John Hinde was an ardent hill-goer and a prolific diary writer. His diaries give an extraordinary 60-year record of his days on the hill, from the 14-year-old exploring his local Peak District in the early 1940s to the day before he died, aged 74, in 2002. Now John’s daughter, Fiona Wild, has made his diaries available online, giving a vibrant record of a life spent in the hills. To give a flavour, here is an extract from a week spent in Snowdonia:
After supper we had a talk from Mr Hood of Manchester, one of the breed of climbing photographers, who with his friend Mr Carter, showed many marvellous slides of the Isle of Skye. It was after midnight when we retired to bed, tired and happy.
The morning was fine but the weather deteriorated during the day. Jack, Bob Stevens and I left Idwal Cottage for Clogwyn y Geifc and walked around the east shore of Llyn Idwal to reach that cliff. We were rather demoralised at the start of the day on Devil’s Staircase (V Diff). The guidebook describes this climb as being of the “old-fashioned gully type” – I thought I had an idea what that meant but never realised that the pioneers were such good exponents of the art until I tried the first pitch. I led for fifteen feet to a good spike belay on a large ledge. We all gathered on the ledge and then Bob attempted to lead the next section. The attempt was as far as we got. I tried and then Bob tried again but one move, only about four feet above the belay, just wouldn’t go. We tried for about half an hour and even ate some sandwiches on the ledge, but eventually we had to leave the climb by the descent and not in a more satisfactory direction. As an excuse we could not even use the fact that the rock was running with water, as that is its general condition. There have been some landslips on this part of the crag, and at least one fatal fall from Devil’s Staircase itself.
We left Devil’s Staircase and entered the awesome rift of Devil’s Kitchen. Never have I been in a place that made me feel so small. There is an atmosphere of devilry, the cleft is pregnant with disaster and gloom. The Welsh name Twll Du (the Black Hole) is extremely apt. The huge crack goes into the cliff for about two hundred yards or so, at its head a stream falls down with a thundering roar filling the cleft with a mighty volume of sound. Slimy black walls of dripping rock overhang above so that only a thin strip of sky can be seen. Couple with these facts our knowledge that the climb is notorious for its loose and rotten rock and that more than a few climbers have been killed there, and you will understand some of my feelings. I have yet to understand why I climb places like Devil’s Kitchen for pleasure, yet pleasure I do extract from most climbs, but in this case, there was no pleasure for me until the danger was over. The climb, as far as technicalities go, is not too difficult. Indeed its classification of Severe is only because of the awe-inspiring position. I could lead easily any part of the climb were it not for the fact that the thundering waterfall, the atmosphere of the place, and the day of wispy mist played on my nerves. I have to say, if this diary is to be truthful, that never in my life have I been as scared as in the quarter of an hour or so I spent in ascending the cracks and traverse of Devil’s Kitchen. The actual climb is about 150ft up the left wall of the cleft close to the waterfall. Two awkward cracks bring one up to the level of the capstone of the fall and then there is a traverse for 50ft to the capstone itself.
We reached the foot of the climb after scrambling steeply up the bed of the stream that rises in Llyn-y-Cwm, plunges over the capstone and down the cleft of Devil’s Kitchen, eventually to find its way down the steep boulder-strewn slope below, to Llyn Idwal. The scramble, quite difficult, is interesting and in terrifically imposing rock scenery. The foot of the climb is as far as many climbers aspire.
There were two parties already there; the eminent rock climber John Barford was leader of one, and a German climber was second in the other. We had to wait for a long, long time, all the time getting colder, and I anyway, more nervous. Eventually Bob started to climb. He took an extremely long time. I’m afraid that in that situation I did not give him any confidence, I prated constantly at the delay; but since then I have realised why he took so long as I could never have led the climb at all.
It started to drizzle and get dark, just two more things to demoralise me. At long last the rope above me tightened, Jack telling me to come up. I climbed, but how I climbed! I am ashamed of the exhibition I gave. I was left alone on a belay with a fifty foot traverse above the gloomy chasm ahead. I will not dwell on that traverse except to say that I found it more easy (or shall I say less difficult) than I had expected.
We returned to Idwal in darkness down the South Rake of Clogwyn y Geifr, along below Idwal Slabs and by the eastern shore of Llyn Ogwen. For me the return was the most enjoyable part of the day.
We were talking around the common room fire that evening, of the merits of rock-climbing against hill-walking - a subject that has no end and no satisfactory summation - when two climbers came across from Ogwen Cottage to tell us that a walker had got lost on Snowdon Horseshoe that same afternoon. Three volunteers were needed to form part of a search party to operate from Pen-y-Pass before dawn the following day. Of course we were all willing to help, but Jack, Bob Stevens and I were the only climbers at Idwal that night, all the others were walkers or cyclists, so we, being the most useful, were chosen.
We went across to the Ogwen Cottage drawing room to make plans with Hood, Carter and the rest. As the search party was to start from the Pen-y-Pass at six the following morning we were to be awakened before five and driven round to that hotel. “Mrs Skip” stayed up all night in order to get our wet clothes properly dried and to get breakfast and lunch packs ready.
I seemed to have only just got to sleep when I was woken up, but we quickly dressed in warm dry clothes – the first time our climbing rags had been dry since we first arrived in Wales – and ate the good breakfast that Skip’s excellent wife had prepared for us.
For more diary extracts see www.diariesofjohnhinde.wordpress.com
Cover photo: Llyn Ogwen, Devil’s Kitchen and Y Garn. 21st Jan 1948
Above photo: Friz, Jack and John at Ogwen. Y Garn behind. 11th June 1946