Gritstone Dreaming

© Hati Whitely

I want to write about gritstone. Well, actually I want to move around it... but it's raining out, the rock will be soft and vulnerable and it's best to leave it be. Writing will have to do.

Twin Chimneys/Hell Crack  © Hati Whitely
Twin Chimneys/Hell Crack
© Hati Whitely

Hmm, but what to write… An ode to gritstone? A loving sonnet to its curves; the way the light falls upon its face on a summer evening or the (shorter and crisper) sunny Autumn evenings. How I long to bask upon you in the orange glow, dance lightly across your skin. How I yearn to know every wrinkle better than my own, how I see beauty in every one of your flaws etcetera. All very lovely, but not really what I had in mind.

Then what? Perhaps the current coursing through your body before you SPRING! toes smearing to a higher moment where, steadying yourself, you begin the next. Occasionally (and usually upon a comfy ledge) that current can build and build only to melt away the instant you try to make use of it. Whatever you do, don't move without certainty: that smear on the pebble (or the not-a-pebble) is buttery and smooth unless you address it with all your force and commitment. Sometimes it spits you off regardless, there's no half-arsing on grit.

At times you are tiptoeing around a foreboding giant's body: measured, delicate movements lest you awaken the great beast. Silence is tangible, onlookers hold their breath and with them you forget to exhale, cameras poised but forgotten. Beautiful and absorbing climbing. Fairy steps.

Twin Chimneys/Inverted V  © Hati Whitely
Twin Chimneys/Inverted V
© Hati Whitely

The dance isn't all ballet; it depends entirely on the nature of the beast and some beasts demand a violent tussle. Grasping, grazing, thrusting elbows, knees, hands, face, anything into the fissure to find some form of purchase. Fill the space! You're all involuntary grunting, desperation and war cries whilst hurled encouragement buffets you from behind. You brought the entire affair on yourself, of course, as such monsters are aptly named. The Mangler, The Mincer, The Grazer, Every Man's Misery: you can't claim they didn't warn you!

How strange it is that every crack, groove, slab and arete has a name of its own. Some enter legend: Gaia, Goliath, Ulysses' Bow, the Unconquerables. Some warn you away (End of the Affair) and others are entirely practical and predictable: the various cracks, ribs, slabs, scoops, corners, overhangs, walls and variations. Often the rock bears the names of the various people who have explored it - legends themselves in human terms but mere blips in the life of gritstone. Stanage, Curbar, the Roaches – these titans were here long before we arrived.

Goliath  © Hati Whitely
© Hati Whitely

What a blip we're enjoying though! There is no greater satisfaction than watching a friend puzzle over Tody's Wall for the first time, although Verandah Buttress is equally as hilarious. Two moments that truly capture the gritstone experience: baffling, silly and - to most applications - utterly pointless. As passers-by often remind you, it's far easier to walk around.

Still, I can't think of a better way to spend my time than with some pointless silly bafflement… Come on sun, dry up the grit so we can all go out to play!

Unconquerables/Hell Crack  © Hati Whitely
Unconquerables/Hell Crack
© Hati Whitely

Mentioned in this crag note:

The Mangler (E1 5c), The Mincer (HVS 5b), The Grazer (VS 5a), Every Man's Misery (VS 5a)Gaia (E8 6c), Goliath (E4 6a), Ulysses' Bow (E6 6b), Stanage Plantation, The End of the Affair (E8 6c) Stanage Popular, Curbar Edge, Roaches Lower Tier, Roaches Upper Tier, Tody's Wall (HVS 5a), Verandah Buttress (HVD 5b)

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Hati W

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14 Nov, 2022

Good writing and strangely evocative photos.

14 Nov, 2022

Strangely orientated too.

14 Nov, 2022

Hello! They're taken on an old half frame film camera, so you get two photos per frame. Unfortunately I don't always hold the camera the same way round from one exposure to the next!

15 Nov, 2022

Thanks Robert!

16 Nov, 2022

Lovely poetic writing juxtaposed by how thrutchy some of these routes are. Here's to more sunny winter days!

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