It is said that men do not mature as quickly as women, and this is probably true. When I started researching my files for material for these posts I started to relive many of my adventures, and the fact that I would like to experience them again, even at my present age, probably means that my mother would not be overly impressed with the progress of my maturity to date.
In the 1970s my friend Allen and I were single men with a desire for adventure. (Please see: https://stewartgoeswalkies.com/2021/03/19/camping-and-climbing-at-the-shek-o-sea-cliffs-snakeheads-and-cheap-wine/ and https://stewartgoeswalkies.com/2021/03/12/kowloon-peak-howling-winds-and-condensed-milk-camping-and-climbing-with-allen/). Almost every weekend we would meet on a Sunday morning and head towards the climbing crags on Kowloon Peak or, on a Saturday, after work, for a camping trip, usually with a climb involved.
As far as rock climbing was concerned, Black’s Link was a fall back (no pun intended), because it was easy to get to, and you didn’t have to trek half way up the side of a mountain to get to the foot of the climb. There was the added benefit of convenient parking and in those days I was able to borrow my Dad’s car.
In the 70s there were only two main climbing areas on Black’s Link. There was the main route up the central face which you started from the road. I still recall the proud smugness as we kitted up in our Whillans Sit Harnesses and laid out our gear and climbing ropes to the awe of the onlookers, many of whom were starry-eyed children.
Then there was a brief scramble through the bushes to get to the first pitch which was a layback.
A layback is where you have a corner with a crack close in. The technique is to place your feet on the wall in front of you and your fingers inside the crack. By pushing off with your feet, and pulling on your arms you can ‘walk’ up the wall. Not being a very muscular person this was never my favourite move. Especially when I had to lead the pitch.
Fortunately, the first pitch was not very long. The following pitches went up the rock face to the ridge line. They consisted of friction climbing on slabs with several loose boulders.
I have lost count of the number of times I have done this route, but on one special occasion, Allen and I donned headlamps and did it after work one evening. On another, I even did it solo.
Then it was December, 1980 and I was looking forward to my 28th birthday a few days later. What better way to celebrate the event than by spending it with my good friend, Allen, on the Main Buttress of Black’s Link.
I had long been fascinated by the thought of completing an aid climb across the ceiling of the overhang and Allen was all for it.
We were well equipped for the climb and even took a camping stove and snacks so we could enjoy a ‘brew’ before the climb. Allen also surprised me with a birthday cake and a candle and sang Happy Birthday to celebrate the event.
Refreshed, we (I) had no excuse to delay any longer. With Allen belaying me, I placed anchors in the crack running along the ceiling of the overhang and with the help of my etriers made my way outwards. Etriers are ‘ladders’ made out of either rope or webbing tape which allow the climber to either rest or move up to a higher location.
I made fairly swift progress along the overhang. The problems began when I tried to move out into the sunlight and up the rock face above us. Apart from a crack about three feet in height, the face above that was blank. It was a dead end! At least for me.
I made my way back to the belay ledge and switched positions with Allen so that he could have a look. Moving cautiously and with his usual skill and patience, Allen completed the climb, ascending the almost featureless slab and belaying at the top. It was then my turn to follow him and as I moved along the overhang I removed the anchors.
Then we had a problem. A combination of the heat and exhaustion left me unable to complete the face. Allen had to lower me into the bushes below the Buttress and I had to scramble back up to the belay point.
By now it was getting dark. I had retrieved all of my gear but Allen still had some runners on the rock face and it was too late to retrieve them.
(Allen returned by himself the following Thursday evening with his head torch to do so. He told me later that he was afraid someone would see his torch from a distance and contact rescue services).
Back at the belay we cleaned up after ourselves and made our way back to the car. I don’t recall what we did with the rest of the evening but it almost certainly entailed having a few beers somewhere. It may have been the day we did the horizontal traverse of the Police Recreation Club Bowling Green Lawn…but that’s another story.
I hope you enjoyed this post about climbing in the 70s and early 80s. If you did please leave a comment and a like