In Livesey’s Footsteps by Ian Cummins

Pay Sank: Ian, Simon (27th January 2008). 

The late, great Pete Livesey left a huge legacy for Britain’s rock climbers and such was his impact as a climber, that his caving exploits have been largely forgotten.  Certainly, for a climber in the early 1980’s, Livesey’s routes were amongst the most sought-after in England and Wales and from my first such climb (Flakey Wall in 1983) to the most recent (Das Kapital, 2005), with many others, including Footless Crow and Right Wall in between, they have provided memorable experiences.  It’s not often that you can get tea served by a legend and a visit to Pete’s cafe was always an occasion, to enjoy the ‘service without a smile’ from the great man!

Looking through Dave Haigh’s excellent Descent article on the opening of Pay Sank, it was a great surprise to read of the youthful Livesey’s remarkable free-climb of the Pinnacle Hall pitch, during upward explorations from the Grange Rigg terminal chamber.  Examining the picture in the article, no obvious line existed and I was intrigued to investigate for myself.

Aiming to meet Simon in Clapham at 10-30, the day got off to a poor start when my lamp batteries failed to charge and I was forced to fit some part-used AA’s I found in a drawer, hoping they would last.  At least the journey down was fast and the now familiar walk up Trow Gill passed in a flash.  Finding the entrance in the sheltered P5 valley, we were soon down the scaffolded dig, passing the 2 short climbs to the Pinnacle Hall pitch.  This is a fine spot, with Allotment-like creamy, fluted walls and with only a slight waterfall for the descent.  Following the route of the BPC hoses, we were in the terminal chamber after only 30 minutes underground and with time on our hands decided to see how far we could get up Grange Rigg with no tackle.

The Drainpipe was soon passed, with surprisingly little water flowing.  This is the type of passage that most non-cavers perceive to be typical cave terrain, being just over body-sized, with some bends thrown in for good measure.  At least the rock is creamy, not black, making it much less intimidating – I know the colour shouldn’t matter, but it does – would the Gestapo and the SS have been so feared if they had worn pink?

The final pitch was soon in sight and I decided to free-climb it, remembering that the next pitch was easy and we could reach the formations if we could manage this obstacle.  Although only short, the steep terrain below the pitch would not allow a fall and I spied a route up the right wall.  Bridging up to reach a spike, I stretched to a sharp hold and pondered the next move to big holds and the top of the pitch.  Easily enough done, but how to get down?  Deciding to be sensible I reversed until the portable Skipton foothold came into use and we headed back to The Drainpipe.

At the Sledge Hammer Pot squeeze, I went through first and Simon contemplated bypassing the blocks by following the fissure down to the left.  Finding it tight, he refused my offer of a pull and reversed, so I decided to try if from below, getting up and down with a fair bit of effort (and a sore chest the next day!) and Simon followed through as well – great fun!

Getting back to the Pinnacle Hall pitch, with a very dim light, I decided to climb it with a self-belay.  Progress was easy enough on good flakes to 2/3 height, where a smoother section required a committing bridge to smaller flake holds and the sanctuary of the wet alcove below the rebelay – definitely not easy and a testament to the coolness of the youthful Livesey.  Climbing this pitch, even with the safety of a rope, was a great experience – well done Pete, what an incredibly bold effort!

We emerged in daylight and had a quick wash in the P5 stream before the walk down after a very enjoyable afternoon.