words by HILTON DAVIES
pic by TONY LOURENS
Cracking the Wild Line on the Energy Crisis Prow
I was sure that George was going to come flying off the top pitch of Alone in Space, and that the tiny wire nut that was his only protection would not stop him crashing into the boulder-strewn ledge. I told John (Brown) to help me quickly push the jagged rocks off the ledge that we were sitting on, so we heaved some boulders over the precipice, and moments later George Mallory came hurtling down towards us. The wire nut held and George came to a halt just above the ledge. He was shaken, but unlike his famous grandfather, he did not die on the mountain.
I took over and led the top pitch, and when I climbed across that dramatic orange headwall and rounded the corner to the right, I stared straight onto the staggering Titanic-like prow that had recently been climbed by a new route called Energy Crisis, which would go on to become one of the all-time Wolfberg classics. Robin Barley had done the first ascent of this route with Richard Smithers at the height of the 1970s oil panic when petrol in South Africa could not be obtained on a weekend nor after sunset on weekdays – hence the name.
Robin and my brother David had been very busy at Wolfberg in the Cederberg the previous year, establishing ultra-classic routes like Alone in Space and Celestial Journey, amongst others. These were hard and serious routes in those days, before cams, chalk, and sticky-rubber! I had to come to this crag that David was raving about and was left astonished by his and Robin’s new routes, and gobsmacked by what is now known as The Crisis Prow.