SECONDS TURN TO HOURS

Two ropes disappear over a black overhang and I, being the belayer, am at the end of them. How long has he been up there? And more to the point, how long have I been down here?

It it’s been a long time now since I arrived on this ledge. And oh how lovely it felt to first be here. The pitch below had been harder and scarier than I’d expected and I’d barely dragged myself over from the vertical onto the lush grass of the ledge, ropes dragging heavily, pulling downwards on my harness. I hauled against their friction making for the shallow corner at the top of the grassy slope and relaxed. I looped a few feet of rope and draped it over a blunt spike and from the remains of my rack, placed wrong-sized nuts into perfect placements and tied myself off.

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SOME FUNDAMENTALS

In physics class they were talking about energy;

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed.”

As an illustration of this, they dropped a ball from a height onto the ground, on paper. Not onto paper, but on paper, an illustration. Even dropping a real ball would have been to much excitement for Big Gerry Quinn class. But as this ball dropped, and its speed, sorry, velocity, went from 0 to whatever metres per second, it underwent a transformation of energy. When Gerry theoretically held it, the theoretical ball was at a certain height above the floor, with no velocity, it had what is called potential energy. When he dropped it, and it sped up, it hit the theoretical floor with a good speed. This speed represents what is called kinetic energy. According to Gerry, what has happened, is that the ball’s energy has been transferred from potential energy to kinetic energy. Between starting to fall, and hitting the floor, it had some of each. Gerry then told us that the energy at each point of the ball’s fall, when the two types are added together, is the same.

“The energy at every point is equal to one!” proclaimed he, in that way that physics teachers have of confusing you again, just when you think you have understood. One what? I wondered.

“What happens when the ball bounces, Sir,” asked Maurice Gorman.

“This is only O Level, Gorman. Come back in A Level and I’ll tell you.”

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