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.