|Date: June 2010
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
It was great to get out to Gola this year as the annual excursion didn’t happen due to rough seas, alas! A few club members were only on their second visit ever, being Gola virgins until ClimbFest this year. The weather was absolutely stonking with wall to wall sunshine and the old moobs were out, showing off the typical Irish climber’s tan: brown to the elbows and neckline, pasty white everywhere else. Well except for the “ginger ninja” Mike who is so pale underneath that he’s almost blue!
A large contingent was expected and at least 2 boatloads came over, most of us making the 8pm Friday boat and Niall and co. arriving late Saturday having had trouble getting out of Belfast. (Or was that out of bed?) We set up camp in the usual spot, pointing out a far off spot for Helen and the snoring John. It was a bit blustery but down on the beach next to the cliffs it was calm enough for a wee fire and few beers.
On Saturday, after sorting the kids, PJ and I headed to the Inland Crag to join George and Valli. We started on Corner Boy, which the guidebook says HS but I notice the online guide says VS 4c? Certainly a tricky enough start getting round the corner! Mike arrived in time to watch me faff on Weathered Window VS 4b which, in contrast, is perhaps HS. Getting out of the window on the right is how to do it but a piece of gear I placed wanted to drag me left and it wasn’t until I removed it that I got the balance right to get up and out.
Mike was up for some E-numbers and wanted to try Gorgonzola E2 5c but several attempts later was just getting pumped and no higher than the ledge, so we retired for lunch leaving 3 dodgy cams in the horizontal break. One rest later he finally cracked it and encouraged both me and PJ to “give it a try”. Well with a little footie-up and a bit of a bum push PJ nearly made the ledge but could go no further. So it was up to me to give it a more valiant effort. NOT! I faffed and peeled and swung on the first move while Mike struggled to hold my bulk. “No good, can’t make it, you’d better lower me off”. 0.3 seconds and 8 inches of lowering later: “That’s me!” Cue derisory sniggers from my beloved and the rock spider. Bah!
To make myself feel better PJ and I headed over to the Narrow Zawn where George and Valli had a handy abseil set up for Buzz Lightyear HS 4b. They’d just done it and were readying themselves for Gearrcach E1 5b. Both routes start from the same ledge, gained by a nervous abseil as the sea pounds into the zawn beneath you. Buzz is definitely my favourite Gola climb and PJ was also grinning from ear to ear as she finished. Mike was kissing a frog shaped rock above us on the other side as we climbed, perhaps hoping for a harness clad princess to appear. George was having a scary time, doubting his friend placements of the crystallised rock but he emerged unscathed to climb another day.
BBQs galore kept everyone fed and Valli even cooked up a large fish (mackerel?) she’d caught. A larger fire back on the beach with the now huge group of climbers kept the evening merriment going to the wee hours.
Bill had brought his boat and he and Alan disappeared early to collect Martin Boner and others for a foray to the surrounding islands. As we tidied up the breakfast things Keith took a call from Alan: “Do ye want to climb on Umfin?” Bloody right! And so Bill collected Keith, Sandra, PJ and I and we went on a bouncing, jouncing tour of some amazing stacks and arches before pootling into the calmer waters of the bay on Umfin. Bill was afraid that the kelp beds here wouldn’t hold the anchor and that the boat would drift onto the rocks so chose to head back out to sea while we went in search of some virgin rock before the Tees party could claim it all.
Umfin is a magnificently wild place, home to a large colony of gulls which wheeled and cried overhead as we moved across the island. There are caves and arches galore and you have cross a marvellous double arch from the harbour to the main bit of the island. The centre of the island is a guano infested cauldron that doesn’t half pong but you just have to stop and stare at the wave action booming in from the West.
There is a blow hole at the end of the zawn on the edge of the cauldron and every so often a mighty wave would fill the underlying cave with a huge BADOOMPH! sound. Water would spray 100 feet into the area, filling the zawn with descending spirals of sea water and mist. It was a truly amazing sight that I spent all afternoon trying to capture on my camera.
On the north wall of the zawn Keith and I identified a pair of cracks that looked they’d go at Severe so the four of us tooled up and duly climbed them. Think Keith’s was to be called Blowhard or some such while I opted for Narwhal, after the stupid song the kids had been singing all weekend about awesome whales. To the left of the cracks was an obvious corner that Keith again led at Severe (name to be provided) while I went for the only other line – a Severe narrow chimney that had one awkward move and a lot of blocky steps. Skinned Shins after the piece of leg I left on the route’s rough rock.
Bill picked us up again and dropped us at the harbour for a trudge to decamp and get the 4pm ferry. Despite the hot weather no-one was brave enough to go for a harbour plunge, memories of my girly shrieks from 2 years ago firmly implanted in their brains. Well Eoin nearly went for it from the mainland jetty but a quick toe-dip cured him of his bravery!