It’s still there, in all its hard, cold, folded, rippled pockmarked greyness, looming over the sports hall; the result of a Dahli-esque plasterer gone mad.
I touch it, running my fingers over its textured surface and the years dissolve away... all those people. Lasting friendships; my climbing partner Debbie, Gavin, the cool couple Nigel & Gilli who are still cool but no longer a couple but with the miracle of beautiful Skye and their Beinn is now a teenager; "Climbing Mark", who I love like a brother &and his Spanish Eva (and now young Alexander), Johann (where is he now?)...
Our Red Nose Day epic; the challenge to climb Everest in 24 hours, and we did 3 times that height, with just the one broken leg. Dave, the cabbie with the PhD. Debbie snapped her Achilles tendon just here, an 18 inch fall is all it took and she’s still limping. This is where I fell off and broke my heel bone, a two metre drop onto the hard sports hall floor as the matting had been moved. Just like the real thing, bouldering anyway.
Jez started it all, and Jez being Jez the Advertiser printed his pic in the paper. This was the start of the other stuff too. The bad stuff. But for now, there was something new to try. Learning to belay, learning to trust a figure of eight (ffs!), an ATC, an Italian hitch. All new. New gear, new techniques, new language.
When I was let go by Newbridge, as I descended further into the abyss, into the darkness, into the numbing deadness of depression, I’d take myself off to this wall for an afternoon and have it all to myself. It was the focus that I needed, to empty my head of all the badness that was in it and just be. And the endorphins would surge, nature’s own anti-depressant which kept the gibbering beasts at bay.
We got to know each other well, that wall and I. I got to know how it would try to chuck you off if you tried this sequence of moves in this particular way on that particular section. It got to know me, my weaknesses and fears, hopes and dreams and confidences. The wall would suddenly expose a problem and reward me with the delight and thrill of solving it; the challenge then got passed on to others later.
Jumping Jugs! Haha! Now that was a cool sequence, three moves to the top, starting by mantling off here... Oh and the hand jam on the overhang, shit that still hurts!
It was good to see it again, like unexpectedly bumping into an old friend I once knew and reminiscing. A pleasure, even though at the time there was a great deal of pain.
Shame it’s not being used anymore.
It’s a good wall.
First published 26.3.2009