29 July 2015

Thorn in our side

Shall we have another scramble on the 25th of July? Yes, let's. No, wait - all well and good, but it's been too long since a full day of bouldering, let's do that instead.

What a horrible dilemma to have to endure! For whatever various reasons, we swung toward the bouldering option. Bryn picked Thorn Crag from the multitude available. This would take us into Lancashire, and various names lined themselves up to attend, and various of those then dropped out due to illness or logistical challenges. My own travels, given the proximity of the crag to the route to my brother's house, would see me meeting most of the rest of the gang there, and parking considerations would make getting up on the Saturday morning challenging... How best to cope with all of this and make the most of the time and space available?

With a bivvy.

I put the word out in the group to see who might fancy it, but, again, logistics and illness ruled all but one out - Xander. Relatively new to climbing, Xander was unsure what he would get out of the trip to the crag, but felt that a bivvy would make something of the trip either way. For me, it would be good not to have to worry about getting out of the house at home and get to the parking spot in good time.

Xander met me from work and we headed west. I would have made this trip alone, though I was pleased to have the company. We caught the sunset as we finished the drive, twilight as we took on the long walk-in, and dusk as we settled down, having found some small boulders to call home for night.

And good morning! It hadn't been too cold, though the stars did manage to come out at one point, and the morning was bright and breezy. We awoke in plenty of time before anyone else was due to arrive, and had as much of a lie-in as one can have on a hill. I had a bit of a warm-up scramble on and around the rocks that had been home, then we packed up and walked back to the cusp of the hill, to watch for our companions - Bryn, Hebe and Ellen in the first instance.

They're down there somewhere.

Once we teamed up, we consulted our guides and chose some rock to play with, the imaginatively named 'The Crag Boulders'. And what rock! It had looked good in twilight, but here in the bright morning it shone and sparkled. As we tickled the group of stately stones, Craig appeared to bring us to our full complement for the day. We proceeded to work The Crag Boulders well, with highball aretes, technical slabs, cracks both jug-like positive and sweetly crimpy, lay-offs, rockovers, hard-pulling and delicate swaps. A grand start.

It has been noted, on social media channels, that it appears that Bryn - who had unleashed the power of the vest - is sitting on a big fish in that last photo. Well, it wouldn't be a fish out of water for long - as we moved on for the Trackside Boulders, the rains came. Slow at first, harder as we settled down for lunch by, and soon under, 2001 A Grit Odyssey. Once lunch was done, it became a battle of optimism vs elements, as Bryn scouted around for rock that might play while he waited the half-hour it would obviously take to clear up and dry off. He found a breaky, juggy block; I found a small sharp, slabby pinnacle; Ellen and Craig worked 2001, with its beautiful seam of geological rail. But shelter was the main order of this area, and we elected to put it behind us as the weather cleared a little.

The walk to the next area - Sea View Boulders - gave things a chance to dry off properly, and a sharp breeze was the most the elements could muster for the remainder of the day. Guess what? We could see the sea from these rocks! Guess what else! We could actually see the sea from all of the rocks! Though these offered a view down to Jubilee Tower and Heysham power station, so that obviously improved matters. As for the rocks themselves, an interesting circuit of slabs and flakes surrounded a dominating, Matterhorn(Almscliffe)-esque obelisk. Only Ellen and Craig gave that any serious attention, but there was plenty for all of us to stretch our limbs on. Craig sloped off first, cats to be fed, but the rest of us weren't far behind, as the session degenerated into failed attempts and rock-top posturing. In a good way.

Fulfilled, we packed up and moseyed down, taking in again the array of boulders around the path, acknowledging their hospitality as we passed. At the cars, we went our separate ways, as I made onwards into Lancashire to visit my brother - a mere stone's throw away in Lancaster - while everyone else headed home to Yorkshire. Not that these boulders hadn't felt like home, and not that we're really too far apart in spirit, united by the rocks as we had been.
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