I made my way, using the safer route across the ridge towards her. Her friend at the far side was talking to her calmly and letting her know that someone was approaching from behind her to help. I sat on the crest of the ridge just behind her for a few minutes, to assess her state of mind while talking to her.
“Hi, I said, “My name’s Phil. I can see that you’re afraid but I’d like to work with you to deal with that. We’re going to make our way off the ridge together, taking our time but let’s just take a moment or two to get to know each other – it may help you to relax. Can we start with your name?”
“Pauline,” she said, “Please, can you help me? I’m scared of moving.”
I could see that she was pale, perspiring and trembling.
“Listen carefully, Pauline. There’s a couple of ways of getting you off safely. We can talk about those in a minute. First off, there’s no rush. I’m going to ask you a few questions about yourself and how you got to be sat here. Is that okay with you.”
She agreed. I told her that I was going to make my way ahead of her so that she could see who she was talking to. She seemed okay with that, so I moved forwards, standing on the ledge
I started by asking where she’d come from, and how long she’d been sat there. She told me that she was from St Helens in Merseyside and that she’d only been sitting there for about ten minutes when I arrived.
“St Helens?” I asked, “There’s a coincidence. That’s where I’m from.”
That was the moment of mutual recognition. Before me was Pauline from the classroom, from the playground – if anything more beautiful than ever.
“Oh, my God!” I said, “fancy meeting you here.”
She stared at me. “Phil King? I don’t believe it.”
“Well, that’s something we can talk about later.”
I explained why it would be too dangerous to try to go back, and talked her through the safer way of going forward using the lower ledge. I then told her that if she really couldn’t face that option, I’d use my whistle to signal our need for help and stay with her until the emergency services arrived. They might want to airlift her by helicopter. She said she was still scared, but asked how she could get onto the lower ledge. I told her that I’d hold onto her arm if she held on tightly to the ridge but slowly swung her right leg across it while sliding downwards towards the ledge – so as to stand beside me. She’d then be looking across the ridge towards the sheer drop. As soon as she was down on the ledge, she visibly relaxed. She held my arm however, as we edged forward and soon reached her friend. By that point she had stopped trembling and had some colour in her face.
“By God, Pauline,” her friend Jill said, “that’s a risky way to meet a fella.”
Between us we got across the Pinnacles, over the next summit and to the col of Bwlch Glas at the foot of the remaining path up to Snowdon itself.
As we walked, we’d caught up with what we’d done with our lives since school. The girls decided that, at that junction, they’d had enough excitement for one day, so we made our way down the Llanberis path to catch a Sherpa bus back to our cars. Jill, who lived in Wigan, had brought Pauline in her car, but it seemed to make sense for Pauline to return home with me as we only lived half a mile from each other.
Well, that was fifty years ago. We celebrated our Golden Wedding last month with our children and grandchildren. It makes you wonder whether if something is meant to happen, fate will find a way of bringing it about.
I thought that this photo might put today’s episode in perspective. I took it in September 2014 when I was walking the Snowdon Horseshoe myself with a friend. It shows Harry, having a break just before Crib Goch starts in earnest and shows two of the three Pinnacles rising at the far side. Beyond, and in the distance Mount Snowdon towers above the scene. Carnedd Ugain rises to the right and, to the left, the level stretch of the Watkin path leads the way back to Y Lliwedd’s peaks.
At this time I didn’t own a dslr and snapped the shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 at 1/500 secs. The focal length was 4.3 mm and the aperture was f/3.3 with an ISO of 100.