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Christmas Abseil

Date: 20th Dec 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

We decided this year to hold the Christmas party and abseil together, staying over at the Bluestack Centre hostel near Donegal town. The original plan was to meet at Biddy O' Barnes and horse up into Eglish or Belshade to find something suitable to dangle off. But we wouldn't be the "Bumblers" if there wasn't a crisis of some sort.

We set off in convoy from Biddy's following Martin Bonar in his 4WD and turned down a wee narrow road round the back of Lough Eske. The cold weather meant some frost and a scattering of snow but us soft Northern shites, used to big spending local councils and well salted roads, were caught by surprise when we hit a long patch of black ice. I could see PJ just in front sliding towards "The Mothership" and I was gliding gracefully towards her, my ABS being as useful as a snooze button on a smoke alarm.

I steered right and found enough grip to ease myself gently 3 feet into the hedge while Dennis' little Fiat Seicento pirouetted towards my rear end, bounced off and came to a halt further down the lane. Damage to the German built King Panzer VW? Uh, none. Well maybe a wash will reveal something but at first glance nada, zip, nil, nowt. Damage to the Italian built Semovente Fiat? Otherwise known as the bean tin? A couple of new doors, front and back panels and the steering realigned might sort her out.

After Martin returned and extracted my tank, sorry Touran, and towed Dennis' sorry little number to a friend's house we gathered near Biddy's again for a less ambitious jaunt up Croaghonagh, it being well after noon. The children were well wrapped up and there were a few Christmassy hats about (including a Coca Cola one, boo hiss!) but only Valli made any real effort with a winged and wigged angel affair.

Up top the 2 Martins (McGuigan and Bonar) and George had set up their usual bomb proof abseil while Ivan handed round a wrapped bottle that he was calling "tea". Only I hadn't realised that Bushmills hand branched out into that area of liquid refreshment. Cough, splutter, quare stuff, gasp! There was ginger tea and hot chocolate from Valli to follow and sooth the burning throat.

We took turns in an orderly fashion and toddled down the 15m swooning height, though I spied Ms Kennedy going back for seconds, the greedy mare! Mr McGuigan also demonstrated how 2 people could abseil together off one belay plate with and he and PJ made a cosy couple going down. Later Thomas had a go at this as well but Pol and Eoin declined and grumbled over chocolate under my seldom used bothy.

There was talk of Margaret, Mary and co. going for a longer walk to the summit after we'd packed up the gear but daylight was definitely in short supply now so we hied back to Biddy's for coffee / tea / beer / whisky / coke, ye pays yer money and takes yer choice. Mike turned up at this point having dragged his drunken ass out of bed and was slagged for his 1am text about Latin speaking women.

Then it was off to the excellent Bluestack Centre hostel for din dins, where there was an oversupply of soups by Valli, Marty and Dennis, a possible undersupply of mains and an utter profusion of desserts. It was Pol's 13th birthday so there was cake galore to go with the other sundries and he got the whole candle treatment after dinner. I daresay a wet walk up a Donegal hill wasn't his ideal way of spending a 13th birthday but there are promises of ice skating to be kept so he was somewhat mollified. In the games room there was a proper football table and we hooked the XBox up too so the kids were happy enough.

A large contingent went off to the pub while PJ cooked up her chilli to go with Margaret's lasagne and I went off in search of Bonny who was driving around Donegal town like the proverbial lost lamb, crying "Lost again! Why am I so gay?" Having picked her up in Lidl I wasn't much better and 3 goes round the same roundabout and 2 U-turns later received a call along the lines of "Are you taking the piss or wha?"

Finally back at the hostel we gathered for the feast and there turned out to be plenty after all. Everyone behaved so not much to report. Another jaunt to the pub for those that had missed out on it's earlier delights and those who decided a 2nd helping of cheer was on the cards. It was Christmas after all. More snow had fallen and it was a chilly enough night but the pub had a roaring fire that was difficult to leave come midnight or so. A few of us stayed up till near 3am and watched more and more snow come down during the gaps in the dancing but we gradually all drifted off to bed.

In the morning it was obvious that there would be difficulty in getting down the hill from the pub. There was one big steep corner on the road back to Donegal that was also causing some worry but people were leaving and not coming back so we had to assume they were either buried in the hedge or had made it. The hostel owner suggested an alternative route and myself, PJ, Mike and Bonny made a little convoy as we spun and slid up and down a few minor hills with the aid of an occasional push.

But when our road seemed to run straight into wilderness I pulled up and knocked on the nearest door and who should answer but our hostel man? "Fancy meeting you here?" sez I, "Where's that Donegal road again?". One 5-car U-turn manoeuvre later (for Valli and Sandra had joined us in the green van, having failed to make the big corner) we were off through Dummies Bridge. One adventuresome hour later we'd made the 4 mile trip back to Donegal town without further calamity.

Actually Bonny did manage to get a flat wheel and then pulled in at the jet wash of the garage instead of the air pump, my little compressor wouldn't start and there was MUCH faffing but we got back to Enniskillen eventually and continued in the festive spirit till late Sunday night.

A busy weekend!

26 Dec 2009

Ant its good to be taken from behind by a bearded jock!

Photo of Route