Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter Weekend

A view of Greystones, Sheffield

A Swan at Rubicon Wall

Some King Cups at Cressbrook

Nige attempting Beau Geste E6 6c, Froggatt

A Reminisce

Hot Tin Roof on the Catstone at Bosley Cloud. It’s a majestic piece of Staffordshire esoterica which can be found half a mile inside Cheshire.

It was going to be a daunting solo. It had been a big deal to lead. And the precarious crux, twelve metres above a rock, was protected by good cams.

Waking at six o’clock there was no time to dither. It had started as whimsy and within hours had become my entire purpose. Getting dressed quickly but quietly, without waking my parents and their questions, I escaped down the stairs. A banana and a bottle of water were put in my bag alongside my boots and chalk bag. A minimal inventory.

Excitement and doubt were my companions as I set off. Pedalling and thinking. It was a cloudy morning. Spring was well under way and it was mild. Despite the early hour the atmosphere was light. The sun was obscured by milky cloud, but you could tell it was already high in the sky.

A slight wind was invigorating and comforting. Sweaty fingertips could make this a lot more harrowing than it needed to be. A good breeze should keep them dry enough for the task in hand.

Making my way along the canal towpath, I meditated on how familiar this journey had become. Bitten by the climbing bug, and lucky enough to be within a cycle ride of decent rock, few chances to climb were wasted.

However this was the first jaunt that had taken place before school. The satisfaction of achievement was buoying my already adrenalin-fuelled mood. I thought about my school friends still in bed. Dreaming of scooters and girls.

After a mile I turned off the canal. The lane that crossed the bridge and passed the sleeping farm soon kicked into a climb. Cool temperatures made it easy this morning. Keenness helped too.

It was nice to do the climb alone. I had been getting sick of trailing my friend’s racing bike up this hill. The sight of him serenely gliding up, opening up the gap between himself and my fat tyres had become a lowlight of our trips out. Today, with nothing going faster than me, and a soloists burden on my back, it was almost a pleasure.

Effortlessly coasting along the canal had left plenty of room for uncertainty. The relentless and physical slog narrowed my mind and left less room for doubt.

And besides, I’d told my friend what my plan was the previous evening. Still buzzing from leading my first E1, the thought occurred to solo it the following morning. He said I wouldn’t dare do it.

After leaving my bike in the usual hiding place my nerves stepped up a gear. It was half an hour since I’d left the house and the world still seemed deathly quiet. As the path came out of the woodland up onto the spine of the hill the Cheshire Plain came into view. Utterly still. The butterflies in my stomach seemed at odds with the the rest of the slumbering world.

The view had led to an odd little thought. The thought that it might be the last time I see it. The adventure was becoming all too real in my mind. Doubt was on the verge of toppling the whole adventure. Why was I here? I could still be in bed. Safe and warm.

It felt like I had gone too far to back out now. I was scolding myself. I thought about lying, saying I’d done it anyway. No. What’s the point? Thoughts of how easy it felt last night were battling against the fear.

Approaching the route from above, I was surprised to see my chalk from the previous evening still there when I looked down. I found it comforting, that my past self would guide me through the crux. A feeling washed over me, telling me it was back on. I felt good again. I got my water out and took a sip. My mouth had become very dry.

With my boots on and chalk bag round my waist, I realised I had forgotten a beer towel to dry my feet at the bottom. I headed down anyway. To my relief the ground was bone dry. And waiting at the bottom was my beer towel.

This reminder of how recently I had been here, how recently I had cruised the route, was further encouragement. I needed it. My heart was beating furiously. Mixed up. Lonely. Driven. Hesitant. Excited. Shitting it.

I stepped onto the slab. The first few moves were easy. The bottom third was dirty and I sporadically cleaned my shoes on my trouser legs. My mind was calmer now. Focused on the task in hand. Just follow the chalk. Whatever you do just don’t let go and you’ll be all right. First rule of climbing and all that.

A third of the way up the real climbing started. Much to my surprise I was enjoying it. As I gained height my knotted stomach was untangling itself. This was thrilling. Liberating. Controlled. Even moving past the gear placements without putting something in didn’t faze me. I felt like Jerry.

The crux section passed by without me noticing. Arriving at the ledge which marked the end of the difficulties my awareness snapped back to a wider reality. The last two minutes had seemed timeless. Just me and the pockets. Vivid yet forgotten.

Now I had to force myself to concentrate again. Two more moves to go… And I was there. Back at the top it was a different place to the oppressive rostrum of a few minutes ago. Absolute euphoria engulfed me. I had got away with it. It felt like my extreme adventures had started. And it was still only ten past seven in the morning.

Thoughts of the real world started to come back. School, breakfast, girls and scooters.

I took one last look at the view. The clouds were letting a little more light into the world as the sun rose further behind them. It looked glorious. I congratulated myself for being here before turning to walk back to the bike. I broke into a run.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

America - The Rest

Despite one or two polite yet half hearted requests, I've decided I can't really be ringed to type out the rest of my trip day by day, so I'll summarise the remaining three weeks thus:

  • Spent a bit more time in Bishop. Highlights included Soul Slinger, High Plains Drifter Drone Militia, Jedi Mind Tricks and Atari (which isn't as piss as it looks).
  • Went back to San Francisco for a day or two. Took a few more photos and saw lots of sea lions.
  • Got a lift to the Valley (Yosemite). Wow etc. Camp 4 - good scene. Stole lots of food from the lodge and buffet hall. Saw a couple of bears. Bouldered a lot in Camp 4. Saw El Cap. Wow etc. Met lots of nice people. Did Midnight Lightning. Get in! etc. Met Ron Kauk. He seemed alright, although he'd never heard of the Roaches. Unbelievable. What did he and Jerry talk about ffs? Left on a bus.
  • San Francisco for another two days. Bouldered at Mickey's Beach like Chris Sharma off of Rampage. I wore shoes though, like a square. It was quite good. Flew home.
And there we have it. From that, I guess it probably feels like you were there with me. So I'll leave you to meditate on some of the choicest memories of what was a wonderful trip. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Day 7

Woke early after spending a reasonably comfortable night stretched out on the Chevrolet's passenger seat. Drove into town to pick up some supplies. Found the meat shop Si was banging on about . Pastrami subs for $1.25. The only genuinely cheap food in America so far. Bought seven of the fuckers. Also bought some reduced confections and some horrendously priced apples.
Back up to Buttermilks. Could only get God botherers on the radio. Parked up. Ate sandwich. Needed a shit. No paper. Disappeared into the desert with the first and last pages of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Big Country. Uncomfortable wipe.
Feeling light, went to the Grandma Peabody. Did Essential Peabody the V0 to the top, which was then reversed. Lovely. Also did Go Granny, Go Right V5 and North Face V2 which was amazing, if a tad spooky. Getting hot so went and chilled by the car, but not before being shut down by Roadside Highball V3 on the way.
Sunbathed with Astrid and Philipp and met a chap called Dave from Arkansas. When it cooled, Dave and I went to do Saigon. With some moral support the problem was 'sent' without delay. Also did two brilliant easy highballs on the wall to its right.
Then did Pope's Prow. Topping out a la Spidey in West Coast Gimps. Magic.
Tried Soul Slinger V9 briefly but bad skin and exhaustion stopped play. Went and watched Philipp try the Buttermilker V13 in the dark. 
Looked so good. Wished I was a V12 beast.
Back at the Hotel Chevrolet, I ate two more sandwiches then hit the sack.

Day 6

Left Oakland in the middle of the night. About 5.55am to be precise. Drove to Bishop. Took seven and a half hours. Via Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Mono Lake and a fair few Hicksville, USAs. Absolutely lovely drive. Not half as boring/lonely as I'd feared. Plenty of interesting stuff to occupy one's mind. Only cost about $30 in fuel as well. Handsome.

On arrival, bought a load of bagels and water before sacking it to the Buttermilks. Hot but OK in the shade. Started on the beautiful Green Wall. Did the V0 arete, Green Wall Essential V2 and Green Wall Center (sic) V6. All well brown.
Then went and did Cave Route V6, Robinson's Rubber Test V0, Pain Grain V5 and the sit to Pain Grain V7. Loving it, but the skin's already sore. Boo fucking hoo.
Mooched over to the Tut boulder whereupon I climbed King Tut and Funky Tut V3. Met some aloof Bishop locals. Then moved on.
Crushed Ironman traverse first go. Regadez moi. Then wasted a shedload more skin on a problem called Easy Grit V5, before finally not doing it. Clapped eyes on Stained Glass. Amazing looking problem.
Tried Saigon V6. Backed off. Here's a self timer shot of an attempt.

Then tried Pope's Prow V6. Backed off. Finished off with a lovely solo, The Hunk V2.
Drove up Buttermilk Road looking for camping. Scratched car on flora. Drove back down Buttermilk Road. Scratched other side of car. Found a campfire on the go. Surrounded no less by Seth (Allred) and Astrid and Philipp. All of whom I met in Magic Grades in 2005. Fancy that.

PS. Thanks must go to Si's good friend Will (proprietor of the Dungeon, Berkeley's premier training facility AND well worth travelling to) for the loan of the pads and guide. Holler.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Day 5

Check out of hostel early and go to pick up car. It's a Chevrolet. And fucking massive. 
Sack it over the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Thankfully driving in San Francisco isn't too bad. Reach Si and Jackie's without incident.
Go shopping with Si and Robin, their (sort of) landlady. Trader Joes = Aldi. Wholefoods Market = Waitrose. They go to the latter for their 'bits.'
Off to Mortar Rock with Si and Will, their (sort of) landlord. Warm up on a board in Berkeley called the Dungeon. It's OK, but probably not worth travelling 5,000 miles for.
Mortar Rock is steep, sharp and suburban. And hard. And also not worth travelling 5,000 miles for. This opinion could be because I fail on pretty much everything I try. Including a V9, a V8, a V6 and a V5. Bo.
Si is trying a V12 of Greg Loh's called Chinese Connection. Until I check the guide I think he's talking about Greg Lowe, backpack innovator and apparent V12 beast. Si does OK but no cigar this time.

Eat a sausage and some courgette (referred to in these parts as zucchini) back at Si's. Try to watch Nalle crushing Rockalnds, Switzerland and Font into piles of dust. Can't stay awake and nod off. But not before Jackie goes on a (rather clumsy) rampage with an antique folding screen. Oh dear. 

Day 4

Woke up on the floor of a flat belonging to Si's friends Joel and Maureen. They cooked me an unfeasibly spicy omelette. Felt rather awake. Lift into town. Maureen goes to work. Joel and I go to the wall. Use internet to book car. Use all my American phone credit unblocking my card. Cheers Natwest.
Get a lift to Haight to meet Jackie. Walk to the library with Jackie and my big bag. Library's shut. 'Fucking bullshit!' says Jackie. Wait 25 minutes. Library opens. Jackie joins up while I read a few Raymond Carver stories. Starbucks for lunch. Log. Jackie fucks off to work.
Book back into hostel. Check emails. Go to Union Square to read more Herzog and watch the world go by. Back to hostel via a horrendously greasy pizza. Chill in the hostel reading, talking to Dutch surfers and watching the Orlando Magic crush the Cleveland Cavaliers on the box. Early night.