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Date: Midsummer 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

On Saturday morning we sailed westward with all our worldly possessions (or so it seemed) for the land of opportunity: Owey Island, home to a multitude of unclimbed lines. A fair few Colmcillers and a number of the IMC all turned up between Friday night and Saturday afternoon and I counted around 20 tents in the makeshift campsite above the harbour. The weather was gloomy and there was bit of a "can't be arsed" attitude among us that, after yet another shower, was replaced with a slightly improved version of "we're here now, might as well do something".

So PJ, Mike, Helen and I headed for the stuff near the harbour, Nordkapp, 400K etc., rigged up an abseil and dodged waves to the stance below Sting. On the wall to the left of this route was a line that George had tried and failed on, in wet conditions in 2007. Guessed at HVS then, it hadn't appeared in the online guide since so, to spark some life into Mike, PJ and I encouraged the rock spider to bag a new line. We kind of did it in 2 pitches because I preferred to belay directly below Mike as he attempted the leaning-out crux. Despite some swearing he bagged it in fine style, compared to my inch-by-inch tight-roped "Ooh Mummy!" seconding. To be called "Bumbler's Revenge" we think it was E1 5b in the dry and slightly juicier in our damp conditions.

There was a plan for PJ and Helen to do 400K and Helen got the feet, ankles, knees and thighs wet mistiming the waves at the bottom. But after PJ had a go at Bumbler's Revenge a (nother) heavy shower put paid to the climbing for a while. We'd a break for coffee back at camp, then went on a major tour of the island, trying to find existing lines and getting not very excited by some possible new but short ones. We discounted a 100m VDiff that has been top-roped but never led due to a lack of gear. Getting us all down and up would require some serious rope-tying, abseiling, knot-passing etc. and we'd used up our full weekend's faffing quota already. Eventually we found 3 IMC members multi-pitching an easy-looking spur out of a northern zawn and decided to either follow them up or try and find something on the face to their right.

Once down there though the it was quicker to start on a new line that PJ and I spotted up through a couple of short corners, a sloping ramp and a pair of vertical twin cracks, finishing on blocky stuff at the top. The IMC folks shouted down to stay clear of them and there were 1 or 2 rock falls as they all neared the loose top. I'd originally guessed VDiff / Severe for this new route but the middle section was spicier than expected and 1 or 2 gear placements were of the "better than nothing" variety. I'd a severe dose of disco leg placing a friend just before the crux but eventually moved up to a very decent belay stance above it and brought PJ up. Mike meanwhile had been encouraged to make a harder direct start on the face and passed me shortly on his way straight to the top, cursing the crap protection.

As PJ led the second half, Sean attempted to follow Mike but backed off after reaching the first bit of gear and failling to get over the slight bulge. Eager beaver Helen tied on instead and was starting to climb as PJ brought me up. The top was very loose and I almost put weight on a few largish TV sized lumps that just seemed to need a stiff breeze to topple them. If Helen and Sean hadn't been below I would have pushed them down, but all I could do was shout down warnings about them. Some delicate tip-toeing later I was up and dancing a little jig at bagging a decent route we reckoned at VS 4a. I went back down to help Sean fetch the packs up and shouted directions and encouragement to Helen who was gamely making her way up.

I'd barely got back up top when there was an almighty rumble of rock fall and a few shouts from Mike and Alfie. "Oh", I thought, "Helen's kicked down that big loose lump". A quick glance over the edge at Helen's tear-stained face and shaking arms and I quickly realised she'd tried to use the lump as a hold and it had come away, whacking heavily into her shoulder as she fell back. Mike had good hold of her though and she seems to have got away with some bruising and scrapes. Thankfully no-one was below at the time.

Back at camp again we delighted in telling Bill and Alan about our new-routing and they matched our 3 climb total, though Bill almost had me when he said that Bumbler's Revenge had already been climbed. Bah! It turned out that the midsummer bonfire wouldn't take place till mid-week so we made a small one of our own in a sheltered area above the right of the harbour. The usual banter and singing went on, with a toast to Hugh Sharkey and a welcome to our IMC friends. Helen delighted in re-counting the story of the VHS that she'd climbed and we decided to call the new routes Betamax (VS 4a) and Betamax Direct (HVS 5a). Sean was nicknamed "Peeler" for backing off, though every time we called him that, PJ would go "Eh?" for some reason... There was some discussion over who had the laziest / easiest job and we discovered that PSNI really stands for Police Shoppers of Northern Ireland.

We would have failed in our duty if we hadn't been last to bed but a heavy downpour put paid to any ideas of staying up too late. Next morning saw very low cloud and mist over the whole island and the general air of despondency had returned. Valli and the other kayakers were the only ones up to having fun so the rest of us de-camped. It being the longest day we boarded Dan's landing craft for an assault on the Cruit golf club beach-head. The entrenched elite enemy troops had run away though so we just went home.

23 Jun 2009

Sorry kids! It wasnt Bumblers Revenge, (tho we could rename "Light in the Western Sky", wrinklies revenge!) Only 2 new routes then?

23 Jun 2009

Bah! Can Mike claim the HVS direct start then? Wrinklies must have had an off day cos we called Light 4a but guide says 4b!

Photo of Route