A Grand Day Out 15: the golden sensual silence of the moorby Adam Bradley Mar/2009
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Got it. There, a glistening stream runs busily down the rough gritstone and splashes down onto brown earth, throwing errant drips off into the bracken fronds, sparkling as they fly in the winter sun. The rock is glazed with a patina of ice, etched into one of nature's perfect patterns.
Beside the icy stream is a blaze of white, glaring out in the sunshine against the dark, lichen speckled rock. You examine it more closely, interrogating the blight. Your eyes had deceived you – it is not ice, but chalk; a remnant of the summer, of long warm days when the voices of climbers rang out and the heat of the sun ebbed from the stone long after the light had died away. Reaching out a gloved hand and brushing the coarse rock under your fingers you feel a sharp, positive edge disguised under the chalky mask.
Your eyes are drawn further up and all becomes clear – the water traces the easy path down the rock, a natural line borrowed by generations of climbers as they battled up the face. In a different season the gullies of ice become bold laybacks and the damp, slippery pockets invite reassuring cams. But for now the handholds along the route are picked out only with a hint of chalk-dust, not yet taken by the bitter, icy wind.
For this is winter – the rope and rack hang on a nail at home, warmed not by the summer sun but by the oil-fired heating. Your hands are wrapped closely in Gore-Tex and a warm woolly hat covers your head. December is a time for walking, not for climbing.
You look beyond the nearby crag, out along the scar of Stanage edge, a ragged step in the moorland. As the sun sinks low on the horizon it bathes the rocks in the ruddy orange light of the early evening, patches of snow and ice glinting in the dark shadows. A dog barks in the far distance, but otherwise there is silence.
The nearness of these timeless routes imparts to you a feeling of impatience, of longing for the warmth of spring and the luxury of another long season of climbing. But that will bring the hordes here too. Standing here at the foot of the crag as the day draws to an end you drink in the golden sensual silence of the moor, remote from the stresses of your life.
For now, at least, Stanage is yours, and yours alone.
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