Runcorn, England

Going over the top

Date August 2007
Posted August 2010
Natural highs come a whole lot cheaper
One of the justifications often given to us at school during the drugs (are bad, mmkay) talks was that although a bit of hash may not kill us, it would probably lead us onto harder stuff. The nasty resin just wouldn't cut it anymore, and so we'd tumble down the slippery slope into the minefield of Class As. At this time there was no mention of becoming hooked on climbing man-made structures, as of course it was presumed none would be so 'stupid'. The opinion that this behaviour was idiotic was echoed in the scowls of the dinner ladies patrolling the playground who rebuffed our efforts to retrieve footballs from the roof. My first uninterrupted dabble in such practices was instead amongst the ruins of an old castle in Wales, hands scrabbling at the flinkwork, that horrible feeling of knowing you'll slip if you don't make it with this last frantic try... I never looked back.

The steel arch construction (the longest span of it's type in Britain) that forms the final bridging point of the Mersey was only ever going to provide temptation to wayward-minded climbers. Of course, the physical danger of actually scaling this monster was added to further by the risks of being caught. Despite the assorted fluorescent signage it would appear that the only crime to be committed is a public order offence if The Filth + friends arrive to drag you back down. And so one concludes, almost paradoxically, that it's only an offence to be caught climbing the bridge.

Sometimes a particular time is chosen for something, and it will happen regardless of changes in circumstance. The southern Indian curry I polished off with a couple of beers (which the newspaper later made reference to - nothing like a bit of Dutch courage though), and then waited in the rain for some man off the Internet to turn up. Despite warnings even further back in life about getting into cars with strangers, I did exactly that. There definitely wasn't a hand reaching for my thigh and conversation turned to climbing and for a moment I wondered if this night of fate-tempting anarchy wouldn't be better rounded off by sharing a shot at a Garston crack house.

Arrival in Runcorn or Widnes (you can work out for yourselves which side is best to climb up). Rain continued, and we harnessed up. My accomplice and later friend and many-time collaborator, 'stepping lightly', commented that perhaps we should just do it solo, and not worry about the rope kit. Here the line was drawn. Dressed as we were with slings and karabiners hanging off us, it wasn't difficult to attract stares from passing pedestrians, but the adverse weather kept all but the most determined at home. With some finesse and some brute force the two of us levered our sodden selves onto the top of the steelwork and began the ascent up to the red aircraft beacons at the summit.

The feeling of satisfaction earned at that summit, both one of achieving a personal objective and also doing something which tests the elastic boundaries of what our carefully managed society permits, I share with those crack whores, glue sniffers and the perpetual risk takers; the car thieves, graf writers, meth addicts and lift surfyahs. Like them I pray for an exciting death, and that Hell is as good as half the other things religions deplore.

Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn, England (2007) courtesy of

Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn, England (2007) courtesy of

Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn, England (2007) courtesy of

Props to stepping lightly for being a catalyst in this, and also to those who probably climbed the bridge beforehand and those who definitely did afterwards.
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