It’s hard to believe that I haven’t set hand or foot to rock since 20th March – almost 8 weeks and the longest gap in my outdoor climbing in certainly 5 years (and possibly 25 – including a shorter layoff with a broken wrist). Obviously an insignificant impact to my lifestyle compared with how the pandemic has effected so many.
Given that climbing was never explicitly banned (cue huge semantic debate!) I guess it’s been a balancing act for the whole climbing community, which now seems to have gently tipped in favour of “proceed with caution”.
Looking for a venue to fit the Local / Low-key / Low-risk ethos to “break my fast” on Wednesday as the new guidance came into effect, the obvious answer was Hobby. Another reminder of how lucky I am to have one of the world’s Top Five climbing venues on the doorstep (the others being El Cap, Gogarth, Cloggy and ANO depending what mood I’m in – other opinions do exist, but they are of course wrong!)
One unexpected side-effect of the lockdown (combined with a knee niggle) is that I’ve somehow morphed into a cyclist, all be it on a mountain bike, so I pedalled into the quarry, half expecting the whole of the Greater Manchester climbing community to be there. As it turned out, there was just Jim and me
(maintaining a consistent 2m gap – brooms at the ready) plodding along the traverse and we were later joined by a lass along for some shunting. Hardly a crowd, with enthusiasm perhaps dampened by the early temperatures of around 8C in the shade. Toasty in the sun though, and it’s hard to describe the simple joy of coarse grit on the fingertips and sun on a shirtless back!
With warmer temperatures on Thursday, Helen and I extended our search for a low-key / low-risk venue and settled on one of the Matlock quarries – another post-industrial eyesore repurposed into a sylvan nature habitat and climbers playground.
The added benefit of “Takeaway Walls” is that any concern over viral transmission via handholds is overcome due to them being largely disposable / single use only! Of course we also equipped ourselves with hand sanitizer and maintained appropriate distancing from the other couple we bumped into.
Two meters is no impediment to sharing a bit of crag banter and beta, and it’s a refreshing change to be able to “socialise with safety” with other climbers. A good workout too.
In the final episode of my lockdown loosening I met up with Andy at Masson Lees on Saturday – “travelling separately to do low-risk exercise with one other person from outside the household“. We picked Masson Lees as a reliably unpopular hole in the ground, with a good range of well-bolted high 6s and low 7s on Overhanging and Black Walls (which would also be devoid of their usual seepage after the dry spell). We were astounded to find a couple of dozen cars parked
(I’ve never seen more than one other party there before) and around 30 climbers. Happily, most of these were on the easier (and sunnier) Red Wall, which was absolutely rammed!
Over on “The Dark Side” we had Black Wall to ourselves, though there were 3 or 4 teams on Overhanging Wall. Warm up options were severely limited so we jumped straight on Long Black Veil, top end 7a and given *** in the BMC guide “…the route of the crag and perhaps the best at the grade in The Peak”. Quite a claim (though it maybe says more about the quality of sports routes in The Peak than it does about the route!), and it is a very good route – crimpy, sequency and sustained. I worked up quite a sweat just getting the clips in, before Andy breezed up it in fine style (something which just eluded me over a couple of further attempts). Here he is enjoying the no-hands shake-out before it steepens.
We also did (with varying degrees of success) Fu@# your Gods, 7a and Nice One Masson, 7a+, plus the much more amenable Eye, Eye, 6b+ as a warm down (plenty tough enough by that stage!) – the latter two are also excellent. Another good workout that demonstrated that I’ve got a thing or two to learn from Andy’s lockdown routine (not to mention technique!)
It’s good to be back!