We have seen better days.
As You Like It. W Shakespeare. 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death today.
The Old Dungeon Ghyll car park had a space for us despite a relatively late arrival. Whilst sorting the gear a man approaches me with a confident ” I know you” I look puzzled and he adds “Bradford climbing”. Still no recollection on my part I suspect mistaken identity but I add that by chance I had been out walking the day before with Conrad, who started his climbing days with the Bradford crowd. That brought an immediate response from this pleasant fellow – “not Conrad Robinson” It transpired he knew him well and our conversation broadened to all things Yorkshire and days gone by. I still don’t think we had any connection but the other coincidences were strange and I later discovered even stranger as Conrad had the day before been talking of climbing trips past and how one friend was a great joker – the very man we were now talking to. Sadly neither climb any more.
Up at the crag several groups were on the main face so we went round the corner to the prominent buttress which hosts Centipede. 90m S ** Rod made short work of the steep start up which I struggled to join him at the giant flake. I knew I was not performing well on this my first route of the year, missing out on the climbing walls in favour of walking had me ill-prepared. Nonetheless I grabbed the gear and poked about on the flake. One has to achieve a standing position on its top and then make an unprotected hard pull into a steep groove before a mantelshelf move. After time spent faffing trying to throw a sling over the flake my resolve had vanished and I backed off. Rod made it all look very easy and joined the next two pitches together. I was glad nobody witnessed my subsequent nervous attempt on that flake, knees playing a big part. I think I would have taken a fall if I’d continued at the sharp end. My complete lack of confidence had thoughts of never climbing again in my head, definitely had seen better days. After a traverse there is a lovely slabby arete and I began to think more clearly, relax, place my feet more precisely on the rough rock and almost enjoy the situation. Having calmed down I went on to lead up the much easier long last pitch of mainly scrambling and enjoyed the belay perch high on the crag with views down Langdale, looking resplendent in the Spring sunshine.
After lunch the main face provided The Original Route. 60m. S *** I was all too happy to second the whole climb and see if my form had returned. No – I found the first pitch was steep and awkward with poor gear and the pillar above even trickier. I must have climbed this route many times in the past and never been troubled, when have severes seemed so hard. Rod climbed the magnificent steep top wall all in one pitch and I coped better. All we had to face then was that awkward down climb by the tree on the descent, more faffing by myself but I’m still alive.
We reflected on the perfect warm day for climbing on this commanding crag with these two superb routes. In the past I wouldn’t have been content without another route or two but now I was happy to descend and lick my wounds. Hopefully there are better days to come.
John Ellis was one of the mainstays of our climbing group back in the late fifties and early sixties and always a source of much humour – in particular his mimicking of his mother who was in despair and bewilderment at her son’s activities: “I don’t know what you do. You go off at weekends and come back with your underpants black-bright”.
That was a surreal encounter.