A little bit of muck never hurt anyone

Almscliffe, a gritstone outcrop between Leeds and Harrogate, stands proud of all the surrounding countryside, it looks like a giant lump of poo left by a Yorkshire dinosaur – a genus existing on the exclusive Tyke diet of pie, mushy peas and a Tetley’s Bitter (hence the giant poo). It is considered by climbers to be one of the best crags anywhere in Yorkshire and therefore the world.

We took Robert, our friends’ 15-year-old to Almscliffe today to show him what real climbing’s like, up until now, he’d only been on the ropes at his local indoor wall, so he was definitely in for a treat – and a large helping of gritstone rash.

Climbing isn’t a clean sport and, unless you’re one of the elite, with fancy sponsored gear and someone to carry it for you, it isn’t glamorous, but by gum, it’s great fun.  Robert was as excited as a teenage boy can be when we picked him up this morning, we promised his mum we wouldn’t break him, then off we went.

It’s challenging to explain something you know so well to someone who hasn’t a clue what you’re talking about. Take the grading system for example, English traditional climbing starts at Moderate (Mod), which is clear enough to comprehend. Then it becomes harder, so it’s Difficult (Diff) or Very Difficult (VDiff) then Hard Very Difficult (HVDiff). Still with me? So what can be harder than difficult in all its manifestations? Easy, or not easy as the case may be, the next hardest grade is Severe (S), then Hard Severe (HS), Very Severe (VS) then Hard Very Severe (HVS). And the hardest of all? They’re Extreme and so extreme, they have letters rather than numbers after them, so the easiest hardest is E1 and so on. Then there’s the technical grade and the plunge factor, but I can see I’ve lost both my readers now, so we’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say, it’s a sport, it’s an art and it messes with vocabulary.

After a certain amount of faffing with ropes, equipment and rocks, Robert was ready to climb. He was rather good and collected bumps, grazes and a fine coating of muck and micro organisms on the way, then we ate our sandwiches with not a Wet Wipe or tissue between us. And I’m not even going to talk about the bathroom arrangements, except to say they have an open aspect. Still, a little bit of muck never hurt anyone.

5 thoughts on “A little bit of muck never hurt anyone

  1. When I saw the climbers in Yosemite hanging in the wall of El Capitan for 2-3 days, I always asked myself how they manage the thing with the bathroom. And didn’t dare to get close to the rock, because I figured it wouldn’t be very appetizing.
    As for the English grading system, it seems to me like numbers from 1-10, combined with colors (green for easy, yellow for medium, and red for pro) would be a more transparent measure. But that’s England for you – pints, quarts, ounces, miles… anything but metric all over the place.
    Glad you’re having fun!

  2. wendy akers

    Honestly Anne, you get better and better, text informative and funny, pictures superb. The smile on his face looks like pure joy. In the last pic Noel looks as though he’s thinking ‘how will I ever stand up with all this stuff hung on me?’

  3. Thanks, guys.
    Gabi – I always said I’d never climb anything that required me to carry my own poo – which is what the Yosemite and big wall climbers do, there’s a specially-designed ‘receptacle’ which is hauled behind along with the haul sack. Ewwwwww. And the grading system? It even varies from crag to crag! But as you say, that’s England for you!

    1. wendy akers

      Gabi, years ago I asked Noel what a bum bag was for and he told me it was in lieu of the loo when you were hangimg from the rock, AND I BELIEVED HIM for years!

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