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Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Avon Gorge Ascent - a change from climbing the greasy pole...

Doesn't look too bad! All going to be fine!
Things not feeling so fine now...
This was the easy start-bit. Things got worse!
 It all seemed so far away as to be unreal, when I accepted Climb Bristol's kind invitation to see the glory of the Avon Gorge climbs for myself, by climbing up it.

When it came to it, I wasn't so sure it was such a great plan. Climb Bristol were keen to show me first hand the unique nature of the Avon Gorge cliffs, with its plant life unique to Bristol and its very special climbing features.

As someone not tremendously keen on heights, I had never dreamed of being one of those people you see scaling the Avon Gorge cliffs as you drive past, but I was keen to see what Climb Bristol was talking about.

The day dawned sunny and bright, and I hoped for rain and that it might be delayed for another day. No rain arrived. But everyone from Climb Bristol were incredibly professional, and tolerant of my nerves. They tried telling me about the access issues to the rock face, and the challenges of maintaining the climbing routes, free from shrubs that drown out the rare and unique plants around them, but I was somewhat preoccupied by the thought of what I was about to do, so we cracked on with the climb.

The route I was given was apparently 'severe' (which didn't make me feel much better.) I felt slightly better as they told me how many other grades of slope were above 'severe' - right up to 'extremely severe' which itself has several grades of difficulty. Once I'd started climbing I was surprised how well the climbing shoes gripped, alarmed by how polished some of the rock had become with the frequency of climbers and intrigued by the 'physical chess' nature of the climbing - an almost sudoko-like challenge of where to place hands and feet on limited little cracks and chinks. But once I'd got into my stride a bit more about 3/4 of the way up, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it, and understood why people get addicted to climbing.

Climb Bristol highlighted how special this climbing area is;  how much work they have done on a voluntary basis to clear it of over-grown shrubbery; the possibilities the area presents if the decent car-parking spaces are returned, and how Bristol should celebrate this superb venue for climbers far more than it does.

When the climb was one, pumped full of adrenalin and endorphines, we walked back down to the car. As I stepped out onto the Portway bus-lane, it struck me that for all the thrill of clinging to a rock-face a long way up, the most dangerous part of the whole episode was probably about to begin- walking the short distance along a brutal road to get to the lay-by where we parked.   There was plenty of room for the shrubs to be cut back and a footpath laid.  That's the kind of danger and risk that should be actively removed, so people can enjoy the beauty, exhilaration and calculated risk of climbing in far more safety. 

Thanks to Climb Bristol for such a great experience

 Thank you Climb Bristol! I hope I can do it again sometime...

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