Sunday, 8 May 2011

Every Dark Cloud..........

Its been a very long time since i posted on the team blog, but that's because I've not been climbing, and that's because I've been injured. The rotator cuff of both shoulders has been giving me trouble since last year and for a while i opted to take the usual climbers option of ignoring it and continuing to climb as hard as i could. The good side of that was that i ended up doing 'The Walk Of Life' but then the harsh reality of a serious injury caught up with me and i had to take some serious time off.

Gilly and i escaped the UK winter for January and February and went to Oz and New Zealand. This was the perfect way to get away from the perpetual climbing psyche surrounding me and experience new things. Spectacular sights were seen, old friends were visited, new friends were made and life was lead to the full. I dutifully rested the dodgy shoulders hoping that the extended lay off would do the trick.

On our return Bristol it was the beginning of spring and i felt refreshed and ready to get back into my climbing. A gentle visit to the wall however left me feeling gutted. The shoulders were still bad and i realised what i had actually known for months - it was physio time.

Typically my response to this was to get pissed off and rebel, so i went up to the Peak for a weekend on my own, stealth style. I didn't tell any mates up there that i was coming and decided to go soloing on some easy grit. It was a great weekend, great weather, not too busy with 2 brilliant days at Stanage. I quietly pottered my way up all the usual easy classics: Old Salt, Surgeon's Saunter, Rugosity Crack, Grotto Wall, Manchester Buttress, Yosemite Wall, Queersville, Hargreaves Original Route, Cave Arete and loads more. Keeping it gentle, and avoiding any epics. It was brilliant, and reminded me that its not all about climbing as hard as you can in order to have a great time.

Then suddenly from out of nowhere tragedy struck. My close friend Johnny 'Woody' Woods was killed by a falling block at Pembroke and all went dark. Woody was one of the most loved characters i have ever known. He was a personality of epic proportions, and the Bristol scene were struck by a collective pain from the accident. His memorial afterwards was a testament to how much he meant to so many people. Friends and colleagues from all over the world gathered to pay tribute to the man, including climbers from Bristol, Sheffield, North Wales, Pembroke, Devon & Cornwall, London, Scotland and even France and Bermuda.

Since that time i have begun to start climbing again and it feels sooo good. I was unsure about how it would feel after what happened with Woody, but i have found that in spite of the agonising tragedy of what happened, climbing is what makes me and so many other people tick. I need it. We accept the risk, we do everything possible to minimise it and then we revel in the environment of adventure. There can be no adventure without risk.

Recently the shoulders have been improving. I have had some great days, slowly bringing up the difficulty of the routes during the spell of amazing weather. The highlight have been:

Climbing with Emma Alsford, Paul Donnithorne & Trev Messiah getting shots for the forthcoming Stackpole & Lydstep Pembroke Guide and did brilliant routes like Splendour E3 5c, Wet Threat E3 5c and Star Shot E3 5c

Climbing in Avon and the Wye Valley with Ged Desforges and Noddy doing Amanita Muscarina E4 5c, 6a, 5c, Hocus Pocus E4 6a, and Flytrap E2 5b

Back in Pembroke doing Wishful Thinking E1 5b, Over The Hill E4 6a, Beat Surrender E5 6b & Undertone E5 6a.

And best of all finding a stunning unclimbed line at the Castle in Pembroke and grabbing the 1st ascent. I'm calling it Time Signature E4 6a partly because rhythm of the sea and tides all around, but mostly because of the timelessness of our legendary friend Woody.

In the meantime, whilst i have been slowly working my way back to form. Some hard repeats have been going on. My route San Simian E8 6c has seen 2 repeats in the last few weeks, from Neil Mawson and Hazel Findlay. Fine efforts both, especially as Hazel took the ride on her first attempt. I'm now psyched out of my mind to get back doing some hard stuff, better stop writing this blog and get back to the physio exercises then.....