Sometimes I think it’s important to remember that climbing isn’t all about redpoints and hard trad onsights; yesterday was definitely a good reminder.
The cold north wind at the beginning of the week (and the incessant call of a project route) drove me and my climbing partner to Anstey’s for a couple of warm, sheltered days of steep sport, where I spent most of the time falling off the same few moves on Tuppence and wishing my left hand was better at crimping.
Suitably tired after two days of this silliness and with a full day free for climbing we headed to Swanage for some of that trad nonsense. We ended up at Fisherman’s Ledge and warmed up with a very pleasant deep water solo of Troubled Waters – the perfect kind of climb where you have no intention of falling in and none of that faffing around with ropes.
Next on the list was The Ritz – an absurdly steep route through a number of impressive and improbable looking roofs. I gallantly offered to belay and thus delayed the inevitable part of actually climbing it. After a while my turn came to second it and I swung out under some roofs and thrutched up past some others to a nice ledge where I sat for a while with my back to the rock wondering what would happen if I just stayed there. I persuaded myself to carry on and soon I was sitting dejectedly on the rope under the lip of a roof with all the exposure I could ever want below my feet. I attempted the move over the lip approximately 400 times; I tried heel-hooking, campusing, using technique, using no technique, just man-ing up, getting-the-hell-on-with-it and shutting-my-eyes-and-hoping-it-would-go-away all to no avail.
Eventually I made it to the top with the help of my trusty friends, the prusiks. The good news was I could now relax and eat my homemade chocolate fruit slice in the sun; the bad news was that I now had something else to add to my list of 'Things I Must Try To Get Better At'.
We abbed in to the next route as the tide, which had stayed in the same place for the last 4 hours, had now decided to come in quite fast (the tides do strange things around these parts, I’m told the Isle of Wight is to blame). Limited Edition was the route of choice and it was my turn to lead but due to battered arms and an all-encompassing tiredness caused by the aforementioned roof I declined the offer.
Instead I basked in the sun, watched the sea raging below my feet and paid out the rope in an encouraging sort of way. The view of the waves crashing against the rock sending clouds of spray into the air made me wish I could paint and somehow capture forever not just the power of the ocean and the millions of tiny droplets of water frozen for a millisecond in mid-air but also the feel of the sun on my face, the ache in my arms and the feeling of truly being alive and free. However as I have the artistic skills of a five year old child this was a little over-optimistic.
All in all it was a wonderful day spent achieving very little apart from reminding myself that climbing isn’t all about a ticks in a guidebook and that roofs are really hard.