Monday, 28 May 2012

A Sermon

As a science-fearing atheist I feel very comfortable saying that I don't believe in a higher power.  No gods, no designers, no creators.  However, sometimes, and just sometimes, I wonder, and the conclusion I keep coming to is that if there is one, they're a climber.

God's gear?
I was thinking this as I walked off Beinn Eighe on Saturday afternoon, having just romped up Groovin' High on Coire Mhic Fhearchair's Far East Wall.  I'm ashamed to admit that I'd never climbed on Beinn Eighe before, but I'd heard tell of the brilliantly steep, positive and well-protected climbing provided by the steep quartzite walls.  I'm glad I'd heard this, as it meant I was prepared for the shock and awe cast by the sheer, grey, seemingly-blank appearance that the crags confronted us with as we dropped into the coire.  

"Are you sure an E1 goes up there?"  
"Well, that's where the guide says it goes"
"Looks pretty steep to me".
"Let's find out".

....some hours later...

Steve following pitch 1 of Groovin' High
"F*****g hell! That was f*****g amazing!"
"Not bad, eh?"
"The f*****g holds, f*****g...big!  And the f*****g gear!  And the f*****g exposure!  Just when you thought things were about to get sketchy you just placed a brilliant bit of gear, reached up, and hugged the mother of all jugs.  Again, and again.  F******g brilliant!"

Russell at the end of the last pitch.

It does sometimes strike me how incredible it seems that holds and cracks for protection are so regularly spaced on so many bits of rock across the globe - how many,  many bits of rock can be climbed at pretty amenable standards, even ones that look totally improbable.  Maybe there is a creator that designed it after all.

Or maybe Homo sapiens are one of many species of primate and are therefore quite good at climbing.

In  bad news, the 2012 midge season kicked off  this weekend.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Duncan Gump

The sun emerges on Clough Head (Photo: Viv Scott)

As dawn crept into the Eastern sky we could make out the glimmering of torches coming off Blencathra.  Flickering left and right, snaking down to Thelkeld and the waiting support teams.  Duncan, Adam and Andy, supported by the irrepressible Viv, soon arrived out of the gloom, steaming like colts in the frosty morning air, smiles beaming across their faces.  Leg 1 of 5: complete.  They'd been out for four hours already, starting at one in the morning on their second attempt at completing the Bob Graham Round, the Lake District challenge of 74 miles and 42 peaks in under 24 hours.   The first attempt having been cut short by wild weather almost a year previously.

Dermot and I were Duncan's pacers for leg 2, the graveyard shift from Thelkeld to Dunmail Raise.  Like a Grand Prix pit-stop, Sarah had Duncan's kit laid out ready for him on arrival: a change of socks, a bite of pizza, a mug of warm soup, water, jelly babies, jaffa cakes.  I took the rucksack from Viv, who stuck to his all-night- party-animal form and decided to carry on with us (if you've got up at midnight to go running, I guess there's not much point stopping at half four).  And within a few minutes of their arrival, we were off.

Toward Great Dodd (Photo: Viv Scott)

Four and a half hours later, leg 2 completed on schedule, we waved a freshly refuelled and re-shod Dunc goodbye as he started up Steel Fell with his new team of pacers for leg 3.  Sarah's job, as lynch-pin support driver for legs 2 and 3 was  now complete, it was 0830, and we had the rest of the day to play with.  However, somewhat weary after an early start, the best we mustered was the Langdale Boulders (mainly bouldering, but a fair bit of dodging the mountains of sheep shit too), followed by tea and cakes in Ambleside, a snooze, a wee walk to Derwent Water (watched a fishing osprey) and then a race back into Keswick to see Duncan sprinting up the high street looking fresh as a daisy.  He took 19 hours, 32 minutes for his Bob Graham Round - very fast indeed.  Adam and Andy arrived within the hour, making a trio of fast BGs.  Nice one boys!

To the victor, the spoils: Duncan after 19hrs 32mins of being Forrest Gump. (Photo: Matthew Tilley)
Sunday morning routes: M.G.C at Shephards Crag (Photo: Viv Scott)