Climbing has given me as much, if not more, in friendship than it has in the actual activity itself. Whilst I love rocks and the challenges and achievements they bring, I love the people I climb them with as well. It's what I love about juggling and circus skills as well, a parallel universe that often seems to merge with my climbing world. One man stands at the centre of both- a key figure in the Venn diagram as it were- my mate Louis. So when Stuart and I found out earlier this year, by text in Font of all places, that Louis was to wed the love of his life, we were suitably stoked. You see, Stu and I would never have met without Louis, nor have had our many subsequent adventures, juggling and climbing alike . So it seemed only apt that we tag on a climbing trip as a precursor to the main event, especially given they had chosen a venue on the edge of the Peak District. Cosmo was also on board as a wedding guest, and so the planning began.
Well to be fair we got as far as booking a Youth Hostel, and figured the rest would sort itself out. Having been down to Stanage a couple of times I had a fair idea of the amount of gritstone they have down there, so we booked in at YHA Eyam and took our pick. Day 1 was looking a bit miserable and after a slow and damp start we arrived at Curbar Edge carpark to grey skies but a dry road. We quickly slipped into the holiday mood by visiting the ice cream van, then crossed the road to check out Baslow as our first stop. Whilst an impressive edge with great views across to our destination for the night, and a great place to blow off the cobwebs, there wasn't a huge amount to go at in terms of boulders, and the wind didn't encourage me to check out the easier routes. We were drawn, as many are and doubtlessly always have been, to the Eagle Stone- a behemoth of a boulder that grows dramatically as your approach it. It also looked suitably nails, with slopey breaks that wouldn't look out of place at Brimham. We settled on the easiest problem, an alleged Font 3 (!), and after much struggling and thrutching Stu finally got up the bugger. No such luck for me, and a bit of a disheartening start to the trip. However, Stu looked happy as Larry up the top, so much so that he did it about 3 times. Turns out the problem is called Men Only, and it certainly seemed to be giving Stu a testosterone boost.
Given we had a few hours til check in at the YHA we reckoned on time to walk back and have a peek at Curbar, especially as the clouds seemed to be clearing. In fact by the time we arrived at the Trackside boulder we had blue skies and sunshine. Added to that was the quality of the boulder itself- it seemed to have everything you could ever want from a boulder in terms of grades, height, styles and grit. Needless to say I was much happier, and a good hour was spent working the lower grade problems, culminating in Stu expending his last reserves of testosterone from earlier by working and ticking a great looking Font 5 crack. Time was also ticking though, so we scrambled Vietnam style through the bracken up to the Edge then headed across the valley towards Eyam and our bed for the night. Turned out we had picked a cracking hostel, and Stony Middleton down below had a cracking curry house, or rather Curry Cottage, which all helped top off a great start to the trip.
For Day 2 we decided to leave the Eastern grit and drive over to the Roaches, given that it wasn't that far off and that Stu had never been. Cosmo and I had visited as part of a Learn to Lead weekend a few years back so we knew what a great place it was, though we had only bouldered as a warm up before getting laden down with rope and metal. The Lower Tier was much as I remembered, a magical glade with some quality slabs, and gave us a good morning of climbing before Jetboiling up some noodles, with the guide offering us suggestions and plenty of scope for a few more problems as well. However, I was encountering a problem the other boys weren't, on account of their long trousers- midges! Given the Roaches location above a boggy moor it seemed the midges had no accounting for the time of day and were loving the warm temperatures and lack of breeze. Heading up the stone staircase to the Upper Tier I hoped moving out of the trees might shake them off but there was no such luck. The boulders there looked amazing though, and so we decided to crack on. However, it seems that plenty of other people had thought the same thing, for many years and with bigger boots I reckon, and as a result it seemed al the best holds had been polished up a treat. I carried on regardless but was halfway up one boulder worrying about slippy smears when a midge flew up my shorts and bit me on my inner thigh. That kind of sealed the deal for me, there's a time and a place for that kind of thing and this wasn't it! Stu was flagging and needing some pop (his life blood) and so we decided to call it and head off to a midge free zone.
This led us to Crag 4, by which time we were seriously starting to flag. Luckily Robin Hoods Stride is the sort of place you'd go to even if you had no idea climbing even existed. A crazy jumble of rocks that appear to have been dropped in a pile in the middle of pleasant rolling hills, many of the rocks seem to have rolled off to create some great bouldering spots. We managed a couple of these as we dug deep, Cosmo in particular getting a second wind as he discovered the art of traversing slabs by running at them as fast as possible. However, the chips in Stony Middleton were starting to smell pretty good and so we headed back for sustinence, a power nap, then a pleasant walk up onto the hills above Eyam to end the day.
Saturday arrived, the day of the wedding, and although we had a good few hours til the reception that could have been filled with more climbing we reckoned it would be best to save getting hot and sweaty for the wedding dance. It would have been rude to leave the Peaks straight away though so we chose to park up on Curbar Edge again and a mosey along it, taking in the views. We picnicked by Smiling Buttress, wondering at the tiny size of the holds and the horrendous landing. Just watch Tyler Landman swinging out on the last move and try not to catch your breath at the drop below. Then go and have a look at the landing for yourself and try not to swear just a little. All that remained for us was to change into our finest garbs in Chesterfield Tesco toilets before heading for a wedding.
I'll save you a blow by blow account of the wedding, save to say that Louis is now an honest man, and future trips with many buddies were planned and discussed over many an ale. I feel like I've only tickled the belly of the beast that is Peak Grit, and am thoroughly looking forward to heading back down soon as I can. Or rather, as soon as we can.