The Collection - New Blue in the Deep Blue

This is the first of five short stories based around climbing, and describes a dirtbag climber's worst nightmare - losing gear to the sea. The stories were first written about two years ago, and have never been published.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

There are some pieces of my gear that are no longer mine. They now belong to the sea, or stuck in routes. One of my prized new cams lies in the bottom of a tight zawn in Pembroke, like a spring-loaded pearl on the seabed, dropped as I hurriedly racked up for just-one-more-route . In a instant, the small cam suddenly tumbled through my fingers, disappearing into the sea with a loud ‘plop’.

I screamed! I wailed in horror! My new blue lost to the deep blue! I cursed my mistake: how could I have dropped it? The waves splashed and licked up the walls, frothing white and grey. They were obviously content with their new prize. The tide was rising and an ocean swell surged, booming into the back wall.

At heart, I knew my precious cam - complete with matching new carabiner - was lost to the depths of a salt water cavern. It was most likely five metres underwater, even at spring low tide, and immediately being tumbled amongst the rocks.

I'm an eternal optimist. I'm perma-psyched. It could be my biggest strength and biggest weakness. I still considered there was a chance of finding my cam, of redeeming my stupidity. The boys just laughed when I popped my head over the top of the crag and announced I was going swimming. 'Why? What have you done?' Despite best efforts to save my dignity, they quickly figured out why and advised me to return when the sea was calmer; it would be foolish to be at the mercy of big waves in a watery coffin.

Twice more I returned to the zawn. The following morning I lay on my stomach, head hanging over the edge and staring longingly into the depths. The storm had arrived early. Wind roared up the crag and pulled at my hair as heavy white rollers crashed into the cliff. They exploded with a resounding clap-boom! into the back of the zawn and I knew I couldn’t survive swimming through that.

Dark blue sets lined all the way to the horizon, ruining my chances of a ‘quick dip’. The wind brought heavy squalls over the ocean, spitting on my jacket and hopes. I ran away, cold and wet, but only from wind and rain.

I could understand if it had been an accident by a friend, or simply whilst climbing; but to drop it just as I was racking up? Stupid fool. I still burned. There’s no greater wound to the dirtbag climber than losing gear.

The second time I returned, my optimism barely flickering like a match in a breeze, I lowered a bag of rocks into the zawn to check the depth. It went the full 15 metres of rope without slackening: too deep even with a jump from the top of the crag. I pulled it up slowly, the heavy weight of defeat. Water drained from the holes in the bag like my hopes of retrieval. The lid on my cam’s liquid coffin slammed shut, once and for all. I suppose it was only a piece of gear, after all…


During better times in Pembroke. Boat to Naxos (E7 6c), Huntsman's Leap.  Photo: Lukasz Warzecha

During better times in Pembroke. Boat to Naxos (E7 6c), Huntsman's Leap.

Photo: Lukasz Warzecha