Friday 23 April 2010

Golden Feet

I've been climbing a lot recently with Neil 'Nige' Kershaw, a man memorably described by Si Wilson as the 'beady-eyed, self-proclaimed cock-of-Lancaster'. We've got a lot in common in terms of size and climbing style, and a habit of regularly climbing with The Best without quite making the grade ourselves. Kind of Premier League reservists, if you will.


The last few weeks, though, have seen Nige step it up a gear and hit a real run of form involving onsights and ground-ups of many sought after routes. As a result I've written a bit of a profile on his achievements (in what you have to remember is his second sport - his sports teacher thought he was god's gift to cricket...) over on UKC. On here I can cut to the chase, and instead of sober listings look at who he's burned off. Recently that has included all comers. Not just consistently myself (no big feat), the likes of P Whiddy but even Caff himself, a feat Pete Robins calls 'the best feeling in climbing'.

After I blew my car up checking on the Ring Ouzels last week, I was stuck without transport amidst perfect blue skies. Frustrating, but Nige was on hand in the evenings, so he provided the transport and by default therefore got to choose the crags. Tuesday night saw us up at Burbage South freezing our arses off. Its never easy judging your clothing on an April evening with a northerly breeze, but I was cold. Too cold to climb, so I settled for belaying Nige and getting some fresh air.

 Nige cruising Ramshaw Crack at the weekend

After a swift warm-up on Goliath, Nige got onto Braille Trail, sporting a bizarre rack of gear Pete had lent him. In the first slot, reached from the floor, went a bracket pinched from the gear display in Outside's rock room. Above is another slot, for which Nige had two allen keys finger-taped together, then a sort of metal spatula, again sporting a taped on quickdraw, which was presumably for the slot further out. Strange thing was, it seemed to be a better fit here. But surely the allen keys wouldn't go in further out? Turned out that they didn't, and neither did any of his sliders. Somewhere amidst this, rapidly chilling, something popped and he was off. Round two went a bit better, this time the allen keys went high and the spatula went in the slot. It looked terrible. Then onto the crux, desperately smearing out right, he threw his right foot out high onto the arete and started rocking. And he was off, the spatula came straight out, and he ended upside down, hatless, in a tangle of ropes. It was nearly dark, so we bailed.

Twenty-two hours later, we're back and the conditions are great. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade and the breeze has lost its edge. Ryan has come along for the ride, freeing me up from belay detail so I can take photos. We warm up on a few classics, then a couple of obscure slabs that are perfect training - Bath House Pink and Mad Llehctim. Then its back on with the programme. Nige is fannying about and I'm struggling to subdue my enthusiasm. Nige gets the hint, a coin is produced, tossed, and I lose. Balls. With painful thoroughness, he ties on and squeaks his boots. I fidget with my camera.

We've got a better gear selection this time - I've dug out a few of my Dad's old mild steel pegs and a couple of the BD micro-cams. There are no hitches as Nige gets out to the slot, places one of the BD cams and continues. The foot goes back out to the arete, and he's out there. Looks scary. A couple of false starts and then he starts rocking up, right where everyone falls off in the videos... but he doesn't, and runs it out up the flutings to the top.

 probably the physical crux - gaining the arete

Now my turn. I get tied on, step on and fiddle with the pegs. They're okay, but I'm on edge, my heart is racing and head woolly. I step back down, deep breath and try to focus. Back on, and I nail the entry foot swap pefectly and click into the zone. Step out, down to the pocket, reseat the cam and glide out to the arete in a state of flow. Now I'm really committed. Twenty years climbing, thousands of hours on the ropes, and I've got my cheek on the rock telling myself not to look down. The sidepull is a stretch, and poor. The foothold is similar. Hmmm. Deep breath. Stretch again, I catch an slight positivity and seat my middle finger into it. My right hand finds an undercut pinch and I'm stepping up, reaching through... and its a jug! Its over. Just a stretch to the next fluting and a romp to the top; I expected to be gripped stupid but am already celebrating.

 initiating the rockover (pics by Nige)

I really can't believe that in twenty-six years no one has climbed this route in good style before - surely someone has? Its a pretty sad indictment of the local hard grit scene if it hasn't, and I include myself in that. Its not hard for the grade, you can pretty much see what to do, and its absolutely classic. I guess the gear may be a problem as it was for Nige, so for everyone else - here's the rack; leave your allen keys at home. Our ascents are there to be improved upon.


Char said...

Good articles both. And some good rock climbing too...

Fiend said...

Nice one lads. Nice to read a more personal account in this one.

Dieselryder said...

I meet Golden Feet back in the day in the schoolroom. Such a nice climber. I remember his calm ultramotivation.
Great post Adam.