'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bowderstone Pinnacle (Diff)

A morning of light project management was just coming to a satisfactory end when the phone rang. It was the Bearded Lexicographer. 'What are you doing this afternoon?' he barked. 'Ermm. . . '. 'I'm climbing Bowderstone Buttress. You're coming. 1:30pm. And it's time you got some proper shoes.'
So it was I found myself driving to Keswick yesterday afternoon: destination, a hard-core climbing equipment shop. There I finally succumbed to the guilty pleasure of consumer fetishism & indulged myself with a pair of proper rock-shoes. I say 'indulged' but given the role played by these things on the crag, 'protected' is the more appropriate word. For those unfamiliar with climbing gear: rock shoes are a highly refined combination of footwear form and function, comparable to ballet pumps. They look like sprinter's spikes, with the spikes removed. Low-heeled, lightweight and weltless, the sole wraps up and around the upper and is made of some nameless artificial hydrocarbon with extreme properties of adhesion. The whole is fastened by a couple of velcro straps and absolutely moulds itself to your feet. The result is that, in theory, you can jam your feet into the most minimal of cracks, feel the slightest nuances of rugosity beneath, and they'll stay there until you decide it's time to move them again. Feeling pleased with this purchase I then tried to buy a decent modern climbing harness only to find that today's standard sizes are designed strictly for those with slim and boyish figures. I sighed, humiliated - another afternoon borrowing the Heritage Collection Whillans Harness that the Bearded Lexicographer had thoughtfully brought with him.
Bowderstone Buttress stands halfway down Borrowdale a few hundred feet above the eponymous Stone (a huge glacial erratic with a tiny gap on its underside through which it is possible for two people to shake hands). We walked up to the foot of the crag, enclosed in greenery, and looked up. The route he'd chosen was graded Difficult (i.e. very easy) and seemed straightforward: a diagonal traverse to the left, then out onto an arete and upwards to . . . well, we weren't quite sure what. The Lexicographer got roped up, I fiddled incompetently with the belay-plate, and then he was off.
When I began climbing the first steps up to the traverse were straightforward. Then, on the edge of the arete there was a move that required some confidence: I stepped wide to the left and found, to my pleasure and relief, that the rock shoes were doing exactly what it said on the box. They stuck to the rock. Unlike Vibram soles, where even dry rock will slip slightly on contact, these stayed precisely where I put them. Suddenly, everything was transformed, it was possible to move with confidence and precision, and after a few more steps I found myself snuggled into a narrow stance where the Lexicographer prepared to lead the second pitch.
This was a slightly more serious proposal, and the clouds were beginning to threaten rain, so I contented myself with the superb views of the crags of Maiden Moor across the valley, and watched the mists begin to gather on the face of Great End a few miles to the south.
Then it was my turn to climb. I climbed up the slab on my right, balanced on the block on my left, and stepped out onto the sharp edge of the arete. To my surprise, the 50 or 60 feet of fresh air beneath my feet seemed nugatory. My feet were secure and solid where I placed them. After a style-free lurch sideways and upwards I found myself confidently moving to the left of a holly tree that grew horizontally out of the crack. Unfortunately, the rope was moving to its right. A brief step down onto the arete and then once more upwards. I unpicked a running belay the Lexicographer had placed on a dead stump and suddenly I felt like Moira Shearer. Sadly the pitch was about to end and just above me the Lexicographer was sitting grinning by his belay. We agreed that this had been a highly satisfactory outing.
On the way down we scouted a few more routes on neighbouring crags and agreed a further expedition into the realms of Severe was required. The the pub beckoned with pints of Helvellyn Gold . . . .


Blogger Lobster Blogster said...

I once scaled the Bowderstone with my two mates, and had a picnic on top of boiled eggs, so I know how you must have felt.

5/8/05 11:35 pm  

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