So, after an unprecedented double-double-double booking of myself for the same weekend, i found myself with a weekend off with nothing to do. Original plan was to don work clothes once again and set about sorting the flooring in the living room but after finishing the bedroom not long ago and learning my lesson with that house before, i packed a bag (or four, as is quite normal for me) and buggered off.
Friday night with mum and dad, saturday with old friends and sunday with other family came and went and was all thoroughly enjoyable, leaving two more days before needing to be back at work. The forecast wasn’t that bad and i’d opted for Leeds and it’s particular brand of gritstone rougher than a badger’s arse. The crags surrounding the city remain some of my favourite in the country, with Almscliffe, Caley and Illkley being some of England’s most famous too, with good reason, having more stars than a night at the Oscars.
I left Dudley around 6:30, with what i call the Anxiety of Options ahead of me. For those with a typically British knowledge of our road network, it can often be quite tricky to decide which path to take, there being a multitude of numbers and Ms and As involved, discussions of which normally lasting longer than the journey itself. It started with me turning right instead of left, and involved taking pretty much all three of the choices i had in mind (one of which almost took me back to where i’d started…). Eventually though, i was on the M1, my mind drifting to pulling hard and raping my skin.
The stereo was loud. Very loud in fact, which was probably for best, for the sake of the cars next to me as the swearing started seconds after the rain. The torrent of abuse was matched only by the torrent i was soon to be driving through and my dream of dry rock was left behind me, on the last piece of dry motorway i pass that night. Still, by the time i reached my destination, it had stopped and once safely inside and away any constant reminder, optimism levels had reached a point normally reserved for checking the Liverpool score on a Saturday afternoon… At last, i was taking the Tourist Approach: i’m here and i’m gonna bloody climb something! after all, the forecast for Monday wasn’t that bad.
This morning, quick drying crags were definitely the order of the day, and Illkley seemed as good as anywhere. Almscliffe would’ve been my other viable choice, except it was the choice for my last visit so was ruled out, and with a mere 5 miles to go, the heaven’s opened, the wiper blades started dancing across the windscreen and the cursing this time stepped aside to a blank and unimpressed stare.
After a brief wander round the town (following the discovery i’d left my wallet back in Leeds and now didn’t have enough money for a mere cup of tea) i went up to the crag anyway. It was part in hope, part i’ve-driven-this-far and found, as any sensible person could’ve told me, it was , in fact, wet. I even wandered up into the small quarry and scrambled up to the top, at which point something unusual happened. The sky had greyed over and i looked out over the moors, smiling at the landscape so alien to me these days and spotted another crag in the distance. With time on my hands and now no plans for the day i suddenly decided to go for a walk.
It might seem slightly odd that this came as a revelation but only six months ago, that idea wouldn’t have crossed my mind. If this was a climbing day, it was a day to go climbing and if i couldn’t do that, i’d probably do nothing; sitting around somewhere and moping would’ve sufficed. If i’d wanted to go for a walk, i’d plan to go for a walk but even then, it would be a walk with a peak as my goal. Looking back, i’d become so short-sighted, masquerading as ‘focused’ that it would cause me to do nothing rather than do something i thought of as tame. Now i found myself gently strolling across the North York Moors, taking photos and enjoying the scenery, and loving every minute, achieving exactly what i wanted to achieve, just in a slightly different way: peace and relaxation.
I know what caused this change, and i owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. I’m not going to go into details but my outlook has been changed. I was actually in a similar conversation with my mum following a recent serious injury: yes, you can no longer do exactly what you had in mind, thanks to events beyond your control but all that means is that you adjust what you’re going to do next. It’s simple, yet something that can be very difficult to adjust to. i’m very glad someone taught me how.
I walked for about two hours and ended by ambling the path along the bottom of the crag. It was far too wet to have ticked anything in my little travelling library, that much was true but the fact remains that as i sat in the driver’s seat of my car, i was quite content with my day. Tomorrow will most likely be even wetter and will probably result in simply going home a few hours earlier but today has rounded off what’s been a fantastic weekend. Without my Illkley excursion, i’m not sure the same could be said.