I glanced down at the clock on the dashboard. 3.30 on Friday afternoon: only half an hour late but the Sun was shining and I was only 5 minutes away from Bowden Doors. The mobile phone in my pocket started to bleat. I passed it across to Jean in the passenger seat knowing that she would pacify Bruce whom we had arranged to meet at 3 o’clock. Read More...
| I glanced down at the clock on the dashboard. 3.30 on Friday afternoon: only half an hour late but the Sun was shining and I was only 5 minutes away from Bowden Doors. The mobile phone in my pocket started to bleat. I passed it across to Jean in the passenger seat knowing that she would pacify Bruce whom we had arranged to meet at 3 o’clock.
Bruce, however, had just arrived in front of us and as I pulled in behind him he jumped out of his Landrover to prevent me driving into a hole on the verge. I thought he was kidding until he stepped in it up to his knees.
Five minutes later we were walking along the base of the almost deserted sunshine-bathed crag, the plan being that I could show Bruce a few of the classic Northumberland routes up which he could drag a couple of pensioners.
However this was hampered by my lack of memory and reading glasses. Bruce too seemed to be suffering psychologically from his last visit to the county and found difficulty tuning in to the rock. This resulted in the pensioners leading more routes than the young bold leader. Still, it wasn’t what was climbed that was important (Russet Groove, Castle Wall, Castle Crack and Black Crack) but the general atmosphere and it was a lovely evening to be almost alone on the moor with views towards the Farne Islands to the east and the Cheviots to the west.
The sun had almost gone down before we packed in and drove the few miles to Wooler to pitch the tents beside those of Nigel and Scott. Head torches were needed to finish this task ( the nights are fair drawin’ in). A quick shower and then into the town. You would think that a place like Wooler wouldn’t change but the Red Lion was shut and up for sale, the Black Bull was hosting a very noisy karaoke and Stormin’ Norman no longer runs the chip shop.
We settled for a takeaway from the chip shop and then repaired to the Anchor, which on subsequent evenings proved to provide very good bar meals, for some liquid refreshment. Some time later we were joined by Stuart and Jeanie. After a few beers we strolled back to the campsite beneath a clear starry sky. The weather omens were good for the next day.
Saturday morning and Bruce, Nigel and Scott were up and away very early to Bowden Doors where they were later joined by Stuart and Jeanie. Jean and I had decided to try somewhere a bit quieter at the weekend and had brought bikes to cycle in to Henhole on the west side of Cheviot. The cycle up the College Valley was well worth doing for its own sake.
The climbing was on igneous rock (andesite) and was very good and steep but somewhat lacking in protection. The freewheel (well almost) out was pure delight with the low late afternoon light picking out the first signs of autumn. It seemed to take us no time to get back to the car.
Everybody ate out at the Anchor and we were regaled by the tales of Scott and Nigel and their wind- assisted ascents and how they managed to clear a space for themselves at a crowded Bowden Doors. Bruce too seemed more pleased with himself having raised his standard to leading Northumberland VS.
On Sunday morning the “ Beans for breakfast boys” were once again up early and away to Kyloe, this time without Bruce whose conscience had prompted him to go home early and help Kate with the packing for his Mallorcan holiday. Scott and Nigel spent most of the morning on a route called Litany. At one point Nigel was seen trying to feed his leader by throwing a banana in his general direction while Scott took a rest under the capping overhang. Jean and I climbed a couple of routes on the St Ivel crag, had our lunch and then wandered southwards leaving them to it. Full marks to Scott for persistence- he must have had more tries than Bruce’s spider (Robert the Bruce that is, not the Fife gardener). The BBB s caught us up at Cloister wall but after a few feet of that route Scott realised he was tired out after his morning’s exertions and they decided to call it a day.
We then met up with Stuart and Jeanie for another few routes before they too had to drive up the road. That evening we were joined in the Anchor by Ian McCabe who had arrived as a substitute young (relatively), bold leader for Bruce. He was champing at the bit to be climbing and we decided on Berryhill as a venue for Monday.
Monday turned out to be another brilliant day and after a breakfast in town we drove north to have another great day’s climbing finishing up with Ian’s ascent of Western Arete.
Despite the lack of numbers it had turned out to be a very successful meet with three and a half days of climbing, loads of routes, a few beers (or was it the other way round?) and great company. Perhaps more people will be persuaded to travel south the next time the club visits Northumberland.
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