19 October 2014

Dam Fools

Every climber gets to have an 'epic' now and again. They generally involve heading off with good intentions, making one or two bad choices, then ending up on a hairy but ultimately successful adventure. Sometimes bad beta plays a role, sometimes people pull through for you, but you always end up smiling. When we were invited over the border to taste some Lancashire gritstone with the author of the new Lancashire Bouldering Guide, little did I expect that the journey itself would be an epic.

Robin had supplied us with the postcode for Cow's Mouth quarry, and so Louis and I typed it into Google Maps and headed up onto the rather blustery Pennines. Things were looking good as we left the M62 and began winding our way down the delightfully Lancastrian road Back of th'Height towards a reservoir. Little did we (or Google Maps) know but a team of engineers were in the middle of Rebuilding th'Bridge, and we hit a dead end. Gutted at facing a huge round trip, we headed back up the road only to see a Diversion sign facing down a farm track. In retrospect it was too good to be true, or rather the track was too bad to be a diversion, but it seemed to lead to what looked like a road across the dam. Our suspicions should have been further raised when we had to open a gate and head down a muddy track, but I guess we were getting a bit giddy by now. Things looked even more dodgy as the road across the dam turned out to be just wide enough for a car, and even Google Maps got worried when it thought we were underwater. But we could see a car park at the end, and the A58 just beyond. Our rational voices were being drowned out by cheers right up to the point where we came to the locked gate at the end of the dam, and stopped. Further inspection showed the final metres of our epic journey were barred by a single padlock. It was then that the rational voice "What are you doing driving across a dam!" started to get a bit clearer in my head. There was only one thing for it, a tricky reverse back from whence we came, though the comeuppance for our escapade was just getting started. It turned out the muddy track worked better with Land Rovers than Clios, and after a few frantic wheel spins we realised the awful truth- we were stuck in a field in the middle of nowhere. What was even worse was that the local farmer was heading our way and I braced myself for a well-justified tirade of abuse. Instead what we got was a smiling old boy who thought this was the funniest thing in a long time. I'm sure my orange climbing pants just added to the ridiculousness of the scenario. We tried backing up, getting Louis to weigh down the wheels by sitting on the bonnet, but all to no avail. "Ah'll go get machine", and 10 minutes later we were being pulled up the track by our saviour in tweed trousers in his trusty tractor. Miraculously we found ourselves back on Back of th'Height and heading off towards our destination. A thank you card is in the post, and anything negative I've ever said about farmers is revoked.
Louis getting poetic

Amd so it was that a bit later than planned we finally ended up at Cow's Mouth. Memories of our epic journey faded as we met Robin and his crew and got to work on the Rainstone. We even had to time to follow them off across the moor to the aptly named Hidden Boulders. If you want to find them, buy his guidebook. Just don't follow Google Maps...

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