Friday 18 December 2009

Nine out of ten

I work alternate weeks at the mo, and the way I like to think about it is this: five days on, nine days off. Throw in a lucky early finish on friday, and that week off makes for ten chances to get out climbing. Last 'week' was great - I only missed one.


 Nige Kershaw on Narcissus, E6 6b. Pads help, but the hard bit is at the top...

At the base of Froggatt's Downhill Racer is a grassy hollow in the boulders. The crag is generally a better suntrap than most, and this one of the best spots, on a windy day trapping one of those pockets of stillness that often form right against the base of a crag. By mid-morning I was tucked in it, pad forming a comfy sofa, watching the wind and sun dry the rock and the land come bright again. The signs of the last six weeks' deluge were still around; long streaks down Great Slab, the brook a leaping torrent braiding through the trees. I go through the normal drill - slow start, a couple of problems on Joe's, then Long John's, Downhill, Heartless, Artless. By the end I'm flowing nicely, the freshly dried rock giving great friction. Downhill again, this time direct, then again in my trainers. Nige does Narcissus, I don't, we move onto Toy Boy and fail into the darkness. A magical autumn day. Finally.


Despite a slow start, its still damp when we get to the crag. Despite the conditions, Bransby does The Joker with his mum spotting, then skips off back to Hathersage. We sit and chat, drink from our flasks, as more folk arrive and the day brightens.

Later, we're up at Shirley's again. Still a grey sky, but cold and now dry. I expect I'll lose the gift to climb this slab well before I tire of doing so. Today I get to induct another five folk into its secrets; a good haul. The start is guarded by an unpleasantly sharp pebble - the trick not to pull, but to push. Understand that, and it should stand you in good stead for the rest of the route too.


Dan Varian on Careless Torque, highball font 8a

I don't believe in routes having auras that prevent ascents, but I do believe that at some point the little bubble of collective knowledge about a piece of rock reaches a critical mass and explodes into the consciousnesses of the many. Today that happened with Careless Torque. It was clear, bright, and for me far too warm for those starting slopers. But not for the others; Dan falls off the top, then gets his tick, Caff works out a new sequence for the short, and gets to the top move, whilst Mike and Ned run laps on increasingly ludicrous font-style links. Mike almost manages to make it look easy, and the others certainly don't make it look hard. What has changed? Well not much, but there is now a choice of well-established sequences to start, and a list of ascensionists of increasingly varied height. And often the most powerful beta is simply knowing someone who has done it. Ben's effort on The Joker is a good example - despite previously thinking himself perhaps too short or too static, he also that knows on crimps, he can burn me off anytime. Once I'd done it, it was just a matter of time.


 Mike Adams on Toy Boy E6 7a/ highball font 7c

The valley is grey. Mist fills the floor, and above it hides the edges too. Between, a layer of clear air. The vapours build, meet and part, flow softly west. The woodland drips. At Froggatt the rock is dry, almost, the lichen glowing green. Despite drier options we stay, and try Toy Boy. Folk come and go, but no one really gets anywhere, save for Mike, who can reach past the crux. After Sunday I thought it would be a formality, but I don't mind failing.


I wander round the Plantation with a hangover, do a few problems, take a few photos. Nothing remarkable, but the beauty of the place on this crisp winter day is intoxicating, and surrounds us on our circuit.

At dusk I throw my pad under Careless torque, try the start alone in the fading light, and feel at home. I wonder if I can draw myself into the previous week's momentum and get myself up it. But no. Its been a few years since I was doing the start regularly, and I need everything to be perfect. Today they aren't quite, but I don't let that impact this lovely evening.

It would be nice to climb it. But, it would be nice too never to climb it, and just fail forever. What's important is just to be here and feel the wonder of just being alive. There are many doors to perception, but for me, for now, this one works about the best.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Peak appeal

Mountaineer Andy Cave has just finished his 2009 lecture tour. After his life-changing trip to Changabang, Andy returned home bewildered and unsure about his continuing motivation for climbing. Ultimately the gentle beauty of his home landscape drew him back in, and he found some catharsis through the simple joy of movement on the boulders.

To try and illustrate this in his slideshow, Andy got in touch with me to put a selection of images together. Andy Kirkpatrick added some suitable music and some nifty fades, and the result is what you see below. There aren't any captions, but if you want to know more about any of the photos drop me an email. I think it works well - great places, great times.

Peak slideshow from Adam Long on Vimeo.

With the weather finally taking a turn for the better this week, the above also seems a pretty good advert for the charms of The Peak right now. I've been out six days out of the last seven, and whilst there's been a certain amount of searching out dry rock, the rewards have been rich. The scene seems very healthy and with an amazing amount of talent about, things really feel to be moving forward. I'll write a bit more next week when the dust has settled, but suffice to say that whilst today was a fair milestone in the history of the Grand Hotel, it only felt like a warm-up.