On The Hill With … Boece Cardus

Welcome again to this occasional series, this edition features one of our High Moss wardens, Boece Cardus.

                  Boece in the Bregaglia – Above the Albigna (all photos – Cardus collection)

How did you get into walking and climbing?

My Dad took me up Snowdon when I was 11, and soon after I started going up Kinder with school friends.  In those days there was a train service to Hayfield, and we used to go there from Romiley where I lived.  I can remember how proud we felt when we reached Kinder “summit”, 2088 ft, a mound of peat barely higher than anywhere else.
We would occasionally see people rock climbing, and I fancied having a go.  I was put in touch with Colin Firth, a member of the Black and Tans, who took me under his wing for a couple of years.  My first climb was at Yellowslacks above Old Glossop in November 1961, and then I was taken to the Lakes that Christmas. We stayed at the Solving House in Borrowdale; the group included Cliff Meredith, Tony Brooder and Vic Davies who all became Rucksackers.
I could also catch a train to Hathersage and most weekends would meet up with Eddie Birch and his brothers Bill and Roger, who had caught the train at Stockport.  They had also joined the Black and Tans, and kept a watchful eye on me for a couple of years or so.

Who has had the most influence on your mountain experiences?

                                      In the Crafnant, with my flat hat

It’s hard to say; there have been several.  I first started climbing with John Gosling in about 1968, and we did a lot together up until the early 80’s. Of course he was so much better than me, and I was usually content to be a useful second.  Others included Bill Lounds, a rising star in the early 70’s, and Bob Conway a well respected but unsung hero from that period.

                                                    Ramshaws – Snap!

How did you come to join the RC?

From time to time I was able to stay at Beudy with friends who were members, then in 1971 whilst in the Alps with Cliff Meredith he suggested I should join.  What he didn’t tell me was that in those days, once you joined the only way out was to die.

What does a perfect ‘hill’ day consist of?

Mountaineering rather than rock climbing, though the sheer hard work was often daunting.  I never liked the early starts, and often when some one got up in the middle of night to find the weather was foul I used to breath a sigh of relief and finally get off to sleep.  But, when we had a successful day it was marvellous. I used to really enjoy being back down in the valley, looking up at what we had done, and thinking “we were at the top of that this afternoon, and now we are back down here having a pint”.  On the other hand I often looked up and thought about the previous night when we were sat on some cold inhospitable ledge, freezing our rocks off.

Over many years in the ‘hills’, what have been the most memorable times?

Mainly in the Alps and Dolomites, but I have managed one or two classic winter routes on The Ben.
The problem in the Alps was nearly always insufficient time.  We never considered packing in work and our holidays were too short.  Also, climbing partners’ family ties were often a constraint.  We tended to rely on English guides, which were nearly always somewhat limited, and to go to locations and for routes listed by The Alpine Climbing Group.  This often meant we went to the same places year after year.

I went out to the Dolomites in 1970, with a crowd from Lancaster University.  There were eight of us in a transit van, and those in the back were sat on kitchen chairs. Fortunately I came home by train.  I had three weeks holiday, which was interrupted by bad weather for five days, but managed to do nine routes, culminating in the Yellow Edge on the Cima Piccola of the Tre Cima.  We were too slow, and it was evening when we got to the top.  We just managed to get down the necessary abseils before it went dark.  Then then there was a major storm; we had minimal clothing and a bivouac would have been a nightmare.  Fortunately the lightening was so frequent we could see well enough to find our way down, and we got back to hut at 10.30 pm.

                                      South Ridge of the Salbitschijen

The following year I went out to Switzerland with Cliff Meredith.  Our first route was the South Ridge of the Salbitschijen, which was superb.  The Salbit is a really good rock climbing area; the rock is generally good granite and the routes are high quality and of varying standard.  Since that trip I have been back five times. Once with Bill Lounds when we did the Villager Gruter Route on one of the towers called the Zwillingsturm. Another really good route is the West Ridge which I did with Ted Rogers in 1980.  Not far away is the Graue Vand, near the Furka Pass which I did with John Gosling, along with Ted Rogers and John Payne.

                                              On the Cengalo with big boots and big sack

I also did the North Rib of the Cengalo in the Bregaglia with Bill.  It was a superb day; we had a really comfortable bivy beforehand on some foam mattresses which had been abandoned at the base camp for the first winter ascent of the Cassin.  We soloed the first third of the route, and completed it in six and a half hours.  After that we went down the back of the mountain, over the Bondo pass, and got back down to the valley in time to go out for a drink.

I went to the Dolomites with John Gosling in 1972 and we did a first British ascent which was quite a thing in those days.  This was the Bellodis Franceschi Route on the South East Pillar of Monte Pelmo which we found difficult, and protection for the most part was poor; John did a 40ft. flier on the crux pitch when a hold broke.

                                      Steger Route in the Catinaccio

Since then I have been out to the Dolomites six times times; two of the better routes being the Comici on the Dito do Dio and the Lacedelli route on the SW face of the Cima Scotoni, both with Bob Conway. I also did the Steger Route on the Catinaccio with Tony Brooder. Before we went on holiday I can remember saying to him that the route was probably mainly Severe with a few pitches of VS, but it did feel somewhat harder than that, and I am afraid we had to bivouac two pitches below the top.

On subsequent trips to the Bregaglia I did two lovely routes on the Ferro Pillars above the Albigna reservoir.  The first was with Steve Chatterton and the second with Ian Howie.  Both were mixed routes at that time, but I suppose the snow and ice will have been wiped off by now. We also went to Chamonix and I managed to do the Swiss Route on the north face of the Courtes.  This is another ice route that has since been very much affected by rising temperatures. Another good route was the North Face of the Tour Ronde.

I got a little bit fixated by the Finsteraarhorn in the Bernese Oberland. On the north east side are two tremendous pillars, and I did the left hand one with John Phillips and Mike Hollingshead in 1987.  The mountain is remote, the walk in very long and it was probably the most serious climb I have done in the Alps.  John and I also did the North Face of the Studerhorn and a route on the north face of the Abeni Flue, both ice routes. We also did the North East Face of the Kingspitz in the Englehorner Group.

In about 1980 I fancied a change from climbing and took up sailing.  This has been mainly up and down the west coast of Scotland.  We sometimes have combined it with doing Munros, which has been very satisfying.  I have also managed one or two longer trips; in I994 I took some unpaid leave and sailed down to La Coruna on the north west tip of Spain, over to the Azores, and then home again.  The boat was 28ft long and had a rather leaky plywood deck, I sometimes thought I would change its name to Cullender (not a good selling point so I didn’t do it), however it had a superb hull shape and, for it’s size, was fast and seaworthy. T he trip back to southern Ireland was about 1400 nautical miles and we did it in about 11 days.

[read more about one of Boece’s sailing trips in this Classic Journal Article,

Sailing to the Faroes, by Boece Cardus and John Payne]

I have also done a bit of caving, and did the Gouffre Berger in 1983.

I mentioned The Ben earlier.  I did a lovely route called Route Major with Tony Brooder and Mike Hollinshead.  It was a wonderful day, the weather was fine and sunny, and the climbing was good quality but not too difficult.  I have done a few other routes on the Ben including Zero Gully, Orion Face, The Curtain and Boomer’s Requiem, where I nearly came to grief.

Apart from some ice climbing meets to Cogne, the last time I climbed in the Alps was with Bill Deakin in 2007.  I had long wanted to do the Casino on the Badile and bill took me up it as a 60th birthday present.  At the time I felt rather old and decrepit, but now 60 seems quite young.

Have you had any mishaps in the ‘hills’?

There have been a few near misses.  In 1975 three of us were in Yosemite and missed our way whilst abseiling down from the top of Glacier Point Apron.  The gear was generally marginal and at one point we were all hanging off one seemingly ancient bolt on a blank wall. Further down we had to drape a long sling on the corner of a flat topped flake we were standing on, somewhat similar to hanging a sling on the corner of a building, and doing a reverse mantle and then abseiling off it.

I once wandered up the Bondo Glacier in the Bregaglia on my own to meet Bob Conway who had soloed the North Ridge of the Badile, and was coming back over from the Italian side.  I had come down the glacier two years before without any problem, but this time the snow had receded considerably and I had to do a lot of jumping over big holes, and cross over one or two rather narrow snow bridges. Bob also had an epic on the south side, and we were both very relieved to be able to descend roped up.

In 1986 I nearly came off the steep section of Boomers Requiem on the Ben.  One of my tools was a Clog something or other, which was too light and would not penetrate hard ice very well.  My last runner was a long way away, and I just managed to pull up and slam in my other tool, a Chacal, as the Clog ‘popped’ out.

What is your dream ‘hill’ objective?

I don’t have one any more; it’s too late.  John Phillips and I have long thought we should do the Cuillin Ridge, but time has taken its toll and I am beginning to wonder if we will do it.

What makes a great ‘hill’ partner? Has anyone come close?

The best hill partner for me is someone who has the same aspirations, someone I can rely on when things go wrong and, most important of all, someone I get on with. Has anyone come close? One or two friends mentioned above.

How do you keep active in the hills?

Generally trying to keep up with Kate.

What future ‘hill’ plans do you have?

Just trying to get out and doing a bit, though it is mainly walking these days.

Do you have any regrets/missed opportunities?

There were lots of routes we wanted to do and now it is a bit too late, but it doesn’t matter any more.
Living up near Lancaster it’s not so easy getting out on grit or going walking in the Peak, and I do miss that. Still, it not so far to travel when doing jobs at High Moss.

                  At High Moss:
                  Tony Brooder (middle) “ One day, Boece, all this could be yours.”
                  Boece (left) “Mm – My mum always thought I’d end up being a caretaker.”

What have been the benefits of RC membership?

Initially it was the Huts, but soon this extended to meeting, and making friends from a wider circle of people.


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