Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Burren and back again… Via Glendalough!

Tom Enjoying his first steps on Trad (E6)
Eh? Well things got a bit messy after the Aran Islands… Kev had to go back to Dublin for work on Monday and Sean needed to get to Doolin to meet up with the happiest Belgian on Earth, Tom (Who I had met last year in Ceuse), who was coming over to meet up with Sean for an introduction to Traditional climbing. These two guys have been mates since they were kids and Tom was keen to visit Ireland and catch up with Sean after his crazy year of big walling. Sean was just back from 3 months in Patagonia followed by 2 months in Pakistan establishing new, free big wall routes in an underdeveloped valley – 2 routes were in excess of 1200m! We had a day to kill before our ferry back to Wales so decided to give Sean a lift to Doolin and stay the night and get some routes in on Monday before splitting for Dublin ourselves. We camped on top of the cliffs at Alladie – perfect!

Sean and his Whistle

Monday morning we woke to some sort of demi-hell – millions of the nastiest, most ferocious midge seemed set on devouring us piece by piece so we packed up out tents in a flurry of arms and curses and speed towards Fanore beach for a swim to steady our nerves and clear the midge from our skin. After the swim it was time to climb… as I mentioned earlier, I got hit with some sort of bug just before we made it to the Aran Islands causing me to loose my voice and leaving me totally wasted – I know when I’m sick as my shoulders just feel like lead weights! I really wanted to jump on loads of the lines I had on my tick list but didn’t want to waste them if I wasn’t feeling right. I end up trying ‘Quicksilver’ E5 6a on the far end of Mirror wall. Now I’ve heard someone say that they reckoned this was a soft E5 or maybe even a hard E4, Well I have always had a hard time on this one, well just one move to be honest but it just pumps me silly! This time I cruise it clean as a warm up and Sean seconds me and reinforces my opinion on it’s grade, Its an E5 alright – Phew! I’m not that soft yet!

Me and Sean on Quicksilver, E5

Sean seconding Quicksilver

Next up I point Sean at ‘Ice Queen’ E5 6a and he romps up it with shouts of Brilliant! Amazing! Perfect Face climbing! I second it and then Caroline climbs it. Up to this point Caroline had been taking a back seat on the climbing front, chilling out with her sister who had come with us for the weekend. Caroline manages to climb ‘Ice Queen’ clean on a slack top rope and frankly stunned the hell out of meself and Sean. It was a real fight and she won…. It’s on her list of leads to do now (watch this space!).

After that we had to pack up and split if we were going to catch our ferry but just had time to drop Sean to Doolin where he could wait for Tom to Arrive. We dropped Caroline’s sister home in Offaly on our way back to Dublin but the motivation to catch the ferry seemed to evaporate the closer we got… I’d had a taste of the Burren Rock and I needed more!

Tuesday morning and we’ve missed our ferry and are still in Ireland – Damn! Off to Glendalough! Sean had been filling our heads with talk of Big Walls and Caroline wanted to do some multipitch climbing. We end up climbing on of Glendalough’s most celebrated lines, ‘Spilikin Ridge’, 85m of E3 5c crack climbing in spectacular positions. This was only Caroline’s second ever multi pitch and she loved it! Stopping for lunch at the base of the crag we hatch a cunning plan to miss tonight’s ferry and head to the Burren for a couple more days!

Wednesday morning we hit the road to Galway again and make it to Alladie for mid afternoon. Walking into the crag and seeing Sean and Tom on top of a route was priceless – They were gobsmacked! Sean had just topped out on an E7 to the left of ‘Very Big Springs’ and Tom was loving Ireland and Trad climbing. We catch up briefly and explain ourselves then jump on some routes – Sunstone, Route 32, Eliminator, and Desolation Row – All feeling easy! I must be shaking this bug! That night we set up camp on top of the Jokerman Wall and head into Doolin for some live music and a session that just kept on going into the night.

Room with a view - Notice Toms makeshift bivi shelter to the right of Seans silver tent!

The next morning I woke up first and chilled out in the light breeze that kept the midge at bay. Eventually everyone rises and after a prolonged breakfast we all head to Fanore for another Swim, Tom is sceptical at first about swimming in the some what less than tropical conditions but we convert him to our ways and we have great craic body surfing the waves. Funny seeing the horrified looks of the onlooking wetsuit wearing surfers! Right then, What to Lead?

Gearing up - This felt very heavy after all our recent sports climbing!

Everyone is feeling a bit tired at this stage but we gotta do something! I set an Ab up and we go down to try ‘Sharkbait’ E5 6b – this is an awesome line but I had seen some very strong crack climbers get spat off this one over the years and stories of a pumpy, goey, 6b crux had put me off trying it before now. I tie in and cruise to the top – nothing stands out as being too difficult. Was that really E5 6b? I must be feeling good. Meanwhile Tom leads ‘Black Barron’ E2 and Sean belays while watching me on Sharkbait. Caroline seconds me and realises where the route got its name (See pic below). Caroline in typical stubborn form refuses to leave any of the gear in place and cleaned the line while seconding - before this Caroline had bee struggling to get to grips with pure crack climbing, well something clicked! Caroline seconded the route cleanly to the 6b crux before comming off due to a foot slipping and a reachy move. Once past the crux Caroline cruises to the belay - After finishing her crash course in crack climbing! Tom makes it to the top of the Black Barron and looks like he needs a drink. “I Nearly Shat Myself!” he says… bit of a contrast to sports climbing alright!

Caroline became Sharkbait after seconding the E5 6b

Sean gets psyched and goes for ‘Jokerman’ E6 6b and gets it onsight (possibly only the second onsight ever of this line).

Jokerman E6 6b

Then before leaving Sean wants to try Sharkbait – afterwards he tells me that I made it look too easy – he thought it was going to be easier – infact both himself and Tom said that it was as hard as Jokerman! Tom even thought it was harder – They reckon I should get on the E7’s...

The Lads starting up the awesome line of Sharkbait, E5 6b

Their encouragement is much appreciated and now I feel psyched for some hard training and confident that anything is possible if I want it! Alas we have to get going and end up driving the Lads to Andy’s gaff back in Dublin (Andy, I know you don’t read blogs but Cheers for the Tea!! And your Gaff and Pooch are both Class!)

And that’s a wrap!

Back in Wales now after an awesome trip home! I didn’t get to meet up with half the people I wanted to but nothing new there, haa! I recharged my flow and had a great time with the few family and friends we actually did catch up with.