|Date: 7th Feb 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
It was with a great sense of adventure that 7 of us set off on Saturday morning, with the snow flurries and heavily laden skies over Derry predicting extreme conditions. The car was loaded with winter climbing gear and every piece of warm and waterproof clothing I could gather with an assault on Slieve League and some dry-tooling in the planning (neither of which happened).
The roads through Donegal were suprisingly clear though I still abandoned my usual driving style in favour of caution. After Ardara we attempted the mountain pass to Carrick but despite kicking out all the passengers for an impromptu snowball fight, I couldn't get up the last snowy incline and we diverted back through Killybegs. By the time we hit the road out to "Malin Bhig" the sky had cleared to a bright blue and Helen was complaining that the sun through the window was burning her face. In February?!
One quick unpacking at the excellent Malinbeg Hostel and Helen and I tootered over to the Silver Strand to look for George, Valli and Dave. A note on the car explained Valli and Dave were at the crags while George was nowhere to be seen. Turns out he'd arrived very early and had set off up Slieve League by himself. At the Main West Wall Valli had just top-roped Flying Enterprise (VS 4c) and was belaying Dave up it. I got into the harness and arranged to be lowered down, Valli straining a bit at the noticeable difference in weight between myself and Dave. Time to diet? A noticeable difference in foot size also, and you know what that means? Yep - big socks!
Enterprise was a great route, thoroughly deserving of it's stars, with a bold start that took a little searching on the blank looking wall to figure out. Dave made it look easy but it tested me and Valli. At the midpoint Valli had gone right onto blockier stuff but Dave had stuck to the face, following a quartz line. I decided to to it Dave's harder way and was elated when I topped out. The time at the wall definitely paid off though the routes being just off the vertical helped lessen the strain on the forearms.
Over at the North End we set up two top ropes and by variously climbing and belaying Helen managed Carig Una (D) and Hydrophobia (VS 4b) (her 2nd ever VS!), while Dave, Valli and I also managed Shaky Rigging (HS 4b). George had arrived back from his mountain trip and climbed Rigging despite a lingering finger injury. The sun was getting quite low in the sky but, as the wall was directly facing it, we were climbing on warm rock and it was a magical feeling so early in the season.
Dave returned to the Main West Wall to set up a top rope on Fiddler's Green (HVS 5a) and Keith, Sandra, Pete and PJ arrived as I belayed him up it. During the week I'd drunkenly texted Pete to boast about my climbing prowess, knowing rightly that any sort of challenge would wind him up. It was time to put up or shut up and so Dave lowered me off while Pete scrambled down to take photos.
God knows how Dave managed to get his shorter frame up this route, as I only just managed by stretching out on tip toes to get the finger edges into each horizontal band above me and smearing up to get the feet in. 3 such moves got me to the central shelf and a rest. Just above this the crux move was an athletic layback on 2 crimpy holds bringing the right foot to near shoulder height and thrusting up. By the finish I was definitely feeling the strain but glad to have done it. I led a few HVS last year, so definitely need to do more this year.
George was fired up to have a go on this classic 3 star and so off he went. The sun had near dropped by now and things were getting a bit nippy so his numb hands made it a little more interesting. We all agreed it was a fine, fine route though.
Back at the hostel the kids played Cluedo, Monopoly and hide-and-seek in the dark dorms after PJ fed them up on spag bol. We had the run of the place and could make as much noise as we liked. John cooked up a beef stew, Sandra made a huge jambalaya and Valli a pasta dish, Geoff and Valli brought a cappucino and chocolate cake respectively. We feasted mightily though I was laughingly denied cake because of Valli's straining to lower me earlier.
We tried to play a trick on Pete where he and John had to whack each other over the head with a spoon held between their teeth. It's impossible to inflict any pain but the joke was that when Pete lowered his head I'd sneak up behind to whack him with my spoon and make him think John had really bashed him. He guessed 1st go though after the raucous laughter from the audience and we were subjected to painful arm wrestling as he recovered his machismo.
Geoff fired up the projector for some stunning photos of his 2 week climbing trip to Italy, including one that I dubbed "God's Torch", a climber summiting with the diffuse sunlight shining through clouds directly overhead. Amazing pic. After that there was much dancing though when Valli's friend Ivan (I'm guessing - it's pronounced Ee-van) stuck his CD of Czech dance music on we were a little confused as to how to move to it. Great fun till the 4am bedtime.
Next morning the weather had turned a lot colder and breezier and there'd been some snow fall overnight. It was George's birthday and he disappeared early to get his presents, Pete and Geoff had to go too. Dave and Valli were the only ones hardy enough for Slieve League and off they went to attempt it from the Teelin side. The rest of us packed up leisurely before setting off though Helen, John, myself and the kids managed a lively walk along Silver Strand first. I counted 168 steps from bottom to top, Colm thinks 163, Pol lost count, Eoin was carried because he walked into the waves and filled up the wellies. :)
It was careful driving on the now snowy road out of Malinbeg but despite the odd thrilling skid we made it home in one piece. It was a fabulous weekend amid great company and we were blessed with such a great day on Saturday. Still can't believe how warm the rock felt. In February!
11 Feb 2009
Shows what you can do in January! Sorry I couldnt be there.