Extreme Gardening

Hailstones were bouncing off the road as I left home. I put my climbing gear in the car just in case the weather might fair up. I arrived at Culdaff at about 10.30 and the sun was shining. I was surprised to find some people already there working like beavers. The purpose of the exercise was to clean the crag and the paths at Dunmore Head, Culdaff in preparation for the climbfest which is held every year on the first weekend of May, the Mayday bank holiday. About ten of us were there, all armed with weapons such as hedge clippers, slashers, billhooks, pruners, scrapers and brushes. Alfie Conn brought the heavy duty stuff, a two stroke hedge trimmer. Ivy, clay and sods of grass rained down from the crag. Alfie and I decided to clear the path from the bottom of the crag to the top. Alfie went in front with the hedge trimmer and I came behind and cut the branches that were too big for the trimmer. Our teamwork was nearly as good as when we are climbing. Alfie’s a dab hand with the hedge trimmer but I made sure to keep my hands back incase I lost a few digits. Everyone took a break for lunch and we sat around in a circle with sandwiches and flasks. A guy called Andy who has just started outdoor rock climbing was there with a brand new MSR whisper lite petrol fueled stove. Now, I have a passion for stoves and the snore of this little machine was music in my ears. This baby can boil a litre of water in three minutes compared to other stoves that take four minutes. You might think one minute would not make much difference but for George Carlton that would mean he could get another route climbed in the minute he saved boiling the water. Anyone who has climbed with George will know what I mean. At these lunch breaks you need to be able to tell a good story and some climbers excell at this. Gerard O’Sullivan can make leading a severe sound a bigger epic than the first ascent of K2. After lunch Andy, who was now energized on super noodles, wanted to lead a route so I agreed to belay him. Andy led the route well and I followed. To use ones knee in rock climbing would be considered bad technique. I didn’t think anyone would see me so I used a sneaky knee to help me over the crux. Hawk eye Tees saw me and I suffered a bit of banter as a result. To finish off the day Alan Tees invited us back to his house for tea. As usually Alan and Margaret made us very welcome in their home. Alan put the kettle on and one of the climbers cut a cake that he had baked. The cake was set on the table and nine of us circled round the cake like wolves around a fresh kill. Someone said, just help yourself, and the cake was gone. I can’t be a hundred per cent sure but I think Maeve McKeever took two pieces of cake. Well I suppose she deserved it as she cleaned two routes all by herself, hanging on her harness for ages. Well done Maeve By this time it was six o’clock so we said our goodbyes and left for home. I really enjoyed my day, good weather, good company and a good job done cleaning the crag and paths. It was good to meet up again with friends I hadn’t seen all winter and I’m looking forward to the Climbfest. Hope the weather is kind to us. Trevor.

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