1. (verb) a movement that maintains slightly more technique than a thrutch, but employed in similar situations – in wide cracks, chimneys, grooves, recesses, niches, gaps, slots... you get the picture... ideally resulting in upward progress and often accompanied by groaning and wiggling. He udged up the route with uncharacteristic delight.
2. (noun) the act of udging
3. (adjective) a style of climbing employing udging
A dozen climbers queue up along a cleft inside Higgar Tor, several metres into the cliff behind the routes on which climbers are normally found. Six of them wait in a chain along the bottom facing towards the gloomiest corner, while those ahead have looped up and back over the heads of those below, and the first in have begun to squeeze through the gaps above and are about to pop out back into daylight. There's a jovial atmosphere, with much giggling (some nervous), and experimentation in three dimensional positions and contortions. For once the aim isn't about numbers or onsights, but about a certain style of climbing - the udge - and a celebration of its existence.
I have to admit to being vaguely in charge of this rabble, and responsible for them being there in the first place. I've organised several UKC meets and 'picnics' before, but those ones followed a more standard formula - set the date and venue, bump the thread, turn up, climb. After a few of those though I was strangely dissatisfied, and the UKC picnic production line is currently chugging along smoothly anyway, so I'm surplus to requirements. However a niggling feeling kept telling me there was a demand for something a bit different, something with a theme. Something new and exciting. Or... ! Maybe old and exciting. Yes... old and traditional. Gradually it dawned on me that I keep happening across more people who share my love of the traditional udge and like nothing better than thrutching their way up offwidths and chimneys, and slotting themselves through gaps. What about if I invited them all out to udge all day, and then made an open invitation for any and all to join us in the celebration?
And so the 'Celebration of the Udge' was formed, and Saturday 28th April found five acknowledged udge enthusiasts and eight wannabe udge enthusiasts on a tour of the udge opportunities in the Burbage Valley. All climbers were armed with a secret treasure map of routes with cracks no narrower than a fist and preferably large enough to fit body parts in (ok ok, a pre-compiled list, not a treasure map). The list formed the basis of a small competition - The more routes you udge up, the more points you get, gaining bonuses for amusing or expert ascents. Everyone was asked to chip in 50p and the winner gets the pot. We hit Burbage North first at 9am ticking off a handful of routes to get into the swing of things, one being appropriately named as 'Thrall's Thrutch'. We then moved on to Higgar Tor for five or so more, stopping round the back to witness an inspired headfirst descent by one of our party, then started the Troglodyte's Tour (from the new BMC 'Burbage, Millstone and Beyond' guide) after lunch which begins by delving inside Higgar and brings us back to the present, where we are laying seige to the first gaps.
We follow the Tour eastwards to a prominent tor where one participant entertains the crowd by apparently seconding a route bottom first, with head buried into a crevice, then in an attempt to right the mistake manages to swivel through 360 degrees (at one point facing outwards), risking decapitation by the rope. We then head further on to Carl Walk to post ourselves through the bottom of Lime Juice Chimney, by which time it's well into evening, we are pretty shattered and everyone seems to be missing some skin. Despite this we decide we are dedicated to the cause and opt to push on for one more section of the tour. We walk up to Burbage South, dump our bags, and once again disappear into the cliff for an hour, the various sized clefts appealing to our inquisitive nature, causing aches and fatigue to be forgotten. All that emerges from the crag is an assortment of grunts, wails and celebratory shouts, the boulderers below must have been quite baffled! We judge the results of the competition before leaving the crag and the pot is split between two worthy winners – Victim of Mathematics and DougS.
After that the only task left is to head to the Millstone pub for a debrief, a pint, and some speciality sausages. Oh, and to compare unusual bruise patterns. Everybody's buzzing, which luckily dims the complementary buzz of abraded skin. I'm feeling on top of the world – not only because I had a great day, but because everybody else seemed to too. When I had my vision for the meet, I had no idea if it would work, but thanks to all attendees embracing the concept and getting thoroughly immersed (literally) in the experience, it worked out better than I could have hoped.
Cider Nut (see photo above) does lots of things, including Encaustic painting, you can view her gallery of work at sarahsgallery.tk. She is also an excellent photographer. You can view her UKClimbing.com gallery here.