To try anything of real difficulty on gritstone, or “grit” as it is known, you need pretty low temperatures and dry conditions, due to the marginal nature of holds. The coffee is on and the viscosity of the Nutella in my cupboard is positive confirmation that the temperatures are suitable. I’m lucky enough to live within an hour of the Peak District and as I drive from the motorway onto the countryside, the mist steadily gets thicker and thicker. It’s mid-winter and I’m on my way to Curbar Edge. When I arrive the area is at its most atmospheric; the main crag looming above the boulder field is barely visible from the path. Luckily, the rock is dry.
I try Huffy’s Roof, a problem that I managed to work out all the moves on, but is hard on my skin. Last time I walked away with no tick and some chunks missing from my palms and fingers; classic gritstone battle scars. The first pull onto the problem I wince in pain. My little finger is in agony as the skin isn’t fully repaired from last time. After mummifying my finger in tape I start to work the moves, but my beta is failing me. I’m becoming more and more frustrated, offending any innocent walkers in earshot. A small dose of coffee, another go. Another dose, I’m losing skin. Then I hit the lip, but its feeling harder than before—I pull through, match the hold and take the swing. Suddenly I’m on top of the boulder. Although I should be pleased to tick something at the top end of my ability the main feeling is of relief. The mist clears and is replaced by a sunny winter’s day. I get a clear view across the valley and the vitamin D from the sunshine is always a treat at this time of year.
There are many classic lines in the Peak, but as a full time worker my trips outside are few and far between, so I have to pick my problems carefully. I first tried Sean’s Arête years ago, but have never been back and can’t really explain why. The problem has classic gritstone moves: A heel hook and pull on a tiny pebble on the main face set up for a dynamic last move to a sloping break. After a few precarious falls away from the mats, I set up for the last move by crimping down on the pebble and unleash for the break. I don’t hit it perfectly, but hold it all the same. I'm done: Home for a curry and a few beers to celebrate another successful day on the rock. Above me the clouds deflect the rays of sunshine, beaming impressive columns of light onto the fields in the valley below. Days like these make you happy to be able to climb outside.
What's the forecast for tomorrow?
Photographer, climber, Nottingham