23 March 2014

Home Turf - Stanage in March

7.06am and I'm knocking on Karrie's door waking her from sleep. I have a 48 hour fully validated pass. I'm full of excitement like I was when as a teenager I could think about nothing from Wednesday except a rainless Sunday on the grit. We were driving for 7.15 my tired car engine screaming as I drive it as hard as I dare towards Stanage Plantation, we must beat the rain, there is much to be done.

If climbing is a church, Stanage is one of it's great cathedrals. Three miles of sweeping grit set above a view of the peak that draws your eye. Time was that I only ever climbed at Stanage, there didn't seem a lot of point going anywhere else. The routes were all fantastic and there were hundreds of them. For two years I worked my way though most things with three stars up to E1. I wanted my ashes scattered there, I was enchanted.

My love affair faded, I moved away but as we pulled into the car park and met up with Pete and a bleary eyed Kirsty the familiarity and the aura flooded in. Today was a mat day. I never really bouldered back in the day it hadn't really been invented, Ben and Jerry were makers of ice cream not boulder gods and Careless Talk cost lives.

No rain yet, we warm up on a few bits and bobs above the causeway, the wind has an edge to it more Siberian winter than last weeks Prague spring. The rock is in good nick, Bryn, Cosmo, Stu and Geoff arrive and we wander down to Crescent Arete. 25 years ago I backed off this highball 5+ it was HVS 5B then. I think it made E1 before mats tamed it a little. The equipment changes, you change, the grit is immutable that's it's charm. Crescent Arete is maybe 30ft high, a soaring, elegant arete the right side of vertical, but there isn't much for your feet so you lay away if you want to play. We ummed and arred it looked high and hard, Pete called it, we got on it. Pete had a quick look jumped off maybe five foot up and then he had another go. He got a high step, a few shuffles of the arms up the arete and he was committed, he flowed up nicely and looked solid. A whoop as he topped it and there it was done. I got on it next, a better climber than last time I tried it in the days before friends. I had a go slipped off like Pete, then back on. A thin step, then a hand shuffle and I had a foot in the lone pocket, grab the notch in the arete and from there it just gets better. The route is a joy it's not even very hard and another one off my long term list, happy with that.

We next found a few unsung gems the Cockscomb being one of many. A hanging fin of rock with a serrated top edge that you hang one armed before you monkey bar up it to glory, great fun. The lone boulder was more fun we ticked the bloc. A mix of paddy slabs and overhanging prows. Louis and Dave arrived and got involved. We were soon down by by the Crozzle boulder Louis and Pete seeing off the thug fest of Bullworker at a scandalously under graded V3 and the three of us getting the crimpy V5 of Bull Flakes. Dave gave skin and blood and his offerings paid off as he sent it too, good effort young man. A no hands slab kept everyone amused, Karrie was seen leaving the ground.Simon Kimber rocked up showed us how to do a few bits with amiable style and grace.

3 hours later the rain hit like a cricket bat to the head. It had a little sleet and hail thrown in to tingle as it wetted. We made a mat bivvy but everything was wet though rapidly. We toughed it out for a bit but soon the call of the pub was loud and urgent. I was soon downing a pint of pedigree in the Scotman's Pack. The last time I had been here was to sit on the floor and hear superstar Ron Fawcett talk in a packed room. I young upstart called Jonny Dawes showed some slides of concrete climbing in Birmingham and a route called Braille Trail he had just put up. I thought he had potential if he calmed down a bit.

The beer soon led to talk of heading back as the sun was out but by the time we had decided to return it was proper raining and it was clearly abort mission. We went on one of Louis beer walks back at the barn and then the evening ascended into an amiable blur of gin, beer, indoor traversing and vomit. I was the first to fade away but word is Dave slept were he passed out, good effort young man.

Burbage South and its only just gone ten. We got up and out in some style, hangovers drowned in grease and we were pulling on grit rougher than any other I have known since Lord's Seat. The Brick was a bloc that needed faith in your feet. If you had that it gave in nicely, if not it brushed you aside. The Tank was memorable for a crimpy throw into a sharp slot on the aptly named Tiger UKC's V4 a fairer grade than Rockfax's 6A.

The Amoured Car had an excellent arete and some horrendously under graded pebble pulls, with sloppy tops that kept us amused as my brother joined us. We had a play on the Sheep the arete of Shearing spitting me off and making me admit my mat is knackered, I bottomed it out as I pinged off. Birthday soon and easy pressy choice. Soon though me and my bro had topped it but it was no path. We finished on Pock bloc which two years after my last go was sent packing. Tiredness was all over me now I was lacking the gumption to get my feet off the ground, it was time to call it. Cracking trip thanks one and all, I made it 37 problems 42 V points and about a months worth of units of alcohol if you like raw statistics. How about the Roaches next time it's as least as good?

I have just put my youngest too bed the stairs were a struggle, I think my quadriceps are relatively unique as they are one of my major muscle groups that don't ache. Thing is my love of Stanage is once again a living thing not fading memories of days gone. My soul is full of images of careful movement, the feel of sharp crystals of grit under my finger ends and those rolling Peak views heading of into the sun and the rain. I will have better weekends climbing but not many.

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