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Gola 2008

Date: 31st May 2008
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

We all know Gola is a date on the climbing calendar not to be missed but for a while I was convinced the Gods didn't want me to go this year. Car brake trouble and a delayed Friday night flight meant a hurried packing session on Saturday morning and a mad pile for the noon ferry, which we missed of course. Jim the ferry man returned though and after the usual mad slog carrying too much gear to the campsite I put off setting up the tent and set off for the cliffs, leaving the sister, cousin and assorted kids to sort themselves out. On the way over the cliffs, distracted by a phone call from our Milo, I stepped into bogland and promptly sunk up past my knees! Being a man of choice language at the best of times I effed and jeffed enough to embarrass oul Nick as I tried to get out of the sucking wet ground whilst retaining my footwear.

A dip in the sea and a quick change and I was heading back over with Niall and Matt to the Gripple Wall where Pete and PJ had just done Sea Eagle (HS). The place was swarming with students from Queens, so we decided to show them how it was done by jumping on a pair of VS 4c, Big Trip and Island Life I think. Coming from the Croatian limestone it took a while to trust the granite friction again but the raw hands and scarred shins soon confirmed the roughness as Niall, Matt and I topped out. My cousin Sean was raring for a go on "something harder" than his first V.Diff so I threw him onto Sea Eagle to teach him a lesson in bravado. He managed well in Matt's borrowed shoes. We descended to do the other VS 4c and I nearly had a peel moment but a quick adjust of the body weight saved me. Sandra and Keith were doing Jean A Cheval (S) and Pride of Gola (S).

Pete, who was in a very boastful mood, was trying to make light of my VS struggles that he had seemingly bounced up. Grr! He also thought he'd led a new line but it may just have been Who Gets The Credit, that I see in the online guide. I top roped this route, reminded vividly of the Croatia climbing on small holds the week before. We both estimated HVS 5a, exactly what the guide says for WGTC. It was a nice line to finish on for the day and we had some laugh round the fire later thinking up names for this "new" route. The theme centred on jugs (or lack thereof) with many double entendres and the names "Jugless", "Jug Free Zone", "Not Much Up Top" and others were bandied about.

Niall meanwhile was feeling brave enough to try out leading and went up Sea Eagle (again) in the name of progress. He'll be getting into buying the protection and other leading gear when he gets back from his Iceland trip. While I was on the above HVS Keith and PJ did Pride Of Gola (HS), then Niall decided to take Sean and Matt up the same route. We think he got lost slightly though because he topped out about 10 feet left of PJ, and must have climbed something a bit harder. I say this because Sean's initial "Wee Buns!" from the bottom of the route had turned into a trembly-limbed, tight-roped adventure by the end. Matt made it look easier but it's telling that Sean didn't climb another route that weekend!

That evening we set up a rival fire to the Queen's students in a quiet sheltered spot on the beach, the fuel supplied by Colm, Eoin, Ciaran, Thomas, Holly, Jane and Sam. (Pol had skipped off to a birthday party). The kids even lit the fire themselves while us parents cooked and drank. My hurried packing meant I was stuck with shorts so, to combat the evening chill, I threw on some long socks and a hoodie, in a style that would make a fashionista weep. I'm looking forward to the photos. Helen was in fine form round the fire and 3:30am came very quickly, though John faded early still suffering from a nasty stomach bug.

Is there any better way to be woken up than having a hot bacon sandwich thrust through the tent door? I think not, cheers Colm! It was another clear blue sky and when the kids were duly slathered in high factor sun cream we were back at the main wall trying to get abseiled down before the Queen's students took the best routes. There was a race for Run Of The Arrows (HS) and Cornered Rats (VS 5a), both multi-starred routes. I last did Rats with "Shir" Iain Miller and Rosie last year and raved about it to Pete who led PJ up it.

Niall, Colm and I weren't so lucky with Arrows as a pair abseiled down it directly, while we chose to make daring leaps across the rocks, timing the waves just right. Having got that far we decided on Cormorant (HS) to the left of Arrows instead. A dirtier, smellier route I've never been on. Nice interesting climb but the stench and occasional finger dip of guano detracted from it somewhat. Helen arrived after Colm and Niall had come up so I lowered her down to near wave height, the tide having come way in by now. Pete had led Arrows by then, PJ belaying from around the corner below. Pete's photo of Helen should be good because from above all you could see was a scared little face and a huge cleavage, the atmospheric waves booming in below. She took a quare gash to the shin that John patched up with a sanitary towel. Useful things those wings... Sandra tells me that squaddies use them as shoulder padding when carrying heavy packs in manoeuvres. Answers on a postcard for other (alternative) uses, please.

After Cormorant I tried to persuade Colm onto Buzz Lightyear (HS), one of my favourite Gola routes, but he declined and went to help the others decamp. Niall and I set up an beautifully anchored abseil and then asked ourselves, "We've only one rope, so if we abseil down, what'll we climb with?". It was a bit of a DOH! moment followed by a little ingenuity. A 50m rope and a 15m route meant we could abseil down on one end then climb out with the other, so that's what we did, Niall calling it the nicest route of the weekend. There is a certain edge to it when you're belaying while bolted to a sloping ledge 50 feet above surging waves in a narrow zawn.

We packed up early to get the first ferry back and I had just enough time for a quick swim in the harbour. A paddle in the shallow water had proved it was warm but when you dive down to 3 feet under you soon realise the water is still B-B-B-Baltic! Eoin had great fun pushing me back in and listening to me scream like a wuss. All the kids were already asking when we were going to do this again. If this weather holds I don't think it'll be too long. Maybe not this weekend cos it's the birthday and I'll be having the hair (what hair?) dressed instead. 37, and the card's in the post?

Photo of Route