Tuesday, 15 February 2011

For the record...

In the big picture of things the grades of what we climb don’t matter. Not beyond the personal scales of effort, satisfaction and reward. Definitely not in Irish climbing circles anyway. For some reason we don’t seem to remember or acknowledge notable ascents that much, not in any real sense other than the few among us with a good memory and an interest in collecting facts. A few weeks ago a friend sent me a message on Facebook saying well done to Caroline and asked what other Irish Women had climbed that hard. I realised that we don’t know. I mean I can only think of a few hard Irish female ascents in rock climbing that I’ve heard about. One is obviously Siobhan Coughlan’s ascent of the Sissy 8a in the Peak District. I’ve read more about that ascent through UK media than in Irish circles. If a climber does anything in the UK it seems to get noted. Female, young, old, foreign, solo, barefoot, hungover, on a cold day with the tale end of a flu… anything seems game to make climbing news and seems to get remembered. Maybe it’s still to come for Irish climbing (although hopefully without the bitchyness associated by some with the likes of the UK forums). Maybe part of the maturing of a climbing scene involves distilling all these great yarns from people’s memory. That’s why I like reading the history sections to the Irish climbing guides. Familiar names and routes. Impressive accounts of who did what when, how and first. At Christmas I was surprised to find out about a whole crop of good, strong climbers coming out of Dublin. Mostly bouldering but bouldering hard. I couldn’t believe that I’d not heard about such raw ability. All I‘d heard about was the odd first ascent. Granted I don’t venture onto the forums much but I do tend to keep an eye out for news that interests me. And for me interest is purely in climbing. What is being done.
Michael, Ricky, Eddie and co are good for the odd bit of news and I love reading it. Irish lads climbing E9 and 8b or harder – brilliant! Michael bouldering 8B in Wicklow – excellent! Nigel competing in the boulder world cup and winning the BBCs – amazing! But what is everyone else at? What standard are we at as a country? What are our highest levels across the disciplines? At a guess I’d say something like E9 hp, E7 os, 8b sports, 8B bloc, M8 mixed. And for the women E5 hp, E4 os, 8a sports and 7c+ bloc. These are just my educated guesses – please feel free to amend or comment. I really do enjoy knowing the ins and outs of our quirky climbing community and I think you have to know where you are before you can get to where you want to be!

Grade Whore seems to be the phrase of choice at the moment back home but I suppose that’s a good sign. The fact that the phrase is being used more often means that people are putting some effort it, meaning standards are being tested. Brilliant! Anyway, was there a point to this? Not really. I just felt like voicing something I thought about and in a way asking the question of “What have we done?”

Any ideas?

Happy climbing!


Stephen McMullan said...

Numbers are everywhere. Doing a 100m dive is a big deal in the diving community. In fact my first 100m dive was actually 114m and my second was 125m so I'm pretty sure I've dived to 100m :-) Like every "magic grade" I'm glad its done and over with and don't have to carry around the mental baggage of "will I/won't I/can I/can't I" anymore and just get on with doing something I love. Those two dives are among the best I've done and I had a really good time. Likewise on the hardest boulder problems and climbs both sport and trad and mountain routes. It was the fact that I pushed myself toward what I was capable of rather than some stupid artificial number. 125m is 412.5 feet. Doesn't sound so cool I guess.

On the climbing front well I've always been proud to applaud the achievements of Irish climbers on climbing.ie. If there was a lack of info then it was through no fault of my own. There's very few folk that would come to me with info and pictures and I usually got info by the by. When they do come direct it is usually that they feel compelled by a sponsor and feel pretty bad about it. I could never understand that. Do ye not realise that what you've done in AMAZING?

Its great to see Irish climbers perform at a high level so give yerselves a break with the modesty. Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact if everyone wrote about what they did whether its VS or E8 then the stigma would evaporate.

I haven't seen the new bouldering guide yet but I'm guessing Chillax and Superswinger are 5+ to be compatible with your grades on Hidden Groove Block? King Cobra 6a yeah?

Dave said...

Nice one Steve! Never any question of your good work on climbing.ie - you're a legend! But like you said... as a community, Irish climbers don't share the psyche much. Don't tell you what they're up to or what they've done. Not much we can do about it really...

Not seen the bouldering guide myself either... Looks like a great guide on Dave's website though. Nowt wrong with my grading... all over the shop and proud of it! ;o)

Neal said...

Nice post!
It's always great to see news/comments of people's activities/adventures.
I'd be willing to bet that some of the stigma (about reporting/talking about sends) is there because we're all brought up on news reports from outside of Ireland (people ticking levels that are comparably higher, but only because the climbing scene is more developed so the level is naturally higher) so there's an intimidation factor that the achievement isn't any good in comparison to what the pros are at.
I feed off motivation from Irish sends, it gives that incentive to put in the (genuinely hard) work to push to new personal levels.
I do think that people are more willing to announce achievements now. From when I started the blog to now, the number of people interacting and discussing has exploded. The more the merrier!
And of course, where would the Irish climbing scene be without climbing.ie?!!??

Dave said...

Stop Press! Pierre has answered the problem!And so simply...Far better than anyone brought up immersed in the stigma ever could. Nice on Pierre!