I. Medusa

Len Millsom (John Ackers Atkinson)

The late Len Millsom was known affectionately as Legger and was Sheffield’s answer to Joe Brown, of similar build with an exceptional technique often in bendy boots. He was notably a gritstone climber and only left one new route at Stoney but it was one of the best of its time. In a letter to me on Parnassus Mountaineering Club note paper he describes the climb.

Early in 1963, Ted Howard and Barry Pedlar, escaped a wedding reception and made off to Stoney where Howard led the second ascent of Medusa.

The fall of ’63

In December of that year, I was keen to make the third ascent of Medusa before my 17th birthday. Jack Street and Brian Moore held a rope apiece and I set off armed with a couple of slings and my first ever nut which was narrow and a bit over one inch wide; completely the opposite of what it should have been. First there was the tree that grew out of the crack at about one third height which was a good runner. Then at a horizontal break about two thirds height there was a good chockstone in place which looked pre-placed; another good runner. Then, in ignorance, I placed the nut end-on with the rope biting the crack either side and continued to the top where a bit of rock carries on offering a good jug which has since fallen off. I pulled myself up on that with my left foot now on the top of the crag at which point my hands opened up due to cramp and as I fell backwards I pushed myself away from the crag as I had read I should. The nut came out, causing one of my belayers who had taken the weight to then fall over backwards but the chockstone held and by now I had crashed through the tree on the stretch of the rope which was tied round my waist and I stopped some 10 or 15 feet from the ground.

The bruising to my ribs was considerable. Jack made the third ascent the following week and I returned to make the fourth a week later, still aged 16.

Medusa
Medusa (Niall Grimes)

Medusa is the left hand of the twin cracks above which I had my foot on the top of the crag pulling up on a hold on the higher obvious block to the right. The tree used to grow out of the crack about a third of the way up. I stopped about 10ft off the ground. Brian Moore who was holding the rope on the runner that failed then fell backwards down the small bank.

© Geoff Birtles 2014


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