Friday, 4 April 2008

Day Tripper

I've spent some time in Liverpool this week, which has been interesting if work-orientated. As is my wont in strange cities, I had a ticket to ride and went hunting for the local climbing wall. Awesome Walls in Liverpool was just that, if one could ever describe a climbing wall as awesome. There was certainly a lot of it; acres of wall covered in the usual coloured blobs and chips. One thing I am never concerned about when visiting unfamiliar walls is being faced with unfriendly or unwelcoming staff. Liverpool must be one of the most friendly and familiar cities I have visited. Everyone wants to say hello, chat, tell you about good things to do and see in their fabulous city, although nobody seems to know where anything is or how to get antwhere. Even the bus stops don't give any clue as to which buses stop there.

Anyway, I digress. Nev, the friendly face of Awesome Walls, showed me around and then landed his pal Charlie with me for some bouldering. I had a fantastic couple of hours trying really hard on steep problems, albeit with with some trepidation. It's amazing how you get used to the set up at your local wall. I am accustomed to the space (yes, I said space) and height at Alien Rock 2. Awesome Walls has some bouldering located in the crypt and in the galleries of a former church. This means that while the wall is steep, it isn't very high, and if you fly backwards off the top of it, you are liable to hit the wall immediately behind you. This makes for somewhat timid dynos (if I were to ever dyno anything, that is) and in fact a reluctance to climb too high up the wall in the first place. It's a very strange feeling that one is subconciously holding back.

I was also surprised to see that the landing areas for some of the vertical walls (which weren't insignificantly high) were not covered with thick matting. Having once fallen off an overhanging blobs problem at an Alien Rock fun comp, landing coccyx first on the thinner mats and paying a late night visit to A&E, maybe I am unusually nervous about landings. My concern on this occasion was, bizarrely, for my ankles. I have no idea where that fear came from.... Maybe from tottering around in high heels this week, which probably did more damage than any landing.

My other observation about Awesome Walls was that the walls were very shiny! No smearing here! No "features for feet" problems, no sneaking padding up walls because holds were too far away. This made some of the problems pretty reachy for someone of my (slightly) diminutive stature. Following a conversation with Charlie about the transition between climbing indoors and then outdoors, I realised that the "sticky" indoor walls and the additional features actually offer a huge benefit to those wishing (or preferring) to climb outside, providing a much better environment for learning the techniques one might most usefully employ on real rock. Smearing, tiny footholds, finding your balance in preparation for reaching the next hold....all these things seemed so much harder when the only options were to put feet exactly where the route setter intended them to go. I thought wistfully of Font, again, and sighed.....

Having worn off some skin and exhausted my biceps, I went in search of something outdoors. I couldn't come to Liverpool and not see (the outisde of, at least) the two magnificent cathedrals here. It struck me that both might offer buildering potential....

When we walked up to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral it was dark and I didn't have my shoes with me, and I thought I might get arrested, never mind not being brave enough to try to scale such a massive monument without any kind of backup plan as a harness and a rope. If I fell....Help! I'd be here, there and everywhere. But it did strike me that both the great west doors and the detailed stonework above it, would provide some interesting climbing.

This is the stonework on the facade above the main door. Nice tufas I thought.

I couldn't work out what these massive doors were made of, but they had plenty of bouldering potential. I'm pretty sure they're sturdy enough not to come off their hinges if one were to undertake a delicate traverse.

Then I found several huge buttresses on the sides of the building. They're like giant ramps leading from the ground to the bottom of the tower, almost a stairway to heaven, perhaps. Huge labs, asking to be tackled. They looked like concrete or stone to start with, but tapping on them made a very hollow sound, as if made of hardboard. My guess is that they were at about 45 degrees so in theory eminently climbable by aficienados of the slab. I bet there are some bleausards who would treat it like a walk in the park.

We also took a wander to the Anglican cathedral at the opposite end of Hope Street. [How funny is that? Hope Street with a cathedral at either end....oh the irony!] This seemed to offer fewer buildering possibilities, but I am going to put a picture of it here simply because it is the most enormous building. It's vast. 9,600 square metres, in fact. Well, I suppose it is the second largest Anglican cathedral in Europe. Alarmingly, it also has 31 tonnes of bells hanging in the tower, 219 feet up. Ouch. The highest ringing peal of bells in the world, apparently. Wow. I wouldn't want to be hanging by my fingernails up there at 11am on a Sunday morning!

Is this not a massive building?

We took a ferry 'cross the Mersey; from here is is easier to understand how big the cathedral is. The bond warehouses on the quayside in the foreground are about 6 storeys high, and the hill on which the cathedral sits is not high at all.

Unfortunately, I've missed the Channel 4 programme tonight about the human spider....although naturally I'd much rather be in Font or the County than half way up a skyscraper.

No comments: