Having never written a blog before, I thought it was time to warm up those typing fingers and get the juices flowing.
First of all a little background on me as I think it’s only polite that I introduce myself properly!
First tastes of the outdoors
Born in the sunny town of Lancaster, (the gateway to the lakes) my foray into climbing and mountaineering probably should have been sooner. As it turned out, it wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I really began to get into climbing. As a boy I had been a member of the rambling club since the bright young age of 9. Fond memories of running up Great Gable as a precocious whipper snapper, wondering why everyone was walking. Now as a 28-year-old I understand exactly why everyone was walking, because they didn’t have the lungs of a 9-year-old.
At around the age of 13 I succumbed to what can only be described as teenager apathy. Going out with my mum and the rambling club was no longer cool. Instead I was hanging around with my mates in the woods making fires. In later years this was accompanied by drinking, smoking and blowing things up. All fine activities for a young lad growing up!
Whilst I was at school I did get another taste of the outdoors. We were fortunate enough to have an outdoor ed centre and a legendary teacher called Mr Gibbison aka Gibby. Top roping was the order of the day at school but at least it was a start. Sanitised and as safe as climbing gets outdoors I still found it exhilarating. It was a taste of what was to come later on and it had certainly whetted the appetite.
A dream of trad climbing!
It wasn’t until I was at university that I experienced trad climbing. My brother Barney had been a climber for many years and one fateful birthday he bought me a pair of Sportiva Mythos, which to this day are still my favourite pair of shoes. Soon I was off to sample a real adventure, proper multi pitch climbing on the cliffs of Gogarth. The first time I went to Gogarth the plan was to climb a classic called “A dream of white horses.” However the weather and time prevailed over our desires and we did a shorter, less committing route. I can’t remember the name but being on the cliffs of Gogarth it was still nail-biting! We started off close to the water line, probably too close given the tide. By brother lead the route in its entirety. At that point I had no idea how to place gear and I was happy to leave it to him, it looked tough! The climbing was good and there was there was plenty of atmospheric excitement. During the climb, powerful waves rolled in crashing into the rocks showering us with spray. As we were topping out rain started to fall and we decided to call it a day. A dream of white horses would have to wait!
Before my next visit to Gogarth the reputation of “a dream” grew and grew in my head. We set off from Manchester in the evening, down the a56, onto the a55 and east towards our goal. Arriving at the North Stack car park around 9 we set up camp for the night. Before long drinks were flowing and an atmosphere of trepidation and adventure swept through the camp. That’s how it felt in my head anyway. I was inexperienced and had no idea of what was to come really. A few drinks and chuckles later I was laying down in my sleeping bag trying to get some sleep before the early rise. To my despair my mind was betraying me racing with expectation, refusing to let the swaddle of sweet slumber take over. Eventually I managed to drift off and awoke to a wild and beautiful Gogarth morning. We set off toward Wen Zawn, my brother nimbly skipping down the climbers path which was narrower than I thought was possible. I gingerly followed behind, unsure and unready for such an adventure. But I was ready, we arrived at the ab point and Barney set up the abseil. Once he was sure it was secure he gave the shout rope below and momentarily dropped the ab line down the cliff.
He then made sure I knew what I was doing and after a couple of checks he set off bounding down the cliff! My eyes followed him over the edge, and down to the beginning of the first pitch. It looked like a long way down! Once Barney was free of the rope and he had made himself safe I put the rope into my belay device and walked over to the edge. Natural sibling rivalry meant there was no opportunity for doubt in my mind. Soon I too was bounding down the cliff with rather less finesse than my brother, eager to not make a cock of myself before we had even started. Once we had set up at the beginning of the first pitch my brother edged away from the ledge and started to make his ascent.
The climb was one of the most awesome experiences and no doubt planted the seed for my current rock addiction. I even took my first fall and learnt a valuable lesson, rock is often loose, check it before you wreck yourself. Fortunately this happened before the exposed final traverse pitch where a fall would have left me dangling in a void. The only option then would have been to prussic up the rope. In this case that option was unfortunately redundant. My brother had neither given me nor taught me how to use a prussic! After struggling to regain my purchase on the rock and after piecing together my shattered composure, I set off on the exposed traverse. After falling I was certainly in no rush to do it again. I moved carefully; precisely positioning my feet and trying to keep my head together. Finally I rounded the corner and ascended to where my brother was belaying nearly rolling around with laughter at the joy of my fall! Now 9 years later and 3 years lead trad climbing I realise that this is what it is all about. Enjoying intense adventures with people, sharing in each other’s successes, laughing about each other’s failures and generally trying to tee up your partners for the next epic day out!