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Gola Weekend and First HVS Lead

Date: 26th August 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

A bunch of hardy fools caught Jimmy's boat at noon from Magheragallon on the Saturday and trudged through the drizzle and mist to set up camp in the usual spot. An English couple were just emerging from their tent, having judged conditions not worth getting up for. They'd arrived the day before and spent some time in the Gripple Wall area. By the time my tent was up Iain Miller and Rosie Brennan had scouted most of the crags and decided the Inland Crag was the only dryish spot worth visiting, the rest resembling mini waterfalls.

Michael Hassan and I did Weathered Window (VS), looked at the always wet Corner Boy (HS) but decided against and watched Iain have several goes at Days of Wonder (HVS). The English couple (Ellie & Steve?) also had a flaky start to the day on Fast and Bulbous (HVS). The blue skies returned thanks to a fresh breeze and we headed over to the main wall, hearing Iain whoop as he topped out on the way.

Down the Deep Recess descent Michael and I did Not CQR (VS) which has a yawning horizontal niche midway that either requires a HUGE friend or a scary runout past it. We followed this with Hexes from Heaven (S) while we waited on Ellie and Steve who did Anchors Away (HVS). I was feeling good and looking for my first HVS lead but watching Steve go for a lie down after completing this pumpy route I decided to use Iain's abseil into the next gully and look for something else.

Something else turned out to be Leopard which the guidebook listed as VS 4c, but the website lists as HVS 5a. Iain thought it had been upgraded by Frankie and it certainly scared the bejabers out of me, being poorly protected for the first few metres. I swore, sweated and trembled as my first nut popped out, moved past a just slightly better nut to finally place a strong friend and breathe a sigh of relief. Yay! My first HVS lead, that I'd been working up to all summer.

That was it for the day, back to the campsite for din-dins and copious amounts of wine. The boys had gathered a pallet of old bits of wood from around the village and Colm, Sam and I dragged it back to camp for the traditional bonfire. Several glasses later we decided to call it a night when with just 5 of us left, the sister's fella John fell arse first in the fire, saved only from major trauma by his thick army greatcoat. A few minutes later I nearly repeated the feat, stumbling over a rock, narrowly missing the flames and falling bass-ackwards over a log.

In the morning we shook off hangovers and headed to the Twin Cave Buttress abseiling down Kept Woman to a ledge that was constantly threatened by huge spraying swells from the left. Very atmospheric. Alan, Keith and Sandra did one of the not easily identifiable Severes, possibly The Cauldron Beneath, while Michael and I climbed through the chimney to the left of the huge overhang. Not sure of the name given the poor descriptions, it felt like HS but may have been Old Salt (S).

After that John (he of the nearly burned arse) had an impressive go at his first abseil and climb, down and up Kept Woman, led by yours truly while Michael went off with Alan and Keith for more adventurous stuff. John got an almighty soaking for his efforts, nobly (but unwittingly) shielding Rosie from much of the wave's spray as she belayed Iain up Cois Farraige (HVS). More whoops from Iain as he survived the crux.

We swapped biccies and Rosie's 99% cocoa chocolate (powerful stuff) then decided on Cornered Rats (VS 5a) as a good way to finish the day and the weekend. I have to heartily recommend this route to anyone capable of leading it. The finish is very interesting, stuck under a sloping overhang you have to twist round and use the left wall for your feet and not much for the hands, basically shucking the body upwards to gain a huge right hand jug. It's 10 feet above when you gain the ledge initially and a brave leading move.

Tired, bloodied but thoroughly satisfied we raced back to camp to try and catch Jimmy's 5pm boat which had been delayed from 4pm. Teamwork got Iain's tent collapsed and stuff carted to the pier, where the others had helpfully gotten the rest of our gear. Another great weekend.

Photo of Route