Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Stone Soup

Once upon a time, in a land far away

A group of Yorkshire boulderers sat talking and wishing for something new..

Up from behind the bus shelter popped a wizened old man, who clutching a small leather bag, approached the group saying..

"In my magic bag I have a perfect bouldering adventure, if only I could find someone to share it with.."

"We will! We will!" said the group, welcoming the man into their circle.

"Hmm" said the old man " Whilst this bouldering adventure is perfect, it would be better if we could enjoy it in more mysterious surroundings"

The group overjoyed by the closeness of a new adventure thought hard and then..

" Old man!, Old man! .. We will take you to the dark and brooding autumn forests of a distant land, strewn with ruined castles and high pointed churches set on the topmost peaks of the rolling countryside"... and they did.

"Hmm" said the old man " Whilst this bouldering adventure is perfect it would be better if we could enjoy it in with some complicated cultural backdrop"

The group overjoyed by the closeness of a new adventure thought hard and then..

"Old man!, Old man!... We will take you to a new Republic, fresh born from a dark struggle with its Stalinist past. The country will be littered with brutalist concrete buildings and decaying country houses"..... and they did

"Hmm" said the old man " Whilst this bouldering adventure is perfect it would be better if we could enjoy it in with some stunning rock architecture"

The group overjoyed by the closeness of a new adventure thought hard and then..

"Old man!, Old man!... We will bring you to granite castles of jumbled rock arrayed with soaring aretes, ice sharp crimps and bulging slopers"..... and they did

The old man looked hard now into his small leather bag and said slowly "This perfect bouldering adventure is as good as good could be, If only we could have some local colour"

The group now brimming over with expectation looked around and then...

"Old Man! Old Man! Look around, we have brought you crazy unidentifiable foods, pickled sausages, villagers drinking at 07:00 on Sunday morning, cheap beer, fantastic weather, Eighties pubs, Trains running in the roads and good company, surely now this adventure is ready?..."

At this last word the old man laughed out loud and disappeared into the wind.

Overcome the group called out...

But as they looked around and saw the dark forest crammed with boulders in the warm sunshine, they realised that it was indeed ....

The perfect bouldering adventure


Sunday, 27 September 2015


At 09.32 Saturday morning the queue outside the Tattoo shop in Gleadless had 6 people in it.

4 blokes and two women all in tee shirts, it was cold, as I passed them they were lost in each other 

Check it out ! 


The dividing line between sunshine and mist, Autumn and Summer sat fixed over Hathersage.
Cold toothed air forced my attention into setting off over the moor.

Pads on, rucksack sorted,  a thousand times familiarity over the heather, alone, a wry smile.

On the path a lone girl in harness staring out, she was frozen, I walked past she didn't blink, trapped in her envelope of morning slow time.

On the crag, a bottom rope is up on the Arete next to Sampson. They are trying hard in the trying hard conditions before the sun crests the grit edge. 

He wont break the kinaesthetic barrier.

The woods are quiet and in conversation with the goddess, I sneak through loathe to force attention my way.

Its good to be alone. Good to feel things as they are....

Later, forced down into the valley by the assault of blood suckers, I notice the valley filling with pads and snake chains of virtuous ramblings, the clank of hexes over the warming air.

Max and Ash the weak are there in the sun,  its been a while, its good to have company.

We climb and chat, the group grows. The climbing takes over we are oblivious to all other things

We are 


Monday, 13 April 2015

Down to Business

Driving South, System playing loud.
The sky is torn in pieces.
Flying free.

Plantation car park 10:15 just me and a mountain biker.
Pads on, up the path Sunshine playing on my cheek, warm.

The wind is hard swirling, vortices of ripped ferns winnow the hillside.

10:30 Sunday morning Stanage Plantation Boulders.... Empty

Weighting mats down off we go, pull on to a few warm ups, the rock is just right.

Finger dragging friction without frostbite.
A few problems in the guys arrive from Leeds.. A marathon journey

Its good to meet with easy friends, lost time of no consequence.

We are here to climb.

The Business boulder is good, we sing the Flash Gordon Theme, the grit gets in our eyes, time is blown away.

The Hourglass next, Nice Aretes, small pockets to entice us upwards.

The washing machine wind moves on to spin cycle.

The Pebble follows we meet a few other hopeless addicts lining up to chance it.

The guys drinking beer on the mat provide good humour.

Later in the Fox House Inn over a pint of Peroni..

I realise that in the microsecond between launching up from the sidepull and slapping a hands breadth away from the finishing jug I was content.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Points and Prizes.

Me and The Girl
We were both on our feet.
Come On!
Fingers stretched towards the crimp on the volume...
Come On!
Shouting at the small screen
Come On!

Watching Dave Barrans on the last Men's Semi-final problem in the Climbing Works International Festival.

In retrospect it was very like watching England vs Germany in a world cup final penalty shoot out.

All the hope and aspiration boiling up, too scared to watch, just in case.
Hiding behind the cushion

Come On! Just reach the bloody hold, Come on Dave................... !

With one thing and another this winter has seen a lot of climbing competitions for us, we didn't get the weather timed right/missed the boat/got it wrong.

So in time honoured tradition we have been making our votive offerings at the houses of mental pain and muscular correction.

Dipping in and out of four bouldering competitions has been fun, lots of climbing, feeling pretty fit, pulling hard.

But it leads to this every year, feeling hopeful, entering a national competition, no false hope of doing anything than just being better than before.

Pulling on, the shock of realisation as to how hard the problems are, trying hard, feeling beaten up and pleased.

But then watching the semi finals and finals at home with a warm recognition of the people and surroundings and slowly chilling out.

Stretch for it! You can do it! 

Dave came off, the penalty over the bar, the fans silent in the stadium. Crashing down. Emptiness filling the gap left .....litter blowing through the empty rows

Hang on ! This isn't mere football. This is climbing, this is where everything is possible.

This time is different, He made it through.

The final was spectacular.

This time the shots hammered home, full in the net. The crowd on fire. Heads held high.

He did it !

This was a glorious time to be a climber.

(Well done Dave)

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Yorkshire Boulder Liberation Front

Ali battles alone
 John and the Worm girl got there first.

It had been the sort of morning that stripped the black from the crows.

Muddy bus stop greetings, new faces & old friends.

A minute in denial then we go, this is it, into the woods.

The dark ancestral wilds creeping over the land reclaiming their own.

A green calm carpet putting sleep in the heads of rocks.

Light work for many hands

Well not today!

Today is a day for valour. 
For labour.
For rolling back the night.

The team swells, a raising voice over the wind.

Plans drawn, we launch into the offensive.

Peeling back 10 years of gathered gloom.

Xmas again at the Yule log

It's a blur.

Branches falling, moss flying, bracken pulled away from the pristine glistening crystals.

Underneath, its what we came for.

Old faces long buried cleared of moss, mud wiped from their eyes.

What a precious find, the value of which increases in the recognition and the time spent in recovery.

We eventually fall, spent, aching and bruised.


Walking back to the terse delights of the Dyneley Arms the forest tells us of our temporary nature and in hail blasts starts slowly rolling back in.

In no order, thanxs to Ali, Peri, Worm Girl, Kirsty, John Whyte, Dave, Paul, Bryn, Stuart, Andy, Johnathan, Preston, Will, John from The Leeds Wall ( Thanks for everything Guys!) John Hunt and Nigel.


Monday, 5 January 2015



On average during 2014 I climbed about 10.09615 problems or routes a week, every week, for the year.

I had set myself a target of over 500 lines at the end of last year having scraped in at 491 in the run up to Xmas.

There are no F9a's or E7's in this list of climbs, no new lines on Alpine faces, no sea cliff labryinths.

Probably an entirely unremarkable list, in fact.

However in the process we define ourselves.

In the conception we allow our dreams substance.
In the plan we flesh out our fantasy
In the doing we test our soul
In the achievement we glow

In the emptiness following, we realise our hopeless addiction and dream again to fill the vacuum.
In this feeling of eternal hunger we are all 525.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Left to Right

 The thing about Peak Grit is its simplicity. I prefer Yorkshire and its stubborn complexities but sometimes you just need a rest.

Of the myriad of options available in the Peak, Stanage offers a really easy relationship, you open your door and there it is,seemingly supine, a grey-stone climbers watermark.

Stanage demands to be dealt with as a whole, not just a day on an isolated buttress.

I don't remember how it started or where the idea came from but someone said.......

"Lets just start at one end and just climb things till we get to the other end, you know, Left to Right".

Simple really! Why not?

 22nd October 2011 sees the Girl and me at a freezing Stanage Left Hand End gearing up at Start Buttress.

No big deal, just climbing what we wanted, looking at the lines, poking around in the forgotten corners.

11 visits later (of which only 9 involved climbing) and 70 odd routes later we have arrived at the Plantation path.

We have climbed nothing super hard, but we have been together, usually alone, looking out from the rock as 3 years have rolled past us.

Stanage, in a different mood every time has welcomed us in its stoic, stony fashion as we have relaxed amongst its folds and soaked in our own existence.

But this is the point, its not the difficulty of the engagement or the celebrity of the actors its your own involvement which makes these things worthwhile.
It doesn't need to be Everest or E12.

It just needs to force you to really take part. To recognise your existence

We both arrived at the Plantation path and looked South and what struck us most was the fact it was Bus Station busy.
People everywhere.Crags wrapped with ropes. Litter on the ground. No solitude.

Ready, Deep breath taken, we stepped across the Rubicon.

Stanage Popular ......We are coming to get you!