by Paul Bolton
Ten of us attended this trip on the weekend of 21st – 22nd March, staying at the Wessex Caving Club hut in Priddy in the Mendips.
On the Saturday we all headed to Holcombe Quarries, a venue chosen for its mixture of bolted and trad routes. We started the day in Cooks Wood Quarry (following breakfast in Wells of course!), climbing in glorious sunshine with the place to ourselves. Some of our party then headed over to try out the neighbouring Bector Wood Quarry. The peace and quiet wasn’t to last all day – Cooks Wood Quarry turns out to be the haunt of local kids. My last route that day is the only time I’ve ever been heckled on a climb. To my dismay, as I started climbing, a group of kids sat down to watch “the climber man”. About half way up the route, as I repeatedly tried and failed to get past the crux move, I grew more and more annoyed by the kid shouting “jump” repeatedly every 20 seconds. When the kids walked off I let out a sigh of relief, only to look up a couple of minutes later to see one of them at the top of the crag. “I beat you” he shouted “and I bet I can beat you down”. Congratulations to him! Once my audience had departed I finally managed to figure out the move and continue to the top. That evening, after a tiring day’s climbing, we headed back to the hut to enjoy a meal prepared by Jenny and myself. We all enjoyed the lasagne – prepared as a soup according to German tradition.
The Sunday also turned out to be a fine, sunny day. After driving through Cheddar Gorge (for the benefit of those who hadn’t seen it before – Coronation Street has now been added to a few to-do lists!) we headed to Bristol to climb in the Avon Gorge. Most of the climbing that day was in the area close to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, with such classic routes as Hell Gates, Suspension Bridge Arete, and Giants Cave Buttress being ticked. There are not many crags in the country where one comes into such close contact with the general public, who stand on the bridge and the cliff tops to observe the climbers. Kirill even headed especially off-route on Giant’s Cave Buttress in an attempt to actually enter the cave and join the tourists! It’s not clear whether he was finally prevented by the railings or the difficulty of the moves on the traverse. Team France put in a sterling effort that day, completing more climbs than most of the rest of us despite climbing as a three. Following another enjoyable day, the obligatory consultation of the Good Beer Guide pointed us in the direction of the Jolly Huntsman near Chippenham to round off a successful trip.