When cliffs below 100ft high were considered boulder problems – a letter from Edward Birch

Sept 1968, I think it was.

We were staying at Baudy Mawr (Rucksack Club hut) in the Pass, and the weather being bad, we opted for the Moelwyns.

Our intention was to have a go at Space Beneath My Feet. On arrival at the foot of the route I found it to be streaming with water and not at all in condition. I then looked around for possible alternatives. The green wall on the left was dry and though it overhung alarmingly I was informed by my climbing companion (the late Tony Brooder, a mine of information), that it was ONLY VS, and that it was a new route put up by a chap called McCallum, called Green Wall.

I started up a shallow groove in the middle of the wall and after twenty five feet or so got a runner on a good spike. I informed Tony that it seemed hard for VS and looked a lot steeper above. I climbed up the overhanging wall making for an obvious crack line which broke the skyline to the left of a bulge. By now I was begining to think I was really off form as I WAS FINDING IT HARD FOR VS. At the foot of the final crack I rested on a sling, aid I would call it, and eyed up the crack above me. It overhung alarmingly, one of the ropes below me hung well out from the foot of the crag. I fiddled in a small nut runner, no wires or Friends in those days, and told Tony to watch that bloody rope my language betraying the onset of desperation. I struggled up the crack over the lip and into the groove above and so to the top to meet Eddie Thurrell who had taken a picture.

Poor Tony was unable to follow the route so I had to abseil down to retrieve my runners. This was difficult I remember, because the ropes hung out a long way from the face.

Afterwards, back at the hut I remember discussing with the Black and Tan lads that there was no way that the route we had just done was a VS and that the route description in the CC new routes guide did not match our route of the day. Tony suggested that I should record the ascent in the Baudy Mawr log book, which I did giving it the fanciful name of Augura (portent to the future)

Subsequently after the McCallum Affair blew up I felt justified in recording it in the log book, after being somewhat reticent to do so at the time.

I never did anything about it post McCallum because I considered the route to be too short to be worth recording officially, little more than a boulder problem really. Jim Perrin did it in ’72 to claim the first ascent. Climbing really was a great adventure in those days before sophisticated protection, harnesses, and Friends. I am still proud to be called a Trad climber.

Best Wishes Edward Birch

PS. I believe they record routes of fifteen feet now, Just think,” I could have been famous.”

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