Jack of all...master of none!
Featuring Rick Riding ( as himself) and Mark Davies (as Jim Mitchell)
Winter had deserted us, but "a penciling in" in my book is a firm commitment, so snow or no snow I wasn't about to let Mark of the hook that easly. A "penciling in" for a trip to the Ben became a couple of days in the lakes and yes I did feel a bit guilty that he might miss his daughters birthday and would be away on his own birthday...but I resolved to make sure the sacrifice would not be in vain? ( i'm not sure I succeeded!)
We had decided to mix a bit of mountainbiking and climbing over the two days, so we headed straight for the new MTB venue at Whinlatter Forest. Now I hadn't done much biking for a while but like they say its not something you ever forget . The first indication that there was a flaw in this theory was the sound of a small landslide as within 5 mins of setting offI was off the trail and rolling down a steep slope with my bike on top of me. I obviously didn't expect a lot of sympathy from Mark and need less to say I didn't get any, though the word incompetent was utterd for the first time ( and not the last) as he draged my bike back onto the trail.
I now had an injured left thumb to match my injured right one ( from a previous sking accedent) and despite not being able to change gear with my left hand, the rest of the ride went fairly smoothly, if a bit more cautiously.
We'd knocked off both red routes in about 2 hours, and it was still only mid day, so we decided a bit of cragging at shepards whas what was called for.
Thinking we'd start on something easy, it was off to brown slabs and a nice VD. Unfortunatly half way up what had been a slight dampness in the air turned to full blown rain which definatly effected the grade somewhat and added a little to the interest. Matters wern't helped by the fact that I 'd forgotten to ask what colour marks rope was and as a result we had both turned up with identical ropes - another black mark against my competence level - though I did get a lot of fun out of winding him up by shouting -" thats me on blue" at every oppotunity.
Undetered we headed over to Little Chamonix, my reasoning being, if it can be climbed in rollerskates a bit of rain shouldn't effect the grade too much. As it turned out it was't the wet which stopped us in our tracks it was the boys from Albert Square!
As Mark came up to the first belay he thought he'd stepped straight into the Queen Vic and true to form immediatly slipped into character with his best Phil Mitchell impression. The two lads on the belay were'nt quite sure what to make of that, but they had bigger problems to deal with as we were about to find out.
To cut a very long story short, at least an hour was spent passing the time with these lads as thier "leader" called for slack, of which there was plenty, but rope drag ment he was going nowhere fast. We did offer to remove the offending runner, but with already 4 ropes in play, one tied to an"eastender" half way up the second pitch, but not held by anyone! We thought it best not to complicate matters any further and resigned ourselfs to a long wait and the possibility of picking up the peices.
For the first time that day I felt compitent ( its all relative) , it didn't last.
When we did finaly get our turn, Mark led the top pitch in style, our two blue ropes running freely,much to the admeration of the Eastend boys.
I didn't intend to let Marks Birthday go by without some kind of fitting ritual and so had bought a nice big slice of fuit cake to act as a surigate birthday cake. Unfortunatly the next morning when I confessed that I'd got a bit hungry the night before and had "already made a start on it" he seemed to think that the gesture had been compromised!
Day two - The West Highland Way
We had decided that if the weather wasn't up to much in the morning we'd do another bike ride and I'd brought my map of cycle routes in the lakes just in case. As I got it out in the hostel something did'nt seem quite right. Why I thought , would Fort William be on a cycling map of the lakes? Needles to say it wasn't and the worrying thing was that Mark was no longer even supprised. We went straight to plan B.
It turned out to be a bright fine day, clear sky and wonderful views. The route itself was better than I expected, every pitch being interesting and top quality. We were third in a line of slow moving traffic and had the roll of retreaving a trail of abandoned gear for the other two teams, but even this didn't detract from quality of the experiance. I managed to keep myself ammused by shouting " take in on blue" at every oppotunity and Mark kept himself busy trying to disentangle 120m of identical looking 8.5 mm nylon!
I think he had a good birthday, though we never did eat the rest of the cake!