Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Dole Days

I arrived expecting the others to be there already, but was greeted by an empty car park. And a surprisingly warm January sun. Admittedly it was the end of January, but January nonetheless. So I decided to sit outside the car, taking advantage of this unseasonal bonus. Rolling a cigarette always helps to pass a few moments alone. Indeed these situations often lend themselves to taking time over the rolling process, meticulously distributing the tobacco and rolling a rounder than usual roach. The extra seconds, and undivided attention, spent on this almost loving craft, result in a much more satisfying product than a cigarette rushed together between mouthfuls of beer and conversation. After admiring it for a moment, I set fire to my work of art and sat back to wait for the others.

After ten minutes or so a red Clio approached, its 1.1 litre engine mustering a tortured high-pitched roar. The brakes were applied and it swung into the car park, coming to a standstill a few feet from where I was sitting. Perched in the boot of my car. Formal hellos were dispensed with as the four passengers had only left my company an hour beforehand. I watched as they unloaded their gear. It came as little surprise that Ryan had left his bag back at the house.

“Fucking Hell, I checked in the house an’ it weren’t there, so I thought it were in me car.”

“S’alright Ry, Just borrow boots off one of us. What size are you?” someone said.

“Between seven and a half and nine and a half.” Came Ryan’s typically vague reply.

“What the fuck! Does it change depending what day of the week it is?” An incredulous look started to appear on Nige’s face. Unfazed by this comment, Ryan continued with his request, and soon hit the jackpot. Rob had a spare pair and being an eight and a half, they were slap bang in the middle of Ryan’s unfussy size range. With everyone now having boots it would seem we were nearly ready to go.

“Eight and a half, Rob? Quite big feet for someone your size.” Nige enquired with a dubious tone to his voice, well aware of Rob’s ill-fitting rock boots.
“Guess you must have a massive dick as well!” Nige continued, laughing to himself, as any seriousness to his line of questioning evaporated. I was listening to this exchange with my back turned, and looked round just in time to see Rob’s reaction to this comment. With pursed lips and a few short, rapid nods, Rob seemed to be taking this compliment on board with no trace of irony at all. I started laughing at this, and Nige’s smutty giggling erupted into a belly laugh, which seemed to enlist Ryan, Seth and even Rob into the spontaneous mirth.

After a few moments more spent rooting round the boot of the car it appeared that we were finally ready to go. I asked Nige about the Pay & Display machine but he says don’t bother, it’s voluntary. A quick check of my car door revealed that we weren’t quite ready, so after I’d locked my car we set off.
The walk to the crag was conducted in silent single file, which gave me time to think about what I was going to do this afternoon. The previous two afternoons had been spent eroding my fingertips to the point of bleeding and I was reluctant to aggravate them again. I decided that I was going to take some photos and maybe do some easy problems, hopefully preserving some skin for later in the week.
Climbing weekends, the skin would only have time to make it to the thin stage by Sunday evening, whereby the sustained assault on it during these last two weeks of unemployment was taking its toll. Despite the discomfort at the end of my digits, this newfound keenness felt reminiscent of my carefree school days. It felt good to be a climber again.
Arriving at our chosen destination, pads and bags were set down, and conversations were struck up again as lines were inspected and holds fondled.
The place was caked in chalk, a remnant of the fine weather we’d had over the last fortnight. I left the camera for now and put my boots on and started to warm up.
I remembered a relatively easy problem from my last visit several years ago. I’d failed on that occasion to top it out, but it felt easy today. It made me keenly aware of the progression you make in gritstone basics over years of climbing on it. Despite no longer having the meteoric rise in grades that fuels your psyche during the early years of a career, I have found coming back to sites of previous defeats and winning with ease a more subtle reminder of progress.

With a couple of warm ups under our belts we soon got embroiled with some of the harder problems on offer. I spared a quick thought for my skin but couldn’t help myself, so I applied some tape to my tips as I joined in with the climbing.
“Go on beast!”
Someone, could have been any of us, was urging Rob up the rock. It had to be said that he was
looking strong today and flashed the problem in fine style. Nige and myself had already done the problem so Seth set off next. The strong American strolled up it, as if he was using a different, better, set of holds to those who had gone before him.
“Nice one Seth.” Someone remarked, although in truth it had been a formality. Next to try it was Ryan who was also expected to walk up it. However, his long slender frame, usually such an advantage to him, was this time his downfall. His knees seemed to scrape the side of his gurning face as he struggled to get his foot in the break. Eventually the tenacity of Bolton’s finest relented as his hands, ever so slowly, migrated down the slopers.
“Fuck’s sake” He muttered as he dropped off looking perplexed.
“Never mind Ry, Expect you’ll have it next go.” I smirked. It wasn’t often I flashed a problem that he didn’t, so I indulged myself and the smirk became a chuckle. Another virtue of gritstone weirdness, I thought, as I remembered failing spectacularly to keep up with him on a recent sport climbing trip round Europe. We moved onto another problem, leaving Ryan to what became a rather protracted siege. After failing on it once I decided to leave it as my tips were now in agony. I took this opportunity to have a cup of tea and another fag. Inspired by my creation earlier, and with time to kill until my brew cooled down, I tried for another example of smokeable perfection. Not so good this time, but fuck it, it gets lit, and I have my cup of tea.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

City Break South Yorkshire Style

The eagle-eyed of those following this blog will have noted that I'm no longer a resident of the city of steel (Sheffield), and as such, my visit at the weekend was technically a holiday

And with the drudgery associated with everyday life slowly shifting its focus to Bristol, I had a handsome time up north.

My visit coincided with two important events in the climbing calendar.
The first being the carnival of crushing that is the British Bouldering Championships (BBC), and the second being Gib's birthday. Two contrasting events it has to be said. One's a wholesome celebration of the pinnacle of achievement in British strength and power, while the other's a bouldering comp in a big fuck off tent.

The birthday was a typical Sheffield affair. Lescar then Slate Street. This once legendary party house is once again finding its feet thanks to the efforts of an enthusiastic Rob Clifton. Even Pickles, the perennial reluctant housemate, is failing to temper this man's mission to piss off his neighbours every single weekend. So mad props to him for that.

On Sunday I only hung around for a bit of the comp before the call of soloing Parker's Eliminate became too strong, and I gave the still-pissed Enigma a lift home via the mighty Hobson Moor. And then back off to Bristol for another week at the grindstone. Which as it happens, is nearly over already. Get in.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Lats Babes and Bouldering

For those of you who read my first post and wondered what the hell I was on about, hopefully this will work:


Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Literary Hero and a New Motor

Last night I met one of the major heroes of my adolescence. Irvine Welsh.
He was in Bristol signing copies of his new book Crime, so off I went to see him.
Reading Trainspotting as a 14-year-old absolutely blew me away. A lot of people, swayed by the media outrage from the usually reserved British media, decided it was an appalling work devoid of any merit and should be banished immediately, lest the Nation's youth all started injecting heroin before the credits had rolled as far as Robert Carlyle's name.
Now I won't attempt a ham-fisted review here but, suffice to say, the dark and savage humour impressed me hugely. And nearly 12 years on I've still got pristine veins in my inner elbow. Go figure.
Last night he read a passage from his new book, quite nervously I thought. But then again he's an author not an acTOR, so probably doesn't read to audiences on a day-to-day basis. I was hoping he would field some questions afterwards, but unfortunately he went straight to the book signing.
It was a bit disappointing there were no questions, but at the end of the day at least I shook the hand which created Francis Begbie.
To be honest, the best bit of the evening was shoplifting the book he signed for me. And it was called Crime. Ho ho.

In other news, I've furnished myself with a new car and will hopefully be driving it to the North of England this weekend. Is anyone going to be around for some lower grade crushing etc?

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Weak Too

Well I've been in Bristol nigh on a fortnight and am slowly becoming a fan of the city's environs and the climbing. Which is a Godsend because the people are arseholes.
That, of course, was a joke. The people I have met so far have been friendly, welcoming and generous as I have, looking wide-eyed and lost, attempted to adjust to my new life.
Bristol's a really nice place. It's quite astonishing how different it looks from Sheffield and northern towns. The houses tend to be flat topped and pastel coloured, and the whole place seems to have a continental air of sun and spaciousness. However I'm sure the novelty, or summer, will soon wear off.
Anyway, I appreciate most of the people who read this are climbers, so I'll get down to the nitty gritty. Crags I have visited so far are:
Cheddar - Looks like a bigger version of Stoney, climbs like a much less polished Malham. Really rather good. Crushed a couple of routes of unknown name and grade. They felt about 7aish but I really wouldn't be surprised if they were 6bs (for more grading woes see Avon).
Oxwich Bay, dans la Gower - A friend had to go to get a caution from the Swansea Police for possession of a trifling amount of MDMA so we went to the Gower (quote of the week from plod: 'Although not many people actually die from taking ecstasy, we do hear of a lot of reports of people feeling a bit sick.'). If any of you have been to Ferocity Wall at Anstey's, it's like that but much less steep and a deeper shade of orange. In fact it's almost red.
Ring Road Boulder - Decent sandstone venue just outside the city. Some really good problems here. I'd put it on a par with Bell Hagg. Unfortunately ten minutes extra driving lands you in the flat lands of South Gloucestershire, rather than Stanage. Say La Vie.
Sea Walls, Avon Gorge - This place is well brown. Doesn't look much, but I'd say it's some of the best Limestone I've climbed on. Really 3D climbing that makes you think.
Tried a good looking highball which was abslolutely desperate. The first move alone took over half an hour to work out and I left convinced it was at least V7. However a peruse of the guidebook today revealed it to be an E2 6a. Oh. Dear.
Anyway I'm shit faced so am going to stop typing.

Here's a message from my sponsor:
If any of you monkeys want to cum to the city where the streets are paved with golden opportunities you're very welcome. Talking of welcome, and overdue, a beer from Tetler would be very welcome. And overdue.
Southern correspondent clocking out.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Lats, Babes and Bouldering: A Modest Tribute

'We decide that as long as we 'go hard,' it doesn't matter what we do.'

These great words come from one of the most criminally underrated minds Britain has produced in many a year. A fabulous thinker, writer and Bachar-ladderer, he single-handedly dragged Dorset climbing out of the cultural Dark Ages, to new levels of sophistication. I'm talking, of course, about Nu-Skool Portland boulderer Jimbo Kimber.

Many years ago (eight) I read the seminal bouldering article Lats, Babes and Bouldering. Easily bouldering's most quotable literary work, it has had a profound effect on me and many of my peers. The above quote alone gives an insight into the human condition which, considering its humble word count, is nothing short of astonishing.

Ever since I read it, I secretly harboured an ambition to move to the South West of England. Mainly, to see if the lifestyle of Kimber and his cronies really could rival the heady days of my Gritstone apprenticeship. It certainly sounded like it could.

Two weeks ago I got an offer of a job in Bristol. Admittedly it wasn't Weymouth, but it was close enough. It seemed perfect. Not only is the job well paid, I could also manage weekend trips to the Neddyfields, or even the Cuttings, without suffering the ridicule such a destination would attract from some quarters.

At the weekend I packed my bags and headed south. I have started this blog after a suggestion from Jon 'I've Read the Entire Internet at Work and Need More' Fullwood. The idea is my Northern friends can read what I've been up to as and when I sporadically update it.

Anyway I'm off to listen to some tech-trance. Of the quality Dutch variety.