Saturday, 28 July 2007

Keen Beans or Baked Beans

All this talk of psyche leads me to tell you about the last three days. I headed south to Middleton-in-Teesdale (where? Middle-of-Nowhere, Englandshire) on Thursday to stay with Sarah and enjoy some girly climbing company. Apparently, climbing with boys was getting "difficult" for her - the boys, not the climbing. Teesdale is beautiful; wild, open moor, with no immediately obvious outcrops, cliffs, quarries or crags. There was most definitely something Bronte-esque about the space and air, and the weather. As I arrived, it started to rain. As far as I could see, everything was wet. We had some lunch and a few cups of tea, and by 5pm it had stopped raining.

As we drove along a narrow lane towards Grasholme Reservoir, Sarah pointed across the moor at something which could have been a mere contour in the hillside and said "Over there!". I was a little sceptical at how long these pimples might keep us entertained, but 20 minutes later, with soggy shoes and a strong smell of sheep in the air, I was excited to find that theywere pretty sizeable chunks of rough gritstone....and there were hundreds of them! The Fontainbleau of Teesdale!!


Two hours later, we were running late for dinner. I was quite glad of this; my fingers were already very pink and my ankles scraped from heel-hooking.

This is Sarah on the first roof traverse we did. The first move was the hardest, mostly because it involved avoiding two things: sitting in the soggy sheep poo and landing coxix first on a rock.

Everything was a little damp, but we persevered. Having got our shoes soaking wet trekking through the bog from the road, a bit more dampness didn't seem too traumatic.

Sarah on the second traverse. This one is apparently documented, and goes at Font7a (I think). It was a bit damp, but hey, we were being keen beans....

The third traverse was lots of fun. A bit green and a bit damp from the rain, it was fingery and required great trust in tenuous and smeary footholds. It might also have benefited from a good brush, but we didn't have one.

It seems both a shame and a blessing that these problems don't see more traffic. It's a beautiful spot, well away from the crowds, where one can invent problems and try things out without regard for grades or rules. It was refreshing not to have to worry about whether something was "hard" or "easy" according to a book or another's opinion. All that mattered was that I could make the moves and then link them. It's a shame that more people haven't been to enjoy this area. More traffic would mean that the problems would be cleaner. But more traffic would also mean that problems would become well-established, graded, talked about, compared, argued over.... I felt a real freedom from all these things out on that moor. I think it's hard to escape from the hype associated with established and popular climbing areas, so it's nice to know that there are places off the beaten track, which are free from the confines of documentation and analysis.

Friday was wet. Very. We hung about until lunchtime, when the rain eased a bit, the sun came out and we convinced ourselves that the wind would dry the rock pretty quickly. As we drove up onto the moor, little speckles of water appeared on the windscreen. We, being keen beans, dismissed it as just a few spots and duly trekked up the hill again, turning right this time towards the main outcrops. This was even more exciting. High ball problems, big vertical walls of gently ridged grit, little roof sections, crimpy traverses....it was all here. It was (almost) all running with water, too. But the wind was strong, and we found a small boulder out of the wind which seemed to be dry too. We also found two fellow climbers sitting out the weather under a big roof, with their wellies and Alexander McCall Smith for company.

The Reading Group in the Roof - watching the weather

We pottered on a couple of things for a short while, wearing away some more skin, until it started to rain a bit more heavily. I thought I was being a big jessie with the rain, but this time even Sarah ran for cover. We joined the Reading Group under the roof for a bit, to enjoy the pungent aroma of sheeps' sleeping quarters. At least it disguised the smell of my stinky climbing shoes! Eventually, we decided to head home and make a run for it while there was a break in the rain. Our timing was impeccable. The moment we stepped away from the shelter of the roof, the heavens opened. By the time we got back to the car 10 minutes later, we were soaked to the skin. Thank goodness we'd left the mats in the car, or they would have taken forever to dry.

A shaft of sunshine through the dampness

So... keen beans turned baked beans. We must have been half baked already to even contemplate heading out climbing in such weather. I guess beans need a good soaking before you can cook them, anyway. When we got back, we lit the fire, turned the heating on, put newspaper in our shoes and spent the rest of the day doing jigsaw puzzles. At least it gave me time to grow some more skin!


1 comment:

Ian said...

I was wondering where you had disappeared to :)