Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Sleep deprived with aching body and raw fingers, but very happy!

So it all started at midday Friday. Half way through my meditation session my phone goes, I answer, it's Tim: do I want to go climbing? yes!

I leave my meditation, grab my harness and climbing shoes and head off to the pub where we are meeting and having a bite too eat first.

Tim and Meg have already finished eating by the time I get there, but they dutifully watch me munching through my (free) veggie-burger and chips. We chat for a little while, with music videos shining down on us from the walls in the dark, relaxed Adephi pub.

Tim drives us over to the leisure centre with the inside climbing walls, and Meg signs a form making her responsible for my life and death, so that I can get in. The entrance area is warm and smells of chlorine, but we walk through some double doors into a spacious hall where the air is fresher and full of life. On all the walls going up to the tall ceiling are huge fake rock faces with ropes trailing up them and smaller rock faces with thick cushioned mats underneath them. We put our climbing shoes on, I take mine off again, remove my socks, then strap myself back in - lots of little customs to learn in this new world.

We warm up by climbing the smaller walls with the padded floor: that's fun, scaling up the fake rocks feeling like a monkey, then falling or jumping back down onto the very compassionate flooring. Tim and Meg are very good at this, flowing up the difficult walls gracefully, I... well... give me time!

After this we strap ourselves into our harnesses and tie ourselves on to ropes. The bigger walls await. This is fun, but there is nothing like being suspended by a rope a distance from the floor, trying to get a firm grip on the next handhold to make you realise the importance of strong arms - I made myself a commitment to get my weights out again! It tests your faith also - letting go of a wall high above an unsympathetic floor, when your comparatively little friend (I'm about 2 meters tall) is the only person on the other end of the rope, isn't the most natural thing to do, but still, she said it would be fine, and indeed it was. Meg did not go shooting into the air as I shot towards the ground, indeed, it was quite a leisurely backwards stroll to the floor. I however, did send Tim shooting towards the floor when it was my turn on the other end of the rope, for some reason I though that was what he would want, it didn't occur to me that he had no idea he was flying towards the floor because I was controlling it that way or because I was out of control, but I slowed him before he and the floor got to know each other too much and apologised for my rather large mistake!

A bit more climbing later and it was time to go, my hands worse-for-wear and my upper body muscles fatigued. We headed around to our different houses to collect the gear we would need for the following day, stopped of at the supermarket to stock up with food, and then off to Meg's house where Tim and Meg cooked us a tasty Moroccan dish. After munch Tim taught us how to read the details on maps, to take grid references, and take bearings. After sitting cross-legged in a quiet corridor with map and compass in my lap I finally managed to figure out in my head what was going on with all these difference Norths (true north, grid north, magnetic north) and what this meant for not getting lost. A relaxed evening chatting and watching cartoons later and it was time for bed. My sleep patterns were messed up so I lay awake in my sleeping bag most the night reading 'The God of Small Things' - I really good book that is amazingly difficult to describe!

We woke up early in the morning and the sun was shining - not quite living up to the 'severe weather warnings' of the forecasters. No worries, breakfast of eggs, beans and toast, a quick shower and a packing of bags and we are off to Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills' place. Still sunny.

At Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills' beautiful house in the hills we drink tea and look at maps. Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills' sister arrives and off we go. The weather is cold and very windy now, no worries, warm and windproof clothes and my neck warmer sorts that and we begin, maps and compasses at the ready.

Walking up the road towards where we will get on to the moors Tim tells us how to count our paces to measure distances. Mine are about 54 paces to every 100m. The map tells us it is 500m to the next pub so we try it out...

1,2,3,4,5,6... hmmm the sun's nice ...33,34,35,36... I'll take my hat off ...50,51,52,53,54 100m! 1,2,3,4... why do these cars think we shouldn't be on the road ...44,45,46,47... there is the wall, the map is trustworthy ...53,53,54 300m, or was it 400m? 1,2,3,4,5... definitely 300 ...20,21,22,23... my paces are shorter, should add more to make up ...54,55,56,57,58,59,60 400m ...33,34,35... its windy, my hair is in my face, nice though ...52,53,54 500m! Yeah sweet pretty much by the pub. Not the most well looked after pub in the world that, it looks like it had be left on the bottom of a scummy lake for a millennium before being lifted out, dumped at the side of the road, and left to dry. But no worries, we have food, we carry on walking, I keep counting, 150m 'til the path we need.

Well the path wasn't obvious, but the counting meant we knew where it should be. We climbed the fence that had been inconsiderately been built across it and carried on. On the moors now, with the strange grass, and the spiky plant with flammable sponge inside that I have no name for, Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills has a possible name for it, but I forget. Burnt patches of moorland are here too: they have strange moss and lichen growing on them, vast empires of tropical rainforest no more that a centimeter high, an ant's paradise.

Now it is time to look at maps, we look at the surroundings, look at maps again, put compasses on maps, line up where we want to go, set compasses to grid north, alter compasses to magnetic north, chanting the magic words 'grid to mag add, mag to grid get rid'. We're set, the compass points the way, we pick out land features and walk. And walk, and stop, and stare and walk again. Chat and wonder, and amble and joke and breath fresh air! And feel hungry. We head towards some rocks and find a spot out of the wind, hemmed in by the rock, a spot popular with the sheep. Out comes the stove and soup, out comes the tea, the hot chocolate, the bread, the snacks: all made twice as nice by the walk, the scenery, the company and the warmth on a cold day.

We finish eating and I step from out of the rock shelter and the wind hits me, not just the wind but snow as well. Great! I jump around on rocks a bit, then get packed to move. We head back, it's probably not best to go on, some are too cold and it is still a fair walk.

We head towards a reservoir, hats down, neck warmers up to nose, brightly colour ninjas, flying over heather. Or stomping through heather, tall heath, with hidden holes and streams. Falling, laughing, stomping, down towards the reservoir.

We are back to the road. It is a shame to walk on a road with countryside about, but it is the best option. I practice counting!

1,2,3,4,5... hmmm, hard to talk while my mind is counting, hard to use the vocal part of my brain for two things at once ...27,28,29,30... how about I set my mind counting in the visual part of it ...41,42,43,44 [seeing the numbers in my head, more than hearing] 45,46... difficult, not quite there ...51,52,53,54... hmmm, the one hundred could be a picture too ...100m [larger, in red, to the side of the picture of counting numbers in my head] 1,2,3,4... this will need practice, but how amazing if my mind could do it automatically, I could be talking, doing other things, and occasionally look back at the pictures in my mind to see how far I had come, will need a lot of practice though!

We are back to the car park, nearby is a strange dome with round window holes and a globe that reflects all. It immediately becomes one of my favorite random installations. Pictures are taken.

Back to Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills' house where she prepares us a bean stew with dumplings. We lounge around sipping wine, with me dozing slightly, feeling very hungry with the smells from the kitchen. Jessie the cat sniffs my hand then enjoys a bit of petting before going to eat. We have a bit of an effort at a sudoku puzzle, but give up, too tired. Music is playing, we are relaxing.

Food is ready! Yum! Thank you very much Anonymous-friend-who-lives-in-the-hills!

Its time to go, sad but true.

We drive through the dark: weary, achy, happy

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