I sat on a wall waiting for Simon, he was normally 10 minutes late so I busied myself peeling the loose bits of skin off my fingers above each nail. As each strip was peeled off so it would reveal a bright pink sore, I held my hands out in front and observed them as you would after a pedicure, "idiot, you just can't help yourself", I said aloud. For the remainder of my wait I wondered whether the cold wall would give me piles. Simon pulled up in 'Sally Racket' the rusted white VW Polo, "Hello Luke, sorry i'm late, why are you sat on your hands?"
Liz was sat in the back with her boyfriend Andy, I hadn't met Andy before and I lent in awkwardly and judged him via his handshake as you would in a big boardroom meeting. 'I already know who you are' I thought to myself, happy with my pseudo-psychology. He had better hair then me. After some initial chat about home life, which I tried to stifle, there was a long comfortable silence. This was punctuated by Simon berating some poor sod in front who had the audacity to drive at the speed limit. "Fucking Lemming", he said "Pull over or speed up, you waste of space". He's a nice chap Simon but similar to a few other friends he seems to have an alter ego that resembles something of an eloquent ogre once they gain command of a vehicle. I mumbled something about empathy and asked Liz for the guidebook. "What are you going to try today?", she asked automatically, "I'm not sure, probably just go with the flow", I replied as I flicked straight to page 137 and re-read the description I already knew and eyed the topo for a line I could sketch from memory.
Simon was asking Andy about his latest climbing exploits, he'd been to Spain and missed the bad weather that had clagged and sogged the crags back home. I was thinking make-believe about climbing and which soundtrack would suit it best, a montage of sunsets and hard climbing mostly involving sidepulls, undercuts and lots of shouting. Yeah Man. It was at this moment that smalls audible thuds penetrated my daydream. I looked up and could see large rain drops hitting the Racket's windscreen, each rain drop symbolised a dent in my fantasy, an arrow in the chainmail I'd pulled over myself when I looked at the morning forecast. It made me think of the real world and as Simon reluctantly turned on the wipers it acted as reverse acid, through the smudged windscreen I could see offices, bills and clock watching. All that shit. "it'll be fine, look at the wind!", said Andy. No-one replied but the car kept moving.
It was still spitting as we pulled up, the crag leaning over us and inspecting our resolve. I checked my rack, I already had the gear set up as I'd spent an hour or so cross referencing various websites. Walking in the butterflies reverberated around my gullet and the beer in my belly, that had provided such a comfort blanket as I spouted out the previous night, went sour. Specks of rain had fallen as we moved in and out from under the sparse autumn canopy, I arrived wet-through but from my own source of anxiety. We sat at the base of the route, 50 meters, at a degree at which you couldn't see further than 20. I found my helmet and pre-racked harness and pulled them on. I pulled my shirt from under the harness as it was dragging the neck of my t-shirt down making me feel stupid. I realised almost without looking that I had forgotten my rock shoes.
- Luke Passer