which describes what happened next...

Steve reaching the "cave" belay on Kirkus's Climb Direct
Photo by Marek Piekarski
Follow his link to Clogwyn Yr Oen for more!

"Slack"? Not my sphincter, anyway

I was leading the second 80-foot pitch of Slack, aiming for what turned out to be the wrong "steep crack". I got further and further above my last "that'll do until I find a proper placement" gear, on steeper and steeper ground, and realised far too late that the crack was hopelessly blind, and I couldn't go up or down.

I was seriously run-out, and looking at a really nasty lob. Dangling on a finger-pocket, a toe pocket and a smear (admittedly with superb friction) I managed to get a wire in, and then delicately traversed left to teeter on a thin flake, where I could rest at last. Then I saw, just a few moves away, the nice big stance below the other "steep crack", where I should have been heading all along. Ho hum.

By now thoroughly shattered, mentally as well as physically, I got some good gear in (some of it so good that it's still there) and brought Marek up. He led through, making short work of the crack, and brought me up to his belay on the ledge above, below the overhangs, as per the guidebook.

Then it got difficult.

Swinging the lead through again, I crept along the off-balance ledge to have a look at the rib, which is nicely illustrated facing p336 of Paul Williams. "Climb the rib, crux, then move...". No way, no how. Just getting back to the stance and avoiding a pendulum was no fun, and, after what I'd just subjected him to, Marek didn't fancy it any more than I did. So what next? We knew that we could climb "Bent", next door, as we'd already done it, so the issue was whether we get across to it. We could see a terrace below us which offered a chance; then it became a matter of how much gear to sacrifice by abbing outta there.

There was a small flake within reach, but it sounded rather hollow, and we weren't convinced that a loaded sling wouldn't lever it off the mountain. Nuts in cracks seemed a better bet. As we discussed later (yes, there was a "later"), it's remarkable how you actually weigh up the cost of an odd extra nut and krab ("locking or plain? Let's go for locking") in the context of the anchors that will save or cost you your life. If any lucky climbers come across some nice free kit up there, that's the reason!

This was my first forced abseil retreat, and all I could think about was trying to avoid jerking the rope, and wondering whether the gear would stay in. The ab went OK, even though I'd forgotten to bring my Prussik loop to back it up (so much for the "above or below" debate!), and we stumbled along the heathery terrace to get back on Bent, witnessed by Tony from his comfy seat by the road. One easy pitch later, we were scrambling out of difficulties and back down to the base of the crag.

Epic or not, it was a grand day out, but I'm leaving Slack for braver souls.

A Cautionary Tale

Reading the text-books on this old rock-climbing lark, the advice seems quite consistent that you should clip your belay device, personal belays, backups and so on, into the bight of rope that you've tied into your harness loops (such as with a rethreaded figure of eight or a bowline) rather than into the harness's belay loop (my Petzl harness, like many, has horizontal sewn-on loops on the waist loop and between the leg loops, with a short sewn belay loop between these).

Fine, no problem with that.

Until I came to untie myself from the rope, prior to the forced abseil. Then, of course, my belay device, personal anchors, etc, were attached to, er, well, not me, anyway.

Just a thought, in case there's anyone out there who ever gets as tired, stupid, and careless as I did. Get yourself sorted before you untie that bight! Thanks to Marek for pointing it out, and for generally keeping me alive on the crag.


Here's another mini-epic from Tryfan in 1999
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Cheshire,   England
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