Avalanche

Beneath the clouds the rocky cliff
Rose up a thousand feet at least
And seemed to dominate the vale
Like some enormous castle wall
By giants built to subjugate
All lesser races such as we.

The climb was classed as ‘very severe’
Far harder than I’d done before
But nonetheless the time had come
To kit ourselves with ropes and slings
With cramponed boots and carabiners
And all the tackle that climbers use.

The rock felt good both hard and sound
As reaching up I slowly groped
And found a lovely ‘jug’ to grasp.
No other thought had I beyond
Where next to place my hands and feet
No time for fear to take a hold.

At last I reached my fellow climber
And found myself an anchorage
My back to rock on a narrow ledge.
It was a shock to see below
Between my feet like tiny flies
A flock of jackdaws wheeling there
In miles and miles of empty air.

And on the snaking valley road
A car and bus in slow procession
Unreal they seemed, like children’s toys,
So far away they made no noise.
Alas I had forgot the rule
That tyro climbers don’t look down!

Exposure hit me like a fist.
The ledge now shrank to inches only
And all my limbs had turned to water.
I could not move or think at all
Stuck half-way up a vertical cliff
One step away from certain death.

How long the fit of panic lasted
I cannot say, it seemed an age
But very slowly strength returned
And by the time I had to start
My feet could move to face the rock,
My thoughts return to concentrate
Where next to place my hand and foot.

We carried on that afternoon
Up chimneys, overhangs and cracks
Until at last the final pitch
And then what joy to reach the summit.
This climb is known as ‘Avalanche’
It is the longest route in Wales.

All day we’d climbed without a rest
And lying on the springy turf
I realized I’d passed a test
And learnt something about myself
To help me fight the demon Fear.
Whenever now it shows its face
I simply murmur “Avalanche”.

by Pete Crowther

Comments (4)

Peter, I love your 'spell' to ward off demons of fear. An excellent poem of overcoming and going on. And I like the reference to giants in the first stanza. That's how I feel when I see some unbelievable nature's creations.
peter I have climbed many mountains and rocks in my life time, but I dont think I woud like to go through that. What a cliff hanger. great poem. I have written poem 'Call of the Mountain' read it some time cheers sylvia
This had me clinging on for dear life to the desk! I have a fear of heights and for a moment I was up there looking down below and frozen to the spok. Excellent!
This had me sitting on the edge of my seat...I have always wondered about rock climbing. Your poem gave me a good insight into it. Thanks. Philippa