Mountain climbing

Sheila Hancock takes pride in her irascibility

This book begins with Sheila Hancock wondering why she is being offered a damehood. I must say I slightly wondered too, but it seems that most actresses become dames if they live long enough: vide Joan Collins, Penelope Keith, Joanna Lumley etc. And Hancock, as well as acting and making brilliant appearances on Radio 4’s Just a Minute, also does lots of charity work. She considers refusing the honour because ‘it’s hardly in keeping with my Quaker belief in equality’, but decides ‘no, it would be dreadfully rude and ungracious’. Anyway, she admires the Queen, and also Prince Charles, who left flowers and a handwritten note on her doorstep when

Scaling the heights: a woman’s experience of mountain climbing

In her memoir Time on Rock, Anna Fleming charts her progress from ‘terrified novice’ to ‘competent leader’ as she scales rocky vertical routes with names such as the ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ and the ‘Savage Slit’. There is poetry in the vocabulary of climbing, with its gritstone, gabbro and basalt and its slopers, arêtes, underclings, heel hooks and, my personal favourite, the thrutch — a kind of hip wiggle that can get a climber out of a tight squeeze. ‘There is nothing elegant in a thrutch,’ we are told. One element of the book that distinguishes it from most climbing literature is its female perspective. Fleming initially compares herself unfavourably with her

A narrow escape in Britain’s most treacherous mountain range

Twenty-five years ago, my cousin Jock, a Scottish priest, rang in shock. Two priest friends, David and Norman, had been walking in the Cuillin in Skye. As Norman rounded a boulder, it dislodged and rolled him off the mountain. He screamed: ‘David, save me!’ They were his last words. The Cuillin — or Black Ridge — slice the island of Skye in two. On a map they are a Spaghetti Junction of deranged scribbles. Closer to, they rise up like the fangs of Mordor in dizzying spires with names such as ‘The Executioner’. ‘The Inaccessible Pinnacle’ is something like Orkney’s Old Man of Hoy, only rising not out of the