Climbing outdoors has always embodied elements that I revel in, principally because it’s so much bloody fun, even before the climbing begins. It’s the little things for me and it usually kicks in as I start the countdown in my head. The simple act of using a key in a door will trigger the thought of placing gear in the rock. “3 more days to go” I’ll hear myself say as I fumble with my keys, more and more anticipating the coming escape from the daily trappings of normality.
Taking the time to sort out your rucksack is a personal pleasure, clearing out last times muddy slings and gear, giving it a clean and a count, ensuring that you have all you’ll need and nothing more. “ backup belay.. check, hmm could my rack be smaller, lighter, faster?”
I admit to having had a packed bag sitting in the hallway looking rather forlorn, a week before a trip. Though the reverse is also true, having pulling a knotted mess of muddy slings, gear and ropes out at the base of a route. But always with a smile.
Another thing I find can be both a real joy and an absolute bugger is route finding, particularly on multipitch or when locating little used crags. Sure topos exist but now and again (depending on your guide) it’s just the description to work from and one bad interpretation of trend right or left and you’re off route. Many a pitch has commenced with that nagging doubt that perhaps the next flake is where you should have began and many a down climb has confirmed those same thoughts. Orientation is one thing on the rock but other simpler errors can be made on the road. I recall recently bombing up the motorway with the Prof, gear in boot, guide in hand, both happy to be leaving the city behind and enthusing so much about the Welsh rock ahead that we missed our turnoff and found ourselves in Derbyshire.
It maybe a cliché but its also true that a climbing trip provides a welcome sanity break from the urban malaise, lugging some metal up a hill with a mate seems the best way to get away from the everyday and the feeling of escaping every other bastard on the planet. Even if you’re belaying amidst a dozen top roping Scouts at Stanage.
This passing winter has had a rather long grasp on this crampon-less climber. Sure indoor climbing has been there but my enthusiasm low as I honestly can’t equate it with the experience I have with my mates outdoors. I admit the gym is convenient for a few colour coded routes or a spot of bouldering and obviously keeps you in shape but later down the pub as we hatch climbing plans over a pint, I can smell the chalk and sweat under my nails and I know that soon will be replaced by the welcoming aroma of moss and sheep dip.