Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Life is sweet!

Last week, while I was going through the usual post-climbing-trip "what am I doing here?" malaise, I came across a thread on UKC asking where's the "Best place to live for climbing, skiing, outdoors"?

In amongst all the usual replies about the alps, the states, and New Zealand, someone pointed out that London is actually a pretty good place if you've got the motivation to get out - and posted a link to Ramon's blog as a good page for inspiration. A timely reminder that for all the moaning we do about being miles from the rock, we're actually in a fairly privileged spot here.

Sure, there's no real rock to climb on in the evenings, but that just frees up the midweek for getting strong in the gym.

In the past I suffered from not enough rock time, but not this year. With Ramon I've put nearly 10,000 miles on the clock of my trusty C5 estate since February, leaving London on a Friday evening after work and parking up in some corner of South West England or Wales, to fold down the seats, sleep in the back, and wake up to a weekend of climbing.

We've done sport climbing in Brean, Ceddar, Swanage, Ansteys and Torbryan. We've done trad climbing in Swanage, Avon, Pembroke and the Culm Coast. We've even squeezed in a bit of deep water soloing at Lulworth and Berry Head.

Had we not been so focused on these areas (Pembroke in particular) we could have been slate climbing in Llanberris, gritstone udging in the peak, sandstone death tradding in Nesscliffe, sea-cliff adventure tradding in Gogarth, bouldering in Fontainebleau, or - if we were really fucking crazy - chalk climbing on the south coast.

OK, London may not be an aspiring alpinists dream location, but for a cragger, where would you get more variety than that in easy driving distance?

And that's before you start to think about the options that come from having four major international airports a short train/bus/tube ride away from the office, from which you can take a peek at any corner of europe you choose in a weekend.

This year I've been fairly UK trad focused, but in the past I've done sport climbing weekenders to places like Monaco, The Amalfi Coast and El Chorro for very little expense with the budget airlines. Seriously fun times.

With the nights drawing in and the autumn wind and rain arriving, perhaps it's time to be thinking of resurrecting those trips. But here's the thing - I've had an absolute ball exploring the south west climbing scene this year and I've barely scratched the surface. I wasted years of my time in London, training at the gym to get ready for a few weekends away and three or four sport climbing trips a year.

Friends who've moved abroad would love to see me join them for weekend adventures, but it actually seems like a bit of a waste to fly out - euro sport and alpine adventures will always be there, and one day I may leave London for sunnier climes. Once I do that, the vagaries of UK weather will mean it's much harder to plan weekends back here than it would be now to plan weekends away, so I don't want to regret not making the most of what was on my doorstep any more than I have already.

Anyway the moral of the story is yes, life for a London based climber can be pretty fucking sweet. Thanks TobyA for the reminder!

Early season mucking around at Brean Down - January. Photo by Ramon Marin.
Tom Le Fanu getting in a climb in the late evening sun.
Camping in Swanage, February.
Hunstman's Leap at Pembroke in March

Waves lashing the belay ledge as St Govan's, Pembroke

Late summer sport in Anstey's Cove.

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