Monday, 9 December 2013

Judge Jules

I am not sure we scared him.

It was more that he did not understand that people could exist over the edge.

It had been a peculiar sort of day.

At previous sunset we had walked up over the toe of Ramshaw Rocks and submitted our votive offerings in the hope of a good day on the rounded sanquine grit.

It was dry and cold, everything looked good..

Morning came through one too many Bunnahabhain, a quick breakfast in Lognor.

 It looked wet.

Over the moor road the summit wrapped in mist, optimism flagging
Ramshaw was washed out,  the Roaches look ok.... change of plan

At these moments hope springs eternal everywhere was obviously wet and unclimbable but there was bound to be one dry line..right?

The Shropshire plain's watery winter sunlight, infilled by rising cloud to break around the end of the North, condensing droplets ran off every granule ..No climbing today.

So time to have a scoot around, I have been wanting to look at the five clouds for ages so tension broken, easy conversation with old friends we walked and talked, pausing to look at compelling lines, working out placements, catching up.

Slow in it's effect. We didn't notice the change for a while

Around us the wild crowded out mild experience, alone in moss covered heather and thick leaved Crowberries we started to phase out, back into an older world taking our easy friendship deeper into the lost forest.

Over the wall, broken trees, thick moss, a seeking blustery wind hid the sound of hunting velociraptors.
Up to our waists in moss scrabbling up the broken banking slipping and sliding on jumbled rocks.

Above us the zigzag line of Art Nouveau calling us upwards.

Crazy trees leaning away from normality, a mazed rock pathway, nearly lost forever..

As we pulled crazily over the top the little boy stopped wide eyed, his mother unaware of our sudden appearance.

We had broken back through the membrane into suburban Sunday walking..

We all smiled at the change

Like I said, I don't think we scared him.

He just didn't understand that people could exist over the edge

Monday, 25 November 2013

Dark Earl

The clear terminating line between sunshine and shadow, a knife cut of cold as we walked over the edge of Earl Crag.

Down shouldered we hunched up against a smooth fractured pinnacle of Millstone Grit.

Thumbing a guidebook with winter gauntlets, steam train breath on the air.

A clean edge of arete and wall stretching away seemed to intensify the cold, blackening the shadow.

"What do you fancy?" 

The idea of a warm up climb felt laughable, we all knew that as soon as we started dressing down for the climb we would freeze, still in our tracks.

Down in the abyss carried on the warming valley air the sounds of Saturday football drifted up, dreamlike.

"That bloc looks good"

A quick hand out of the glove, the rough caress to test friction is all it needs, The eyes dart, assess a line, holds identified, body dance ready.

And there it is, the moment when the climb takes over, I do not feel cold until later....

Left foot on the incut, 
high right foot, 
reach the flake, 
step up, 
match feet, 
left foot out ,
rock over 
right hand over the top 

Stood looking down at the small mat, our bags and the stretch of valley away to Lancashire

I flex my fingers 
I am clean again

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Come down from the moors

I have had this going round my head for a while... its trying to condense the feeling of not wanting to return from the wild.

Come Down

They heard it through wind fire, waving bent grasses.
They heard it susurrus through gaps in grey stones.
A gentle hand dragging, plucking attentions
A pleading through darkness of moss drawn plantations.
“Come down from your moorland, come down from your hill, we need you to care us and wind us in tightly. We need you, we need you, come down from your hill”
Spread-wave rolling from light veined valleys.
It caught on the hems of the moor, tattering, un-walling
Welled from the depths of red rich dependencies
Filling and pooling at each feather lined hollow
“Come down from your mountain, come down from your peak, press yourself to me, gather round me and love me. Come down, come down, come down from your hill”
Winding through high flatlands of bog-oak torn tendrils
Drowning the catch a glance rising, miring long shank bent beak.
Cloying sedge tendrils and filling peat footprints
Taking your frost breath before even it was thought.

“Come from your Iceness; come now from your wildness. Come now when I need you to wrap me up warm. Hold my grey head to your body and whisper me lifeness. Just come down, come down, come down from your hill.”

Wednesday, 30 October 2013



Last evening I tried "Perky" an out of the way f6b+ problem at Brimham.

I brushed it off a bit and dabbed chalk on two edgy crimps, had a few attempts and then left.

"Perky" obviously stayed where it is, where it has been for hundreds of thousands of years.

The two crimps may have come into existence countless millennia ago and will erode out into finger jugs in another few millennia.

In the middle point of all this relentless change, for a few hundred thousand years "Perky", is an out of the way f6b+ boulder problem at Brimham.

Whilst I slept "Perky" had shed the chalk I added, with the help of a morning dew and returned to it's slow development into something else.

In my terms of course, this piece of rock will remain largely unchanged during my lifetime.

I can rely on the hanging start, the wild offside flag and the palm ripping Arete, to be there every time I visit.

More than that, I can discuss these abstract movements and holds with other aspirants and they get it.
We share a common understanding of "Perky", we can laud success and console failed attempts. We discuss different tactics, slight variations in body position, in hold use.

We add "Perky" to our lexicon of shared experience.

In this way "Perky" becomes part of our developing persona as a climber.

Which is funny really because "Perky" does not exist. 

Neither does Brad Pit, Zoo York, High Fidelity or Voyager.

The rocks eternally grinding down to dust do not care for our dalliance and continue their entropic dissolution every second of every hour of every day of every year of every millennia.

"Perky" only exists when we are there to define it, to outline it, to climb it.

The challenge is internal.
The construct is internal.

This is how we must understand climbing 

It is all within us, every historic attempt, every Joe Brown jam, every Cam placement, every route name, every fall, every bold success.

We by sharing this understanding, project ourselves onto the rock. 

Our hopes,our dreams, our brief fluttering beauty.

Without us all, its just a rock.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Back from the edge

The overwhelming feeling on returning from a climbing trip is initially dogged tiredness, sending you crawling into bed on all fours, this then melts as you regain some outward function and in my case gels more into a mild feeling of emptiness.

The return from the necessarily heightened state you inhabit whilst you are away leaves you empty of Endorphins, a twitching nervous system, cringing, needing another hit.

Its not that I specifically miss anything/anybody, rather that there is a crossing from one state of mind to another.

So when I write about the individual aspects of a trip, the drunk Italian swearing competition, the "who has he killed anyway ?" throwaway comment, the wooded sandy micro deserts, the acorn van bombs, in themselves they are merely closely packed pieces of an experience which was larger and more vibrant than the norm.

I suspect that even the climbing was peripheral, in that it served to stick the group together, but was only one in a cast of thousands.

I reflect that this heightened shared experience is the point of trips/expeditions and to some extent the "objective" is secondary.

I can also see the addiction, the need to be other than the norm, the trance.

So the only question which really remains is....