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Climbfest 2009

Date: 1st, 2nd, 3rd May 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

As usual everybody's got their own tale to tell about ClimbFest but here's my account.

There were a few minor miracles performed in getting us lot to Glencolmcille on the Saturday, not least among them that we actually managed to leave Derry before 8:30am. Sean's car had bits wrong with it so my roofbox and every spare inch of the Touran's interior was used to squeeze in 4 adults, 3 boys, 2 tents, 7 sleeping bags, 3 air mattresses, 2 roll mats, 3 rucksacks, 2 ropes, 45 bottles of beer, 6 bottles of wine, 4 camping chairs, 5 loaves and 300 fishes. (Only joking about the last one...)

The Glencolmcille campsite was sunny but breezy when we arrived at 11am with nairy a soul to be seen apart from the 4 Monaghan kids. They mumbled something about Skelpoonagh, which I got mixed up with Duan Head and after pitching the tents I took a wee crowd to Malinbeg (again), leaving my two behind with a kite. We had Alfie, a wild haired Ozoner, the Americans Steph and Heidi, Sean, John, Helen et moi. Oh and baby Leo, though he'd forgotten his rock shoes and so wasn't allowed to climb.

The drive over was impressive with huge swelling seas giving the cliffs a right pounding. Several climbing parties were already there scouting about for a starting point that wasn't awash with surf. To give you an idea of the sea level, Neptune Wall was getting heavily sprayed to at least it's mid-point and both stances below it were near constantly under white water. The only place with a dry spot for a belayer was back at the Main West Wall.

After I'd set up a bomber abseil on the new triple stakes, Alfie promptly started on Fiddler's Green (HVS) with Helen, Heidi and Steph and I took Sean to Flying Enterprise (VS). Things started to wrong for me immediately when I couldn't get up the middle pitch despite six (six!) attempts. I discovered next day I was off route and attempting an E2 section but I eventually lowered off disgusted. Meanwhile Alfie had taken all 3 girls up Fiddler's and there were many whoops and hollers of praise and encouragement between them as they hit the crux.

"Right", sez I, "If I can't manage a VS I'll have to try a HS" and slunk over to Lord Of The Flies. Now this was a great wee route, a blocky start with occasional mantling, ending on a magnificent layback flake and smeary feet. I met Maeve and the other Alfie at the layback and at the top a Killybegs girl turned up wanting to try her first Donegal route. "You live in Killybegs, there's 2000 Donegal routes and you've never climbed here?!" I lowered her down and and she romped up it.

It was getting a bit late now and there were looming clouds but, disappointed with the day's tally, I wanted to try one more route and persuaded Steph and Heidi into trying a HS called Cutlass. The guide gives 2 options to start this but I chose the black corner, wedging and smearing up until I finally reached the good jugs that enable you to swing up onto the big ledge above. I was just examining the next section when the rain came in, totally changing the nature of the rock from "quite grippy" to "terribly slippy". I lowered off (again) on a very solid hex, played with taking out the friends I'd placed below them but eventually left the potential crag swag to be collected the next day. We scrambled out on very wet rock after stepping across the zawn and returned to the campsite.

I met up with the Skelpooners at Biddy's bar, which was packed with a Scottish stag party, quite worse for wear, on day 2 of their weekend. Skelpoonagh was raved about with similar climbing to that found at Neptune's wall only bigger. Mike top roped a potential E3 after Keith encouraged him and I think he has a project for summer 2009 now. As we left we tried to persuade the stag to join us for a climb next day and Sandra and PJ tested the "no underpants" theory with a quick flick of the back of his kilt. Their giggling mock-horror gave us a clue as to what they witnessed.

Back at the campsite the ClimbFest fleeces went down a storm among those who'd ordered them and we were all in uniform as Valli lit up her fabulous fire drawing of the CCC mountain climber and fireworks. ClimbFest is always about meeting new and old friends and there was some banter round the traditional fire. The story of the weekend had to be the American couple who walked into a gear store in Maryland, mentioned heading off to Ireland and were informed of our wee Fest. We truly are a global phenomenon! I chatted away with Mark Breen, someone I'd only ever communicated with on Facebook. Brian was in great form with his guitar and lyric book, though Helen demanded that her singing voice also be heard. Mind you she demanded that she be allowed to throw herself heavily on top of Mike also. You shouldn't give in so easily, Mike.

Next morning there were quite a few rough heads and the grand plan I'd had of a 3 pitch VS on Sail Rock was put on hold. Iain Miller had raved about the final pitch but with a hangover and a poor show the previous day it was back to Malinbeg (again). Niall, our dreadlocked friend, had turned up and he accompanied Mike for the day. The Killybegs girl (sorry I forgot your name) was back to lead a VDiff with her novice brother and I let him abseil with a safety rope. PJ went with me to retrieve my gear on Cutlass, pointing out the admiring crowd of locals watching above. No pressure then! Just as I reached the first jug however, PJ shouted up that both friends below me had popped. Nervously I pushed on to the next friend but my wiggling the previous evening had twisted and moved it and it was very very poorly placed. Rather than tire myself hanging round to sort it out I pushed on and shakily gained the ledge and the solid hex. Phew! Meanwhile someone else was getting applause from the locals...

In full daylight and very sunny conditions I was now very glad I hadn't continued on the previous evening. The first 4 or 5 moves off the ledge are quite good but a massive rock fall above this has left a blank face and a sloping leftward ledge. There was one possible gear placement in the whole 10m but close examination revealed a deep hairline fracture in this small lump of rock and I doubted it would take any load, never mind my fat ass hurtling downward. So I downclimbed and lowered off (again) and went back to Lord of The Flies (again) just to get something done. While we were on it, Mike was attempting an E4 (!) but he peeled giving everyone watching a short-lived fright. No damage done but it was nice to see someone else do a lower-off instead of just me.

At the top of the Cutlass route there was nothing to set up an anchor on and, much faffing later, we ended up tying one rope to a solid corner fence post way above, using another for me to climb on and retrieve my twice-lowered-on hex. So there I was (again) back in the black corner doing the well rehearsed moves. Since I was on a top rope I figured I'd give the hard section a try but several attempts at this "E-something" later PJ took the weight in the rope to mean exactly what I intended and I lowered off (again). What had happened to the HVS leading athlete?

Now I know my confidence had taken a battering this weekend but the only reason my next lead was Carrig Una (D) on Neptune Wall was because Alan was on Bosun's Ladder (HS) already and I didn't want to get in his way. I square to God! Anyway PJ and I finished on Hydrophbia (soft VS) just because it's in the rules that you have to climb it at least once on a Malinbeg weekend.

At Biddy's bar (again) the craic was mighty, much slagging going on between all, Steph getting in the best joke I heard all weekend about shops in Arkansas containing birthday cards titled "Happy Birthday Uncle-Dad". We returned to the campsite for dinner but the chilly wind meant 2 options, tent or bar, so it was to Biddy's and the full blown disco in the back extension we went. The stag was now wearing a tiny girl's kilt and red underwear. It would have been rude not to join in so we pulled out our best moves and only thought of going home when someone spilled beer down the jukebox and the music died. The front bar was rammed with people trying to persuade the barman to allow them one more song but we retired to Valli's van for a last round of drinks and PJ's gym playlist on the iPod.

John and Sean had gone to bed early-ish on Sunday night in the hope of a good day's climbing on Monday but, alas, it was not to be. Hangovers and 5am bedtimes not-withstanding it was a wet miserable day and the best option was a trip to Killybegs and a decent fry-up. It was hugs all round for Steph and Heidi, who were now off to Portnoo on the round-Ireland trip, and then home for the rest of us. After 3 days of wild-camping there were quite a few of us in need of a bath.

08 May 2009

Bit thin on detail. Can't you beef it up a bit?

08 May 2009

Short version: Got sunburnt, climbed nothing, got drunk. ClimbFest rocks!

10 May 2009

Good report. Don't beat yourself up though anthony man. From what I've seen of the routes you've done over the past few years you are undoubtedly a 'HVS Athlete' if not harder. I've been lucky enough to come across some really top climbers over the years and none of them could climb at their limit week in week out. Its impossible. I've seen a few awesome climbers fail on routes way below their supposed limit, however this doesn't make them any less awesome, just human. So don't beat yourself up over one bad weekend or even lots of bad weekends! When I was young and stupid(well younger and stupider:))I used to deem every trip to the crag where I didn't flash an least E1 a total failure. As a result I didn't appreciate many of the quality routes and experiences on routes below this level.It also didn't help my climbing level. Nowadays I enjoy climbing a starred HS as much as the very occasional E grade route I do(well almost as much :)). Keep up the climbing and training its good to see you guys going so well and raising the bar in the NW for lazy indoor climbers like me! Peace out, Rodders.

11 May 2009

Cheers Rodders, I guess I have to learn that it's not always about pushing yourself to the max. A good session at sunny Fairhead yesterday put the head back in the game.

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