Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Impromptu day of Peak District rock climbing

The intention today was to go climbing inside, to break the four day rest that I had forced upon myself. After weeks of appalling weather, I wasn't under any illusion that today would be any better. But when my eyes focussed on the dawn of a new day, adjusting to the dim conditions of my living room, I noticed a golden glow seeping under the blinds. It was bouncing off the white windowsills and spilling into the room. I stumbled over and pulled the cord and was poked in the eyes with stinging bright light. Like a vampire, I ducked for shade behind the wall, hitting the floor hard, disorientated and confused. Slowly, I rose to my feet. Cautiously, I peered over the windowsill and into the big wide world outside. Squinting while my cornea adapted and my pupils dilated, I was eventually able to make out blue skies. They stretched beyond the tops of the buildings outside my apartment, far into the distance. A blue abyss. Nothing but blue. No clouds. 

This was a pleasant turn of events. Despite the earlier shock to the system, I immediately picked up and set about planning my day around a trip to the Peak District. It had been a while since I had ventured outside. My last excursion ended with an unpleasant slip off wet holds and a side-ways crash into the unprotected ground. The wind so heavy it had heaved my bouldering pad off onto some ferns about 15 feet away. But today was different. It was clear. I couldn't see any sign of wind. And it wasn't too cold. We're having a fairly mild December.

So, once ready to brave the great outdoors, I embarked on the short car journey into the Peak District. I had chosen a traverse line that I was keen on doing as the first port of call for the day. This line isn't suited to me in the slightest. It is long. Very long. Longer than most trad lines in the Peak. But you have to overcome your weaknesses, so I wanted to give it a bash. Plus, it is relatively close to the floor, so heading out by myself isn't too much of an issue. Falling will just result in me hitting the ground from around six or seven feet up. After a few little warm up problems, I set to work. First try, I was shut down about seven moves in. Second try, I jumped on at the point I had fallen and then made it around another four moves along. Third try, I jumped on again and made it to the crux and duly fell off. By now, a couple of other climbers had shown up and were doing an excellent job of shimmying my boulder pad along underneath me, which was equally as comforting as it was distracting. But alas, I kept on pushing and pulling and occasionally letting out the odd grunt. In the end, I managed the problem in three parts and decided to leave it at that. There was no way I was going to link it all together. I simply don't have the endurance.

After that relatively successful start, I wandered along the crag, casting my glance outwards once in a while to take in the stunningly beautiful view. The Burbage valley extending into the distance, crag faces interspersed across the landscape, poking through the greenery, and footpaths snaking their way around insurmountable features, naturally taking the avenue of least resistance. Dozens of groups dotted throughout and partaking in various activities; climbing, walking, running, cycling, kite flying, paragliding, remote aeroplane flying, picnicking, or just admiring the view. It was a wonderful day.

After passing two families who were jovially enjoying each other's company, the toddlers scaling small boulders beneath their parents who were clinging to the crag face, I eventually came across another interesting looking traverse. A huge jug led to two small crimps, and then a large gap with nothing before a juggy crimp. It was clearly a one move wonder because after the juggy crimp there were nice slopers and a perfect, positive rail to top out. I threw down my mat, chalked up and jumped on. I failed getting to the two crimps at first. But a slight change of foot sequence soon sorted this little dilemma. It was then a case of figuring out where to put my feet for the lunge to the juggy crimp. A few more goes and I got this move in isolation. I followed this by doing the move from the start and then dispatched the rest with little trouble, except a mild pump that put me in a bit of a wobble when it came to topping out. Queue wide grin and elation. 

From a few years ago, but this is the juggy crimp of the traverse (didn't do the problem on this occasion)

I decided to leave this crag and have a wander down to the more popular Burbage North. After 20 minutes, the first problem I came across was a wonderfully sculpted arete. It is a problem I have done before, but it climbs especially well, so I chose to give it another bash. Unfortunately, a key heel hook toe cam was wet, making things a little tricky. It didn't stop me trying it a few times, but I became nervous of the foot blowing out from the wet nook it had to nestle in for numerous hand movements. This knocked my confidence and I decided to move on. 

Not feeling defeated but smart for making the wise choice, I continued to weave my way between the scattering of boulders strewn along my path. Eventually, I came to another arete, not as good looking but full of exceptional hand holds, perfectly ergonomic for my mits. Slightly easier than the last, this took around ten minutes to dispatch, wrapping myself around the blunt feature and clinging on for all I'm worth. It felt particularly satisfying to finish, despite not being my hardest to date, by any means, but it still gave me a buzz and a smile. Following this, it was time to depart. My hands were starting to feel worse for wear and I intend to climb again tomorrow. I quickly banged out 20 pullups on a nearby boulder, packed the bag and embarked on the 20 minute walk back to the car. 

Now that's a quality, impromptu boulder session in the Peak District. I love living in Sheffield and being able to drop everything and pop out for a couple of hours to climb on the greatest of all stone, Grit. What an exceptional place in the world Sheffield is.