Thursday, 23 February 2012

Pigs and Pixies

It’s 7.45am and I prise myself out of bed; my body aches and my mind protests against movement after the 13 hours of work yesterday and the four days of climbing before that. I stop making excuses and get up.

I step outside and the warm air feels strange and unnatural, the ground is wet and condensation could well be a problem but I’m only heading to Pixies’ and it’s worth the 10min drive to find out. The world-famous Pixies’ Hole is a squalid cave at Chudleigh which epitomises all that I need to improve at. The angle, somewhere between vertical and Ferocity Wall steepness won’t succumb to my usual technique of turning sideways and throwing in a drop-knee instead you need to climb square-on using strength, power and accuracy, three of my major weaknesses.

I park up and walk in, the crag is silent and deserted which is unsurprising as it’s 8.30am and the whole crag is dripping with condensation. Pixies’ is normally festooned with bright white chalk marks but today it’s dark and damp and slimy.

Climbing is clearly out of the question but I can’t bring myself to turn around and head back home. I dump my bags and wander on down the crag, past Pixies’ where many a happy hour has been spent in the company of good friends, past Combat where I scared myself silly 1st time round and Tendonitis where I felt calm and collected despite dropping some crucial gear. I pick out lines I’ve led, lines I plan to lead and lines I haven’t noticed before. I look up at Hot Ice and remember top-roping it many years ago and hoping one day I’d be brave enough to solo it... then remind myself to get on and do it. Past Cow Cave, past some of my first climbs nearly ten years ago, Wogs and Barn Owl Crack, exciting outings that I loved and that got me hooked on climbing. I look up at Black Death and White Life and mentally bump the latter up my to-do list of climbs for this year. I wander on past Scar and The Spider and Great Western, so many climbs and so many memories of great days out.

Turning away from the crag I meander back through the trees breathing in the warm air and the scent of spring, I see snowdrops pushing their way through the mossy soil and watch ravens soaring and cackling overhead. The smell of the woodland and the sight of the old twisted oaks remind me of walking through the wood on my parents’ farm, following dear tracks and disturbing magnificent stags. I remember being sent with a bucket of pig food to find an adventurous pair of pigs that we brought for the autumn; the pigs where free-range throughout the whole farm but had a penchant for exploring and finding gaps in the boundary fence.
As happy as a pig in...
I walked through the wood calling and rattling the bucket until eventually there was a rustling in the undergrowth and the two pigs trotted over for some food and a good scratch. On the way back I disturbed a pair of stags fighting in a pond in the centre of the wood, the image of them is framed in my mind with sunlight streaming through the trees and catching on the droplets of water thrown up in the air.

Back in Chudleigh I see no deer or pigs but the wood is beautiful nevertheless and the morning spent wandering around a damp crag doesn’t feel wasted at all.

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