Goodbye winter snow, hello summer rock
Lucie’s introduction to climbing
So, as the spectacular winter drew to a close it became time to think about the rock climbing season and long sunny days on crag and mountain. Throughout the snowy months I had pondered on how my winter climbing would benefit my mental approach to summer rock and fancied that all the ascents made on an unpredictable medium would leave me much more confident when back on the solid stuff. Come April it was time to put my theory to the test with a visit to Birchen Edge in the Peak District.
This promised to be an interesting exercise as not only would it be my first foray into rock climbing since the previous October, it would also mark the introduction to the outdoors for Lucie who had shown great natural ability on the few visits we had made to the local wall. This worried me slightly as I have not been quick to race through the grades and have settled comfortably as a confirmed Vdiffer. I could foresee that should I fail to up my game then young Lucie would soon progress from absolute beginner to someone dragging me up harder climbs leaving my ego in tatters.
Joining us at Birchen were Psycho Simon, Bat Girl and Big Juggs, an equally rusty bunch who had remained largely inactive during the previous months. So there we were on a glorious day and eager to show the ‘Bouncing Czech’ what climbing was all about. Whilst I sorted gear and ropes Juggs started off solo up a diff, soon retreating after coming cheek to jowl with an awkward bulge. Lucie however took this as a challenge to be met head on and within minutes had completed her first outdoor climb solo. We four more experienced folk looked at each other, incredulous and somewhat taken aback by girl’s boldness and the utter cheek of her dismissal of our closely held tradition of being led by a trusty veteran and learning the ropes before indulging in the lunacy of soloing.
Bristling with indignation I decided to raise the stakes and headed over to Barbette Buttress, a Severe 4b. “That will put her in her place” I thought and it did, but not before I had struggled, huffed, puffed and whimpered my way up first. A pathetic display of cowardice which brought hoots of derision from all present. On joining me at the top of the climb I wondered why Lucie was sporting a fetching wound to her forehead and learned that when wrenching out a well seated rock 6 it had popped out and belted her square on the noggin. I had warned of grit’s unfailing ability to inflict cuts and bruises but had neglected to even imagine such a chuckle-some injury. We live and learn!
With that we sauntered across to Trafalgar Wall for some slab climbing before Juggs decided on Powder Monkey Parade. In the chimney a miraculous exhibition of tomfoolery ensued somewhat akin to an eel giving birth to a whale until can’t became must and a sling for aid was thrown around the chockstone permitting upward progress. Next to tackle the heinous fissure was Lucie who floated up as if her blood was infused with helium. This was becoming embarrassing and I steeled myself in the knowledge that I too would surmount the beast with aplomb. I soon realised that it wasn’t going to be that simple, in fact it was going to be impossible and unbeknown to the two above I climbed onto Bat Girl’s shoulders until I could grasp the chockstone and heave myself to victory.
By now some of us were satisfied but growing tired though at least one of our number had a point to prove so in an audacious plan to lead my hardest climb to date I dragged the party to Sail Buttress, the Classic Rock hard severe (recently down graded from VS). Moving quickly so not to be caught off guard by second thoughts I mantled the first block and then the second, arriving at the crux just in time to realise I hadn’t the right cams on my harness. Big Juggs threw up a couple of 4CUs and I slammed them into the crack before making the big stride left. A nervy moment and then full commitment found me on the nose and the climb all but won. I was ecstatic and hyperventilated awhile before cruising to the top in a blaze of glory. Lucie seconded then Bat Girl and Juggs came up on a top rope, congratulating me on my lead. A great days climbing, a meal in the Robin Hood and a fantastic start to the season. Happy days.