The city sits in a haze of October pearl light. An Indian summer. More of the same is promised tomorrow. I’ve committed to a couple of hours inside playing on a wall with coloured knobs thrown over it. Inside? What was I thinking? At least it will give the fog a chance to melt away.
A familiar face grins at me from social-media-land. ‘Anyone want to climb tomorrow?’ I do. I see a picture of the south facing sheltered Avon Gorge and feel the heat of the rock on Suspension Bridge Buttress. Can I? Should I? Ought I?
I and me argue for a few minutes. Oh the pointlessness of guilt. Yes of course I can put aside all those offensively important things that need to be done. Of course I can go and play in the last gasp of summer, and yes of course I’m up to all that activity. (And I can’t disappoint my morning partner can I?) So I reply with the ‘I do’, and ‘How about an afternoon in the Gorge?’ The deal is done.
A misty morning greets me and I’m at the wall at 9.30am with the ambition of a gentle session followed by a good meal to carry me through. I almost succeed in this but stray into more strenuous territory a couple of times. We emerge 2 hours later into the Indian summer.
In the little time I have between extreme activity I attempt to cover all the nutritional bases while also resting. It doesn’t quite work and I have a belchy bike ride over to Neil’s. Easy digestion is also hampered by the heavy rucksack on my back.
He says: ‘I haven’t climbed much this year’. I say: ‘Snap, and I want a stress-less climb – so that’s me seconding and you leading.’ We agree that Suspension Bridge Buttress is the place to play and are soon looking at the mud-plastered banks of the River Avon at low tide from the canopy under the Avon Suspension Bridge.
It’s been a while since I was here last. The parsley and marjoram are still curling out of the cracks at the foot of the crag, and a robin eyes us from a nearby tree as if he recognises us from somewhere. I strip down to my sleeveless top and Neil strips down to skin and then is on and up ‘Suspense’ before you can say ‘boo’ to the robin. And then I follow him up this route that I’ve done a few times before but have absolutely no recollection of. Nice HVS. Nice rock. My body seems quite happy after the morning’s extended warm up. No problem.
‘Let’s do that route on the right of the slab’, he says after we’re back under the robin’s gaze. ‘Limbo?’ ‘Yes, but let’s go up the direct line through the pockets. It’s slightly harder and I fancy a bit more of a challenge’. I blench slightly. Limbo is a route I can remember. The first time I struggled. The second time I cheated (via a handy sticky-out bolt) – and that was the easier line. Oh well.
Neil is on and up like a ferret again, only a slightly slower ferret this time. He’s surrounded by a cloud of ladybirds who have decided it’s a good time and place to swarm. I stand and belay enjoying the heat, ladybirds, robin and Friday afternoon freedom. Neil has made this look easy and I am strangely relaxed as I start the first part of the route, the easy bit up to the pockets. And then it’s steep and crimpy and balancey. But there are no arguments in my head; no complaints; no dismay or chastisement. I’m totally absorbed by the puzzle. Everything has gone except for the search for the solution, and the intricacy and precision of the dance.
‘Not bad for a couple of people who haven’t climbed much’, I say as I greet Neil at the top.
I go home high on endorphins, so very glad I’d won the argument of the ‘ought’ and the ‘should’; so very glad my body can mostly do what it’s told do. YOLO