In the Beginning
Jeremy’s first taste of climbing at the beginners’ weekend
Across a frightful chasm I saw that there protruded from the rain-polished slab
of rock, one very small rust red nodule.
I prepared myself to undertake what I knew would be an irrecoverable shift in my
balance left to right to the very extent of my stride and I marked again the
nodule. Had it shrunk? For now it was really no more than a blemish.
A breath, a glance, and then, without being aware that I had moved at all I was
across. The way to the top was unlocked. Breathless but triumphant I re-joined
my leader, Martin S, at the summit.
So it was, at Baslow Edge on the beginners weekend in May, one of the first moves
I ever made, on what was my first ever day climbing rocks. And in the company of
Martin, much more was to come. Corner Route, Curbar Cracks, Cracked Wall,
Mauvais Pas, Shandy, Rum and Pep; through showers and sunshine and my failing
strength, Martin’s re-joiner ever “let’s keep chipping away”, we climbed and
climbed and climbed them all. And just when I thought I could climb no more, a
great hail storm broke above us. Surely now, the rocks would be drenched and we
could retreat with honour intact. But no, as my indomitable companion observed,
the hail was only bouncing off the rocks, and soon we climbed anew.
Actually I didn’t quite make it up Cracked Wall (HS 4a) despite there apparently
being loads of really large hand holds and great foot holds. I think it’s fair
to say that a difference of opinion over the abundance, size and usefulness of
holds began to emerge. Co-incidentally I found myself on the same side of this
particular debate when the topic was re-visited a few weeks later several
hundred feet above Llanberis pass.
Having survived and even prospered under Martin’s excellent instruction on day
one, so it was we went to Birchen Edge on the Sunday. Sail Chimney and Trafalgar
Wall, a solo on the Gang Plank and on Handy Crack a lead and fall. My first ever
placement saved me, but a lob was recorded. In my defence it should be said that
the rock was very slippery, rendering any attempt at this difficult graded climb
almost impossible – wouldn’t you say Martin?
As the rain became heavier we joined Andy, Caroline and others in offering words
of encouragement to Tom, a fellow beginner, whom was in a tricky situation half
way up a chimney unable to advance or retreat. Eventually after a brilliantly
executed abseil from Tom, gear retrieval from Andy and belay from Emma it was
off to the pub.
Al, Maddy and I headed back to Ipswich exchanging tales of daring do. The next
day I reflected that mountaineering in general and rock climbing in particular
is a terrifying pastime. By Tuesday I had convinced myself that I would never do
something as ridiculous ever again, and by Wednesday I had signed up for the