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However, short extracts from it may be used, for non-commercial purposes, provided their source is fully cited, acknowledged and referenced as:
YRC Committee. (1903) The Accident In Deep Ghyll. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 2 Number 5: pp79-82. Leeds: YRC

The Accident In Deep Ghyll.

A sad fatality happened to one of the climbers who had assembled at Wasdale Head for the Christmas holidays of 1903. Mr. Alexander Goodall of Keswick, and Mr. Fred Botterill of Leeds arranged to ascend Scafell Pinnacle, via Steep Ghyll and the ridge route, on December 26th. They were accompanied by several other men to the foot of Scafell Crags, where the party divided, Goodall and Botterill taking one of the ice-axes which had been brought up. They had hoped that another member of the party would join them in the ascent of the Pinnacle, but he did not do so, and the two men, who had not previously climbed together, then roped up and took to the rocks, with Botterill leading. Subsequently, the leadership was taken by either man as fancy or circumstance suggested, and when they reached the 'crevasse' at the bottom of Slingsby's Chimney they made use of an extra 8o feet of rope as a steadier in descending the chimney leading to the traverse which Jones did in his stockings when he ascended the Pinnacle from Lord's Rake. Botterill and Goodall made this traverse on the rope, and from a distance of about 25 feet examined the scratches believed to have been made by Broadrick's party on the rocks below the level of Hopkinson's Cairn. After spending some time in this investigation, and a brief snowstorm coming on, Botterill led the way up the Chimney, and they finished the last 100 feet of the ascent.

Ten minutes were afterwards spent at the summit of Scafell, and the glorious sunset they witnessed being immediately followed by another snow shower, the two men made their way back, intending to descend Deep Ghyll by the West Wall Traverse. What subsequently happened may be told in Mr. Botterill's own words:-

"It would be about four o'clock when we arrived at the top of the ghyll. I tried the snow there and found it soft, as evidently it had been in the sun. A few feet down, perhaps 40 feet, was a patch of loose scree about 12 feet long. The glissade to the patch looked easy, and I asked Goodall to give me the axe that I might glissade to the scree patch, try the snow beyond, and see if we should have to kick or cut steps down to the West Wall Traverse. To this he replied 'No! let me glissade down.' We each had a rope, yet neither of us mentioned roping, although in my mind, and I have little doubt in Goodall's too, there was the intention of roping at the scree patch.

I had no thought of either of us glissading below there, and to his remark I replied enquiringly, 'Hadn't we better cut steps?' 'Oh no, it's all right, I want to get into this thing,' he said, and immediately set off in a standing glissade. He went well to the scree patch, took three or four steps forward and momentarily stopped. He was leaning forward, and I drew breath to ask him how the snow was below him. The words were never uttered, for at that moment he sat down on it. I shouted to him 'Stand up ! don't sit down,' but he moved slowly forward in a sitting position for about 40 feet, as near as I now can tell, using the axe as a brake, and then for an instant he appeared to stop. The next moment I saw him on his back, arms outstretched, sliding down with gradually increasing speed, and, to my horror, I noticed he had lost the axe.

He turned with his face to the snow and disappeared uninjured from my sight at a bend in the ghyll just above the upper pitch. He uttered no sound; but a few seconds afterwards I heard the sound of falling rock and hoped he had pulled up at the pitch. Until he disappeared from view I felt helpless. Then my first object was to get below the upper pitch, where I thought it possible that Goodall's fall might have been arrested. Without an axe I felt I could not safely go down the ghyll, being sure Goodall would have checked his slip at the beginning, if the snow had not been too hard below the scree patch. I ran round to the head of Lord's Rake, hoping to be able to descend it, quickly secure my ice-axe left with the other party, and lead them up Deep Ghyll to Goodall's assistance. In my hurry I failed to find the high end of Lord's Rake, where I had never been before, and unfortunately took the wrong gully. When I had gone a little way down I saw it led away from Scafell Crags altogether, and in desperation I determined to return and attempt the descent of Deep Ghyll, despite the obvious danger. Dusk was gathering fast as I reached the top again, and I noticed many valuable minutes had been lost in my fruitless attempt to find Lord's Rake. Starting down Deep Ghyll I found the snow soft to the scree patch, one kick being sufficient to make a decent step. Below the scree patch, however, the snow was in a quite different condition. Hard kicking barely made any impression on it. Six or eight blows were necessary for the tiniest toe-hold, and before many steps had been made my legs began to ache. About 40 feet below the scree patch I was surprised to find the axe sticking pick-end in the snow. Down to this spot Goodall had braked with the shaft end and must have changed his tactics. I took the axe and cut steps down, shouting for Goodall at intervals, until opposite the West Wall Traverse. Then for the first time came answers to my long-repeated shouts, and I asked if it were Goodall. On hearing that it was not, I enquired where he was. I fancied I heard the word 'killed,' but was not sure, so cut my way on to the Traverse. This was nothing less than a steep ice slope, and I had to cut every step and feel for it with my foot, as darkness had now fallen. Still doubting whether Goodall had been found, I peered over opposite the upper pitch to see if I could distinguish any traces of him, but I could not see anything, nor hear any answer to my shouts other than the voice I had previously heard. In answer to the enquiry if I wanted help, I shouted 'no, look for Goodall, I am coming down as fast as I can; but, as I learnt afterwards, my words were not distinguishable, and I hacked away in silence. My arms were beginning to ache, and by the time Lord's Rake was reached, perhaps 2¾ hours afterwards, they were almost helpless. After a brief rest I started to kick steps down Lord's Rake, and again heard shouting, this time apparently nearer. A voice asked if I were safe, and I said 'yes.' Then I heard a chorus of voices and imagined they were on the top of the Crags. I shouted that Goodall was in Deep Ghyll, and I was contemplating the ascent of the first pitch when I heard the swish of an ice-axe and saw the reflection of a lantern below. I started down towards it, and was met at the foot of Lord's Rake by Messrs. Payne, Tilleard, and Moritz, who were coming to my aid. On asking them if they had seen Goodall they wisely reassured me while they tied me on to their rope. I was famished and utterly done up. Moritz and Williamson accompanied me to the hotel, and on the way broke the news to me.

I should like here to acknowledge with deep thankfulness the extreme goodness and unselfishness of Messrs. Benbow, Moritz, Payne, Tilleard, Williamson, and Winterbottom, both then and subsequently when their thoughtfulness and kindness were sorely needed."

Mr. Tilleard has favoured us with the following account of what he and his party saw of the accident:-

"On the evening of 26th December, I should say about 4 p.m., Moritz and myself had bidden good-bye to some friends whom we left sketching in a small cave a little below Marshall's Cross, and were just leaving the scree at the bottom of Hollow Stones when we were startled by a terriffic crashing, apparently coming from the vicinity of Deep Ghyll. I turned round and shouted to my friends warning them to look out for falling stones.

Presently the noise ceased, but, actuated by some presentiment of what was to come, I still continued looking. A few seconds later the body of a man, which I at once recognized by the clothes as that of Goodall, appeared round the corner of Lord's Rake rolling over and over in a helpless way, which left no doubt in my mind that a fatal accident had occurred, and finally settling down against a large rock at a point where the snow joined the scree.

We both rushed up to where he lay (a distance of some 200 yards), but on feeling his pulse I realised that my fears were only too true and that the worst had happened.

We were now joined by Williamson and his party who had been in the cave, and it was at once arranged that they should proceed to Wasdale for assistance while, we waited to see if any help could be given to Botterill, whose whereabouts were unknown to us.

It was rapidly growing dark and we decided to start our search at once, but after going some distance we returned, having made up our minds to wait until we could hear a shout.

We did so a short time afterwards, but it was impossible to tell with any degree of accuracy whence it proceeded. However we set off again. By now it was quite dark, and this fact rendered our attempts extremely hazardous. Every step had to be cut with the ice-axe, and as it was almost impossible to distinguish them when they were cut we had to be guided chiefly by the sense of touch. It was not until nearly 8 o'clock that search parties from Wasdale began to arrive, and Payne, who was amongst the first and had brought a lantern with him, roped up with us, and we had only gone a short distance when we met Botterill in Lord's Rake much exhausted but happily not seriously the worse for his terrible experience.

Up to this point he was quite ignorant of what had taken place, and for obvious reasons we dared not approach the body or let him see the traces on the snow until he was in a position of safety. Accordingly, after a short rest, he started for the hotel with Moritz and Williamson, while I stayed behind to point out the place where poor Goodall lay.

I will draw a veil over our journey down. No good object can be served by a description of that sad procession, suffice it to say that we arrived shortly after midnight and despatched a telegram to Mr. Ashley Abraham, of Keswick, asking him to break the sad news to Goodall's relatives.

In conclusion, I am glad of this opportunity of expressing my deepest sympathy with Mr. Botterill, who throughout bore up manfully under what must have been a most terrible trial. The descent he accomplished was no mean feat under the existing conditions, and the way in which he overcame his difficulties speaks well for his pluck and stamina."

This accident ought not to have happened. The two men, who knew each other by reputation only as rock climbers. undertook to make a descent which under the ordinary local conditions of snow offers no very serious difficulty, and is quite safe with proper precautions. Failing the observance of those precautions, however, the consequences of a slip may easily be imagined by anyone who knows the character of the Ghyll.

Goodall, this day and previously, had proved himself no mean cragsman, but although his companion was not aware of it he had little or no knowledge of snow and its condition in the upper part of the Ghyll at the time may have led him to believe that a similar state of softness prevailed lower down. With more experience he would probably have proceeded with greater caution.

Beyond the fact that men who together undertake any serious mountaineering expedition without mutual knowledge of each others individual experience and ability incur obvious and avoidable risks, it would not appear that any blame attaches to Mr. Botterill.