Monday, 24 October 2016

Once Upon A Time...

...I was a climber. Then I became a father and started poncing around on a bike in lycra. Those two things are somewhat correlated, it's much easier to fit in a quick fix on a bike in a spare hour than it is to do any worthwhile climbing. This graph neatly sums up the whole, rather sorry state of affairs:

Anyway, I stopped climbing, pretty much. After getting back from an amazing trip to Red Rocks in the Autumn of 2013, I soloed a Diff in Wales that was more vegetable than mineral and spent a few hours bimbling in Langdale (the subject of my last blog post) in 2014. In 2015, the sum total of my climbing was a day revisiting old classics at Stanage Popular End with Oli. I even onsighted a Hard Severe. Ooh.

2016 has been slightly better, but not much. I spent a couple of hours bouldering at Cratcliffe, while my daughter heckled Oli in amusing fashion - "why do you keep falling off?". Then I had a glorious afternoon at Bamford with my friend Susi. Mostly I entertained myself by placing as many bits of weird gear as I could, but we did actually climb a few routes.

A few weeks ago I caught up with J-Rowe and Adam at Stanage, taking Effie along for the first time. I wasn't climbing, but Effie was fascinated by all of the climbers and their strange noises - "why do they sound like cow bells?". So when we got home I showed her my rather dusty rack, including my unreasonably large selection of jangly hexes. She was suitably impressed, but dragging everything out of its resting place in a distant drawer in the attic made me feel rather melancholy. Like the few times recently when I had instinctively bought new guidebooks only to wonder what I was doing.

Then, out of the blue. Oli asked me if I was free at the weekend, and somehow I actually was. After pointing out the flaw in his initial suggestion of Shepherd's (being a touch far for a day trip from Sheffield), we arranged to meet in a crag somewhere roughly halfway between our houses. Sadly this is deepest darkest Lancashire, where I have mostly only unhappy memories (being sandbagged at Wilton, being sandbagged at Anglezarke, slicing my hand open on a broken bottle whilst in the midst of being sandbagged at Anglezarke, getting rained on at Egerton before having had the opportunity to get sandbagged etc.). But there was a new guidebook, with pretty pictures. I had a root through this and chose Round Barn Quarry as having the perfect combination of a) shelter from the forecast strong winds and b) low grade ticklist routes. Plus, new crag points.

So we went there. It was sheltered and sunny. And a bit scrappy. But Oli and I are no strangers to slightly shit routes, so we didn't let that put us off. As neither of us could remember whose lead it was, we tossed a coin for it and I won the honour. So I racked up and set off up a 6 metre Diff. EPIC
The inimitable Round Barns Quarry
It was actually OK. It even had one nice move on it. Then Oli upped the ante with a Severe. Phew. I matched his feat with another, actually quite good Severe, before Oli went nuts and set off up a VS. The gods punished him for his insolence, and it was really hard. And steep. Probably about E3 in real terms (allowing for the deflation in my arms).

At this stage we were joined in the quarry by a group of 4 other climbers. They turned out to be local legends Les Ainsworth, Dave Cronshaw and friends, the authors of the new guide and putter uppers of many a new route in the dingy quarries of Lancashire. They seemed slightly bemused that someone from Sheffield and someone from Cumbria had driven all this way to climb at Round Barn. It was fun to hang out with them for a bit though. Dave was repeating a couple of new routes he'd put up the other week with great ease, while the others made them look somewhat harder on second. They provided a handy mixture of heckling and beta while I made extremely hard work of another (rather sandbaggy) Severe, before providing Oli with an ethically dubious but very welcome belayed runner (AKA a mobile toprope) as he quested up the rather bold and scary top half of a VS.
The venerable Dave Cronshaw on Dharma Bums, a new HVS(ish)
All told, it was quite a successful day. We only actually did about 50 metres of climbing, but being old, I ache like an absolute bastard for it today. I climbed my 999th route from the ticklist, so I should probably try and do something good for the 1000th. Who knows when that might be. Maybe some time in 2018...