Starting to climb during the early nineties growing up in Cambridge, now that's a pretty flat place. It's not easy you know, climbing when there's no rock for miles. It takes commitment to make the trip away at weekends, especially when first learning. Moving up through school, sourcing ways of keeping up the training that would make time away from the rock seem less arduous until we had the means to travel.
Now dont get me wrong, it's not like we really liked to train, as such, but what we did want to do is meet up and have fun, improve when we could, feel the movement, feel our fingers and forearms burning and spark the passion that gave us energy.

Cambridge does have a wall and a very important one at the time, playing a vital role in bringing friends together, learning to create inspired sequences of hard and at times bizarre climbing.
It provided a ground for building stamina and, due to its nature, taught good technique and gave you iron fingers (or at least made you feel like you needed them), but unfortunately, in my case at least, also the first taste of finger injury.

Then we wanted to gain more power, have more immeadiate access to train.
So began the experiments into home build.

A bedroom might not seem the most ideal place
to try and build one, but due to the size of house
and understanding parents, a bedroom it was.

Instructions

  • *one length scaffold pole (suspended across room)
  • *number of climbing holds (selection of resin and home made wooden blocks)
  • *t-nuts and accompanying bolts
  • *2 sheets 8'x4' 25mm marine ply cut to size, one piece for 50° angle, one for foot board, one for roof section
  • *4 quickdraws and short length of rope (to practice those fumble clips)
  • *1 fingerboard on side of roof section

wow! what a set up it was .......... then find somewhere for the bed and wardrobes

Despite this wonderful, but small, resource it was outside that we truly wanted to be. Relief came in the form of the dirty, seedy, finger ripping, tendon snapping bridges of the dismantled railways at Long Road and Fen Ditton.

Both severely tested your technical footwork and the physical conditions of the fingers in particular. The mortar is chipped out to certain degrees. Sometimes enough for maybe the first two digits, sometimes just the very tips. Sometimes enough for three fingers, sometimes just the one.

Long Road bridge is fairly open, the roof iron, with routes working up to it along both sides, spilling out onto the four slabier corner sections Fen Ditton much more compact and enclosed, with its location adding a feeling of isolation. Here the brickwork forms the roof as well, within which a route works out into the middle of the curve, at points whole bricks chipped away to provide adequate holds.

Long Road has some
bolts, but use them?
Fen Ditton none

Crank problems of 5A through 6B/C to what ever you felt they should be.

Crimp Crimp Crimp againWatch the feet, need to be precise.

Strain those fingers, dare you make those final couple of moves?

Actually, maybe should have used that rope.

Build up the nerves, adrenalin.

Making top moves on the outer walls seriously tested your bottle.

Traverse a section, feel those fingers ache

fingernails scrape against the brickwork

Recently returning to these locations I realise that both are far from idylic places to be climbing, so why climb there when you've got the wall at Kelsey Kerridge you may ask? Well there was an atmosphere to them. Graffiti covered, dirty and secluded, not so great by yourself, but it formed as a meeting ground, felt good to be with a group of mates, outdoors, chalk dust and encouragements flying in the breeze. None of the feelings of safety you get down at the wall, almost an adventure in these flatlands.