Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Holy Tree of Shoes.

I had been keen to get on some U.K. rock for weeks since returning from El Chorro. I posted messages on UK Climbing forums asking for help.
 I've got "no gear and no idea" but I'm willing, was the theme of my post. I didn't expect any offers to be honest, I thought I may get a few remarks of laughter. I sat looking at my post, and looking and looking. 20 people viewed the post ... 80 people viewed the post ... 200 people viewed the post! Still no offers! Refresh the page .. .refresh the page ... refresh ... refresh ... ref ... my forefinger was starting to wear away. I gave up after a week. I didn't mind really, who would want to start trying to teach a 40yr old idiot how to climb? Most people can't be bothered to let their foot off the gas in traffic to help you out of a sticky situation. What was I expecting? Alex Honnold to jump on the next flight to Wigan to free solo the local multi storey car park?

After a few weeks I messaged my mate Tom from El Chorro. You should check out his blog if you're a climber. He's a really cool guy with some cool stories to tell. Especially the tale of sheep rescue!

                                          Tom Ireson's Climbing Stories

 Tom, has become my climbing guru and agony aunt it seems. I'm not sure if that's more my doing or Tom's, I suspect mine.  I was almost ready for giving up on climbing, the usual self  doubt and reality checks were taking their toll. Tom told me that another mate Robbie was back from El Chorro with his brother Henry and I should get in touch. I messaged Robbie but didn't expect any serious offers.

I waited ... waited ...waited ... he wasn't going to reply ... it had been all of 3 minutes since I sent the message. I checked my Junk emails out of boredom and found that I had 3 offers of climbing from UKC! I read them, then clicked back on Facebook and Robbie had messaged too. I checked the UKC forum and saw more offers! Within a matter of hours, my dark, depressing life had turned into a new climbing adventure. That's when the snow started to fall ... it didn't let up ... I had  climbing planned all over the place ... the snow didn't care, it just kept falling.

I knew it wasn't to be ... work,weather, the world, it was all against me!

Messages ...emails ...messages ...emails ... messages ... Robbie ...Robbie ... Robbie ...Tom ...Tom ...Tom ... snow ... snow ... snow ... I was annoying myself as much as  reading those last few words must have annoyed you. Just imagine if Xmas morning was dependant on the weather. Now I know why Santa has a sleigh.

My luck got worse but the offers kept on coming.

So, 2 weeks down the line I'm on the road to pick up Robbie and Henry and hit some grit. I'm nervous knowing the grit is going to hit back hard, bend me over and spank my novice ass. It's a 2 hour drive up to Robbie's place and a long time to wonder what the hell I'm doing? I'm seriously thinking of turning back and making some lame excuse or just holding my hands up and saying "listen, I need to get a grip (pardon the pun)  I'm never gonna be a climber".

Then appears the "Holy Tree of Shoes"! It was divine intervention, well not really but for dramatic purposes it could have been.

This tree is in the middle of nowhere, with no reason or clues as to why it's there. It made me think of Monty Python's The Life of Brian. Follow the "Holy Tree of Shoes".  I carried on driving, safe in the knowledge that life is just weird and wonderful at times.

I arrived at Robbie's and was greeted with smiles and a big hug. I still don't now if the hug was for me or for the big bag of Pork Scratchings he knew I'd hidden in my rucksack.

I'd love to tell you that I was scared, and intimidated e.t.c but I was with friends now and was keen to hit the grit. Just thinking about climbing makes my heart beat faster and gives me shivers, thinking about not climbing scares me.

Brimham Rocks was like a winter wonderland. It's the most amazing place and the snow just made it magical.

This place was awesome, I was so glad that it had snowed for all those days and nights. Strange how everything that had made me miserable was now making me happy!

I could tell you how Robbie was nervous on his first Trad lead for a while (sorry Robbie). I could tell you how my nerves stopped me from tying my shoe laces, never mind my rope! I could tell you how we all got to grips with a killer off width crack, which was laced with Pigeon excrement and thawing snow making our top out unpleasant and unlikely. Yeah, some things are actually impossible at the time, although I'm gonna go back in the dry weather and try again.

I could tell you the whole story of the day but I think the picture of Robbie and Henry below says it all.

We decided to go and play on some boulders as they all looked so cool. I was lagging behind being unfit and slow when Robbie and Henry stopped to look at a boulder. I stopped and wondered what they were gazing at? It was a high ball problem that looked impossible to me. Were they actually thinking of trying this? Henry took off his jacket, " no point looking at it, shall we have a go?" 

All credit to Henry for big Kahuna's in the first place. I didn't know his ability, I didn't know if he could do it, I'm not sure Henry knew if he could do it either.

There were a couple of pockets which I aimed to get a hand to as my goal. Looking at the problem, it was obvious that once you got your feet in the pockets it was full commitment from there on.

 Henry got his feet  in the pockets with ease ... no turning back now. I'm not afraid to say I was nervous as hell for him and so was Robbie by the look on his face. Henry crimped a pebble ... it fell off ... not good, he crimped another, that fell off too. The holds were becoming less and less along with my confidence. A heel hook here,  a slap on an arête there and Henry looked as though he'd almost nailed the crux.


The problem looked as though it wasn't gonna be a "problem" for much longer! None of us knew what the top out was going to be like? In hindsight, maybe we should have had a look before Henry set about this boulder. Luckily for Henry  ... and my shorts there were no life threatening slopers lurking about! He flew up with the same amount of relief as my stomach had settled back down with.

Robbie and I looked at each other and giggled like big kids, we felt every move with Henry and felt the joy with him when he nailed it.

That high ball made my day ... For those few minutes ... Henry was as awesome as any professional climber, in any magazine or film. Not because of the grade, or the fear factor but because he totally committed to something he wasn't sure he could finish. 

Making  the impossible, possible is a big driving force behind me wanting to climb.

Maybe we should all look for hero's closer to home ... maybe there are more than you think ... Maybe The Holy Tree of Shoes was watching over us!  

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