Climbing

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Photo 1 Poetry Pink on North Wales Slate Steve Roberts and Buzz Jones

Photo 2 A great day on Stanage grit Rob Hastings

Photos 3 & 4 Me soloing at Pex Hill 1974 & 1992 – nowadays baggier shorts, beer belly and much less soloing 

I first went climbing with the school at Scugdale on the North York Moors. Nowadays I would see it as an idyllic place to climb but then I didn’t take to it. I remember refusing to abseil. We also used to go up to Eston Nab which sits above Middlesbrough covered in graffiti and smashed glass. It has been called the ‘worst place to climb in the country’ but I would put forward Taylor Park in St Helens for that honour. And Eston Nab does have a nice little VS called ‘Peleton’.

Then I was heavily into athletics and didn’t do any climbing for a while. Later I did a bit with the University in the Lake District. About that time I went camping in Langdale with a friend who was into fishing. I tried to take him up ‘Centipede’, a Severe on Raven Crag, our only equipment being an old rope I had found in the shed at home. I led the first pitch but my mate had untied and run off. Luckily the next party up gave me a tow and it was fishing for the rest of the holiday. Though Lakeland trout grilled over an open fire are rather tasty.

In 1974 I got married and had to give up athletics because of injuries to my knees. So what sport did I take up? That’s right. One where you have to jump off all the time. Pex Hill, a sandstone quarry at Cronton near Liverpool, was very popular with climbers. Check out the list of climbers who used to train there round about that time and went on to greater things. Ron Fawcett, John Hart, Tony Mitchell, Lew Brown, Mike Owen, Phil Davidson, Joe Healey. And my own mates Paul Bolger and Steve Roberts who each went on to achieve 8a/E5 and above. Paul’s greatest achievement was probably ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ at Higgar Tor, a notoriously steep gritstone route – if you fell off you swung into the void to come back a few minutes later, screaming your head off.

Phil Davidson was a flamboyant character of the time. In the 1980s he became famous in the climbing world for daring solos of hard routes across the country including Right Wall, Cockblock and Great Wall (Cloggy and Forwyn). His arrival at Pex would be announced by a loud belch that echoed off the sandstone walls and he would appear, soloing down ‘Dateline’ (a stiff E2 lead) in full motorbike gear including helmet. I have seen him solo ‘Staminade’, a cutting edge Pex E7, and solo down Black Magic a rated Pex E6. That’s not a typo. That’s down. Phil gave up climbing for canoeing but still goes out with us occasionally, often on Helsby Crag – Phil lives just below it.

I was never cutting edge nor as good as the climbers listed above but I did reach a reasonable standard and climbed some of the best routes in the country – in Snowdonia, the Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Devon. I still climb though I seem to have more and more injuries and aches and pains so I am now the archetypal ‘aging grumpy bumbly’.

I have a profile ‘Pekkie’ (so-called because I spend so much time at Pex Hill which is only ten minutes by car from where I live) on ‘UK Climbing’. If you want to find out more about climbing and its strange personalities then it is worth having a look at this web-site.

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