Saturday, 8 June 2013

Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside!

New game! Best venue?

The Sun has appeared.  When I first spotted it emerging from its long slumber behind vast volumes of vapour fear enveloped me and I stood motionless, staring at the sky.  Was this strange burning ball of gas a sign of the oncoming apocalypse?  Could this really be the end of everything? No, it was stranger than that; winter, it appeared, was over and the warmth produced by this heavenly body precipitated a metamorphosis amongst the people: clothes were shed, smiles spread and faces were framed by dark glasses. This sudden change in fortunes has also lead to a change of heart in my answers in the game of Bests! (See my post - "Lists and That" if you're not sure what the game of Bests is)

Best venue? Anywhere coastal when the sun shines.

Ice Cream and Caravans at Clarach - my favourite!
The seaside - a playground for the young: sandcastles, rockpools, 99's with strawberry sauce, paddling, proms and piers. Faded Victoriana rippled with amusement arcades, shops filled with 'Kiss Me Quick' hats and postcards that make grandad laugh like a donkey. Babies wear ice-cream beards of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry; seagulls swoop - stealing your chips, and the salty smell of the sea hangs heavy in the air.  I must admit, when the sun shines there's nowhere I would rather be.
From a Bouldering perspective the coast really makes sense when the temperature tip-toes above the magic twenty degrees celsius mark. Whilst ryolite, dolerite and grit sat in bogs sweat in the sun-shrouded by midges, sea breezes and evaporating tides conspire to cool things down on the coast.  Shady cliff lines and deep sea-caves mean that even on the hottest day there will be something worth working on. I ask you- what could be more statisfying than a cool ice cream when resting, or some post-climb fish and chips? Climbing on the coast in the summer is more than the sum of its problems, it's the whole holiday vibe that makes it the Best.

I revisited Borth and Clarach in Mid Wales during my half term holiday and immersed myself in the special deep-fried world that exists on the coast! I rewalked the sinuous path between land and sea and returned to the places where monster lines of the future live. Again, I didn't try to tame the beasts, just became more certain that someone more capable than myself will bring these Titans to life.  Instead, I wandered through shady places searching for cool rock and a special breed of hold, something that only the sea can conjure - the frictionless sloper.

Slippy slopers ahoy
Slopers have been the mainstay of Bouldering since the beginning of time! To many they are like a drug; once you've learnt how to lower your centre of gravity and hold one more are needed to fulfill the physical urge to hang off things with open hands.  Websites, now sadly extinct, used to devote their entire output to the science of slopers; they invited you into a seedy world of slope coefficients and reader's slopers. When initiated into the cult, sloperism drives you on to find the slopiest of slopes- the harder to hold the better. You learn to negotiate the margins of friction and discover how much can be held by simply dragging skin across rock.

The Mid Wales coastal cliffs are made up of soft shales and sandstone.  The incessant action of the waves on this plyable medium has produced slopers of such rare quality that they deserve a special slopey place in the world of Sloperdom.  These frictionless wonders are hard to hold and keep you begging for more.  In the shade of the Leviathan I found such slopers, ones so slopey that they look like mere ripples in the rock. The line they defined felt improbable and yet impossible to leave.  Working the moves involved the initiation of upward movement whilst slowly yet steadily slipping towards the cushioned embrace of my pads. Decisiveness, body tension and a stubborn streak were the key to success. The problem 'Raspberry Ripple' (7b ish) is a celebration of the tidal sloper; it may not have the grandure of the project lines that lie behind it, it may also be affected by shifting pebble levels, however none of that matters when you match that ripple with a high heel and and a heart full of hope.

The line of "Raspberry Ripple"

The ripple - every problem should have one.

So what of the summer? It's here at last but no one can predict its longevity; however to quote an old adage- we should make hay whilst the sun shines.  The coast is bursting with established cool, shady venues. However the more adventurous looking for pastures new will find plenty to go at between the tides- our coastal Bouldering resources have as yet barely been touched.  Learn about the tides, search out some slick slopers and join the cult of open-handedness; enjoy the fact that even in the hottest weather good conditions can be found! If that's not enough to feed your sloper needs,  I'm sure that a well-appointed ice cream, or a sugary doughnut fresh from the fryer, will go some way to calm the nerves until temperatures drop and the gritty slopers in the hills can be exploited again.

Raspberry Ripple 7b from Owen McShane on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. I have done that one, and a lot of others around this area. great to see others using the awsome venues :)