Cioch Climbing Club

These days when they mention me as Little Geoff, they often add with nostalgic facetiousness: ‘Ha! When Geoff was two foot six.’ I got away lightly.  Dave Nowill was Barn Owl, John Atkinson, Ackers, Paul Burnett, Bruno etc. Other activities involved Broddling Sticks which were long thin branches used to poke at the backside of anybody setting off up a climb. Chasing Jackson round waving ivy, to which he was allergic, seemed like fun to us and, on one occasion, Jack was wearing a rather nice long sleeved V neck black mohair jumper when Nowill noticed that the stitching was just starting to come undone at the V which he grabbed and pulled, ripping the jumper right down the middle at which everybody else joined in and ripped the sleeves off  and the rest of the jumper which was then tied into head bands for childish cowboy and indian games. To Jack’s credit he stood there quite calmly and let it all happen around him. It was very immature but we thought it was funny at the time.

Artificial climbing was very much an accepted activity then, not just on limestone but on the gritstone quarries such as Millstone and Lawrencefield. It was a way to keep active during winter and to practise for the Dolomites, where aid climbing was not only de rigeur common but coming into vogue and as our ambitions lay further afield, it was seen as some form of Alpine practise. We made wooden wedges from beech because of its very fine grain. A hole drilled close to the end of long grain timber would not have held the 5mm pinkle-line loop through which it was threaded. Wedges were never really trusted but they were all we had for wide cracks. Then we would make our own etriers either with wooden or alloy rungs, and usually about three rungs each, again made into a rope ladder with pinkle-line. Whilst this form of climbing has always been looked down on from free climbing, it did have its own skills and dangers and was painful and hard work. The routine was to have three etriers, two of which to either stand on or sit in, depending on the steepness of rock, and having placed another peg and attached the third etrier, you then had to make the transfer across, often assisted by a tight rope. This transfer was the apprehensive bit where you would find out if the new peg would hold or fall out. The second’s duty was to sit at the bottom for hours in a duvet freezing and then, in that immobile state, second the climb removing the pitons in order to make the leader look magnificent. It was a lousy job.

Nevertheless, it did have its highlights as club hero John ‘Ackers’56 Atkinson displayed on Windy Buttress with Chris Jackson as accomplice. Ackers became the first of us to reach the cave on Scoop Wall, a climb first made by Roy Leeming in 1955. Chris recorded the momentous day as follows:


It began one night in the Grouse Inn
The Cioch was supping in force
The beer was talking freely
about routes for the next day of course
When a handsome bastard called Ackers
did declare to the wonder of all
that he and his valiant second
would dash off a route called, Scoop Wall
So they drank to the notion so worthy
and they drank to it time and again
then next morning in bed, whilst clutching his head
he recalled that proposal so vain
He tried to make out he was dying
that the rock was crumbling to bits
but, his second so brave said ‘Shut up and behave’
and dragged Ackers off by his tits
So he stood there in all of his glory
hung in pitons and wedges and chocks
and hammers and slings and other quaint things,
he’d even got pegs down his socks
With the air of a confident tiger
he knocked the first peg in the crack
Amidst Cioch Club cheers
and his darling wife’s tears
he stepped up and fell flat on his back
So he lay for a while staring skywards
with expressions of terrible pain
for that ‘trey’ in his haste
had been clipped to his waist
so he stood up and tried once again
Then midst cheers from frenzied spectators
he started to climb once again
To his second’s surprise, he started to rise
like a fart in a barrel of rain
The pitons sang in by the dozen
His hammer got too hot to hold
As he swept round the roof
with a gaze quite aloof
from the rest of the cowering fold
He danced to the stance like a fairy
and pulled in the ropes with such ease
that his second, a tiger, who’d been up the Eiger
fell to the ground on his knees
Between screams of ‘tension’ and ‘watch me’
he fought his way up to the stance
but to his dismay, Ackers pointed ‘that way’
then he summed it all up in a glance
‘Nobody told me’ he shouted
‘No one said owt’ he pleads
The lad he was scared, when his master declared
‘We have to do alternate leads’
So he banged in a piton above him

On the lip of an almighty roof
With a flick of his toes, and using his nose
he manteled and muttered ‘Forsooth’
Now Ackers he viewed in amazement
at the move as he sat there in grief
and whilst he did cower,
the lad lassoed a flower
and made a belay on a leaf
‘Get to the top or I’m done for’
Our Ackers did cry with alarm
But with pitons too grotty
and rock that was totty
the lad feared he would do himself harm
But he’d try so he slotted a micro
behind a crumbling block
Then he pendulumed left
In a manner so deft
and pulled himself up on a chock
Then a pile of poised choss did confront him
and the poor lad gave up all hope
So he yelled o’er his back
for that muscle man Jack
to lower him down a top rope
At the sound of his name then our hero
did spring round the crag with a line
As quick as a chop he was stood at the top
and belayed himself to a vine
Then, as easy as draining a tankard
he pulled on the rope with such might
that our lad he did rise, way into the skies
and thought he had taken to flight
Then Jack with the roar like a camel
shouted for Ackers to climb
but his face it was green
like a French runner bean
or a sea wall that’s covered in slime
‘Lower me off’ came the answer
‘Lower me down or I’m dead’
In amazement our Jack
gave him ten foot of slack
‘fore realising what he had said
And so, amidst hoots of derision
young Ackers was swung to the deck
then, on running round
all that could be found
was a quivering, shivering wreck
Now the moral of this Cioch Club epic
is, take care on the previous night
so when morning is clear and you’re not full of beer
you’ll not drop yourself in the …..
by Chris Jackson (who was the other climber)

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