Crag Notes: Short Lasting Light

© Hannah French

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.

Crag Notes  © Tessa Lyons
© Tessa Lyons

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.

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support UKC Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

12 Dec, 2019

Hannah, such a beautiful piece!

And this

"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."

... that is especially beautiful.

And the words 'to hold ground in groundless air' - wow! ... brilliant!

mark :)

I thought you might enjoy that Mark.

I particularly liked “so many things to climb, so many years of days like today”, but I think that's because I've always been fascinated with the relationship of time has on one's perspective of climbing. In my youth it was all very frantic and fast paced, I had to get everything done now, and got very annoyed when things got in my way. Looking back, I think I got a little overwhelmed with the first part of that sentence - “so many things to climb" - without realising that a) I didn't have to get them all done today b) that there were indeed "so many years of days like" this that lay ahead. As such, there wasn't so much of a need to rush.

I believe this realisation has done my personality - not to mention my mental health - the world of good.

Tangents aside, many thanks to Hannah for this superb piece of writing.

12 Dec, 2019

Nice one Hannah.

It moved me.

I moved to Sheffield to be close to the Grit fifteen years ago. I'll often head out just to be at Stanage at the end of a hard day.

12 Dec, 2019

That's one of the best pieces of climbing writing I've read in a long time. I can smell the bracken from California!

12 Dec, 2019

Yes, Rob! And as I was reading it, it crossed my mind that you would think that I would enjoy it. There is much poetry in this! I wonder if Hannah writes poetry ... well, what I mean is, sets out to write poems, and sets them out as poems ... ?

But anyway ... someone else has commented how they were moved by this piece, and I too was moved by it. And yes, I also noticed - "so many things to climb, so many years of days like today". And also, as a young climber I would sometimes focus too much on getting things done (or rather not!) It was the poet I am that had a word with the young climber ... got the youngster to go slow and settle into the space and solidity of Stanage ... or whatever other rock-spirited place I found myself in. Hannah has certainly felt the place, and how to place herself in it! Recently chatting with Nick - I know it has taken him much doing and doing and going and going to at last find the kind of peace Hannah is talking about here. This beautiful movement through time and space we call climbing - perhaps its best gift is when it teaches us how to properly connect with and BE in our world ...

More Comments

Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email LinkedIn Pinterest