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Topic - crags you should hate but can't help loving

Sam Beaton on 03 Dec 2012
Almscliff is obviously rubbish, but somehow I can't keep away.

What a glorious day it was there yesterday, and what memories it brought back.

Fluted Columns, my first grit lead with the school outdoor pursuits group. One small sideways wire low down which immediately pulled out, then no more gear till the top as I didn't have anything big enough.

Parsons Chimney at about my fifth attempt. I'd always been able to layback up into the cave easily enough, but I'd always bottled it from there as I didn't have any cams in those early days. I finally topped out in a swirling hailstorm one day with my almost runnerless ropes thrashing around in the void beneath me.

Failing to second Central Climb in the summer holidays after my first year at Uni. I'd spent the summer term ticking a fair few E1s in the Lakes, and even elsewhere on grit, but I couldn't get anywhere on this not-even-high-in-the-grade VS. I remember half crawling into some kind of pod or pothole, and getting some kind of head jam rest before my arms gave out completely.

Morrells Wall saved my sanity at one point in my early twenties. After the worst few months of my life I found myself living back with my folks. On my second day back I got the train to Weeton, walked up to the crag and without thinking about what I was doing pulled straight onto one of the hardest problems I'd ever attempted. As I topped out first go, I bellowed into the mist, and felt all my pent up frustrations and stresses start to melt away. Over the following few months, still jobless and still dossing in my old room at the family home, I got up to Almscliff by train twice a week and discovered (for the first time) the joys of whole days on the crag armed only with rock boots, chalk, beer towels and a flask of really strong coffee. Those months of grit-based rehab turned my life around.

Even though I feel old and unfit nowadays, I still had a great day yesterday. I met up with Neil, who I hadn't seen for a year, and realised, once again, that your best friends are those that you might not see or even speak to for months at a time but still just pick up where you left off when you do manage to catch up.

I also enjoyed the old problems again, like the little ribs above the Three Swings Traverse, Pork Chop Slab, the Crucifix, and the little arete opposite Sloper Patrol. Thanks in no small part to Neil's two pads I also did Porthole Direct for the first time, and Crucifix Arete after having tried and failed it on at least 20 occasions in the last 20 years.

Almscliff: polished, crowded, covered in graffiti and not even the best crag in Wharfedale. Yet it has shaped my life more than any other pile of rocks. Which cliff or hill means the most to you and why?

PS - I managed to leave my bouldering guide somewhere near Sloper Patrol. It's the old Alan Cameron Duff one and I think it has my name in it and an old phone number. If you find it, please keep it or give it to a mate who wants it - I'm now inspired to buy the new guide!
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