A tribute to Martin Watton 1951 to 2023
WMC Chair 1977 & 1979
I think it was the end of winter in the late 70s Martin and I were on a
WMC meet in the Lake District. We walked up from Borrowdale to Central
Gully on Great End. There was a lot of snow about and a frost at the hut
when I got up that morning, so any snow higher up should be in reasonable
I don’t remember much about the walk-in, except that we almost certainly
used a lot of energy chatting, cos that’s what Martin and I did when we
were together but I do remember looking up the gully, there was plenty of
snow, well packed but getting a bit soft, is it safe?
Well everybody knows the snow gets better the higher up you go, so now
having convinced ourselves, we roped up and I led off.
It was very easy kicking fairly good safe steps up to the waterfall pitch
where I moved left and found a dodgy nut runner placement. I didn’t really
need a belay as my stance was very good and the climbing up to me was
very easy, but the next pitch past the waterfall was a different matter.
The snow, during the next 20 feet steepened up considerably and I would
have liked it better if it was a bit firmer. I looked around but could find
very little that would hold us both if I came off, and after probing around
in the soft snow I realised it could be a real possibility.
Then I spotted an excellent spike of rock just under the edge of the
waterfall! I reached in and put a long sling with a carabineer over the
spike, brilliant, solid as the proverbial rock!
I realised Martin would have to stand under the waterfall to belay me, but
that shouldn't be a problem as he had an excellent waterproof and with the
I brought Martin up to me…… I’m sorry but I am unable to repeat just
what he said when he saw the belay, and I’m not sure, that even your
imaginations can do it justice!!!
Well…. With much cursing and swearing Martin took his stance and
before starting to climb I glanced at his situation, to be fair the hood
seemed to be doing its job well so off I went. The climbing was very
insecure and I was quite glad I had found that spike. What I hadn't thought
about was the fact when a second is belaying, their arms tend to rise up
above their shoulders and the sleeves become an excellent receptive for all
the very cold water pouring off that part of the hill…….. And there was
lots of it!!
I had to shut my ears to the language coming up from below, but soon the
climbing got easier and I stormed up till the rope ran out, just below the
The cornice was no problem but Martin was very quiet as we shook hands
on the top, it wasn't till we were on the way down that he mentioned he
had on a pair of new, red, underpants and that the snow where he had been
standing had turned bright red. We both burst out laughing.
This was a story we would both remember for over 50 years, but for
Sorry Martin for leaving you under the waterfall. Good luck, you were a
great mate, and will be sadly missed by all that knew you.