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Climbing Central Gully on Great End

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

condition.


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

hood up…...


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

cornice.


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

different reasons.


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.


Pete Dutfield

June 2023

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1 Comment


Caz
Caz
Jul 23, 2023

Pete - how could you do that to the poor bloke - nearly gave him frostbite and pink pants!!

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