Burglar Bill's Tea-Time

Burglar Bill’s Tea-Time

One of the attractions of climbing must be its utter pointlessness.  John Redhead famously said that if you were climbing something in order to get to the top you were wasting your time.  Johnny Dawes observed that ‘No handed climbing is a pointless activity.  Just like climbing’.

Well I beg to differ.  There is one highly specific set of circumstances in which a trained ability to climb is an essential skill.  

Club member Violeta and I have headed back after a rewarding/tiring day in which I belay her up a series of more and more difficult climbs at higher and higher levels in the quarries.  This culminates in her climbing a long, difficult and atmospheric route in the quarries by four o’clock.  The week’s climbing has been tiring, so we kick it in the nuts and head back to the hut for a cup of tea.

The crisis looms as we approach the Klub Hut.  Neither of us has a key, as between the twelve club members we have separated across the hillside and throughout the quarries.  And the hut, originally built to store gunpowder for mining the quarries, has two foot thick walls and a massive steel door- securely locked by an expensive brand of lock whose logo is a muscleman whose legs and groin turn into a key.  Who thinks this shit up?

Now, despite our consciousness of security, due to residing in the (rural) crime capital of Norfolk, we have left some windows open round the back.  The Ladies bathroom has a staunch concrete window frame, clearly pincheable and is about four feet of the ground, but the window opening is not big enough.

No.  It must be the dormitory window.  I size it up and reckon it will go.  Reading the route, I note a thick two inch ledge, numerous footholds in the course of slate supporting this, then a possible mantle up a blank face of slate tiled wall.  I’m going to need my shoes for this, but lest we forget, I am a climber who has been climbing, so have them to hand.

First attempt, barely get of the ground before crashing back into a bramble-tangle.  Like velcro barbed wire it is.

Second attempt goes better, I rock up onto the ledge.  Its balancey, and relies on a crucial pinch of code four lead flashing.  Past the feet , mantle up and I am in the window niche.  Getting through the open window is not as simple as might otherwise be, as there is a system of metal bars which partially block access.  But I choose the middle and leading in with one shoulder, then working my other shoulder in.  Shoulders in: no part of my body is wider, so all that remains is a face forward snake-like wriggle across the window frame, arms pressed out as if doing a plank.  I scrape my genitals across the wooden bar, then my thighs, knees, shins.  It is the least enjoyable part of an otherwise exceptional climb with unique moves.

I claim first ascent ( if anyone has previously climbed this route - I don’t care) and name it Burglar Bill’s Tea Time.

No point eh?  Without all those hours climbing, learning balance and building strength I could not have overcome the problem of being locked out.  I think we will conveniently overlook the point that if I hadn’t been there for a climbing holiday, then I wouldn’t have needed to break in.  But you have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise what is the point of anything?