One of the downsides of living in The Fens is that, for a climber, it’s pretty uninspiring scenery. For a watercolour artist I’m sure it’s breathtaking, and it’s pretty handy for my cycling exploits. But it must be said, as a climber, it’s pretty dull. Any climbing involves travel. And if I want to climb anything more than a single pitch, it means lots of travel. This means that I’m woefully unprepared for climbing anything more than about 30 metres high. Which is a bit of a pain, as I’m hoping to climb a few things considerably higher in the next couple of weeks in the Gorges de la Jonte.
So, last night, Sol and I decided to have a crack at setting up some belays, leading through, lowering off, all sorts of technical stuff that involves ropes, knots, hardware and general confusion, all of which we’ll need to face in France next month. We both figured that it would be better to practice this kind of stuff in the controlled environment of the wall at Harlow, rather than finding out while dangling 30 metres up a French cliff face that we’d forgotten something vital. The team at Harlow were as accommodating as usual in allowing us to clog up two of the popular beginners routes on a busy night, and were even happy to shout up advice from the ground. Admittedly, the advice amounted to “keep it up, that looks about OK” but it was friendly all the same. And, somewhat surprisingly, we managed to achieve all our objectives with very little confusion, no swearing at all, and only one comedy moment where I dropped my belay plate and caught in with my foot.
All in all, a very successful evening, and a few hours well spent. Can’t help wishing that they’d open the cafe a bit more often though. It’s getting to be a right pain, driving 50 miles to get there, only to find that there’s nowhere to park and I can’t even get a cuppa.