Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Parting Gift - Ayton's Cave

Typical! Just as we get ready to move to Spain we find an awesome bouldering cave in Ireland that I’d love to put time and effort into developing! But as it doesn’t look like I’ll have enough time or money to get back to Ireland much before we head across to Europe I want to spread the word and ensure this venue gets the attention it deserves. Personally, after only having one afternoon exploring it, I think it is exactly what we were missing back home – long sustained lines through steep territory requiring shoulders, stamina and plenty of burl! We were forced into spending a weekend back home mainly to renew our passports before our move abroad and to catch up with family. However, Saturday morning my dad mentioned that he was keen to show us some rock that he came across while doing one of his training walks before his Kilimanjaro charity climb last year. He wanted our opinion on the climbing potential – he thought we’d like it. Well we did! The rock was solid and of better quality than I expected and it got me thinking… there must be more around here. Sure enough, on a whim I explored a bit along the coast line and came across this beauty! I’d like to call the cave Ayton’s Cave as a thank you to my Dad but get the feeling that this name won’t sit too well with the powers that be – people would rather call it something far less personal or meaningful (to me at least). Sunday after dinner my Dad agreed to drop Caroline and myself off near the cave equipped with picnic blanket, chalk, rock shoes, a wire brush and hammer. We wanted to at least test its quality before ranting and raving all about it. The cave is literally covered with climbable features! And amazingly they’re all really solid so we’d no need for the hammer or wire brush. One thing I will say is that the tufa features have a texture like holding 1000 needles when they’re first used but with some traffic they soon lose their edge and become very ergonomic. It was like bouldering at the Climbing Works in Shef! The first problem was deciding on which line to try! I got straight into working the central lines through the roof while Caroline worked the left wall traverse. Caroline’s Traverse, V4/5 – Starts in a obvious head height jug and traverses left out of the cave – the finish provides the crux. You end up wedges below the roof trying to rock out onto the slab into the daylight. Quality line and well worth the effort. It’s nice to actually feel like you’ve topped out on a cave problem. Too many in my mind just finish on a Jug in space. Loco Total, V8 – Starts clamping the obvious beach ball tufa feature in the middle of the cave with hands and feet and then blasts along the tufa line using pinches, pockets, crimps and slopers to a final deadpoint into a slot followed by a cut-loose and swing to join Caroline’s traverse and finish up this. The full link makes the end of the traverse feel desperate! What a place to blow it!!
At this point I feel I need to justify where I’m at and where I get my idea of grades from. I’ve recently been doing lots of sports climbing – high 7’s and low 8’s most days and am warming up / cooling down on the crag 7b+’s so I suppose you could say I’ve built up a bit of stamina. During the last few months I’ve bouldered over a dozen or so V7’s first try. I’ve bouldered in Font, the Peak and mostly in North Wales. Left wall traverse V7, Beaver Cleaver V8, Cleaver Beaver V8 in Llandudno. Ultimate retro party V8, Bus Stop V9 and Jerry’s Roof V9 in Llanberris. Pantys down V7, Firestarter V7 and Thug Mental V8 at devils gorge.
I figure Loco Toal is harder than all the V8’s I’ve done and as hard as Jerry's Roof and of a similar style i.e. Long! 8m of pure roof before joining and finishing up Caroline’s Trav. No moves as hard as Rock Atrocity though but it is way longer. It could be Font 7c or Font 7a - I'm feeling good at the minute and can do Jerry’s most visits. This is steeper and longer and both problems have no real desperate moves. Anyway, anything I climb seems to get arbitrarily downgraded before people even look at it so I guess I’ll try and beat 'em to it this time and grade it Font 7b (V8) to begin with.

Which brings me to why I’m hesitant to just throw out the Caves location just yet. I feel I’ve been stung a few times by a combination of my ignorance, eagerness to share and by not being one of the “boulderers”. Let me explain. Way back in 1999 I took few trips to Portrane with a few friends to go bouldering. I took some pictures and we did some lines and I stuck them up on a shitty website I had in DCU. Steve McMullan took notice and emailed me suggesting that I should publicise it but being new to bouldering and climbing I didn’t realise the potential and didn’t make much of it. Later that year the foot and mouth crisis lead to Kev Cooper spending a lot of time out there developing the area. He put a lot of time and effort into climbing, exploring and documenting the place and got credited with it’s discovery… Ah well, you live and learn – Full respect to Kev for his efforts.

Fast forward to a few years ago. We come home from the UK for Christmas and took Caroline’s younger brother and sisters for a walk around Glendalough. Hugh spots a hidden block and we cross the river to check it out, I get psyched and return to spend a full day scraping, cleaning, brushing, falling and eventually climbing something like 9 problems in total. The hardest problem being “Hugh” which I graded Font 7b. I named the cluster of boulders “the Holiday boulders” as a reminder of when and how they were developed and also as they represented (to me at least) a holiday or break away from the constantly trafficked problems along the path in Glendalough. I submitted the info, keen to encourage repeats and more traffic. I even documented the stunning project groove line that I gave a cursory cleaning to but didn’t have the time, skin or ability to complete at the time. Without any repeats to my knowledge Hugh was down-graded to Font 7a+ without explanation… it must just be me. Heres the write up in the Guide:
Van Diemen’s Land was the name given by the miners to the valley above the zigzags in Glendalough – so-called after the barren lands in Tasmania where convicts were being sent at the time. There are a few boulders, but seeing as it’s a fifteen minutes walk past the best bouldering in Ireland, it will not appeal to many people. On the south side of the stream beside the first spoil heap is the Holiday Boulder which was cleaned and climbed on by Dave Ayton over Christmas ’08.
If a 15 minute walk along a nice path is enough to put off Irish boulderers then I can suddenly understand why I seem to be lucky enough to keep finding unclimbed rock! Jaysus lads! Before that there was the Hidden groove block blitz – when I graded King Cobra Font 6a people gave out stink insisting it was harder! I’m open to criticism about my grades but would take such grade changes easier if it came from repeat ascentionists who also offered comments on the lines quality and or worth. First ascents take a good deal more time and effort than subsequent ascents and quite often people discover new beta and sequences and grades settle – I know this. Plus I’m aware that I have a bigger reach than most. Combine that with me being way weaker than most and I realise I’m going to be shit at grading!

Anyway – I hope this cave gets known as Ayton’s Cave as I’ll not be around Ireland much and my Dad was out there thinking of us Irish climber types and gave up his time so that this place could be explored. I honestly feel that the potential for hard bouldering in this cave is massive! Enjoy Folks! Topo, maps and a list of whats been done and cleaned or worked to come.


Anonymous said...

Hey, just as a quick question as to its location - is it accessible without a car?

Dave said...

Yes it is... assuming you are willing to walk a bit ;o)

Dave Flanagan said...

Dave. Good find it looks great. I have always said Dublin needs a Parisella's Cave type venue that has lots of hard lines and stays dry in the rain, looks like you have found it. My guess is that its at the bottom of the cliffs on the south side of Howth, I was down there years ago (2003) exploring and saw a few decent caves with lots of tufas - photo here www.theshortspan.com/photo/h-cave.jpg

On the issue of Portrane and who started bouldering there first, I accept that the guide could well be wrong, maybe send me an email about this.

I'm not sure why Hugh was downgraded, most of just been a typo. Sorry about that, a quick email would of set it right, there are over 1400 problems in the last issue of the guide and I won't spot every mistake.

The reality with the holiday boulders Dave is that the vast majority of boulderers won't bother walking up there. I think that is a fair comment.
King Cobra is a great line, it isn't 6a though and it has a bad landing.

Anyway good work spill the beans.

Stephen McMullan said...

I second Dave F on the Howth location. I'm also thinking we'll be renaming Ayton's Cave to Rooney's Hole :-)

Dave said...

Cheers Dave for the reply, really appreciate it! I think this has come about from me basicially not being around wicklow enough and not really knowing any of the boulderers in the Irish scene! Guess it's easy to feel like an outsider if you're not on the inside - haa! And i'm not trying to have a go at the guide or your efforts - i appreciate the work you must put into it and the website. I think it's just my underlying paranoia and weakness getting the best of me!

Steve - thats what i was afraid of!!! Good God please No!!!!


Phew... now thats off my chest i can get on with my life and move to Spain! Therapy session over!

Dave said...

Oh, and yeah... it's been right on our doorstep all this time! Howth, Co. Dublin it is! Map with parking and appraoch on the way!

Dave Flanagan said...

Just to follow up on the grades Dave. I had a look through a few emails.

Hugh is 7a in the guide. You mentioned in an email that "it could be a classic 6c/7a" so I went for a compromise grade of 7a.

Funnily enough King Cobra is still 6a in the guide but I think that will change.

Dave said...

Really? Fair enough, sorry for getting that wrong - thought I proposed 7b for that one - felt hard at the time. Hopefully people might make the trip up and repeat it and confirm the grade and give the groove a go, that looks classic! As for King Cobra - I don't care what you say... it's never easier than 6a! Ok, Ok... i'll accept hard 5c but not a drop lower! :o)

Dave Flanagan said...

Dave I mean that King Cobra is harder than 6a. Anyway its not important.


Dave said...

Yep! Deffo the same cave! I spent some time around there back around the Portrane explorations too but never went back... theres a time for everything it seems. Get the strong lads down into it and working! Reckon the big link of Daylight Destroyer is harder than Mr. Fantastic in the pass and that gets V12!

Betaguides said...

Looks very good, may pay it a visit when I'm over?