The Annual Slate Trip

The Annual Slate Wales Trip.

It is not the message but the medium.  The readership of this blog - according to my primitive statistical analysis - likes to read humorous lists with pictures of Scottish Winter OR Humorous accounts of my mates nearly dying.

Here you are then! 

Essential background: each year, the Norwich club heads out to Wales to climb on slate. We spend a week doing this, but officially market it as Wales Week to avoid unduly biasing the membership about preferred rock type.
Come on.  Sedimentary rocks are for losers.

1.  Despite the week being clearly Slate Week, some of the members go to crags with a more igneous character to them; Carreg Wastad (it is with some difficulty I have managed to stop my overly-helpful computer from correcting this to Carreg Wasted), Tremadog, Ideal Slabs or Milestone Buttress.  Everyone claims to have had a good time, but this cannot be so, as it is not The Slate.

2. I create a monster when I insist that Garry does not harm two spider's webs - and by implication the spiders who have made them - at the base of a warm up climb.  This makes the route slightly harder, but through the week I am confronted by spider's web after spider's web.  By the end, I am putting my hand through them guiltily, and try and tell myself it is the cycle of life anyway.  Should I have got stuck: completely stuck on a climb, they would have been welcome to feast on my dehydrating corpse.  Deal!

Oliver Twist wouldn't have moaned.

3.  Jason is making porridge for Jub.  He does nothing wrong, adding the porridge and milk to a bowl and placing in the microwave for the correct time.  The microwave focusses its powers onto a single point within the oaty mix and flash boils a single enormous bubble which belches the porridge out of the bowl like a volcano blooping magma.  Jason, undeterred has another go - exactly the same thing happens.

4.  Garry and I head into the Big Hole to do Supermassive Black Hole.  I have dogged this before (i.e. climbese for rested on the rope) and want to get it clean.  Garry is helpful and encouraging, ultimately making me have one more go, and do it, when I am about to give up.  When I 'suggest' he might like to do some of the leads, he grins evilly and says 'No, mate.  This is yooouuuurrrr day..."

5.  Henry 'Slate' Smith, 1 year old son of Garry and Alice is a gorgeous little gem of a boy, who totters around the precipices and teetering piles of scree under the watchful eye of Mum and Dad.  He learns how to crimp, that falling is natural and not to be feared, that Pete (me) swears too much unless it is nighttime when it will be Mummy who is swearing, and that climbers are friendly.  Everyone we meet visibly approves of the little lad being brought along - too right.

6.  Lee makes us all laugh with Henry's Sweep toy, doing a spirited monologue about murdering people.  'What's that Sweep?  Only fifteen years?  Yes I know.  And you'd have a Phd by the time you get released?"  After a few minutes it all gets a bit too convincing, the consensus is that Becky, Lee's Girlfriend, may have a lot to cope with.

6.  At the very top of a multi-pitch trad route, Roger drops a nut down a crack while trying to build a belay.  It falls within the crack and lodges just out of reach.  Not being quitters, the team tape together two nut keys and attempt to fish it out.  They nearly reach it, tickling the wire at the very top, but not quite hooking it.   This slight movement is enough to dislodge it and vroooop! it tinkles down the crack to the centre of the earth… 

7.  Wioleta takes the whipper of the trip falling off Bisch Basch Bosch at the second bolt.  She narrowly avoids clattering off a massive ledge, falling about six or seven metres.  Without sweat or complaint she heads back up immediately to finish the route.  I am the belayer and it is the biggest fall I've held.  Jo's tumble off Christmas Curry at Tremadog does not compare, although to be fair, it is a fall onto trad gear rather than a nice stainless steel bolt...

8.  Much needed rest days involve traipsing around the different levels of the quarriess, exhausting ourselves moving vertically between other people's belays.  These rest days often leave us more physically wrecked  than before.  We start to hope for rain, then when it rains are grumpy.  This is possibly all you need to know about human nature.

19.  Steve cooks delicious food.  He is the only climber - ever - to bring truffle oil and his own spices on climbing trips.  His pestle and mortar  has wear marks testifying to the number of curries produced, and several of us use the grinding of spices as strength training.

The reality of climbing trips: faff and packing.

10.  Tim gets excited when he finds a guidebook written by his father included in a book about guidebooks.  Truly, a guidebook written listing other guidebooks fills the last great meta-niche of all time.

11. James -the Club Chairman- had to cancel coming on the trip.  This is because his plans for his forthcoming wedding are going smoothly, but the restoration of the Mark 1 Landrover needed to take him to church is not.  He phones up mid-week and instructs Roger to stop telling him how nice the weather is in Wales.
Me redpointing Mister Blister,  should have had it

By the end of the week we are all as satisfied as our personalities will allow, bearing in mind that for some climbers improvement and achievement are fleeting goals.  As I have pointed out previously in a blog post so old none of you will have read it - climbsis not like mars bars which eventually fill one up.  They are like heroin, each one leaves you more deeply addicted.

On the last morning I say goodbye to Lee and Becky.  They are off on a van around Europe for a year, driving, climbing and living the van life.  I will miss them, although, in fairness they live in Sheffield normally so I will see them as much as I normally do.  As I walk up the steps away from Vivian Quarry, I wonder if Henry's Sweep toy has gone home with Henry and not with Lee.  I suppress a moment of worry...