Lunch Break

The film Hard Grit has a lot to answer to for me. It was the first real climbing film I ever saw, way back in my second week of University. I’d gone to the Wetherspoons in Lancaster to meet the climbing club, and after a drink or two, some of the older lads had made suggestions to move on. Their best idea was to head to Dougie’s house to watch this film I knew nothing of. Indeed, I didn’t even know such films existed! Anyway, off we trooped and sat there, watching what I now maintain is the best rock climbing flick ever made.

Years later, I found I had adopted certain aspects of the film into myself. Many is the time I have tried to emulate Dave Jones celebration on completing Braille Trail, unsuccessfully I might add. I found myself pulling a similar pose to Ben Moon when watching a video of myself bouldering at Parisella’s Cave. But I think the man who must take most of the credit for the film’s influence is Richard Ekehead.

It is at this point I feel the need to apologise to those readers who haven’t seen this movie. Still, I’ll try and explain as best I can (while screaming “JUST GO AND WATCH THE FILM!!!”). Around five minutes are dedicated to this Swedish climber who “put his life in Sweden on hold to climb some of gritstones best testpieces” and it’s Master’s Edge at Millstone we see him on. There are three things he does that have reappeared on countless of my climbing trips.

The first is a quick double-blow of air that we both use as a warm up psyche routine when about to pull off the floor. Second, in a heavy Swedish accent, after taking a fall, he says, “it’s hard to be angry [pause] when the climbing is so good”. But third, and perhaps most significantly, is once he had completed his ascent (sorry if I’m ruining the film by the way) he shakes his face, making an indescribable noise, and says, simply, “Happy now”

I’ve repeated that, right down to the accent, after the successful ascent of so many boulder problems I don’t even notice any more but it’s not just that any more. I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, for reasons I won’t go into, and I’ve also been losing some enthusiasm for the sport I’ve based my life around for the last ten years. It happens, every now and again, and I normally just take a bit of a break but yesterday, I was asked to go for a climb.

After work, we went down to a forgotten boulder in the woods of Bryn Engin in Capel Curig. It was covered in moss, damp and dirty but we set about cleaning and climbing the lines we could, searching through the guide. There are only a handful of problems, but was still enough to keep us entertained and the whole experience was enough for me to get the bit between my teeth again, leaving convinced there were more rocks to be found in the trees.

Today was another grumpy day, with me not being the best of company. My issues were still in the forefront of my mind and I can’t imagine I was much fun to be around. So, I took a long lunch (only an hour) and headed down to the boulder for a quick session. Of course, by the time I’d driven to Plas y Brenin, got the pads packed and walked in, I only managed a fifteen minute climb. Still, as I hurriedly headed through the undergrowth and jumped onto the track, the memorable voice of Richard Ekehead rang out once more.

Only thing was, this time it was different: it wasn’t a success I was happy with. For some reason, this sport, this hobby, this whatever you want to call it, had managed to help me once again, cleared my head and cheered me up. It hadn’t taken long, or even taken any effort and to be honest, I don’t even know how it managed to cheer me up at all, but needless to say the afternoon passed much smoother. That voice rang out loudly as I raced along the dirt track and yeah, tomorrow may well be another day but at least for the briefest of moments I could finally say, “Happy now”. For now, that’s enough.

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