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Friday, 9 January 2015

The spirit stirred

As a youth I was a modest, but regular rock climber until I was married at the age of thirty. Later, around the age of fifty four I met  Pete (not Thursday Pete) and climbed with him for three years until he went his own way after I baulked at his over ambitious attempts to lead climbs graded beyond what I considered his ability. I then met Tony and climbed with him for seven years until he sadly died quite suddenly from cancer in 2003 - Tony was a great friend and we had many other interests in common, and I shall always miss him. I had no desire to continue climbing after he went.

Having said all that I can't pass a lump of rock without a stirring inside compelling me to assess it for potential lines and having a good look to see if there are chalk marks indicating climbing activity.

My Thursday walk with Pete this week took us close to Whitestones Crag (SD 387 849), a minor venue seen from the High Newton by-pass on the way to Newby Bridge.

Whitestones is geographically ambiguous and has ended up in the Lancashire Rock guide rather than one of the Fell and Rock Lake District guides and that may be why I don't often spot people climbing there. But there is another connection here. Tony was as an accomplished, and rock solid leader up to at least E1 grade and I would have followed him anywhere, but our sole visit to Whitestones resulted in the only occasion that Tony fell whilst I was with him. It was not serious - he was only a few feet off the ground starting the first pitch and the rope was of no help and he unfortunately decked with more of an affront to his dignity than injury. Tony was not pleased.

Our Thursday walk this week took us on pleasant lanes around High Newton with distant views of Whitestones stirring these old memories.

The arrow indicates Whitestones Crag two and a half kilometres away

Incredible zoom to Whitestones taken from the location of the photo above. This was hand held - very difficult to  keep still enough to frame the crag, but a tribute to the Panasonic TZ40 camera.

Yet another take on Lake District dry stone walling techniques


AlanR said...

The TZ40 is a cracking little camera. You certainly don’t need a SLR. The anti shake obviously works well.
Passed White stones many times but never been up there. When i look at the area on the map it holds lots of opportunity for walks. I must try it one day.

The Crow said...

That stone wall is most impressive. How on earth is the top row held in place? Looks as if it should topple over in the slightest breeze or vibration from passing traffic.

As always, I enjoy your photos, Conrad.

Roderick Robinson said...

Should be fortunately not unfortunately. Not that it matters but given what I know about Tony I'm trying to work out whether he'd have preferred to have fallen off one of the more famous crags. This one looks a bit scrubby. Also I'd like to know how he expressed his displeasure; on the one or two occasions I met him (and especially when he stayed the night with us) it was hard to imagine him in such a state; although I think I was older than he was I couldn't rid myself of the feeling I was in the presence of an elder statesman, given to dispensing wisdom and a special line in apercus. Mind you, he did disdain very well. I enjoyed talking to him about music; liked the way he broke off to illustrate various musical forms and examples with his wide-range singing voice. As you say, a man who is inevitably missed.

Sir Hugh said...

Alan R - Another major attraction of the TZ40 is being able to transfer its photos wirelessly to the iPad so I can use them on the blog when posting away from home. That seems like magic to me.


The Crow - Dry stone walling is a skill that takes a lot of learning, but when done properly the walls stay there forever. If you look at other of my photos you will see them sprawling across our northern countryside, often climbing hillsides almost too steep to walk. The wall in this photo is a more decorative version used in village environments and it is constructed from slate which can be split offering flat surfaces. On the hills the walls are made from irregular limestone or gritstone taking much more skill to construct.


RR - I reckon you've gone straight to the point. It is a scrubby little crag and the climb was only graded severe so it should have been a pushover which magnified the indignity of failing there. Tony's reaction was manifested in grumpiness, and as far as I remember we departed for the café without doing a route, and we, and as far as I know, Tony on his own, never went there again.

Thank you for your additional appreciations of my friend.

Anonymous said...

My spirit has been stirred by your post.As you know Tony and I climbed all over the place. It was strange when he was no longer there, visited his wife the other day.
I had recollections of climbing at Whitestone Crag with him. Have just spent a happy hour looking through my diaries [pre digital]for the occasion. I remember dragging him there against his better judgement, after your episode. He probably needed a couple of teacakes with his cuppa on the way to rock.Succeeded on the bogey route you mention and followed with most of the other routes on this small crag.
Thanks for the memory.

Roderick Robinson said...

Bowlandclimber's comment proves (not that I doubted him) that he really knew Tony. Not only that but he links Tony to my last post about T S Eliot's anniversary. Eliot's longish poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock has many lines that have gone on to fill dictionaries of quotations (eg, "Do I dare to eat a peach?") and this one in particular:

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Though in Tony's case it was teaspoons. Tony's knowledge, opinions and severe judgments regarding Lake District caffs formed a delightful descant to his primary interest in climbing and I count myself fortunate that I have shared what I can only describe as his version of High Mass in one of them. Where Tony combined the roles of priest and communicant and I - a long-time atheist - felt myself drawn into the ritual. There could even have been teacakes.

I apologise for elbowing in in this way, knowing these are topics you have handled in the past. But in the end it doesn't harm, does it? Tony in the round, as it were.

The Crow said...


The camera angle played a trick with my eyes. I thought the top row leaned toward the road, due in large part to the reflected light and the tilted view.

However, when I tilted the image to match the corner edge of the house, suddenly the true lay of the stone became obvious.

Impressive, none the less. And I have noticed (commented, too) on other photos of stone walls. When I was a child, a mason came to our farm to repair a section of wall damaged by a tractor. I watched in fascination as the man and his son first took sections apart, then lay them back together, as if they had a map in front of them telling them which stone went where. Of course, that's what they did have, in the shape of the stones and in the scattered pattern of them on the road and berm. It was dry wall construction, capped with flat fieldstones. When they were finished with their work, my father marveled that hardly any lichen was missing.

Good photo, a tribute to the craftsman's labor.

Sir Hugh said...

RR - Thanks for that. No apologies needed.
The Crow - I'm sure the general concept of dry stone walls is universal, but they have their own take in different places.

I had to look up "berm" in my dictionary - a word I am not familiar with. Also a little smile for your American spelling of labor (labour in the Uk).