Monday, 13 April 2009


This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

The Enkindled Spring, by D.H. Lawrence

Yawning and stretching we blink into the bright light of a new season. As the glens slowly transform from winter’s brown to summer’s green and the icy whiteness recedes to the highest hill-tops, our thoughts start to turn. Eyes begin to look away from the snow, big boots and down jackets are put away, crampons and axes hung up. Winter is over, and with it the cold, the suffering, the early mornings. The spindrift and wetness, the heavy packs and hot-aches. The constant, endless, non-stop weather and conditions checking. Spring is here, and with it the excitement and expectation born of months spent pulling on plastic holds at the indoor wall. The rock-climbing season begins.

Steev beneath cotton-wool clouds on Handrail, Bowden Doors (All photos: S. Crawford)

In celebration I traveled south to old haunts. Fife’s Limekilns was the scene of the first routes of 2009, and they didn’t disappoint. Joining my old housemate and long-time climbing partner in crime Steev on Friday evening, we played on the sun-dappled limestone cubes beneath the closing canopy. Steev’s hardest onsight (all be it very soft-touch by his own admission) was a good start on Kiln Dance with Me (E1 5a*). I then flexed my muscles on Elgin's Crack (E2 5c***), one of the classics of the crag, and a pleasing first route of the year since it's as hard as anything I did last year. As the evening drew in Steev waltzed up DTs (VS 4c**) and I gave up before commiting to the bold (but supposedly soft) Grasp the Nettle (E3 5b*). Maybe when there's more light....

Seduced by Saturday's blue sky we hopped into the beast (my Skoda, which is still holding on) and made the pilgrimage to Bowden Doors in Northumberland. I was pretty chuffed to climb Stretcher Wall (E1 5c*), as it's not exactly my forte, and decided to carry my positive momentum forward and have a go at the classic sandbag The Overhanging Crack (E2 5c***). My lack of jamming expertise meant my attempt was short lived, but as Steve put it, I've made the first steps on the journey, so can take it from there.

Me on the easier top section of Stretcher Wall, Bowden Doors

Steve climbed the good little Handrail (VS 4c*) and had a good look at Canada Crack (HVS 5a***) before deciding to come back later in the season. Good mountaineering, as Mr 'Crazy' Chris Edwards might have it. In a similar theme to many previous Bowden trips, the 'next step' for me, i.e. the routes in the grades I'm approaching, are mainly soloes, and I'm still not going well enough to commit to them. I had a good look at both Klondyke Wall (E2 5c) and The Trial (E3 5c), but couldn't bring myself to make the long moves high above pads. But hey, it is only April...

Enjoying Childs Play in the evening sunshine.

The day wound down with a cheeky bit of bouldering. I managed Cave Left Hand (Font 6a+), which I've tried sporadically for about five years, so was pretty pleased, and then got all highball and fluttery on the superb Childs Play (Font 6b+/E1). So, lets hope the rock season builds from this positive start.

No comments: