the old man of hoy

It’s possible that on the one day off from dancing in the week I would be best served by lying on my arse, reading and eating chocolate, not getting out of bed if I can help it, and firmly avoiding the front door. My idea of fun was to slap down 26 francs plus a 20 minute walk to spend the day climbing in Europe’s most expensive indoor climbing centre. Bloody hell, it was only $NT150 in Taiwan (about 4 francs)…

The highlight was a slab, which really they don’t take seriously at the Kletterzentrum, preferring pseudo-limestone over-hanging pump-fests. But amongst the 11 climbs, variously overhung, long, straight dead vertical on-and-on (… and on … ) it was a miserably short 80 degree 6b slab on greasy slopers that made my day. Nothing like the patheticness a slab can reduce me to, to really make me happy.

Actually, the highlight was not pulling on multi-coloured bits of plastic surrounded by an unhealthy number of other people, which is not my idea of a perfect day endangering my own life. The highlight was the post-climb dinner and video-fest over a bottle of wine, and as it was the Orkneys being climbed upon, a dram to wash it down.

No over-pumped, well-dressed expensive-climbing-habit city dwellers here. Just crusty old guys on black-and-white television doing hip-belays, and following the leader-must-not-fall ethic of old trad climbers with cigarettes firmly wedged in mouths. Chris Bonnington and a bunch of others did reality TV in 1967 at the arse-end of a peat bog, making BBC 1 freight in several tonnes of technology to film their ascent by several routes of The Old Man of Hoy, a daunting sandstone sea stack that only looks as truly ominous and threatening as it is in grainy black and white.

Wierd old television, live via several microwave base stations to the viewing public of the BBC. They even had a plan in case someone wiped out and bounced on the rocks hundreds of feet below, and would have kept pumping it out live while the helicopter came in. Somehow I don’t think reality TV would do that today. Lots of dodgy looking pitons whacked in, plenty of unprotected funky moves that would never get replicated in a gym or in the current 1 meter between bolts world of sport climbing. Give me horrendous runouts that reduce me to a quivering blob, bad weather and skanky protection … think I’ll go to the Orkneys for winter.