Danger Mountain - 09 04

posted 6 Oct 2016, 08:31 by Dave Tomlin

Danger Mountain  

Here in the network, we don't always play by the rules. Sometimes we make up the rules ourselves. Sometimes we abide by the rules, but the rules we are abiding by are so radically different to the rules normally adhered to that simply by conforming, we are actually making a bold statement. Our seldom-ending quest for 'high-jinks' and 'giggles' in the network has involved many such transgressions of what everyday folk consider normal. Bungee-jumping naked, scuba-diving with a mask full of live bees and full-contact ludo are just some of the events that may be on the network calendar at any given time.

This week sees the Grand Official (second) opening of the Second Warwick Sea Scout Network, under the maverick leadership of 'dynamo' James Sanders. As a taster of the activities that take place under the guise of the network, a series of (at least two) accounts of activities masterminded by and involving the network have been 'organised'. The following article describes just one such event. For insurance purposes, it should be noted that the events described hereof were undertaken by members of the network, rather than as; an important difference, for any big-wigs who have the misfortune to be reading this will, I am sure, agree.

The faint glimmer of my headtorch pointed skywards uselessly, glinting white off rock before mixing thickly with the night canvas of the sky. Craning my neck forward, I could just direct the fine beam of light at the jumble of ropes and gear that lay all around. Nervously, I checked the anchor again. Like a drunken blend of crochet and a house of cards (the number one Danish national pastime, apparently) the anchor securing our (hopefully) bright futures was decidedly shaky. Below Dave was swearing profusely whilst bouncing around upon the fixed climbing rope. This rope was in turn protected from the razor's edge of the granite slab upon which I perched by a pillow, constructed from a shoe and my best fleece -a particularly selfless act on my part, I considered.

In a moment of self-indulgent reverie, of the kind involving wibbly camera techniques and the occasional soft-filter, I thought back to the origins of this hair-brained scheme to climb such a towering cathedral of granite as that upon which we now hung precariously, our lives and sanity teetering on the knife edge refuge we shared, tiny specks amongst a sea of rock; a vertical ocean of quartz diorite.

The original seed had been planted upon the discovery that a quarry near Leicester harboured granite of such epic proportions as to warrant a name like Danger Mountain. Curiously enough, the trip over had involved a great deal fewer U-turns than is customary. This I attribute to Dave's driving skill. An unpleasantly steep trudge up a grassy slope was rewarded with a view that cannot be described politely as anything but impressive. An air of almost reverential awe overtook us. This we dispelled with a series of posed tourist photos.

Making our way into the quarry, it soon became clear that the sheer walls divided themselves neatly into two categories: steep and with all the rugosities of the side of my house, or broken and looser than a particularly loose thing that I shall not describe for fear of causing offence to readers of a fragile disposition. The looseness was established with a carefully calculated series of increasingly vigorous tests, pioneered by Dave. This involved hefting increasingly large chunks of rock at what appeared to be the loosest parts of the wall, before pausing a moment to see whether anything fell off. It should be noted for any trained professionals wishing to employ this technique that scurrying around with the back and neck slightly bent ensure the maximum possible safety while undertaking the waiting part of the study. Honest.

As usual, the route lists downloaded from the internet had proved slightly less useful than nettle-leaf bog-roll, and had been banished back to the bowels of the rucksack. It should be pointed out that there is a special sequence of Deoxyribonucleic acid that codes for ability to read climbing guides, and needless to say, we don't have it. Instead we decided to forge a route up a possible line, whether it had been climbed or not. To save on unnecessary waffle, I shall merely establish that if it was unclimbed before, it remains so. However, as we left the quarry , another seed, similar to the first began to grow. Nurtured by the pumping dance music on the journey home, and the ear-piercing treble of Hi-Hat anthems 4, the words 'You've got to believe in something. Believe in me.' became a mantra for the embryonic idea: oh yes, we would return, and better prepared, too. Next time, we would be ready for all Danger Mountain had to throw at us.

"Wish I'd been better prepared" I muttered to myself. One move from the floor I had become stuck. The block behind which I had banked upon jamming my largest piece of climbing gear was in fact larger than I had expected. Too large. Expletive. Around four feet from the ground, the inadequacies of my equipment (snigger) had reared their ugly heads, so to speak. The plan was to employ aid techniques to scale the vast granite ramparts of Danger Mountain. Aid techniques involve the placing of wedges into cracks in the rock. To these are attached rope ladders, which are climbed before another wedge is placed, and the exercise repeated. In theory. To this end, we had spent a great deal of time 're-organising' the rack of climbing gear, a process referred to by my university friends as 'playing with my nuts' (I should point out here for the uninitiated that 'nut' is a generic name for the metal wedges commonly used when climbing, and should by no means be regarded as an anatomical reference). Around my neck I know wore what felt like fifty pounds of carabiners, assorted wedges and other arcane devices.

In a flash of brilliance, I threw a length of cord over the large flake above me and clipped in a rope ladder. Oozing onto the ladder, I watched the cord for a movement, the anticipation of a four-foot fall drying my mouth and greasing my palms. Stepping onto a sloping ledge of rock, I placed another wedge, which shifted unerringly as I applied my weight to it. A few slightly more reassuring moves brought me to a ledge, and in the gathering gloom, I decided to pause there, and debate the plan of action with Dave. The ledge was wide and spacious, yet the slightly overhanging and almost blank face towering above me in the gloom only seemed to enhance the sense of irony as I shouted down that I was 'safe'. As I began to set up the belay, I was only briefly reminded of a well-oiled machine going into action. Hunting through my remaining climbing gear, I produced an anchor which derived most of its strength from the enormous quantities of friction as the rope ran over numerous sharp edges. Fulfilling his part of the well-oiled machine, Dave unclipped from the ropes, and grabbed a diversion sign before taking numerous pictures and chuckling for several minutes.

In a short time I was joined on the ledge - this is the sort of 'short time' in which the fledgling Roman Empire waxed fat and conquered half the known world, before collapsing into decadence, and eventual downfall at the hands of various hordes barbarian. It was obvious that a retreat was in order, and so Dave set himself up for a short but ageing abseil, encouraged by the words: "Make it smooth and quick, the anchor's [not very good]." He stepped out from our refuge with a confidence I did not hold, so it seemed more encouragement was necessary:

"Move faster or we'll both die!"

Dave had just moved out of eyesight when the sound of falling rubble rent the air, and all was silent.

"Dave, speak to me." Pause. Silence. Brown adrenaline.

"I'm okay, I just kicked some loose stuff." A wave of relief broke over me. Now, the question of how to retreat myself without achieving terminal velocity presented itself. A particularly sensible suggestion of getting down the same way that I had got up drifted up from below.

"You know that I told you to remove all my gear when you came up, Whitey?"

"Indeed."

"Did you?"

"Yes."

"Expletive."

This was going to be harder than I thought. Using a double Monica (simultaneous use of both knees) followed by a double Colonel Sanders (simultaneous use of both elbows) I left the ledge, feet scrabbling in the dark. Metre by metre I worked my way down. Feet flat on the floor, I looked up at the belay ledge, our 'high point' for the night.

Fifteen feet.

"Expletive."

As usual, the drive home brought the chance for a constructive debrief, in which opinions are aired, and suggestions are made regarding how problems could be avoided next time. The overriding sentiment for the exercise blended the wisdom gained in the undertaking with a cautious optimism for the immediate future:

"Screw that, let's never come back here again."

"Agreed."

So if there is a lesson to be learned here, perhaps it can be surmised as this: to try and yet fail is human. To persevere and also fail; perhaps more so. But this is ultimately the quest of the network: not to fail, you understand; that would be silly. No, rather, the aim of the network is to do these things - things that the everyday world may suggest is breaking those rules by which polite society is governed - and to have a chuckle doing them. And if at the second attempt you don't succeed, it may just be that it was a bad idea in the first place.

Second Warwick Sea Scout Network: Omni Secundus.

15/09/04

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