I vividly recall, albeit through proverbial rose tints, sacked off my youthful pastime activities of swimming and yomping around the fells for a life in the vert world. Along with Dave, a school friend, I took-up with some climbers from the Burnley Caving and Climbing Club and trashed around learning the dark-art of rock climbing under their watchful eye. I was quickly and irrevocable hooked on climbing; regular mid-week visits to the hot-spots of Lancashire and the Dales and weekend trips to the Lakes or Wales with the lads from the BCCC as well as trips out with the Army Youth Team only left me wanting more and more rock.
Back then in the early Seventies, kernmantle ropes were the latest must-have – although hawser ropes were still in common use on the grit. As the Whillian’s harness wasn’t in wide-spread use we tied-in through a Troll waist belt which, though basic, was definitely one up from the previous hemp line! Believe it or not, we had a choice of four different boots; EB’s, RD’s, Master’s and Kletterschue (a.k.a Klets). A good rack comprised MOACs, baby MOACs, Clog hexagonal wires, Clog micros, Peck Crackers, machined out hexs and a necklace of assorted slings along with a handful of alloy krab. These seemed cutting edge at the time; certainly they were stacks better (and lighter) than the ubiquitous ex-MOD steel biners.
Every climber was an honorary member of the ‘clean hand gang’ and there was one basic climbing rule – don’t fall off! Belaying was simple too, either a waist belay or a shoulder belay. Leather belay gloves were an optional extra and sensible though they might seem, they weren’t in everyone’s kit bag. Abseiling was real life and death stuff with the choice between the classic abseil, the new fandangled descenders or else a krabineer brake. Ethics was somewhere south ofLondonand the usual winter activities for climbers were caving or aid climbing in dingy grit quarries or at some mighty Pennine limestone edifice. Belay plates, never mind active or passive devices, cams, sticky rubber and climbing walls were barely a twinkle in someone’s eye and training wasn’t even an option let alone in it’s infancy. Instruction was from dog-eared copies of Blackshaw’s down at the local library and skills were learned the hard way by trial and error with, if you were lucky, a few tips from your elders.
After 15 years or so of trad climbing I crossed over to the so-called dark side during the late Eighties and became a sport climber. Twenty-five years later I’m still clipping bolts but bouldering, especially lantern sessions during the winter, push sport climbing a close second for the buzz.
Here’s some personal memories and ticks from along the way – vey little of which has been of any real significance – but it’s perhaps an interesting timeline if nothing else…
- Regent Street, E2 5b, Millstone – early extreme lead – in 1976
- Left Wall E2 5c,LlanberrisPass– in 1978
- Kink E5 6c, Stoney Middleton – early ascent (5th?) then graded E3 6a of Proctor testpiece – in 1979
- Strapadictomy E5 6a, Froggatt – in 1981
- Right Wall E5 6a,LlanberisPass– in 1983
- Milky Way E6 6b, then graded E4 6b, and Footless Crow E5 6a, Borrowdale – in 1984
- Seventh Toad E6 6b, Malham; Lord of the Flies E6 6a,LlanberisPass and Pebble Mill E5 6b, Burbage South – on-sight solo – all in 1986
- Defying Destiny E6 6b, Stanage – whilst recovering from Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow in both arms – in 1987
- Scarab E6 6b, Stoney Middleton and Groove of Distinction E5 6b,Arran– first ascent – in 1988
- Jug Jockey F7c+ , Chee Dale – first ascent – and Powerplant F8a, Chee Dale – first F8a – in 1990
- Roof Warrior F8a, Chee Dale – first ascent in 1991
- Chimes of Freedom F8a+, Raven Tor – first F8a+ – in 1992
- Nemesis F8a+, Chee Dale – first ascent – in 1994
- Zeke the Freak F8b, Rubicon Wall – first F8b – in 1997
- 42, F8b, Chee Dale – the third only member of the ‘42 Club’ following both John Hart and Simon Reed who both did 42 when they were 42 – in 1999
- The Auctioneer F8a+, WCJ Cornice – first ascent – in 2001
- Major Waddage F8b, Raven Tor – second ascent – in 2005
- Austrian Oak F8b, Malham –as a 50th birthday pressie to self – in 2007
- Ben’s Roof Font 7c+, Raven Tor – in 2008
- Blind Fig Font 7c, Burbage North – during winter night-time bouldering session – in 2009
- Crucifixion F8a, Raven Tor – in 2011
- Double Traverse F8a+, Eastwood and Right to Roam F8a, Raven Tor – in 2015