A Lesson in Dry Tooling

 
With the words ‘Dry Tooling’ increasingly buzzing around the climbing press it was perhaps inevitable that this curious way of climbing should one day be added to my list of ‘training’ activities.
 
In theory these activities keep me fit for climbing in general. In practice though it’s more the camaraderie and desire to generally be active and try new things that leads me into such things.
 
Steve Burns is like minded and was also feeling a growing need to try out this Dry Tooling business.
 
‘Masson Lees quarry is the place for us’ he announced after researching in the meticulous manner of the fully retired.
 
The quarry nestles in the hills above Matlock and on a dank, misty winter day it oozed moisture and dripped steadily. At the far end was a cave with overhangs and blank overhanging walls in abundance. I had assumed it would be less steep and there would be cracks to torque my axes in. But it appeared such assumptions were wrong. Oh dear.
 
Steve started up warily, being guided more by a line of bolts than any natural line. Rapidly it became clear that progress was only possible because small slots had been drilled to make perfect axe placements. No need for any axe swinging here. This was not at all what I had been expecting. All would have been well if the slots had not been so far apart and the wall so overhanging. As it was a series of near one arm pull ups was necessary. The Burns muscles bulged impressively and the Fowler body flailed. After one route and some top roping the drizzle increased, the muscles tired and experienced climber rhetoric began to pour forth.
 
‘Feel I am damaging my shoulder’ ‘In danger of pulling muscles’ ‘Best preserve myself for the Himalaya’
 

Mick pulling through overhangs (These are small ones for Masson Lees!)

Mick pulling through overhangs (These are small ones for Masson Lees!)


 
‘Preserving myself for the Himalaya’ is a good fall back one I rely on when feeling the need to try and keep those ‘older man injuries’ at bay.
 
After some marvelling at the remarkable figure of four type lines across the horizontal roofs (how do they do that!) it was deemed that our introduction to Dry Tooling was complete and afternoon tea and cake were in order.
 
The next day my arm muscles ached a lot. That must mean it could be classed as another satisfactory ‘training’ session. And another activity tick.
 
And another month closer to the Mick and Vic re-union trip.
 
Read more about Mick and Vic’s Himalayan training programme as they prepare for their first expedition together since they climbed the Golden Pillar of Spantik in 1987.