On Friday evening, 15 climbers and 4 cavers departed the south west, bound for the peak district, in search of an adventure. A hold up with getting the minibus meant that the cavers didn’t get to the CHECC event until 12.30 on Saturday morning, and us climbers didn’t make it to our hut until 1.30am. Ever the sensible ones, we broke out the beers and had a catch up with some much-loved older members – Steve Sailsbury, Joe Mortimer, Doug Miller and Christopher Wildblood (yes, that is his actual name) – who had met us there, before heading off to bed an hour or so later.
The sleeping arrangements were split into two parts – a hut and a barn – and the barn was quite literally… a barn. Nevertheless, the proper men (Me, Nick, Matt, Joe and Wildblood) headed out to the barn and en route decided it would be a fantastic idea to go for a climb at sunrise on Chatsworth Edge, which was on the doorstep of our hut.
Four and a half hours later we were woken by my alarm to the ringtone “Constipated Duck”. Only myself and Chris Wildblood had enough enthusiasm to make it out of bed. We geared-up at the hut and went in search of the much underrated Chatsworth Edge, which was a 5 minute walk away.
30 minutes later we found it.
We did an interesting climb – it had a caving-style chimney to shimmy up. Unfortunately I was too, let’s say ‘stocky’, and just got stuck. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and headed back to the hut to be greeted with a steamy bowl of warm porridge and 17 enthusiastic climbers ready to go.
After breakfast we headed to a crag called Birchen. Most people in our group had only done one or two trad leads (where you place the gear yourself) before the trip so this was a good place to start because the grades are reasonable and the climbing isn’t too serious. One of the best aspects of the trip was that everyone just grabbed some gear and got on with it. A few of us wondered round the top of the crag for the morning to check people’s anchors and pass on a bit of knowledge (not that we’ve got any), but everyone seemed pretty confident and seemed to know what they were doing.
Milton and Chris got their first ever trad leads under their belts, so I hope they both enjoyed that. We may have converted Milton to a trad climber… If not, we’re working on it. I think everybody did a lead at some point during the day, which is really good to see. It was nice to watch Alice climb because we’ve found another member who knows their stuff. Anna got a HS done (not bad for someone who started leading last week) and even Denzel did a lead (which means it must have been a good day).
The highlights of the day have to be split into four sections of pure brilliance. Firstly, Doug fell off an E1 6b and took a cam to the chest. Twice. Secondly, a story was floating around that Emily, one of the most content and calm people I’ve met, kicked a rock in pure anger because she couldn’t do a route.
Thirdly, there was the leggings incident; seven of us bouldered up the rock face side-by-side in some of the most striking garments of clothing available on the market. ‘Glorious’ is an understatement. Wildblood couldn’t resist the opportunity to strip down, despite his lack of leggings, so joined the party in just his boxers. Unfortunately, a move which required a high leg involved a few of us seeing a little more than we bargained for. Nevertheless we made it to the top unscathed. Finally, my personal favourite moment of the day had to be watching Steve (last years’ much-missed president of the club) wearing just his Union Jack themed leggings fall over on the downclimb and say, “Oh, I’ve lost all my dignity now”. Maybe it’s a ‘you had to be there’ moment…
We headed back to a fire-warmed hut to be greeted by a delicious spag-bol courtesy of Milton. Much beer was consumed by the fire and we all went to bed happy people.
I turned the light on in the barn. “Sorry Nick, hope you don’t get sunburnt”. (He’s ginger, for anybody who doesn’t know)
We packed our stuff into the bus, cleaned the hut and headed out to Stanage Edge, a much bigger and more serious (and therefore better) crag. Milton did a spectacular job of getting his car stuck – the front of the car was sat on the floor and the back was against a tree stump. Well, who said 20 people can’t move a Mini?
We had a fantastic day of climbing at Stanage. There was a sprinkling of rain in the morning which made the rock greasy and unpleasant, but we stuck with it and eventually it dried to leave some top quality gritstone. Once again everybody was independent, took some gear and climbed which was fantastic and made the trip run so smoothly. Kudos to Will Morts – he jumped straight on a hard climb and stuck with it (although his voice did go a bit high pitched at one point).
As the sun was setting Will and I threw a top rope over Flying Buttress Direct (HVS 5b) and had a bash at some ‘top rope tough guys’ style climbing with some impressive swings. I surprised myself but never quite managed to finish the route, although it’s given me a project for next time. Will did a good job too. As we packed away, Nick and Denzel were finishing a route that turned into their first climb at dusk. Happy that we’d had a brilliant weekend, we headed back to the bus (not before I stacked it about six times in the mud) and went to meet the cavers who seemed like they’d had a cracking weekend too.
We left the Peaks (which is beautiful at this time of year) and ended up touring Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-Under-Lime to find an open Sainsbury’s petrol station (don’t ask why it had to be Sainsbury’s) before starting the painstaking journey back to Plymouth. I feel that this is the right moment to give praise to our sat-nav for the weekend – my trusty five-year-old Sony Ericsson W995 with Google Maps V 3.0.0. Not only did it get us everywhere we wanted to be, but it outsmarted the unreliable iPhones and Samsungs, proved quicker than them and always worked. Not to mention the battery lasted the entire duration of the trip. And it costs me £7.50 a month.
A perfect trip was topped off by a phone call from Doug Miller, also on his way back to Plymouth. The phone call went something like this:
“Joyce, I’ve mucked up. I first realised I’d gone wrong when I saw a sign for Silverstone.”
I replied, “You, my friend, are on the wrong side of the country”.
Cheers to all that came – it was fantastic! Big thanks to Ewan for organising it and everybody else that helped out. Thanks especially to Matt and the other drivers, we really appreciate it.
I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did. Bring on North Wales!
Editors point: All characters and events, especially those that appear risky, fun, dangerous and/or contain genitalia are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.