“Hundreds & thousands please?”
The cigarette was stuck fast betwixt the ruddy lips of the ice cream lady, as she shuffled over to a stack of grubby tubs, muttering in a slushy Yorkshire drawl, the ash bowing, drooping and ultimately falling into the multi-colured needle thin sugar strands.
The snow had come unseasonally early that year, a half-arsed smattering over the crags had lead us to the relative warmth of the quarry. After a few pitiful attempts, we soon became bored with frigging Redbits, a fierce finger crack in Lawrencefield's Surprise Bays, and so with gear and ropes left in place we made it over to the car park to get some fags from the ever-present Ice cream van, 'Jean's Creams'.
Oaktree had decided that as I looked the oldest, I would be our best hope. At 14 years of age, that was a backhanded compliment and needing a distraction from climbing so poorly, I reluctantly volunteerd.
“Sorry luv I don't sell em... but you can av a few o' me Superkings” Jean said, as two of the largest cigarettes ever conceived were prised out of a shoebox sized packet. We orderd a few 99's and the greasy, lumpy ice creams covered in the garish ticktack sprinkles were passed over.
“Oh and I've got an 'amlet if tha wants it?”
We bode our thanks, I put the cigar into my chalkbag for safekeeping and we shuffled through a light snow carpet over to the quarry lip and launched the ice creams into the pool.
In between sparking up and dive-bombing the ice's water bound, Smee announced that the fish in the pool would be happy to eat the discarded fayre.
“Fish? In that shitty pool?” exclaimed Oaktree, “S'not bloody Grimsby docks!”
“Aye that's where thee was last night at thee girlfriends” came back Smee.
Streaks of ice had taken over Gingerbread Slab and yet there was a surprising lack of white stuff on the vertical, so I protested that we should try Great Peter, me being the only one who gave a toss about looking in the faded 1979 guidebook to find a route. Smee was now rolling a spliff and Woossy wanted to start a fire to get warm and go look for some seaonal shrooms in the unseaonal September snow.Oaktree agreed to belay me. I told him we would cruise it, “Finger crack. HVS guide says, piece o' piss, best watch me though”
Locking and torqueing fingers, I quickly shufted up the fine crackline, the wobble block providing the interest before the long crux reach, during which Peter the Great spat me off.
Spitting obscenities, I had a breather, warming my numb fingers and soon cranked it out to the larch tree ledge.
Oaktree took an age to second, he always did, and so bored and shivering, I reached into my chalkbag, salvaged the stoogie and proceeded to try and light the bugger just as wispy snow began to flit around the quarry coupled with that strange silence that accompanies it.
Just as I got the Hamlet nicely fired up, it was by now quite chalky, without sound nor warning, the rope began rapidly snaking through my figure of eight.
Oaktree soon found his voice and after a comic fumble with lighted match and cigar, I just managed to stop his arse hitting the deck by a gnats fart. A torrent of abuse billowed round the rocky crucible, followed by fits of nefarious laughter from a now well-baked Smee.
As cheap cigar smoke filled the air, I admit I could think of nothing else to ask...
“Did you fall off?”
The list of entries so far is below (closing date for entries is Midnight on Monday 9th March):
Click to read individual articles in this series:
A Grand Day Out is another creative competition and a chance to express yourself and share your adventures.
FULL DETAILS HERE: LYON EQUIPMENT COMPETITION: A Grand Day Out
Andy Pollitt follows his interview with Chris Hamper with another of Britain's top climbers of the 80s, Mark Leach.
'Overall,... Read more