Wye Valley

The changing perceptions of summer

Your perceptions of a ‘disappointing’ summer change quite substantially when outdoor climbing is the main goal.

This summer has at times felt distinctly British – we’ve had a coupe of properly hot weeks so far and a couple with mid-twenties temperatures in the heart of the city, but most of the time leaving the house without a jacket and an umbrella hasn’t been advisable.

Earlier this month was particularly bad – one day in early August, I walked out of the house without tights on and instantly regretted it! I realise we are now in the middle of a scorching week, but you get the picture.

Normally I would be complaining about this state of things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still complaining, because complaining about the weather is what we do in Britain, right? But it has occurred to me that now as a climber my idea of ‘perfect’ summer conditions has changed massively.

Yesterday people in London were walking around in coats – it was pretty depressing for mid August, actually – but all I was thinking was “perfect climbing conditions”.

I realised this while sweating out gallons of water in a sticky climbing gym in the centre of London.

No longer do I hope for 30 degrees and relentless sunshine so I can swelter in the park or have a cold pint by the river. That weather just won’t do for a climbing weekend out (which is every weekend at the moment!). What I want is a mild day of low 20s, preferably even a tad overcast to avoid climbing in the direct sunshine, and preferably only the tiniest change in temperature in the later hours of the evening and night so I don’t have to pile on layers while camping.

Cool and dry conditions means my fingers won’t sweat and slip off the rock, the skin on them is less likely to wear down, and the rock will feel more grippy. 

It’s even allowed to rain, but only at night. That’s no different to anyone else’s summer weather wishes, I suppose, but I remember the days when I really liked a big storm, with lightning and all. I still think they’re pretty cool, but boy is it inconvenient if it happens in the middle of my climbing! Not to mention climbing on sandstone – which I used to do a lot more last summer – requires the driest of conditions, because even a fleeting shower means the rock is out of action for the day, or longer.

I’ve just come back from a week in Spain, a non-climbing holiday (!!!), and I genuinely found the heat tiring.  All 30 degrees of it. I tried to do a bit of exercise to keep in shape and I sweated more after 20 mins than I do after a heavy hour-long training session. 

 It’s a little pathetic really, but climbing and living in England has made me pretty soft. It turns out I can’t handle the heat! What’s next? Am I going to start enjoying freezing days out on the rocks in Scotland??

One thought on “The changing perceptions of summer”

  1. Not soft. Appreciation of good conditions is the mark of a mature and experienced climber. Steve Mac wrote an article in one of the Climbing mags a few months ago on the same topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *