Make the Best of It.
I am on the train, on the way to my mate Lee's, when a sequence of dots and noughts is captured by my phone's complicated aerial. Within less than a second the signal has been deciphered by an accretion of lines of code and rendered into text a human can read. It says 'Clutch on the van's gone, sorry, will pick you up when we can.' However, if you apply a slightly different level of coding, the meaning is completely different - 'Your weekend is fucked.'
Now, this is not just because a piece of metal has become fatigued over thousands of hours and failed at a critical point i.e. Snake Pass, changing from fifth into fourth, but also because of a huge fuck-off weather system which has run its way up the channel and is now dumping billions of litres of evaporated Atlantic onto Britain, which deserves it. The weather system has clearly taken the Met Office and Britain's Media by surprise as it has not yet acquired an excessively dramatic nickname, like 'The Weather Bomb,' or 'Polar Vortex'. I favour naming it 'The Ruiner.'
IF Lee's van was fucked, but it was nice weather: no problem, climb locally, and as its Sheffield we are in, that means anywhere in the Peaks we can reach by bus. IF the weather was shit and the van operational - equally, no problem, head to wherever isn't wet. The Roaches were looking good. They still are, just we can't get to them.
Now, whinging about this shit won't help, you've got to cultivate your ability to find something good about the situation. Rainy Saturday morning? Lie in a bit and have a cooked breakfast. Then get a lift to the Peak a bit later and hope nothing is too wet.
Nothing is too wet, and there's a reason for that. Not the weakly winter sun shining as hard as it can through whispy cloud, but the mighty blasting wind that roars across Curbar, refusing to allow water to stay on the rock. We get a pretty good day in - which as ever includes running into other climbers from Norfolk, not an unusual occurrence. We get in a few decent boulders, I like the look of Art of Japan, but the wind is funnelled through the gap and we are all wrapped up like ninjas.
We are out til past dark headtorching,then head back. Great warmup for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday. We try out Sheffield's public transport: out to Burbage after midday. Unbelievably, in the dank we find a few dry climbs, and also one poorly protected one which suddenly gets wet higher up past a break with a marginal cam I have hammered into choss as if it were a piton. I wisely back off, and off we fuck, to find out we have missed the bus, which inexplicably does not return to Sheffield from this side of the road. BUT our luck is not out, there is a vintage bus parked and the conductor says 'don't worry lads, we're running this one for charity, make a donation and we'll get you back.' Mind, if that hadn't been there we would have been pissed and eating steaks at the Fox House, begging the question 'what is good luck?'
Monday is really shit, so we pretend we live in an unusually well appointed multi-roomed snow hole. Lee organises his rack and we watch climbing DVDs for seven hours straight. In the evening we play cards, gin rummy, but bring our climbing ethics and sense of style to the game. Rather than competitively actually trying to 'beat' the other person, each of us instead concentrates on our own hands, trying to develop the most baroque collections of cards - many multiples of runs and sets before getting out can no longer be avoided. I am particularly pleased with a run of the entire suit of clubs - no other cards - while Lee produces a stylish fours-of-a-kind in Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks which can either be set down as the fours OR as the straights, creating a cubic effect. We have been in the house too long.
Tuesday morning, and the van is not yet fixed, the weather it is still shit. The Climbing Works is round the corner and Lee says 'we are at least going to do some climbing type movement.' But not anytime soon, as its not fucking open. Through the window we can see Shauna Coxey and Leah Crane filming something. Lee says 'I'm starting to think something doesn't like us.'
After twelve we do get in and climb on plastic for a bit - consolation! plus free cup of tea for walking there, and later in the afternoon The Van Is Fixed! Sixteen hours before Lee must leave the house for work, we bomb out in the van and hit Burbage North again. We find a slab, dry unbelievably, and work our way through three very simple problems before I start seriously working a 6c arete.
To be on the rock is amazing, there is no comparison. Everything becomes very important to your success, like where your arse is, or how you move your hips, how you grip the rock. Sometimes there is a really specific position for your hand to be on, or your foot, and sometimes it feels a bit like a lego brick clicking into position - useless anywhere else, perfect just there.
The light fails and it starts to rain. Our head torches light up moss and droplets of water which reflect so much they look as if they are luminescent.
Yes, the weekend was not all it might have been, between an unlucky mechanical breakdown and the weather, but we still managed to at least touch rock on three of four days, and we had a laugh doing it (not obvious from this blog). As I take the train home from Sheffield, the sky is beautiful. Bright, crisp and rain free, as a zone of high pressure settles over Britain like a national umbrella. Fuck's sake.