Today, in Westbury on Trym, the funeral will be held for Nick Abraham, who was killed while cycling on the A4 Portway earlier this month. Nick Abraham the climber.
There isn't really a cycling "community" in Bristol -there are groups that follow their own niche -road work, BMX, fixed wheel, MTB, etc, but for most people it is just a transport. The loss of a cyclist is an abstract "that could have been me" thought for most.
There is, however, a very strong climbing community. Winter evenings and weekends spent at Undercover Rock in St Werburgh's drinking tea, eating chocolate flapjack and staring at overhangs graded F7a while you wonder if you will get up it or end up ignomiously hanging upside-down with the rope wrapped around your leg. You get to recognise the regulars, say hello to them in the wall, or the pubs nearby -the Farm and Miner's Arms. On summer evenings, Avon Gorge, as you communicate by tugs with the climber on the other end of the rope, traffic noise getting in the way of shouting. You see a lot of the A4 portway and the traffic on it, before you end up, with the other climbers, at the Avon Gorge Hotel for a beer afterwards. Summer weekends: Stanage Edge, Pembroke, the Gower. Then there is the Alps, which are where, along with caving and scottish-winter-ice work, that objective danger lies: danger that you cannot entirely eliminate.
Because there is danger out there: one of the founders of the wall never came back from a caving trip, there are other people in the British climbing community, known from those places you end up on weekends, that end up not returning from a trip to Chamonix, lost in snow or ice. The climbers do live with that, do have to live with getting that phone call telling them that some of their friends and climbing partners are no more. This is not a sport, it is a lifestyle, one that does have danger, danger which caution with ropes and teamwork can effectively eliminate from cliffs like the gorge: non-friable limestone with good protection. All the subjective danger can be removed there, which is why it is a safe place to learn, to play with your friends, to teach your kids.
Sadly, it is clearly not a place to cycle safely. And so someone who was part of the Bristol climbing community will now have to live on only in memory of the climbers, his friends and family. They -we- will remember him, and hopefully soon someone will climb a new route in the gorge, a new way over the portway, and remember "Little Nick" by naming it after him. Nothing else would be more apt.
Steve L, undercover rock member #536.
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