|Date: 28th March 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
The doom-laden skies over Derry on the Friday night didn't bode well for the weekend but the forecast said "sunshine and occasional wintry showers" for the Saturday. It's been my experience of late that the John Kettley's get it right more often than not, so we stuck with the original Malinbeg plan despite Alan's attempt to lure us to Warm Bay Point.
Approaching the West Donegal coast around noon we had quite a lot of blue sky and enough fresh wind to make setting up the tents interesting but within half an hour I'd joined George at Neptune's wall for a go on Hydrophobia VS 4b. With it's positive holds and fine climbing it's fast becoming the "Orange Blossom" of Malinbeg, a warmup route that just has to be tried on every visit. Sean joined us to sweat his way up his first VS and Helen arrived after putting John (coming off night shift) and baby Leo to bed.
We all gathered to watch me struggle up my first lead of the year on Evelyn Marie, a mere HS, but with an awkward step left and up out of the initial big crack. Solid enough stuff that had me scolding myself for making it look hard. Helen and Sean both thought it was more difficult than the straight lines of Hydrophobia. At the step left Sean was shouting "I'm stuck!", I replied encouragingly "Naw you're not!" and Helen laughed and filmed his fear from above having just climbed it herself.
Of course George skipped up it and suggested another VS so we went round to Swell, a one move wonder on the dirty big overhang at the start. There are a couple of edges just on the overhang that we all kind of mantled on, Helen cursing her lack of upper body strength, but after that it's nice friction rock and enough edges to see you up the well laid back rock. That was enough to tire the novices so they headed back to camp, while George and I moved on to the new Alba Wall and the Heidbanger E2 5b route that goes up the middle of it. John was coming over the headland swinging his rock boots but he must have heard "E2" from the others because he about-faced and didn't get to climb a thing that weekend!
The tide was well in so we looped round to the start from the north beach. >From below the route looked no harder than some of the HVS stuff we've been on so we figured it must be a lack of protection that gave it the grade. George geared up with all our small cams and his own small wires and found enough placements to never actually be worried. There are some great edges for the feet to start with and the middle ledge is an nice stance. From here a few tight hand holds and very very thin edges for the feet gains the top, but it's only 2 or 3 moves and the horizontal cracks were perfect for the little cams. We put it in the VS 4c / HVS 5a range but a few more climbs and gradings should settle it. It's a lovely route that's well worth the track round to it.
Valli arrived just then, having dilly-dallied in the garden all morning, undecided about whether to turn up. We decided on Fiddler's Green HVS 5a to finish the day with the sun low in the sky over Rathlin O'Byrne island warming us. After abseiling down I pottered about looking for the start and came to a stunning realisation. The line that I'd top-roped with Dave back in Feb was the E2 5c Clipper! I ended on Fiddler's difficult corner but that slabby start was all E2. Dave was obviously playing games with me that day but he's killed off a lot of the apprehension I've had about going above HVS. So that's E2 climbing then?? Hmmm...
Anyway George got onto Fiddler's Green scooting along nicely until that finish when things slowed down enough for me to shout up from below "Taking your time?". Myself, I made the start look hard, whatever odd way I got onto it, and at the finish George was able to comment "The look of relief that came over your face when you found that big hold!" as he took a pic from above. There are some small crimps immediately after the ramp and yes I was relieved to get off them onto more solid stuff. Valli and George both stepped left from the big corner, partly using the face to finish but I used my height to reach over the block, finally mantling up.
The nephews Ethan and Shane and John's wee girl Lara had built a rudimentary fire from the slim pickings around but Valli had the great idea of trolling Silver Strand for driftwood. 160 odd steps took us down and back-breakingly up with our loads of wood, enough to keep the fire burning till midnight. Helen entertained us with an amazing repertoire of chart-topping and occasionally bawdy songs and George delighted us with a William Blake recital. Dave turned up later and the night passed all too quickly.
It's a Feeney tradition to have your tent blow down in the night and Helen didn't let us down this time. The rain and wind had increased overnight and I awoke to John rattling around my porch looking for car keys to get the kids into some shelter. George and I left them stuffing wet gear any old which way into the car and went back to the crags with the intention of photographing routes 43-59 for the ClimbFest topos. The tide and swells were too big though for our plan A of getting over to the rock just off shore so we abbed down and took what we could from the side, prussiking back up the wet rock.
Then it was time to decamp and head home for a big fry and and a warm afternoon indoors with the XBox.
30 Mar 2009
Hi Anthony a minor correction. The route we climbed after Evelyn Marie was Trident/Ancient Mariner, Swell was the HVS on the arete.
31 Mar 2009
My bad. Some confusion on whether it was Trident / Ancient Mariner I see, though Swell in the online guide is only VS?
31 Mar 2009
Trident was first, if its the same route. There may already be an "Ancient Mariner" at the South End.