Many moons ago, when ‘York’ was my response to questions of residency, the answer was always “oooo, I bet thats nice. York’s lovely isn’t it?”
If you’re a tourist, I suppose this is sort of right. It’s ancient central district was impressive enough to get Johnny Depp & Co to shoot Pirates of the Caribbean there, and those endless winding streets complete with their authentic tudor decor and cobbled carriageways must be really cute for the droves of tourists who arrive for day trips in their gajillions. Spending the daytime absorbing the olde-worlde vibes of the old town is all well and good, but deciding what to do in the evening is a bit more of a problem. The trouble is, unless you want to head out with all the other clipable students, shaven headed hard-men and fat birds in heels to some durge nightclub and squander the precious little life you have left contributing to your tinitus, knowledge of awful music and liver failure, there are about three things you can do.
a: Go somewhere else – http://maps.google.com
b: Go to one of the 365 ‘proper’ pubs in the old town (most of which are excellent) http://yorkcamra.org.uk/
c: Climb the massive church. (see below)
York Minster basically defines the city. It’s absurdly out of proportion to the humble town it sits in – (imagine if they’d have decided to build the Notre Dame in Stoke-on-Trent) – and sits as a proud member of the of the European Church squad A team. Due to its age (and important cultural standing), there has been an extremely lengthy program of restoration running on it since ages ago, and its been good craic for locals to climb the scaff up to the roof after a few bevvies and survey their kingdom as an alternative to the usual nights out.
Rather than mearly hit scaff and wander round on the lower roof though, what we were really after was the tippy-top of one of the main towers. You can pay to go up one of them if you’re feeling flush, but you end up being greeted by an anti dickheads-throwing-shit-off-the-roof cage that basically ruins the whole view. Not that’s there’s much of a view to begin with mind..The tallest and most impressive thing in York by an absolute mile is the minster, so if you can’t get up close and personal with the intricate stonework you’re sort of wasting your time.
We’d seen a couple of pics of the main tower which we’d reckoned to be about 150fts worth of E1-5c (thats quite hard for non-climbing folk). The first part was an enormous chimney up, followed by 100ft of increasingly thinning intricate some work, capped off with a beast of an overhang which, to be honest would have probably bumped the grade up a notch or two. You’d basically be protecting on 600 year lime stone which would probably have a 50/50 chance of snapping itself if you took a serious wanger. If the next gear held, you’d be looking at criminal damage of a UNESCO world herritage site, if not, you’re into all that shit they put on the disclaimer labels on climbing gear.
We met up around midnight with Keîteî and her fella, and gave the building a walkround to see what had changed since I was last there. Everything basically, but nothing too taxing for a bunch of seasoned alarm avoidance enthusiasts, and in no time at all we were stood on the lower roof at the base of the tower surveying the climb.
Attached to the scaffold on top of the minster, was what we though was a builders hoist, trailing a length of hemp rope to the lower roof. With a bit of clever re-rigging (replacing the thick hemp rope with 9mm mammut), we managed to make a system whereby the first man up (jobs in this case) could ascend the 9 mil with a 2:1 pulley to give him an easier time, then sort a proper anchor once he got to the top to allow the rest of us to ascend.
We should have definitely sent the skinny 9 stone woman in the group skywards, but hey, those hoists take 250kg… Right?
The real clincher was that we had no idea whatsoever how on earth the hoist at the top was attached to the scaff at the top. We has another similar rig on our level to inspect, and sure enough, it was a 250kg pulley attached with several scaffold bonds and balanced to take its rated weight. The only way to test it was to tie in and give it a good bounce at 4 foot, cross fingers and have it away.
The ascent took a good 20 mins, with the first 5 being the most torturous for the onlookers at the bottom, but as with all good plans – it came together nicely, and within the hour we were all stood at the top, feeling rather pleased with ourselves.
It’s just as good as all the other fancy european cathedrals I’ve had the pleasure to ascend, and after a solid
hour or so of wandering round the roof and inspecting the work of the ancient stone masons (and modern day builders who’d been fixing it up), it was time for a cheeky abseil off and back home via a Maccys coffee and Egg McMuffin.