Last July I scraped together a bunch of loans and bought a

house that needed a lot of work. As I was being shown around, the first thing that jumped out at me was the natural stone wall backing onto the garden. This was clearly the biggest asset of the property, having around 20 meters of traversing and 10 meters of vertical. The state of the electricals and plumbing were of little interest compared to the crimps and smears behind the carpet of ivy hiding a whole crag’s worth of climbing.

I used to dream of this; my own wall, much like the Broomgroove and Crewe Flats that were famous Sheffield ‘walls’ where I traversed and crimped and pumped out my arms for thousands of hours. And at home as a kid we chipped the mortar out between the bricks to make an epic finger traverse. I’m still completely convinced this kind of training – really fingery with bad feet and a power-endurance element – is exceptionally good for real rock climbing. So much more appropriate than sets of ring work or 1-5-9. But the ivy-covered wall lay forgotten as I was caught in

a maelstrom of DIY and damp, dark weather for the last 10 months. And, as the light at the end of the renovation tunnel began to flicker, I was then transfixed as the expected completion date converged catastrophically with Lockdown day one, and my chances of renting the newly finished house out to pay the bills plummeted to zero. As with all DIY projects, the jobs took three times as long as expected and the garden happened to need some work, so the forgotten wall began to emerge as a rather good lunch-break activity in the sunniest April the UK has ever seen.

The problem with climbing is it’s so much fun, it’s hard to NOT do it! Within days of begin locked down I was already missing the movement. Dreams seemed full of incredible routes at incredible crags. Scotland, Pembroke and North Wales would all be in such good condition! But there was a new crag to uncover. Suddenly my timing and vacant house seemed rather fortunate! Edges were brushed, moves worked out, sequences pieced together. The full traverse went at about F7c; there and back at F8a. But it was the big gable-end wall that was the prime line that had captured my attention since the very first viewing. To be honest, the traverse is simply excellent, with a million variations that could keep me going forever. But for some reason that high wall just had to be climbed; a huge expanse of gritstone with an obvious top and technical sustained movement all the way. I bolted it and cleaned it, brushed it and studied it. Three Petzl bolts and an anchor showed the way; a complex intricate sequence weaving its way upwards through the sea of natural grit crimps and slopers. A route as good as any; if you could imagine it was just a solid wall of stone and not gritstone blocks cemented together it could be the best route in The Peak. Right now it WAS the best route in the Peak! In fact it was the best route in the world – the only route in the world!

The great thing about climbing is it’s so much fun; the mind and body working to complete the puzzle together. I felt that ‘new route’ obsession sweep over me. I worked the moves, practiced sections and then did it with two rests. It was time for the redpoint (well, on top-rope – does that even have a name? A yellowpoint?) socially distanced of course with my 13-year-old daughter belaying. And what a line it turned out to be. For climbing to be fun you don’t have to be at an awe- inspiring crag; you could be climbing on a home woody, a garage wall or even a finger-board. But I’d got lucky here for sure, not many have a three-star F7c+ in their garden! I’ve called it ‘Very Quiet’, and I’m already wondering about the


R Steve climbing Rainman at Malham.

right-hand variation… Words: Steve McClure

Steve is a BMC ambassador and the

UK’s best sport climber having achieved the first ascent of the UK’s hardest sport route, Rainman F9b, at Malham Cove in Yorkshire. Steve is sponsored by Marmot, Petzl, Fiveten and Rockcity.


Steve was going to write an article about training or over 50s, but he isn’t there yet. For an article on training for over 45s see his website:

But let’s be honest here. This is all good fun while my route setting and coaching vanish, but it’s not going to make me a better climber. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”… and this could not be more of a perfect example of someone doing what they always do, me crimping my way up a vertical wall. I’ve been asked a ton of times what I’m doing in ‘lockdown’, what training is the best, and particularly what should the over 45s be doing (like they think I’m the over 45 expert). A mate of mine once told me the best thing for my climbing would be to stay indoors for six months, stop getting side-tracked by the outdoors, and get strong. He was right! It was a great plan, but of course I ignored him. Funny how these things work out, now here we are with the exact situation he described. For all those who fail to stick to your training plan now is the time! Training takes routine and gains are made over time. Now we have time. Clearly we are in terrible times. Those who are ill and suffering, as well as the amazing staff on the front line, are having to deal with so much compared to many of us whose biggest loss is a few months of not climbing some rocks. We still moan (we like to moan!) but I’ve found the key is to live day by day, not to think about what you could have been doing or where you would have been planning to go, or what you are missing out on. Just see the day. The sun is shining, the air is clear, and your training session is going to be awesome! Stick to the plan, don’t try and do too much, and in a few months you’ll be floating up those dream lines. PS: With the yellowpoint of Very Quiet in the bag, the house

is now rented and I feel it’s not my place to nip in and upgrade the yellowpoint into a redpoint, maybe I’ll save that for when the wall needs a repoint! Besides, the new tenants now have the unique bonus of a fully bolted and unclimbed route ready for a first ascent right in their backyard; missed a trick there, I should have added that to the advert!

SUMMIT#98 | SUMMER 2020 | 31


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