A short drive from our home in the city, Stanage edge is gathering wind and bathing in small streams of short-lasting light. Under blue and laden in brassy heather, it is crisp.
The summer feels long gone for the bite of cool air to my cheeks. Bracken curls back to its base, longing for sanctuary from the bitter gales. The ridge line of grit seems to go on endlessly, to some distant part of the horizon in the never ending blue. So many things to climb, so many years of days like today. Dispatched at the clutches of a novice's palm and the tips of legends. Stanage permeates its climbing history, as the wind whispers route names and recollections.
We pass Pete Robins on the walk, Steve McClure and other strong looking men. I cannot help but feel, with respect to them, that the quality of experience doesn't differ between us all. The fights, the accomplishments, they are all relative, yet encompassed by a sense of place. We are all simply climbers exasperating ourselves in a sheer love of the sport. Heading away from the honey pot of plantation, our feet crunch on the dying flora. The whole scene takes the tone of an autumnal dish, with the colours of pumpkins and squash. It feels good to have sought out an alcove for our chats, away from the masses, away from eyes that aren't even watching. In the quiet, successful motions reside somewhere between ease and attention. Pale brows are illuminated by bright eyes and red noses. In the face of grins, something else glows through, is it pride? The 6A test pieces have 7C boulderers on their toes. It is fun to watch as friends faces screw up in the sheer disbelief of 'not being able to get their heads round it'. Stylistically this is something we have all lost touch with over the summer and we are all re-learning. The internal tension breaks down and we are found laughing at our inability to get off the ground. This letting go is progress in itself.
As a friend palms his way over the non-existent lip of Crescent Arete, a chorus of encouragement heightens with desperation. Scrittle appears to be raining down from his feet and in noticing, his movements have become somewhat immediate. The landing isn't great. We are bracing ourselves for the catch, but he manages to make his way over. We continue thumbing pebbles and gracing graceless torque over precariously dusty lichen splotches. The commotion breaks. A kestrel is levitating a couple of feet above our heads. Bemused by its quiet, subtle and sublime ability to hold ground in a groundless air, we catch wind of its airs as it catches wind. This moment feels eternally long and yet is gone in an instant. Oh to be like a kestrel, floating above the invisible.
The glow of amber seems to ignite the moorland and as the sun burns its last, so do we. Power deflates with our egos and we feel eased at the inescapable mercy of daylight deprived days. The prows and pinnacles begin to conjure curious shapes. Easter Island giants gaze down, nodding their heads as shadows cast over their faces. We take this as a prompt to pack our pads and make the usual arrangements to re-adjourn shortly. Before getting into the car, I look again to the crag, then down to my tips which appear to be beading with blood just below the top layer of skin. This welling is brief and private. I dismiss it as I am kindly asked to get a wriggle on. Sipping on pints at The Grouse we lose touch with the rock, letting our limbs rest into the lean brought on by a day out in the cold. In a month of deluge and everlasting mist we feel liberated to have caught wind of the slaps. Chalked hands clasp together and heads head home satisfied.