Sunny Intervals

I got one of those “your memories on Facebook from 4 years ago” notifications the other day…
It had me scratching my head. Where was that shirtless climbing under stunning blue sky on golden rock in the middle of winter?

Not Tenerife (that was 2019)
Nor Morocco (2018)
El Chorro? Nope (2017)
Hrmm – closer inspection (the sea and the trad gear are the giveaways) reveals that we were, in fact, at Rhoscolyn on Anglesey. – my point being that you don’t need to jump on a plane to an exotic location to enjoy blue skies and sunshine in December – you just need to be lucky, bloody minded, and blessed with some like minded partners (or worst case a bouldering mat!) Just as well, as the fates have transpired to rule out a foreign sun-blast for the foreseeable future.

A couple of days after our winter-wonderland-wander in The Lakes, there was a forecasted sunny interval in The Peak. Too short notice to rope anyone in, so I dusted off my new pad (thanks Santa from last Xmas) and headed to Burbage North. If it’s going to be climbable anywhere on Grit then it’ll be here. None too promising on arrival… … but the clouds rolled away exactly on schedule to give a pleasant couple of hours hit. Still a bit of snow on the ground, and the cracks were sopping, but a dozen routes still left enough time for a gentle jog along the length of the valley.
Come the weekend and the only “Sun Int.” looks to be out west. A Gogarth dash would be my usual response in the circumstances, but with Wales being out-of-bounds, James and I settled for Llanymynech instead. I know that might sound Welsh, but it’s actually in Shropshire (albeit the border strays pretty close to the crag). Another reliable winter suntrap, and sure enough it didn’t disappoint. As an added bonus we bumped into Phil and Ali (last seen just before our exodus from Valencia in the spring). Tierra de Nadie it ain’t, but it’s not a bad substitute to have more or less on your doorstep.

Helen was unlucky enough to draw the short straw for a trip to Stoney West for another “Sun Int.” that failed to materialise (or rather we got there too early and had nearly frozen doing a couple of routes before escaping to thaw out at home). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and you have to shrug off the occasional disappointment.

That brings us up to date to yesterday, and another bouldering session – this time with Andy and Hamish for company, as well as my pad. I’m starting to understand why you lug around a huge slab of foam – so nice to have a sofa to sup your flask of hot chocolate on… Robin Hood’s Stride has rock and boulders facing in all directions, though the number of dry, sunny bits were in fairly short supply (and there were quite a few teams out). We made the best of what there was and did about a dozen problems. … before rain stopped play at around 2pm.

There you go: four outdoor climbing fixes wrung from the sunny intervals that December 2020 has offered up so far, and still a couple of weeks to go before the New Year. Fortune favours the brave (or the delusional optimist) and you’ll want to equip yourself with a decent flask, snuggly duvet, numerous weather apps and a philosophical approach to disappointment, but it’s surprising how much you can get done at home in December. Having said that, you won’t be surprised if I take the more reliable option next winter if we’re allowed!

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