The Collection - Goldmember

This is the fourth of five short stories based around climbing, and describes one of my 'lucky' pieces of gear: a small gold wire, which has stood the test of time (just). The stories were first written about two years ago, and have never been published.


Jack Lawledge takes flight from Heart of Stone (E7 6c), Ogwen Valley. Photo: Anna Gilyeat


Everyone knows a size 4 Camalot is actually called Big Bertha, right? A small gold wire is called Goldmember!

For a time, my favourite piece of gear was a gold wire, about 10 mm thick; a wire now scratched and battered after years of use. Each mark told a story: it was a silent witness to numerous epics and adventures. But the trusty chunk of metal is - finally - near the end of its service. The stories it’s seen!

The gold colour has almost entirely been chipped away, revealing a dull grey: winter seasons have left deep scars gouged into the alloy. Harsh, heavy blows from a pick have been used to place and remove it from icy cracks.

In winter the wire is, theoretically, gently tapped in and out of place; but, near-hypothermic and with nerves shattered by screeching crampons, I usually choose to hammer it as hard as I can, embedding it firmly amongst the rock, ice and spindrift. All thoughts of care for my gear are abandoned as I struggle with frozen fingers.

Several wires of cable are poking out and ready to inflict a sharp stab to the fingertips. They have been broken from the main cable as it ran against a sharp fin of rock, rubbing and chafing as I fell from a route tucked into a zawn on the west coast of Anglesey. 

I can clearly remember parting company with the rock - oh no! - and time held still for a second. I remember seeing my golden wire gleam in the sunshine as I was eye-level. In the next instant, I flew downwards and it soared out of sight. I only discovered the damaged cable when my partner threw it onto the grass at the top in disgust, fingers bleeding from the stabbing he’d received trying to remove it.

The plastic covering has been ripped off after numerous long falls on Heart of Stone, an exciting mountain E7 which frequently spits me from the top crux. Again, the wire rubs against the edges of the crack and is chafed every time I fall. The rope finally comes tight eight metres below, leaving me angry and pumped. I’ll finally retire the wire when I latch the finishing hold.


A place made for keying in bomber wires: Pembroke. Get Some In (E5 6a). Photo: Dan Lane

A place made for keying in bomber wires: Pembroke. Get Some In (E5 6a). Photo: Dan Lane