Monday, 9 May 2016

A tale of two Thursdays.

Thursday evening.

I'm sitting comfortably in the car, keeping warm with the heater on, relaxing on the way back from Ratho. It's 1'c and snowing gently over the Harthill summit.

Thursday evening.

I'm lying comfortably on the ropebag, keeping cool in the shade, recovering from the dizzying heat at Helsby. It's 20'c and too hot to climb in the afternoon sun.

What a difference a week can make eh. I don't even need to moan about the weather for this one. Except it got too hot, yes too hot. I thought Helsby was a shady crag from my previous visit nearly a decade ago, well I've learnt something useful. I also thought it looked greener than ever, but that fooled me too, close-up it was almost all fine. In fact one of the greenest "good" routes there - Wafer Wall, just above the site of my emergency power-nap - was absolutely fine without any prior cleaning. This was a small, humourous ghost laid to rest as I'd trying to solo it on that prior visit and had to be rescued once standing above the "this break has some fiddly gear in but I won't bother to reverse and get a rope and rack, I'll just press on" section. All fairly silly and it went nicely as a lead. I must confess the previous evening I had a bit of a wobbler on the top of Angel's Face....I think I prefer a rack and rope at Helsby ;)

All of this was inspired by two things. Firstly, a proper new guidebook that I've been long overdue getting - as always with new BMC guides the combination of exhaustive information, rich character and an accessible design provide immediate inspiration to an area that had gone off my radar. Just how proper this is was highlighted to me by going on to UKC to check the databases out of very idle curiosity, to find that the annoyingly uneditable Rockfax grades / descriptions were all-too-commonly wrong. Sigh.

Secondly a somewhat more sombre scenario - I was down in the Helsby area for the funeral of my recently-deceased Uncle Fred, a very decent and honourable man and a near-legendary model-maker, whom along with his son Steve (of Steve Webb Model And Hobbies) inspired me into model-making in my youth and was thus responsible for me getting into painting toy soldiers, which has possibly taken a grade off my climbing but kept me sane during some miserable winters. Funerals are like buses, you (don't) wait a few decades for one and then two come along this year. Hopefully this will be the last for a while. I read a speech in tribute to his model-making hobby and my immediate family seemed to be a positive presence to his immediate family. After this I stuck around for a life-affirming evening at Helsby, got scared:

And witnessed a nice view over Liverpool:

Then there was Thursday of heatstroke and not doing the massive amount of E3 mileage I had planned from browsing the guide, that will have to wait for another time. Then it was a dash over to Meirionydd for the first Rhinnogau session of the year with The Pylon King, and the first new route too:

And finally a sweaty stop-off en-route at Harmer's Wood:

Just waiting for it to cool down a bit and hopefully I can put some of my psyche and mileage into action, preferably as far away from Glasgow as possible.

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