Friday, 16 September 2011

Unsung Heroes: The Wellie Boot's Story

Most of the year we live in the car boot, sandwiched between an ever-changing array of kit from Gaz's life.  Most of the time we're untouched, forgotten, unloved.  Forsaken for smaller, for smarter, for more expensive.  You'll never read about us in magazines, or online, or in gear reviews, and you'll never see us for sale alongside swanky specialist gear.  But the truth is, we're one of the most important bits of kit that Gaz and many of his friends own.   Without us they'd be wet, cold, miserable, and probably wouldn't bother.  With the changing of the seasons, our time approaches.

Take today, the 16th of September.  There's the slightest chill in the air, and a grey sky, and the merest hint of the leaves turning.  Summer has passed, and with it the last of the swallows and house martins.  Autumn lies ahead, running season for Gaz, and bouldering.  And that's when we come out and play our part.

We've been untouched in the car boot for months, sliding from side to side round bends and roundabouts, travelling the length of the country and never once being allowed out.   But today was different.  After Inverness the road felt familiar, the twists and turns - Contin, Garve, Achnasheen, Kinlochewe.  After that the steady stop-start of passing places on the way down Glen Torridon and finally the crunch of gravel under the tyres as we halted in the regular parking spot.  And then the boot opened and there was the view.  The view!  Mountains and rock and water and sky.  Familiar, but always different.

As Gaz puts us on he gathers up the usual bouldering paraphernalia - pads and shoes, flasks and brushes, tape and towels, and another unsung hero, the tarpaulin.

Today is no different from the usual Torridon bouldering session, it's just special because it's the first of the new season and Gaz is impatient to get  back on the sandstone.  Splishy-splashing through the burn and the bog to the tumble-down rock jumble and the old friends and enemies that lie hidden there.  So many stories, successes, failures, ongoing sieges.  The scene of torments and of frustrations.  But most excitingly, the scene of so much potential, for Gaz personally, as there is still so much for him to try and to complete,  to train for and to mark as notches in his progression, or not. Potential for others too, as they hungrily quest across the hillsides in search of the new, the perfect and the hard.  After a while on the classic warm up circuit Gaz takes us down to the Ship Boulder and uses us to keep the tarp from blowing away as he takes continual falls from Malc's Arete.  He's still not very close to doing it, but closer than last season, so I expect we'll be back with him quite a bit this year.

Eventually the expected rain arrives, so Gaz packs up quick and puts us on and traipses back through the mire to the car, where we go back into the boot, and wait in the dark, until next time.