Monday, 16 December 2013

A Sense of Adventure.

Perfect Grit conditions, where the adventure begins.
I’ve been looking through old climbing magazines lately and have felt a tinge of nostalgia.  The disappearance of magazines such as, “On the Edge” and “Friction” have definitely left a hole in the scene.  These publications lived their lives on the cutting edge, they hung out with the elite and told us tales that would frustrate and inspire in equal measure.  In the mid 2000’s a few words and a glossy picture could send me scurrying to the far flung corners of the UK to try the new and exciting.  Distance and fuel costs were never a consideration when planning a trip; miles were consumed greedily and the collective carbon footprints of those imprisoned in my car swelled unsustainably, driven by an insatiable appetite for discovery and adventure.  This glut of experience had to come to an end eventually.  Higher fuel prices, guilt and commitments have led my bouldering horizons to edge a little closer to home.  I have traded adventure for focus, distance for difficulty; projects have pulled me along when it was once the joy of travel. This approach is better for the planet and my pocket, however I do feel that I have lost something; constant rounds of projecting can leave you feeling a little stale.

A recent invitation lead me to somewhere new, I had read about this venue and been impressed by pictures of it, but didn’t really had the drive to visit. It took a few well-chosen words from Fatneck to motivate me.   He got me to change my plans and choose to do something a little more adventurous than the usual lock, pull and fail that had become a weekend ritual over the last few months.  It started with an innocent enquiry about what he was up to that Sunday, he texted and simply stated that he would be going to Hunter's Stones with his wife.  That’s all it took.  I do understand that this wasn’t an invitation however it seemed to act as some kind of spark; all I needed was for somebody else to take the first step and I was off - fizzing.  I quickly texted back stating that I would meet him there!  It was at this point that my adventure genes, the part of my character that simply didn’t care about cost, pollution and consequences which had lain dormant, hidden, started to wake and kick start the same frenetic frenzy that once characterised my weekend climbing trips.  Yes I was going to Hunter's Stones.  No, I didn’t know where it was but I was going to try and find it any way!!  Frantic web searches and the judicious use of Google maps would get me close enough, the rest was up to fate. 
Sam sending a 7a at Norwood
Sometimes flying blind really is the best way to travel, making it up as you go along makes you pay attention.  In this state a drive along well-worn roads will lead to multiple discoveries that had previously escaped you.  A good example is the proximity of Halifax to Liverpool! I honestly thought it was hidden deep in the Yorkshire moorland; however it is so close to the border of the red rose county that you can almost taste the Lancastrian vapours that flow over Saddleworth Moor.  Another discovery on my path to nowhere was the Masala Fishery in Bradford (this could be my version of Nirvana – spicy fish and chips). Finally on the sinuous roads of West Yorkshire I came to realise that discovery is necessarily a product of loss! Guess what, I was very lost.

I didn’t find the parking.  I knew I was close, but I couldn’t see any landmarks. There was a trig point and a pylon to guide the way, all I could see was a plantation of pines.  I parked at the edge of a forest, took a deep breath and headed in the direction I thought might yield the best return. I have a beard you see -  like all the best adventurers. I’m no stranger to mud.  I could find my way (or so my Y chromosomes were telling me), no need to ask anyone.  I could live out my outdoorsman fantasies as I went. The dog was in his element as he stalked along forgotten paths discovering bridleways, horses, ramblers, paintball camps, and eventually some boulders. 
Fatneck feeling some vibrations on Wavelength

We had arrived!!
It was eerily silent.  Where was Fatneck? Where was the famous Hunters Roof?  Why were the boulders so small? Where had my ego led me? My sense of adventure disappeared and I just felt a little sad and alone.  It was time to drop the pretence; I’m no man of the wild!!  Like the soft city gentleman I truly have become in my thirties I reached for my mobile phone.  My beard morphed from adventurer’s weather proofing back to hipster chin apparel.  I rang Fatneck.  He gave me instructions, he gave me tips, it didn’t help!!  Eventually he guided me in by bellowing my name (he sounded a bit like a musky bull attracting a mate).  Other countryside users looked scared, the dog looked happy to be saved from a directionless future; I was more than faintly embarrassed.

I may have had my initial enthusiasm blunted slightly that day on the way to Hunter's Stones, however by the end play I had redoubled my desire for adventure, getting lost, being found and eventually having an experience that may have been overlooked in search of numbers.  Hunter's Stones and the neighbouring Norwood were great venues made up of free-standing, naturally sculpted Yorkshire grit, something I had almost forgotten about when questing on the small crimps of the white stuff!!  I’ll accept that grit climbing can be a bit luck-based, but it wasn’t the moves that got my juices flowing that day, it was the devil may care, see what might happen approach to a climbing session.  There may not be much inspiration in climbing magazines nowadays, however instead of stopping the quest we should quest even harder and further for the new and exciting.  Numbers and projects have their place, but there’s nothing quite like getting lost to remind you what’s there to be found.

Pictures from the Huthwaite and McShane collections.  Thanks again to Sam for the video work!

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