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?”