Rock climbing is perceived to be a dangerous sport. An average member of the public out for a Sunday stroll along the well trod pathways of the Burbage valley, on their way for an icecream in the car park just above the West crag, see climbers clinging to the side of rock faces and naturally assume it unsafe. Jagged rocks jut from the landscape, a hard, pebble strewn floor lays beneath, sheer faces of coarse grit stone all around, and people are willfully pulling themselves upwards, higher and higher, away from the apparent protection and safety of the ground.
But this natural fear of falling from height and hurting ourselves forces us to adopt various means of protection, in order to minimise the chances of serious injury. From using a rope, placing gear and wearing a helmet, to the less safe practicing of a route before casting away the shackles of trad climbing and employing well-rehearsed moves to solo a climb within one's own ability. The means to ensure we reach the summit take many forms – and tragically sometimes fail – but they do help to ensure we maintain a level of safety we are comfortable with.
How many of us employ this same level of scrutiny – weighing all the odds, planning for every eventuality, assuming the worst and ensuring we are prepared – when undertaking the simple task of driving home in an evening? Sometimes, however, all the preparation in the world can't prevent a car crash – metaphorically speaking, when the rock breaks and your gear pops, or literally speaking, when someone collides into you in a vehicle.
Earlier this month Tom paid a visit to Bank Quarry, near Matlock, to get on The Power of the Dark Side (E8 6b), a route he'd wanted to complete since having a brief play one evening last year. In his own words: "Fast-forward a year and some training later and I was in much better shape. I had pretty much forgotten about the line but, after watching Dave Mason's video of him climbing Return of the Jedi (HXS 7a), I got all juiced up for a return visit.
"The style of the route is a little more modern in the way people approach it. Compared to other E6's I have done, such as Nosferatu at Burbage South Edge (very soft E6, we all know it) and Linden at Curbar, the climbing on this route is quite short. Recent ascensionists have used similar tactics to some of the more highball-esk style boulder/routes I have previously done ground up, such Thumbelina (High Font 7a+ or E6 6b) and The Pride (High Font 6c+ or E6 6b) at Churnet.
"Not big into unnecessary risk, I padded the landing out well, wore my helmet and even took a rope to clip some gear for the final British 4b top section (what a wuss). Still, better safe than sorry, and I felt a lot more comfortable just knowing, if the worst came to the worst, at least for the crux I would be relatively OK."
Tom was, of course, OK and made short work of the route. Upon topping out and walking back down to the bottom, he recalled: "Looking at all my equipment, I thought "you know what, even though I didn't need all that, it's still good to have it there just in case".
He said: "I was put on a spinal board and taken to Chesterfield General for a precautionary x-ray. Luckily all was OK and I was released sometime in the early morning. However, during the five hours my head was immobilized, I got to thinking about the route and what happened after. I had just done something that Joe Public would see as massively dangerous, especially when compared to the routine act of driving your car home. Yet there I was, being treated seriously for an accident that happened in a totally normal situation.
"We loath having to plan for the un-expected. What is the point of investing in something we will hopefully never need? That extra pad you think about taking out or that extra bit of gear or helmet might seem like a chore but, even if you think you are safe, could you do a bit more? Because if the unexpected does happen and you do need it, you will wish you had it."
The Five Ten crew has been out doing their thing again, with Katy Whittaker and David Mason both flashing the aforementioned Power of the Dark Side (video below). Katy had this to say: "I have no idea what grade this goes at, as originally it was given E8 6b. But it certainly doesn't get that these days, especially because we used about five mats. It is an awesome route, though, and the climbing is really cool."
Fresh from a sport climbing trip to Spain (see UKC News), where he sent Jungle Speed (9a), among others, Ryan Pasquil has made short work of Bat Route (8b+) at Malham Cove, Yorkshire. I'm hoping to get an interview with Ryan to find out his sport climbing plans for the summer.
And finally, On behalf of Climbers Against Cancer (CAC), 15 Sheffield climbers (including me!) are putting down their chalk bags and climbing boots and picking up a pair of running shoes to take on the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
We are hoping to raise at least £1500 for this very worthy cause. Please help support us and donate via our JustGiving page.
Tom Greenall is a professional climbing coach, Team Manager/Coach to the GB Junior Bouldering Team and is supported by Pitch Climbing.
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