The “secret project” was in what I believe is called Gallowhill Quarry, a sandstone quarry not dissimilar to Wolfcrag, situated in the woods at Park of Keir. Apparently, the material from the quarry was used to build Keir House. Mhairi, Johnny D, Jim and I had “discovered” the quarry in 2006. Unfortunately much of the surface of the walls was covered by a crumbly surface layer (as well as the usual grot) but there was one absolutely gobsmacking line on apparently sound hard rock, a soaring left to right diagonal flake crack up the high south-facing wall. JD and I had cleaned the line of most of the loose stuff, particularly at the top, but it looked a bit hard (E2-E3)to do on-sight. The project was abandoned.
Chris took one look and was enthused. (Psyched, I believe is the term) He decided to go for it ground-up, on-sight and un-gardened. I was swept along by his enthusiasm and set about the belay chores. Despite the steepness of the initial moves he moved up very smoothly, and patiently fiddled in two good wires.
A third wire at the big break proved more troublesome, but by flagging first left then right he got in a good wire. The top section was a bit chossier, and steep, but there were more substantial footholds. Chris placed a large friend in the crack and made the final moves to top out. He reached up to undercling the large tree root at the top of the route.
I heard him cry out.
He and a disintegrating block had parted company from the wall. The top runners popped without me even feeling them. Chris decked, landing on his feet then his backside, the recoil bouncing him back almost upright again. He was shocked and in pain but fully conscious. I got him into the recovery position and phoned for an ambulance. I monitored his condition as best I could.
A couple of locals turned up to assist and the paramedics arrived. They were skilled and thorough. As Chris was in pain from his back injury, they called the Air Ambulance. Within half an hour he was on his way to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.
Taking Chris’s car back to his dad’s house was not a pleasant chore, as I was racked with guilt at letting him lead the route without me gardening it thoroughly first. Phone calls established that he was “comfortable” and in a general rather than a spinal ward.
Chris was released from hospital on Saturday. The damage: a couple of cracked vertebrae and ligament damage (whiplash) in his neck. Rest and recuperation, followed by physiotherapy should see him back fighting fit.
I went back, chastened, and stripped his gear from the route. I also put in a rope lower-off around the big tree root. Ethics are not worth serious injury.