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Heels 1970

Christmas In Wet Sleeping Bags

Christmas In Wet Sleeping Bags

I woke up at 1.30am to find Clive clinging tenaciously to a bent tent pole. A strong wind was shaking the tent and making it bellow out with each gust. Lightning flashed at regular intervals and thunder resonated on the neighbouring peaks. The rain was pounding down and we could tell the river was in flood by the boulders crashing down the rapids.

"Just great" I thought, "holding tent poles all night after a hard day's climbing. Dave, who was holding the other tent pole, was drifting off to sleep, so I kindly kicked him awake, which was just as well, because this time he had a good idea - "Tie ice axes to the poles".

The next morning it was raining steadily, and everybody's sleeping bags were wet in places. "I've heard these nor'west storms can last up to fourteen days", remarked optimist Dave Bamford.

After a midday breakfast had been demolished, the problem of filling in time became more pressing. Between us we had an excellent library - Brian's ever present "Time" magazine, a story of exploration in Greenland, and a book about Zen Buddhism, (given page 30to me for Christmas several days before). The Greenland epic was read in serial form with parts passing from hand to hand. Zen Buddhism was read with less enthusiasm, with Colonel being rather puzzled by several of the technical terms.

The second night and the second day both passed in an incessant drizzle. However, our miseries were rather inconsequential compared to one of the heroes in the Greenland epic - trapped in a hut by himself for the duration of the northern winter, with no heating and limited food supplies.

Still it rained - it was drumming on the tent as we went to sleep on the third night, but, lo and behold, we woke to brilliant sunshine and a veneer of powder snow the following morning.

The rain gauge at a hut on the West Coast side of the divide measured twenty-five inches for the sixty hours, and we had about as much in the Clyde judging by the overflowing billies outside the tent each morning.

Luckily, fine weather for the next ten days (including six days on the West Coast) meant that our library resources were never again put under such great stress.