Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ledgendary: Night on the Bare Cliff Face - Tom Eldridge

As clouds set in over Bristol on Thursday, four intrepid young UBESters completed an Avon Gorge rite of passage as old as the rock its self. For those of you reading this who don’t know the cliffs around Bristol very well, one of the most visited sections of the edges running alongside the river Avon on its way towards the mouth of the Severn Estuary is, suitably, named ‘Main Area’. The wall here is divided into climbs on the lower section ‘Morning Slab’ and climbs on the upper ‘Evening Wall’, so named because a day climbing can take in a route on each of these on the way to the top, with a stop off at ‘Lunchtime Ledge’ halfway through.

Well, at least that’s the order the guidebook recommends you do it. Lunchtime Ledge is a huge section, large enough for climbers to untie from their ropes completely and walk around without fear of falling, and so since its discovery it’s been very common to invert the usual procedure and spend the evening climbing Morning Slab, kipping overnight on the ledge and then climbing out in the morning. We weren’t the first to do it, and we certainly won’t be the last, but we may temporarily hold the record for being the most naked. The weather on Thursday was glorious. Jenks and I had been anticipating this since the start of the week, and Duncan and Emily perked up at the idea in the Highbury on Wednesday night, so at 8pm we met at the top of Whiteladies Road to grab a few beers and were shortly on our way. The clouds hugged the city like a cosy blanket, keeping in most of the heat of the still day, and never once threatened us with rain. Wrapped up and ready to go, we arrived at the bottom of the gorge at about 9 o’clock.

We divided ourselves into teams. Thom and Duncs took the slightly trickier HS Sinister whilst Em and I sauntered up The Arete (VD). In contrast to spending a day in Avon, the night time was still and quiet. Thom and I, sat on our respective belay positions, were able to chat easily at a distance that would usually render everything inaudible, and I turned my headtorch off and sat and belayed quietly until I managed to surprise Emily with this shot:

We clambered to the top, and after a little faff with ropes and a short wait, were joined by Thom and Duncan. Soon after we heard a call from a light source at the top of Evening Wall and saw the President himself abseiling down to join us. It was so lovely to have everyone together that we quickly made use of the gorge’s proximity to the city and promptly started ignoring each other in favour of our respective mobile devices (I should point out that this was a joke and the below was posed).

Once the beer had dried up we found ourselves sleeping spaces, and, with levels of preparedness ranging from Duncan's full bivi bag to Laurence's pile of ropes and bags, settled down to sleep. A makeshift net stopped us all from sliding forwards and off the terrace, and we all woke up well rested and ready to go:
(Fit For A King: Laurence chuckles off the ‘most comfortable night’s sleep he’s ever had’)

(Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed: Team Kit and Safety brush themselves off and prepare for the morning climbs to lectures)
Waking with the sunrise, Thom and I assessed the situation and decided to boldly solo it to our 9am lectures. Simultaneously on the climb to the left of us, Duncan bagged his first outdoor lead, and Laurence and Emily followed him safely up it a little while later. Here’s a photo of him sat belaying at the top:

I can honestly recommend the experience – we had a great time, became closer as chums, and really capitalised on the weather whilst simultaneously not taking any time out of our busy university timetables. A perfect combination of type 1 and type 2 fun, and an excellent way to spend 12 hrs.
Finally, thank you for reading patiently: here is the nudity you’ve all been waiting for: