So, to try to pick up the pace again, something that is none of these things and all of them at once - Cliffhanger Outdoor Festival. Not my first time in attendance, 2011's event with camping at Limb Lane has very positive place in my memory. Less so the rained off event of 2012, which some among our climbing group managed to get t-shirts from... And then the event fell off my radar for a while, presumably due to being otherwise occupied. Not so this year... Well, there were other options, but Cliffhanger 2016 took the honours by a nose.
For the first time, Cliffhanger would take place in and around the city - 'The Outdoor City' - of Sheffield itself. This seemed like a good opportunity for some urban unicycling to take place (where Limb Lane had been essentially my first ever bit of mountain unicycling, Muni, thanks to Robin sharing his larger wheel at the time) so warmed up with a ride to Leeds station, and took a train south...
(this was all on the Sunday, I was out on the bike at Swinsty Reservoir skills loop with Bryn on the Saturday, having a delightful little dabble and circuit of the forest)
...and rocked up in Sheffield exceedingly early. The station is at the bottom of Sheffield, so I gently slogged my way up through the streets and plazas, checking out the lie of the land, getting free coconut drinks, grabbing an event map, before chilling out for a little while in Weston Park, a green space at the top of the city, untouched by the event, but still a very pleasant taste of the urban outdoors.
Back down to the crucible (not The Crucible) that was Devonshire Green's climbing area, and to meet up with Geoff, who I'd not seen since... Font last year? Goodness. Well, he's a quality gent, so it was good to catch up however long it had been. We scoped out some of the stalls, including signing up with the BMC, buying a slew of outdoor books from a publisher, and admiring arts and climbing equipment based crafts. With all this, the semi-finals of the British Bouldering Championships - BBCs, awkwardly, #BBCs2016 slightly less so - had kicked off, so we did the competitors the favour of allowing ourselves to watch, I'm sure they felt sufficiently grateful...
I'd spotted a pizza stall earlier on, near the bike area in Peace Gardens, so Geoff and I made our way there for vittles. I shouldn't have been surprised to find that Geoff had starters with him, in the shape of some tomato bread and dips. How cultured! We partook of that on the steps while we waited first for pizza, and then for more climbers - Sarah, Theo and Clare arriving shortly after we'd eaten. This led to a delightful time promenading around the sites and the city, trying things out - Clare and Theo through a plastic cave demo - watching demonstrations - bikes, diving - before making our way to the climbing area, for the headline act.
|Outdoor city indoors-outdoors vibe.|
The British Bouldering Championship Finals.
Now, I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of every competitor on every problem - you can find that elsewhere, and it's not really what this blog is for. I'm going to give you my experience. And that was one of disappointment and awe. Much of my awareness of competitions has seen the name Dave Barrans feature heavily. Going into this, he'd won the last competition I'd seen (The Depot Manchester opening competition) and the first I'd seen (one of The Depot Leeds Battles of Britain), and he does a great deal of setting at my local walls. He had a shocker here though, with poor form or just not suiting the problems. Watching the men's became a matter of figuring out which of the other climbers was going to outdo him the most. This was swingy in nature, with lowest qualifier Orrin Coley looking in with a shout, ultimately outdone by both Nathan Phillips in second and Matt Cousins taking the win.
Meanwhile, the Shauna Coxsey show dazzled in the women's. There was much grit from the other climbers, particularly on a high slopey hold on an overhanging volume, with climbers getting up this through what must have been a hefty portion of pain, sheer grit, and the will of the crowd. And then Shauna breezed up it in short order, not straining in any particular way, and missing out a knee move that the others had all used. As was foreseen, Shauna took the win, with Tara Hayes and Leah Crane flanking her on the podium.
And of course, having watched with Geoff, Clare and Sarah from our climbing gang, as well as Sheffield-based Kathy, enriched the experience greatly. I'm sure watching it solo would have been just fine, but sharing such moments can surely only enhance. So long - for now - Cliffhanger, so long Sheffield, you were gold.