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Climbfest - A visitor's view

Date: 29th April - 2nd May
Submitted by: Niall Browne
Climbfest 2005 – We came, we saw, we climbed some stuff.

Ahh, climbing: The only possible reason to be up before lunch on a Saturday. Having proved beyond all doubt that there is NO through road from Greencastle to Culdaff, we arrived about mid-day in a quiet Culdaff. Pete Smith had led me to expect a bit more in the way of marching bands, cheerleaders, speeches from Mary Robinson etc. Oh well, decided to hit Dunmore, to be met by the site of 40 odd people hanging off every spike, flake and crack on Middle crag. Unless there’s another climbing festival happening this weekend, this must be what we’re looking for!

Drop gear, grab guidebook, quick introductions all round, then touch rock for the first time in ages.
Started off on Absent Friends VDiff, a nice wee warm-up and the slightly worrying overhang turns out to be a doddle. Dispatched a few more VDiffs and Severes before having a blast up Orange Blossom at Donna’s recommendation. Lovely climb, but I couldn’t compete with the guy who did it in big boots.

Just about to start on Absent Friends Five HS when Alan Tees appears: “Nightmare that, really hard start, no way is it only 4b” Hmm, this bloke wrote the guidebook, he probably knows what he’s talking about....

Not too bad in the end, just the one tricky stretch up round the corner. Paul seconds, in the mistaken belief that the corner has hidden his attempt to re-introduce aid-climbing to Donegal. “Tricky but I got a good handhold.” “Oh yeah? On WHAT exactly?” “Errr, on your number 2 Friend...”

I decide that Birdsnest Bulge will be a suitable punishment for him. The in-situ abseil ropes are way too far away (approx. 10 yards), so I down-solo Bluebell, to the slight annoyance of Clare from QUBMC, who’s just led it. Sorry Babe!

We finish off with a run up Diversion, a fantastic HS similar to some routes in the Mournes, before a well-earned pint in McGrorys, temporary spiritual home of climbing. After finding to our delight that the only shop in town sells the 3 essentials – sausages, baps ‘n’ beer- we grab a corner of the barbecue. Much beer and a sing-song later, I demonstrate to the camp how alcohol, darkness and a big pile of wood are a disaster waiting to happen. And don’t get me started
on getting into a bivi-bag in the dark while *******

Sunday arrived wet and windy. As if climbing sandstone in their native country, using only knotted slings for gear wasn’t already ‘well hard’ the Czech contingent put on an impressive display of the art of ‘sleeping through ******* rain in a sleeping bag on the grass’. Respect!

A huge caffeine injection and a tinned all-day breakfast took care of any night-before residue and an hour after the sun came out you’d never have known it had been raining. Dandered up the path to where Alan had put up some topropes. Hauled myself up Griana’s (quite wet) Groove (Stop s******ing!) and scampered to the top of the pinnacle in the zawn for no reason at all.

Unfortunately we had a gig to go to in Belfast on Sunday night (“Paul, how badly do you want to hear the Blind Boys of Alabama? On a scale of 1 to 10, say?”), so we packed up and headed on.

What a weekend! Can we have one of those every month? Huge thanks to everything involved in making it happen, and I’ll definitely be down again soon.

Photo of Route