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Wassail Abseil 2007

Date: 2nd Dec 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

I was looking forward to the 2007 Xmas Abseil and was going to don my inflatable Santa suit to keep up the tradition of looking silly and festive for this annual event, but in moving house from Dungiven to Derry mislaid this outfit in the myriad boxes of junk. The best I could manage was a fluffy sparkly Santa hat but thankfully Pete McConnell and Valli were able to save the day. I got a text from Pete the night before: "Do ye fancy a bit of extreme ironing at the abseil?" and arranged for him to bring the board (PJ's actually) while I brought my Mum's iron, which is a lovely shade of pink.

We gathered near the old church in Poisoned Glen (I've now heard 5 different tales of why it is thus called) and Valli, being her usual artistic self, produced various outfits and pieces of fancy dress that served to liven the occasion. When everyone was suitably attired we set off for the dirty oul slog up through the boggy wetlands, most of us preferring the contour line of the hill towards Craig nan Brack. Marty took a more direct assault following the GPS coordinates from Martin Bonar who'd left us ropes and kit above the abseil point at an earlier date. (Thanks). The weather had been pretty wet on the drive over but dried up considerably by the time we'd reached the top and sat down to a lunch involving mince pies and mulled wine and other delights.

We set up 2 ropes: one 100m and a knotted pair of 60m ones so that we could have an ironer and a photographer go down together. Margaret and the kids headed back to walk round to the base of the abseil while Marty and Alan set off on the ropes, with Marty coming back cos he'd taken the radio. George and I worked out a series of slings for Pete to take the ironing board on his back and the iron on the harness. He then hooked the lot to the cliff with a couple of friends about two-thirds of the way down while PJ snapped away from her rope a few feet to the right. Valli was my photographer and we went next laughing away at the silliness of it all. We were followed by Michael and George and finally Andrew (in his flimsy £5 Sant suit) and Marty. A small drama ensued when Andrew's couldn't free his locking device with Marty running-swinging wildly over to help but it all ended well. Alan, George and I gathered up the ropes at the top and left them for Martin Bonar as requested.

After the wet slog back we all compared photos (so many digital cameras!) and crowded out the front bar of the Glenveagh Inn (ah the smell of sweaty damp climber in front of a roaring fire!) for a chat about the day and the upcoming Himalayan trip. A lot of fun and some cracking pictures.

The 5 tales of Poisoned Glen:

  1. There used to be a poison plant called "spurge" growing on the slopes of the glen that would kill any cattle that ate it.
  2. The Irish word for "poison" and "heaven" are very similar and some Englishman translated it wrong. Most likely of all the tales.
  3. Irish rebels poisoned the water in the glen to kill the horses of a battalion of the English army. It remains undrinkable.
  4. Balor, King of Tory, kept his daughter in a tower till some hero rescued her. Balor killed the rescuer with a giant stone that now stands at the entrance to the glen and is said to be the evil or "poisoned" eye of Balor.
  5. Balor was actually a huge cyclops who terrorized the land until he was killed by his grandson, Lugh. When he was slayed the blood from his eye poisoned the ground.

Photo of Route