Monday, 7 October 2013

Found and lost.

Have you ever been to the bay of Angels? Have you ever stumbled along its shingled shores to sample the smooth, steep bounty held within? Time slides lazily here; cormorants skim across the still waters and lead your eye to a horizon stippled with windmills attempting to stem the inevitable rise of our warming seas. It's amazing to think that this tranquil little beach, looking out onto a calm sea of renewable rotations, is only a breath away from the bus tours and hotels of Llandudno and the now-faded ice cream parlours of Colwyn Bay. Calmness pervades, waves ripple rather than break, and the problems engage in such a way that hours pass without weariness, ache or need of rest. If you have never experienced the stillness beyond the bungalows in the bay, you need to, and soon.

Crouchy on Dirt Box
Angel bay used be a regular haunt of the Merseyside Bouldering Scene, a real after-work treat when the tide was right. I did my first font 7a here, and I'm sure that Dolph's second ascent of Manchester Dogs was the beginning of his, now marathon, eighth-grade journey. Showtime, Fathanded Tom, Crouchy, Cassidy, Angry and the Silverback all visited in their time and danced on the wave-sculpted rock below the hill and between the tides.
Crouchy doing battle with the Locker
The bay was the sight of one of the most memorable nights of my climbing life. It involved an incident that entertained and horrified in equal measure. It was just a 'Tuesday night after work' session at the bay like any other! Showtime and Caryl were going and I'm sure Fatneck put in one of his influential cameos. Skinny dog was with me and everything was shaping up for a very pleasant evening of summer Bouldering.

I fed the dog and let him mooch around the bay as is his want, chasing the occasional pebble, his feet beating out a staccato rhythm as he searched for momentum and purchase amongst the rock and shingle. On one of these runs something grabbed his attention. A galaxy of starfish had been washed up on the shore; they sat there desiccated by the late-afternoon summer rays. These salty, crunchy fruits of the sea proved too much for the Skinny one to resist! He devoured them in the same way a child eats sweets when they have been told to share. We noticed his activities too late, but thought little of it!

Fatneck showing his class on HP direct.
An hour passed, problems were sent and insults were exchanged as tokens of friendship. It was at this point the dog was sick. It was dismissed as nothing to worry about, we gave him fresh water and returned to banter and Bouldering. What happened next will be etched in my mind until the rising tides engulf the bay indefinitely! My quiet little companion stopped running. He stopped moving. He simply opened up, morphed into a double-ended, biological Roman candle. Fountains metres in length eruped from his orifices, providing a show that was truly multisensory! Showtime laughed. I cried, hit by the sensation that this beautiful beach in its newly defiled state would be my home until the dog hit empty. Skinny looked miserable and began to waddle around, dragging his posterior along the pebbles in search of something cool to ease his pain! The curious incident of a dog in the bay amused Showtime so much he named a problem after it! The dog never looked at seafood in quite the same way again.

Angel bay has been the scene of so many chapters in the Mersyside Bouldering story.  Inspired by nostalgia I went back and visited after a break of some years this summer. It was as calm and tranquil as ever, but something had changed. It took me a while to isolate what variables had shifted, and then it hit me; this place, a former hot bed of Scouse climbing energy, activity and bile, had become a backwater- overlooked, ignored in favour of a famous cleft in the next headland. Have we all been blinded by the allure of arm-busting link ups and the sinuous pathway to big grades mapped out for only those with the patience and dedication for the journey?

Angry Jones on Bridey Arete
Angel bay, once a jewel in the coastal crown of North Wales Bouldering, is being lost as quickly as it was found. A lack of interest has allowed the quiet and constant creep of barnacles across the bay to continue unabated. Proud, smooth, clean lines are slowly being re-colonized by the creatures of the shore. Sonic Boom, a boulder problem of some note, was once adorned with stars; now crustaceans decorate its slopers. Angel bay needs to be found again before it is lost to the sea: Jonesy's Locker, Dirt Box, Ren Arrete, Muscle Bound, Chaos Emerald Crack, The Holding Principal, Spectrum, The Limpet, Limp Wrist, The Letter Box and Sonic Boom are all good reasons to go! So people of Merseyside, Flintshire and Conway, let's not wait for a new guide to spark our interest, let us repopulate the bay with climbers. We can match those limpets and barnacles with our own efforts. Let us fight them on the beaches! So much can be achieved by so few! There is a battle to be fought and, by our will, we can return this tranquil spot to its former climbing glory and you too can experience the agony and ecstasy of climbing here.

Thanks to Crouchy and Fatneck for all of the photo's- there's more to see on!

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