Sunday, 2 November 2014

New from old.

New guide and a new attitude - could be a game changer!
It's always exciting when a new guide materialises marshalling the resources of a particular area; be it virtual or print copy, a buzz will always ripple through a community of climbers when a new tome arrives.  I was particularly excited as I leafed through a copy of the Lancashire Bouldering guide. I must admit I was searching for something as I flicked through the pages of the book for the first time; something that added a certain nervous energy to my rabid page-turning. There was a good chance that a picture I had taken was in this shiny new book and, after a feverish couple of minutes, there it was: a photo of Fatneck dancing across a low roof in the dappled light of an early summer evening.  I texted him instantly and announced that he was now 'Mr Parbold', an accolade that could sit proudly on his metaphorical mantelpiece next to the picture of him in the Merseyside Sandstone Guide that places the honour of being 'Mr Breck Quarry, Wallasey' on his powerful shoulders. Now, it would be hard for most to handle the responsibility of visually representing these quarries to the climbing masses, however Fatneck, in his usual modest fashion, took it all in his stride summing up the enormity of his feat with the following well-chosen words, "Fatneck- the face of choss''. I feel a career in politics or diplomatic relations awaits the great man.

I've been to some of the Lancashire quarries in the past.  I visited the Wiltons at the start of my climbing career in a previous trad incarnation. A trip to Brownstones resulted in me running back to Merseyside with my tail well and truly between my legs muttering inanely about no holds and hard grades.  These two experiences led me to dismiss most of Lancashire as a potential playground in favour of the well publicised areas surrounding Leeds, Bradford and Silverdale.  I fell into a mindset that the Lancashire quarries were technical, made mostly of flat walls dripping with old school boulder problems inaccessible to a climber like me who simply drags his feet behind him as his arms windmill wildly and ineffectively through steep terrain.  I simply closed my mind to the potential on my doorstep in the Pennines.

When I heard that a guide was coming it piqued my interest; I sought out videos and investigated what had been going on.  I must admit, as good as the media was, it didn't really change my mind.  Age can be a terrible thing: it can rob you of the innate optimism that drives the desire to give things a go, you can become blinkered, caught on a path of projects and progression, devoid of excitement and adventure.  So rather than investigating the quarries and moors of Lancashire I sought adventure in the familiar and found my climbing horizons edging closer to me rather than stretching out indefinitely.

The guide arrived and on first flick I hung on to the belief that this publication would do little to change my default direction of travel. But I didn't put it down; I kept flicking - going over and over the pictures, topos and descriptions.  The longer I looked the greater my sense of awakening and the deeper the realisation that I had been wrong all these years. There is a massive playground out there in the boulder fields and quarries of Lancashire and I'm not too old to go out and play in them, I just need to regress back to my childhood self and reach that state where climbing is done for enjoyment rather than through some feeling of necessity .  The acid test for the guide however would always be visiting venues and I'm glad to say a visit to a wet Stony Edge and Sladen Roof didn't do anything to curb my new-found enthusiasm. I didn't really climb anything but the potential of these venues was clear to see; the final wisp of the mists that have clouded my opinion of Lancashire evaporated, never to return again!

Now I don't want this post to seem like one long advert for a new guide, to draw that conclusion would miss the point.  This guide acts simply as a vehicle, a porthole to a new attitude and as such a whole new area to explore.  For all of those operating in the North West and Merseyside this new book opens up so much potential less than an hour from the front door.  Venues full of slopers, crimps, roofs, walls and mantles await your inspection and effort.  Yes there will be some chossy lines, but choss exists everywhere-  the secret is not to let the choss fill your perceptive filters. Don't cut yourself off from hours of fun because of a few minutes spent on a poor line.  I for one will be spending my winter in Lancashire, guide in hand, captain of my own ship, setting forth on a tide of new lines and the spirit of adventure.

If you want to find out more about the Lancs Bouldering guide you will find all you need to know here.

Big thanks to R Man for letting me use his vids in this post.

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