Clanking and the smell of gear

Noel gets ready to become at one with the rock

Take two 50metre ropes rolled in dirt, grit and puddles, leave in a darkened cupboard for a year. Add two pairs of rubber-soled rock shoes impregnated with sweat, chalk and, in my case, fear. Mix with cams, hexes, wires, quick-draws in a rucksack and allow to ferment. Carry to the nearest crag, open and inhale.

Rock climbing gear has a smell all of its own. Our cloakroom, re-christened the gear cupboard has that unique aroma. The rucksack stinks of it, even when empty. We smell of it, even the cat is occasionally whiffy if he’s had a kip in there. It’s magnificent, it smells of climbing.

Stinky rucksack was given an airing today as we headed for Brimham Rocks, one of Yorkshire’s most scenic gritstone crags where rope and gear were sprung out ready for use. By way of explanation for non-climbers, one person (Noel, the brave one) goes on the pointy end of the rope, climbs a rock face, places bits of metal behind, between, above or below cracks, bulges or holes, fastens the rope to it then carries on to the top. The other (me, the gibbery one) belays from the safety of the solid ground and follows him up, taking out all the clanky bits of gear.

Why do we do it? At places like Brimham, which is also tourist attraction, non-climbers like to stand and watch, so we have to be on our best behaviour and look as if we’re not scared, which Noel manages with no problem, I just pull the peak of my hat over my face, though I think the shaking legs may give me away.

Still, when the climbing’s finished, the gear re-packed to ripen in the rucksack and we’re on our way to the nearest beer, all we can talk about it what a great day we had.

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