'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Friday, 15 April 2011

Berryhill: From a Novice Perspective

After a smooth car ride from Northumbria University Sport Central, Berryhill welcomed us with blue skies and dry, warm rocks. There were seven of us heading out on this lovely day: three complete novices to outdoor climbing, including myself, three much more experienced chaps and, of course, Cliff himself!

Whilst the experienced group took on the rock without hesitation, our little novice group took some well-deserved time to get used to the brand new setting, including the helmets on our heads and the (lack of!) bathroom facilities of the forest. The excitement was sky-high from the start and despite that fair share of fear of dying, we were all impatient to put our (very clean) climbing shoes on the real rock for the first time. Luckily, Cliff picked out an easy first route, which broke the ice nicely, and very soon we were starting to feel more confident!

In between climbs, Cliff introduced us to the jungle of equipment – nuts/wires, quickdraws, extensions, slings, multiple ropes of different lengths and a bunch of other things that help keep you alive on the rocks! This particular part of the outdoor climbing experience turned out to be especially tricky for me! (Me: Where is the end of the rope? Cliff: You’re attached to it!; Cliff: Where is the cam? Me: OH, I wasn’t supposed to take that down..?). Clipping, unclipping and removing protection from the rock will definitely take some getting used to! A climbing pub quiz springs to mind as an excellent way of learning the details…!

As our beginners’ group managed to get from top to bottom of a handful of easier routes, the feel of the hard rock started to feel less and less daunting. We were pleasantly surprised that our indoor climbing skills worked pretty well on a trickier route with less obvious holds (thanks for the guidance, Matt!). Slowly but surely we were starting to feel ready for a greater adrenalin rush!

Marcher Lord was the final route of the day. For us novices, it turned out to be difficult, physically demanding, scary and… absolutely amazing!! I can only speak for myself but I cannot recall a better feeling than that of reaching the top – muscles and adrenalin pumping, gasping for air – to soak up the sun and take in the beautiful view! Unbeatable.

At the end of the day it was clear that Berryhill had officially kick started our outdoor climbing story with great success. After a lovely cold drink at a local pub, it was evident that the number of climbers hooked on outdoor climbing in our group had quickly jumped from four to seven! I literally cannot wait until next time.

Jonna Nilsson

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Moving Outdoors and Touching Stone with Roxcool.

I had decided to make the move from indoor climbing to the big wide world of outdoor climbing , only problem being was I didn’t really know where to start. A few people had very kindly offered to show me how to go on , but at the end of the day , I didn’t want to be picking up other peoples bad habits ( sorry guys ).After making numerous enquiries amongst the climbing fraternity the same name kept cropping up again and again, that being, Cliff Lowther of a company called Roxcool.

I phoned the said Mr.Lowther ( who I shall refer to as Cliff from now on ) and explained that I wanted to be able to gain the knowledge and confidence to be able to go out climbing wherever and whenever I wanted, knowing that I, and my climbing partner would be safe. After listening patiently to me waffling on for goodness knows how long, Cliff then explained the options open to me and I decided to book a 5 day course with him, after which, he assured me I would have the skills I was after and he would not have to see me again ( maybe that was just wishful thinking on his behalf after listening to me waffling ).

We had arranged to meet on the first day at the coffee shop in Swainby, before heading to the crag at Scugdale. On his arrival, Cliff came across just as he had on the phone i.e. very professional, calm and reassuring. We sat down and he went through the programme for the up and coming week and what to expect in the days ahead. We then set off for my first taste of outdoor climbing and after parking up, Cliff got out his guide book and explained in great detail how these should be used, for which, I for one, was very grateful for, as all abbreviations and figures now started to make sense and after explaining access rights and rights of way we set off for a 10 min walk up to the foot of Scugdale crag. Cliff started to unpack all his gear whilst we decided to have a quick cuppa (there were quite a lot of these over the next 5 days). Cliff then proceeded to explain each piece of equipment, its function, what it does and does not do, what it can and can’t be used for, safety requirements (which was something that was stressed over and over again for the next 5 days). Next, we were shown at ground level the correct way to place and remove gear/protection and set the task of placing this ourselves to be marked on a score out of 5, 5 being good enough “ to hang your granny off “ as Cliff so eloquently put it. Then it was on to the crag to start the climbing. With Cliff leading he explained each and every move with his usual clarity so we knew exactly what he was doing and why. At the end of this first day I felt that I had learnt so much aswell as cliffs constant advice on personal climbing technique it was certainly a great start to the week.

Day 2 saw us heading off to Brimham Rocks near Ripon. Cliff explained that he wanted us to experience all the different types of stone so this next venue was to be gritstone as opposed to the sandstone that we were climbing on yesterday. Brimham Rocks was out of this world, fantastically shaped rock formations all joined together by a labyrinth of paths through this unique landscape. The climbing and techniques required for this type of rock was completely different to yesterday and was certainly an eye opener, as usual, Cliff kept us right with his guidance ,instruction, challenges he would throw at us and forever feeding us with new information. At the end of the day we set off for the Lake District so that we could try yet again, new venues.

Day 3 and after a night of dreaming of new knots, new techniques, new methods and all other info that Cliff had instilled into us up to now we awoke to find Cliff had very kindly made the brew and also prepared us a nice bowl of steaming porridge for breakfast, is there no end to this mans talents ?. After breakfast we headed away from Keswick towards Borrowdale and shepherds crag. Here we are going to attempt our first multi pitch climb, namely, the well known Little Chamonix which is a VD ***,( 2 days ago I wouldn’t even of known what that meant) .This climb is broken down into 4 pitches, the hardest of which I personally found to be the 3rd pitch where you had to mantel onto a block under an overhang, then shuffle along this on your backside, step across, what I thought at the time to be a bottomless void, but obviously wasn’t, if you had asked me 2 days ago if I would do this my reply would have been unprintable, but, with Cliffs coaxing, coaching and guidance everything went smoothly and the sense of achievement after topping out was fantastic.

Day 4: After another night of camping in the bunkhouse and being awoken intermittently by a certain gentleman’s snoring, although he assured us it must have been the wind coming through the open window !!!!!!!!! we awoke to nigh on gale force winds and heavy rain which scuppered the plans for another multi pitch. The ever resourceful Mr. Lowther managed to find us a fairly sheltered crag where we spent the day practicing setting up belay anchors, placing protection gear, more knots and abseiling, all very informative and thoroughly enjoyable. Late afternoon we travelled back home to a real bed and hot water but alas, no Cliff to make the brews and breakfast !.

Day 5. Today we set off for Northumberland or “Gods country” as Cliff so rightly calls it. We arrive at Berryhill Crag which is situated between Wooler and Berwick close to the village of Etal. It is today,that we will be doing our first lead climbs. At first it is a feeling of trepidation and nervousness having to be that first climber and placing those first pieces of protection but everything I had learnt over the last week just seemed to come together and everything just felt so natural. The feeling of elation, achievement and pride after topping out after completing my first lead climb will stay with me forever. The past 5 days have gone so quickly and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of it, I cannot believe how much we managed to cram in, I would like to thank Cliff for his patience with us and that I will definitely be back in the future for more courses.