Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Epic

I went climbing on Friday. First time I've been on the rock for about a year! I did far more mountain biking and even walking last year than climbing, but this year I'm determined to do more climbing. After all, it's something I've been doing for 28 years and I don't want to become an ex-climber. I get far too much from it for that to happen.
I had a day off work, intending to use the good weather to trim back the big weeping willow in the garden. My mate John 'Simmo' Simpson rang, to arrange a mountain bike ride for Saturday, and on hearing I had the day off, suggested I come climbing with him and his mate Alex. Hmmm...climbing in the early spring sunshine, on God's own rock at Stanage, or climbing a tree to saw dead branches? Contest? I think not.
So a sunny but chilly afternoon saw the three of us stretching our collective rusty joints and muscles on the 'soaring crackline' of Robin Hood's Right-Hand Buttress Direct (HS4a), Inverted V (VS4b), Twin Chimneys Buttress (VS4c) and Heather Wall (VS4c).
Bloody hell it was good to be climbing again after such a long lay-off! I was a bit creaky and my confidence isn't all it should be, so VS is about as much as I felt up to, but I'm determined now to try and get on the crag more regularly. Maybe I'll finally get round to screwing my plastic holds to the outside of the house to finish my traversing wall, and maybe I'll even replace my 20 year old Scarpa Cragratz with some more modern footwear (probably just get 'em resoled again though).

Below: looking up the groove of Inverted V to the exposed finishing moves (Photo by James Parratt, from the photo database. Climber: James)

Below: Heather Wall (Photo by Lizard, from database. Climber: Amanda James)

Incidentally, we went out on the mountain bikes yesterday, setting off from Castleton for a circuit more or less around Mam Tor, taking in much of Rushup Edge and the hairy descent down the Chapel Gate track. It was a great little circuit, even though I had a bit of a skidding nightmare on the technical descent to Greenlands from the Mam Nick bus stop. The mud was so sticky it just clogged my tyres up and I lost any grip. The slightest touch on the front brake or change of direction simply sent the bike sideways. How Simmo managed to stay on I don't know. It didn't help that my Time cleats are so worn that my left foot comes unclipped at every bump. Not good when you're flying down a rocky obstacle course at speed. Must replace them, although the shoes are falling apart as it is. Maybe time to look on ebay and see if I can find some cheap replacements.

Hmmm...I haven't got any recent pics of me climbing. The best I have are these:

Below: Me on Lancet Crack, VS5a, Brimham, in 2004 (Photo by Simon Jacques)...

Me on Great Western, Almscliff, in 2003...

I had a minor epic on Great Western, which puts me in mind of this poem which I wrote, about having an epic on a hard climb...

The epic

This is easy, even fun.
Climbing up past cracks,
their protection eschewed in misplaced confidence.
Moving smoothly, strongly upwards,
unknowingly striving towards a desert
of fear
and unexpected exhaustion
(you'll know it when you get there)
Movement falters then stops
with a sudden stab of regret

at those ignored cracks.
Cast adrift in a sea of rising panic,
as veins bulge like wire,
and arms begin to sing their fading song.
The grey stone sighs and hums,
looking the other way,
offering nothing to help.

No relief, no purchase, another loser, NEXT!
Shaking and sweating,
panicked grimace versus cold face
staring impassively, eyeless,
at, through and beyond,
indifferent to the drama of the personal
and the frailty of the organic.
Death whispers in the distant ground,
the final spotter, reliable to the end,
transmitting a silent siren call
up the rope’s increasingly dead weight.
The imaginary creep of rubber on rock,
the start of sweat from face and finger,
breed sheer fear.

Legs burn and scream.
Arms fossilise, cement-like.

Looking up in desperation,
as hunter becomes hunted,

with all tables turned.
Now it’s fight or a free flight
to your final destination.

Here come your final moments,
seconds from the end of all things.
Fingers whiten in their grip on disappearing life,
as the other hand is whitened,
catching in the bag,

then reaching up.

Iron calves are bellowing
like old machines made to turn.
A hand of pink bananas, all thick skin and mush
finds sanctuary in the everted cathedral,
A salty echo of the sea
falls from a sniveling nose
through an eternity of empty air
to explode against another dimension.
Soon to be followed by a redder splash?
The white knuckles ride
on the Ultimate, Oblivion, Nemesis!
But sanctuary is squared!
Feet now skitter and scrape in a bad dance.
Engines misfire and cough,
sucking the dregs of fuel.
Death laughs now and opens his arms.
The rubber and rock find a new embrace.
Ridiculous banana finger parodies
make the cold face crack a thin smile.
The joke is shared!
Holding on, looking down,
fumbling for aeons with heavy jewellery.
Looking for the right bling to keep that grin.
Offering accepted, the dead weight of purple cord,
still touching death’s disappointed sulk down below,
adds years of life with just one automatic action.
One clip.
The Cumbrian Rope Trick.
One clip brings
a universe
which seconds ago wasn’t there.

The beckoning ground is now above,
just out of sight,
almost within reach.

That was originally posted by me on the multi-faceted forum community at Fex Wezner's Art Forum. You can be sure to find a forum on there to suit you.

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