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MCI Weekend and Climbing

Date: 13th October 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

As usual I was late on the go on the Saturday morning, landing at the Ballyliffin hotel after 10am when Geoff had requested a 9:15am start. I got directions of "Malin Head, the big stack I think" from Josephine & co. who were counting a huge pile of dinner money and laughing evilly to themselves. (Not really). Still relatively clueless as to exactly where I'd find the climbers (never climbed there before) I set off and parked at the tower on the headland, spotting a red jacket on the cliffs below. Turned out to be a non-climber but eventually found the others and was greeted with various "Hellos" and one "Fecking Feeney, always turns up like a bad penny".

The big stack was out because of the big swell across the gap so everyone was climbing on the mainland. In my head I named the place the "Cliffs of Flying Foam" because the wind and waves combined to send flecks of the stuff everywhere. I even got a mouthful of it at one point. Typical atmospheric Donegal climbing.

Sandra and George had paired off and the others were on various interesting looking routes, so I jumped on the end of one of Alan's ropes and followed Martin Bonar up a route that started Severe but had one VS type move to finish. Nice warm up but a horrible exit up 10m of vertical grass, the type which Pete Smith loves so much. We set up an abseil that enabled Valli and I to get a good look at the route Pete and PJ had just completed. Don't ask me to name any of the routes, but this one went up some crumbling blocks then out left onto a bare face, finishing with another grassy exit. About VS for the face moves, even if I did go too high on the blocks and had an awkward (but easier) traverse left to the (gasp!) finish. The severe lack of protection on this face and the long grassy finish would justify at least one bolt, in my opinion.

A longish lunch stop and a chat to Pete Cooper and Geoff left Valli waiting so long that I figured she'd climb with someone else (sorry). Alan and I next took on a HS consisting of a big crack running at 45 degrees left across the face. Deep enough to get both hands into you smeared with high feet all the way to the top. The shortish nature made it feel more like bouldering but very enjoyable despite the bloody hands. On top the clique found ourselves all together, leading to the cruel (but unuttered) joke. "No you can't fecking join. It's a clique. Geddit?"

George was eager to try out an HVS that Alan wanted a grading opinion on so I seconded him up to the hanging belay where we lowered each other off. This was a solid route using a series of good edges and holds on the right, including a great layback on the corner, but smearing on the tiniest of stuff with the left leg. It was certainly one of the more interesting climbs I've done this year and a fine way to end the day. We raved about it enough that Valli also had a go and was equally enthusiastic.

Lifts organised back to Culdaff, we sorted bunks at Alan and Margaret's (thanks), and headed back to the hotel for beer / wine / whiskey / fancy coffee and a 3 course dinner. Speeches were short thankfully, then we had an interesting talk cum slide show from an Indian bloke Raja whose company runs guided expeditions to the Himalayas in Kashmir and Sikkim. Did you know that Himalaya is one word that describes the mountains and means "Abode of Snow"? The photos were so inspirational that it started a real buzz around our table and we got back onto our chat about the next "big route". A European peak maybe? I think there's even a few Colm Cillers up for a 4 week Indian expedition run by Raja next year.

A final highlight of the evening occurred when Margaret approached me and told me I owed someone a pint. Turned out to be KC, one of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue members who lifted me and Pete Smith off Grooved Arete a few years ago! Amazing to meet and thank him again. Those of you who know me are probably tired of hearing about this rescue, especially when the drink is in, and tonight was no exception with Dave Millar, Andrew Tees and I laughing fit to burst at 3am back at Alan's. I've gotta get back there soon and put this route to bed once and for all.

Next morning 9am came way too early and a very rough me headed to Belfast for Sunday dinner while the hardier members had an enjoyable day at Culdaff. I hear Pete Cooper and George soloed Absent Friends V, one of the best 1 move wonders out there.

Photo of Route