Using a bit of technique
Despite having Harrisons as my closest crag, reachable in about two hours by train, I had never been. I was filled with ‘top-roping only’ prejudices and horror stories of sandy friable holds. In over four years of climbing I never managed to make it to my local crag until last night…
It was a beautiful summer day, the likes of which we don’t often get to enjoy. I wanted to go climbing, but the thought of spending what might amount to our only taste of warm weather at a dank climbing wall just didn’t appeal. A quick consultation with the train timetable made the trek out to East Sussex seem reasonable. After all, it couldn’t possibly be that bad!
With my expatiations set as low as possible and a back-up plan of a pub retreat in place, I was ready. It was quite an experience taking my enormous DMM Highball mat on the Tube during rush hour. I got quite a few looks and when asked about the purpose of my ‘portable mattress’ I felt like replying that I was forced to carry it in case my narcolepsy flared up.
Fun warm up
A quick walk from the train station down a country road completely with an ultra dodgy manual level crossing (eek!) deposited us at the base of the sandstone mecca, Harrisons. There were a few top ropers out as promised, but we headed down to the North Boulder. Armed only with a print out of the UKC Database and a few bits gleaned from here, we started to decipher what were indeed real lines. Keen to try out the new rock, I quickly squeezed on my shoes and headed up the easiest problem there, OK Coral a Font 3 (no, I never knew they existed either). Intrigued I moved on to the Font 5’s and 5+’s. They were technical and involved slopers – ugh, I normally loathe this type of stuff, but alas I was so happy to have found a boulder near to my home turf I didn’t care!
The slopey, sandy holds forced me to do flagging, Egyptians and even a semi-figure of four. I was so excited to be climbing outside in the lovely weather that I didn’t complain about having to use technique one bit, although the rounded, Font-style top outs gave pause for thought.
That's a bit more like it... Torque Wrench, Font 6b
The best problem that I did all night was Torque Wrench a Font 6b. Yes, it did involve cutting loose (a leopard doesn’t change its spots overnight) but also lots of flagging, pinchers and the mental crux was the mantelshelf top out, which isn’t normally my cup of tea.
Scarily enough I feel that I am starting to become something more of an all-rounder. After dragging myself up several low-grade classics (a currently on-going process) and now after a fairly successful trip to a new and very technical rock type, I think that this hypothesis is gaining some weight. No, I’ll never be as happy doing this type of stuff, but maybe more problems will become possibilities.
As for sandstone itself, what the heck took me so long! I’m still not fond of the idea of top roping, but there are more than a few boulder problems that I didn’t have time for last night and who knows, maybe I’ll start to use more technique on all rock types as a result.
Southern sandstone – nowhere near as bad as you might think :-)