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2018 Jordan – Part1

For holidays 2018 we decided to go back to the Middle East and this time around visit country of Jordan.

This place seem to be one of the less popular destination for climbers (or tourists in general), probably most due to the fact that there are so many other places that don’t neighbour states that are currently at war…

I did my research and all reports make it safe enough for a visit (especially if you stick to the sourthern parts of the country).

And that is exactly what Peter, Phil, Monika and I are planning to do.

The rough plan for two weeks is:

  1. Visit Madaba & Dead Sea (lowest point on Earth)
  2. Visit Petra (main tourist destination)
  3. Visit Wadi Rum (main climbing destination)
  4. Visit Aqaba (main scuba destination)
  5. Visit Jerusalem (main weird access destination)
  6. Visit Amman & go home

 

While I was hoping for this trip to be focused mainly around climbing (Wadi Rum is world class trad climbing spot) – it seems that on the very first trip to the country it’d be a shame not to visit at least some of the world famous tourist attractions – hence the list above.

Since we are equipped for both sport and trad climbing (both gear and skill), we decided to see how it goes and climb when possible (we are a bit early as far as climbing seasons go, as It’s still a bit hot).

In this series of blogs I’ll write every couple of days on how the progress go.

 

Part I – getting in & around

We arrived on Sunday morning, after quite interesting flight with connection in Istanbul. It’s a very odd  setup with Dub flight departing at 4.30pm on Sat, and with 3h layover in Turkey we were in Jordan Capital city at 4.30am.

Phil’s bag came out VERY last, so it took a while at the airport, but after that we picked up few sim cards, got the car sorted (again, big 4×4 since we have tons of bags) and were on our way to the hotel in Madaba. Luckily enough they let us check in early (7am!, for a small fee) – so we were able to get quick nap (not much sleep on the plane) and make our way to Dead Sea.

Our ride for next 2 weeks.

The problem with The Dead Sea is that while its public, the best spots are all taken by resorts, so you have to dish out between 20 and 40 JOD to get access (you kind of want to do it anyway, since the supersalt water ruins everything if u don’t shower straight away.

After some floating around and mud baths and lunch we wen’t towards nearby JC Babtism site, however we were to late for 4.30pm tour, and to early to wait 40 mins for next one. Oh well… Back to Madaba for an evening stroll.

 

Part II – due South

We hit the King’s Highway towards Petra, with a quick stop over at Kerak Castle & some climbing at nearby Weida Slabs.

On the way south

Castle was ok as far as castle go, it seemed to be restored in some places, but mostly it was ruins. Still worth a visit if you are passing by.

 

Climbing however was something else – and it wasn’t for the rock or the fact it was all bolted (pretty well actually) – It was the heat. We got there just after 1pm, which isn’t ideal, but there was no other option – we still had 2.5h drive to Petra so couldn’t wait for it to cool down. It also goes without saying that TOPOS are rare and any material on routes you find is priceless. I found THIS website –> http://tropicaldesert.me/kerak-weida-slabs

It  seems to have decent descriptions of places (other than obvious Wadi Rum) worth visiting.

With 35C heat it was impossible to do anything other than 1 or 2 climbs – the sweat was rolling in, dehydration was imminent  and all of it was attracting those nasty flies – they were everywhere – big nasty flies.  I wish I had my head net, so useful on those hot day in Wicklow or the Mournes.

Another thing is that since routes don’t get that much traffic some of it is quite loose. Monika experienced it first hand, when a handhold she grabbed (around fist size) just detached itself and went flying my way. Luckily she had strong feed and didn’t fell off.

We are in Wadi Musa now- which is the gateway town to Petra. Plan is to get there for 6.15am (it’s only 5min drive from our hotel), when they open – and start before the crowds come in. With Jordan Pass, that guarantees no queuing for tickets,  as it has  tickets to Petra included it should be a good day out.

Wadi Musa by Night.
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New IMC members meet in Glendalough

As it is every year, some time in May Irish Mountaineering Club takes its new members for some multipitch adventures in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. Since most of these newbies already spent few weeks with us on Thursday evenings in Dalkey Quarry, it was just formality to rely show them the ropes.

Most of them newbies were very good being able to follow the fantastic multipitch routes available at that crag. The ones that still needed some more practices stayed at lower Acorn Buttress and Expectancy slabs areas.

I got ‘assigned’ Sebastian and Monika, who followed me through four pitches of Prelude/Nightmare, a 2* VS up the main face.

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The land of the corries. Day 0

  1. A a lot of things happened since the last time I wrote here.

First bad news… My friend and main climbing partner Peter, got himself seriously injured and is out for the season (or at least first part of it).

I don’t want to get into the details but let’s say he won’t be doing any jamming anytime soon.

This unfortunate event really puts things in perspective. It’s not more than a month when we were cruising on sunny rock of Costa Blanca, and now we have to redefine the plans for the first part of the upcoming summer season.

But before summer comes there is some winter business to be had. Derek, my oldest climbing partner suggested we take advantage of recent cold spell and check out the north facing crags and mountains of Scotland.

Since we’ll be driving we have packed a lot of gear, including camping equipment. All options are on the table.

We are actually on the ferry from Belfast as I write these words, on the way to our next adventure.

The plan is to get to Scotland tonight. Get to Kilmarnock (1.5h drive) and spend the night there. Next day we want to keep driving north and perhaps find a climb (Salamander Gully (III/4) at this crag looks like a promising, 1/2 day option) on the way to Fort William.

Then we will have 2 days to climb more, and obviously everything depends on the conditions we find.

 

Monday is a return home day, with a ferry back to Belfast at 3.30pm

As usual, I’ll try to write daily blogs.

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Costa Blanca day 3 – Single pitch adventures at Guadalest

Today’s blog will be written by another guest climber, this time Gerard, who definetly was the top performer in todays adventure.

Me looking at a bolt.

And over to me……. I’d had an enforced rest day on Saturday as I’d twisted my ankle on Friday night, so – while the others battled seagulls and polished limestone on the Penon d’Ifach – had been left at our hostel in Finestrat, clasping a packet of frozen vegetables(an improvised icepack) to my foot. That left me hungry to get back on rock but unsure about how much I could afford to challenge my ankle. Luckily the group vote was for a venue with a short walk-in: the crags clustered around  (and under) the hilltop town of Guadalest.

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The citadel of Guadalest – the walls on left and right have bolted routes

Guadalest is well worth a visit – even for the non-climbers amongst you. It was once a Moorish citadel (the “al-” in the name betrays its Islamic origins) and some of the fortifications still remain. We started the day in the Penya l’Alcala area (the rock wall to the right of the above photo) which contains a range of routes up to 70m in length. Unfortunately the day started in cloud and the drizzle came on as we finished our warm up pitches. We held out for longer than the Spanish climbers but by 11am abandoned the crag to the inquisitive robin and legged it 100m downhill to the local refugio for hot drinks and buns.

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A friendly visitor – we left before lunch so he didn’t even get the crumbs

The drizzle eventually cleared and we moved on – this time to a smaller crag, Penya Maura, across the road for the refuge. It diverted us for the rest of the day with solid sharp rock and a number of interesting lines. Today didn’t have the sunshine and blue skies we had enjoyed Thursday and Friday but at least the cool air resulted in better friction. We were lucky – our frends in Sella (10 km away) got only one route in before the rain hit there while in Guadelest the rain was never more than weak and intermittent. My ankle held out and my enforced rest meant I was ready for it – my highlights being the the overhanging jugfest that was Jana (luckily I’d been tackling overhangs at the wall all winter) and the varied delights of Garrofer (bridging chimneys followed by a delicate precise finish, both 2 star 6a+ routes. Sadly tomorrow is our last full day here — what will it bring?

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1st 6a+ of the day – the flake of Margallo

 

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Back on the horse.

It’s been three months since my unfortunate fall at The Wall that tleft me with injured ankle and I’ve started slowly getting back at it. I’m going to leave bouldering alone for a while, the risk of a silly jump of and renewing the injury is to high. I’ve renewed my Awesome Walls subscription and have enjoyed going back there regularly in the last two weeks. It’s kind of difficult to assemble the old team together so I’ve also renewed my membership with Imc and trying to establish new belaying partnership there. I got super lucky that my main 2017 partner in crime – Peter – is in Dublin twice a week for at least next month, so we were pulling on plastic together. It’s good to see that despite lack of climbing Istill have it, and am able to cruise 6b and go on 6c routes. 2weekend ago we also did a quick trip to Dalkey Quarry – my local crag – and a place where my outdoors climbi g adventure started. I introduced Peter to some of the local classics – such as Mahjongg (VS), Excesrsion (Hvs), and Jameson 10(Vs). Despite cold November weather we had a blast and are keen on climbing together even more. Our next serious adventure is 2months away (end of Jan 2018), we are going to spend d a week around Ecrins in France – which is on of Europe’s finest ice climbing destinations. Games on!

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Slieve Beg at Mourne Mountains

Epic
An ordinary climb rendered difficult by a dangerous combination of weather, injuries, darkness, lack of preparedness or other adverse factors.

Went up North (Mournes, Slieve Beg) to do some more adventurous climbs. Had one for sure. Not exactly an epic, but quite interesting combination of unfamiliar terrain, midges & rain.
From the beginning though – Met up with Peter at Donard car park on Sat 9am. Decided to put up some effort and walk up all the way to Slieve Beg – by some described as best mountain crag in the Mournes.

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The walk taken just over 1.5h (all uphill, some 500m elevation gain) The views are indeed spectacular and worth the hard work.

Crag description (from wiki.climbing.ie)

The most obvious feature is the huge central gully of the Devil’s Coach Road. To the left is the Main Face, south-east facing and characterised by a series of corners, and to the left again are two large south-facing areas separated by a steep grassy section, with on the far left a small buttress called Satan’s Buttress. To the right of the Devil’s Coach Road are more broken crags the most obvious feature being a steep broad slab of rock taken by Mourne Maggie.

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Slieve Beg crag, The Devil’s Coachroad in middle-right

First order of business – gearing up, abseil to the base of:

Sweetie Mice *** 40m HVS (5a)
J. McGuinness, J. Bruce. 19/5/73.
An excellent classic one of the best in the Mournes but there is a risk the rock could have a veneer of lichen due to lack of ascents. Start at the steep diedre at the bottom of the Devil’s Coach Road. Climb the diedre until forced to step right at a bulge onto the arete at 25m and follow this more easily to the top.

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Getting to Sweetie Mice, HVS 5a *** – the route is the obvious corner. Unfortunately very overgrown these days.

Now, the 3* rating might have been accurate few years ago when the route was clean – for us it was a rather severe case of extreme gardening. Peter lead it, I followed and pulled a ton of green stuff in the process. Perhaps next party of climbers will enjoy it more.

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Sweetie Mice, HVS 5a *** – aka gardening 101

It wasn’t a bad route. Just not really in 3* condition.

Anyway – from there we decided to move the other side and try and find:

Wabash Cannonball ** 85m VS (4c, 4b)
C. Torrans, S. Billane, W. J. Baxter. 8/9/74.
1) 45m Trend left and follow crack to reach the diedre proper. Continue straight up corner (dirty exit) or (cleaner) up until it is possible to move out left on a big flake to the outside face and trend back right. On up ledges to good belay on the highest one.
2) 40m Up corner to cracks on right and up cracks and easy ground to an arete on the right. Finish airily up corner in the arete.

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By the time we thought we were at the base of the climb the midges were already out.

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The anti midges squad.

We figured we had the line so I just got on it.

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Me leading 1st pitch of ‘WTF am I’.

It felt hard for the grade (supposedly VS 4c), but I kept going until a grassy ledge. From there it kind of didn’t match the description anymore, and I was only 25m up (p1 was meant to be 40m). I figured I’ll build a belay, bring Peter up and we’ll take it from there. And so we did.

Unfortunately for us the single droplets turned into heavier rain, but that din’t scare away the insects. Double whammy.

Anyway Peter went up another 20 odd meters, to a point where there was nowhere to go (at least not for our grade in those conditions). We were definitely off route.

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Totally lost.

At this point we figured bailing makes most sense. We sacrificed 2 nuts, abseiled back to the base of the climb and scrambled around to the top.

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Bailing of the route – not my proudest moment.

I studied the guide book later and I’m pretty sure we miss identified the start and instead of Wabash Cannonball VS we attempted  Burden of Dreams (E3) – (and got shutdown on it’s 3rd, 6a pitch).

Burden of Dreams *** 114m E3 (5a, 5a, 6a, 4a)
I. Rea, P. Holmes. 23/4/90.
Takes the left-hand, clean corner of the double diedre which gives a superb crux. Start at a left trending crack a few metres left of a grassy ramp which starts at the lowest point of rock.
1) 22m Go up crack which leads to a flake system trending left and follow this directly to belay on a ledge.
2) 12m Follow another left trending system of flakes to the left edge of overhang. Traverse horizontally under overhang until possible to cross it at break and then go straight up to ledge.
3) 40m Climb up to first roof and layback around this on the right and go up a bit until possible to step left into base of a very steep right facing diedre. Go up this and over roof (sustained) into niche as for The Fiddler and continue up to large ledge.
4) 40m Climb and scramble up the rock and heather as for The Fiddler.

 

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Walk of shame.

The midges were still full on out and the weather closed in totally, so we wanted to GTFO ASAP.

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Midges trap!

Luckily it was mostly downhill now, and for a while we had a good company – local farmer and his crew!

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By 6.30pm we were by the Pigeon Rock – another crag, some 20mins drive from Slieve Beg, hoping to actually do some climbing the following day. It’s a place of great beauty and minimal walk-in. Something that appealed to us without a doubt after a lengthy day.

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Pigeon Rock

Unfortunately the morning greeted us with rain, rain & more rain. This adventure was over. Totally worth it though. The outstanding beauty of the Mourn Mountains combined with fantastic routes available there make me thing I’ll be back many more times.

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Before & after.

For now though it’s time to start getting ready for next adventure – Picos de Europa in northern Spain! Departing Fri the 28th of July with Peter. 7 days of hopefully adventures of equally epic proportions.

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Revenge on Ifreann Direct

Plans for today’s climbing changed at least 3 times in the last few days. The constant struggle of deciding between the Burren, the Mournes or staying locally in Wicklow is becoming a weekly ritual.

Glendalough was chosen. It’s never a bad choice, although I’m starting to run out of routes to climb (in my grade). This time it was Diarmuid and Monika who joined me. Having odd number of people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, things will just go slower than in a pair.
From the moment I parked at the upper lake I knew today will be spent at East Wing – home to the Forrest Ledge, where number of fantastic climbs are located.

We’ve actually been there already this year (early in the season) and if you are reading this blog u’d know I’ve fallen on gear on route called Ifreann Direct. It was time to try again. And this time I wasn’t planning on giving up easily.

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Monika approaching the base of our climb.

But from the beginning…. First of all there was a large group with couple of top ropes on Acorn buttress, so we skipped it by walking around.

Then Diarmuid lead what normally is 2nd, 40m VS (4a) pitch of Forrest Raphsody all the way up to the Forrest Ledge.

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Monika following what was our climb number 1.

Then the revenge time came:

IFREANN DIRECT *** 18m HVS (5b)A superb finger-jamming crack, intense and engaging, lasting all too short a time. Start about 4m right of the pillar on Ifreann where a steep, thin crack runs up the right side of the prominent, rectangular overhang. It is hardest at the start. Excellent protection.E. Goulding, J. Tobin, S. Rothery, P. Kavanagh, 6/3/1966.

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Getting ready for action.

I think I was a bit to relaxed (or maybe not relaxed enough?) and actually had to back off on my first attempt, just after 2 or 3 moves.  But in to time I got back on it and wouldn’t let go, until I clipped the anchors.

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Route start

Monika and Diarmuid followed, although Mon had difficulties adjusting to finger jamming.

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Above the crux, but still far away to the top.

Indeed it’s not something you can easily learn. Kudos to her for topping out.
While this route is graded HVS, it’s technical mark is higher than your average HVS. At 5b it is not easy.

The real deal came next – Diarmuid decided he’s gonna jump on a climb on the Upper Tier called:

CONCRETE WALLFLOWER ** 28m E1 (5b)
An exciting climb requiring a studied approach; delicate to start with a strenuous finish.
Start 2m right of Aisling Arête, directly above the boulder embedded in Forest Ledge. Climb the wall just left of the thin seam: small wires. A breathless move gains a ledge at 13m (crux). Climb up steeply right to the overlaps. There are good holds high above.
K. Higgs, June 1977.

Technically, similar in grade than the route I’ve just done, but it’s not as well protected. As a matter of fact I know for a fact that I wouldn’t lead it because of the sparse gear placements. And that ladies and gents is the difference between HVS and E1…

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It’s difficult to see, but there are 2 serious run-outs.

I climbed 2nd, collecting all the gear and waited for Monika just after the crux to encourage her not to give up. Even on what is essentially TR this wall is pretty exposed and can be intimidating.

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Monika in action on CONCRETE WALLFLOWER

She didn’t disappoint and was up with me in no time.

In the mean time we run into Killian and Geraldine who were doing another classic upper tier route – Jackey (VS, 4c)

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Both of our routes have the same belay/abseil, so I snapped this random photo, where every one is looking in different direction, but at least we all used 1 set of ropes to get down 😉

They went home (being at the crag since 9am) – we decided to do one more route.

I lead:

LETHE ** 31m VS (4c)Start 4m right of Aisling arête, follow the tempting quartzy crack to a ledge and gain a crack on the right with difficulty. Up this with increasing difficulty until an escape left is possible at the foot of an ominous, steep groove. Continue up left past a perched block to finish.P. Kenny, F. Winder, S. Rothery, 25/4/1954.

A route I’ve done in previous years, a rather fun one for the end of the day (no photos though).

One thing I very enjoy doing is photographing other climbers on the other side of the crag. Today’s special was a team of 3 in what looks like a serious, all day siege of Sarcophagus.
These guys seems to take at least 5 hours to get up it, very often getting off route (is that even possible?), coming back and forth, doing belays in  weird places. Looked like loads of fun!

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Random group on the side of The Main Face.

Either way, we all had a great day, that finished with a big burgers and pints at Glendalough Inn.  Great reward for great day’s climbing!

 

 

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The Dream Team

Derek is one of my oldest climbing partners (although I don’t get to climb with him that often these days) and I was very happy to hear that he was up for a day out in Glendalough. He’s still recovering from winter injuries, so we agreed I’d lead any hard(er) pitches we might encounter.

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2 out 3 members of the original Dream Team.

Upon arriving to the base of the main face we ran into Andy&Vanessa, who were half way up first pitch of Prelude-Nightmare.

We settled on Scimitar Crack, one of the last of classic HVS routes in Glendalough I haven’t led yet.

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Looking down half way up the Scimitar Crack route.

 

 

SCIMITAR CRACK ** 74m HVS (5a)
This is the curved crack-line slashing the great triangle of the central Main Face from bottom left to top right. The 40m main pitch is well protected throughout, except for the brief crux where the protection is adequate.
1. 34m Just to the right of Quartz Gully vegetation has overrun the original route to the crack-line. Instead take the first two pitches of Prelude-Nightmare to an imposing flake belay on a narrow ledge.
2. 40m Follow the curving fault-line. Difficulty increases as it steepens. Bridge up a broad groove to a hanging quartz vein (crux). The climbing relaxes higher up as large holds appear. Swing right out of the groove onto the arête for the final moves.
F. Winder, S. Rothery, 28/6/1953.

We did what every one does these days (and the book suggests) – and climbed (Del’s lead) superb first  pitches (VS 4b, 4b) of Prelude.

We swapped leads at the dodgy as hell flake (with some fixed slings) and I reluctantly moved on 40m adventure up the route.

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Scimitar Crack pitch2,  (HVS 5a **) in all its glory.

The pitch wasn’t hard, definitely wasn’t harder than any of the HVS’s I’ve done this year, although the crux is VERY difficult to protect.

At the top I met a couple of Kerry climbers who were visiting for the weekend. They were just abseiling to the top P3 of Sarcophagus, to attempt the Left Hand Finish of it’s last pitch (E1, 5a) – something Diarmuid and I wanted to attempt on our last visit.

I met them later on, on the way home, and they said the top part of it was wet, but still worth doing. I still don’t know how to find the start of that pitch though…

Anyway, Del promptly followed collecting all the gear and we moved to Expectancy Slab abseil point.

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Derek in power pose!

This is mainly because my 50m double ropes wouldn’t take us to the ground from the main faces’ abseil point (which by the way is a nice and shiny stainless steel wire, great job and I’m sure it will serve the community for few seasons!)

We met there Andy & Vanessa again (who were just finishing up Deirdre, a classic VS).

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Vanessa peeking from behind Deirdre.

We decided to quickly ab off and and do it ourselves. I’ve led both pitches in 1 push (as it’s commonly done). The route has couple of variations, but I kept to what seems like the classic configuration.

DEIRDRE ** 25m VS (4c,3c)
Tackles the left edge of the Main Face right of Expectancy Slab and is clearly visible from below. There are several alternatives but the following is the most popular line.
1. 15m Just right of the foot of the true arête there is an open shallow corner with a thin crack. Climb the arête left of the crack to a good ledge. The exquisite, thin crack above is grappled past the vacant pod to another ledge. Belay in the corner.
2. 10m Continue up the corner crack and then move out left onto the arête to finish.
The original route included a now neglected introductory pitch at 4b which follows a rock rib to a midway ledge and then moves right to regain the groove which is followed to the usual starting belay on the path below the steep wall.
F. Winder, P. Kelly, 7/6/1953.

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Half way up the offwith part of P2 of Deirdre. I had to move the camera to the other pocket, might as well snap a photo. 😉

We wen’t down again, this time to the base of main face and as we were packing up it started to rain. The rainbow over Miner’s Village was a signal to go home. Nobody argued over that 😉

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Faint Rainbow over Miner’s Village.

 

 

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Glenda summer

It’ not often when temperatures in Ireland reach +25C. Yesterday was one of these days. When Diarmuid and I showed up at the upper carpark of the Glendalough Valley it was already very  hot.

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We started our  walk and discussed possible routes to climb. Someone warned us that the place might be a little crowded, since IMC had their meet there this weekend.

We opted in for:

SARCOPHAGUS *** 84m HVS (4b,5a,5a,5a)
An outstanding route. It takes the obvious line of corners right of Spillikin Ridge. Excellent protection. Start as for Fanfare and Spillikin Ridge
1. 24m Climb the quartzy groove and pull out right on top of a pillar. Step up right and surmount a bulge easily on large holds. Continue straight up to arrive just left of a pair of parallel cracks. Step right via the cracks and up to a good stance below a bulging corner.
2. 12m Climb the corner to a tree belay below the main corner groove.
3. 32m Climb the corner which is difficult to start but the pace relents at the top. Tradition dictates a sling on the spike at two-thirds height, a salute to the first ascent. Gain the arête on the right and climb the short crack before moving right to a small belay ledge in the corner.
4. 16m Climb the corner above with due respect to the tree.
E. Goulding, A. Ingram, 27/5/1961.

It’s a super classic that I’ve done before already few times, but this time the plan was to try to find the ‘secret’ E1 finish to P4.

3b. Left-hand Finish (5a) Follow the main corner to its end at the stance on the arête. Step left to join a thin crack with excellent finger locks. Finish up The Wake or traverse right to the Sarcophagus belay.
D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, September 1990.

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Sure enough, there was already couple of groups of climbers on the main face. We’ve also noticed a party of 3 around half way up ‘our’ route. We decided to do it in 3 pitches (1&2 together for Diarmuid, I’d do the ‘regular 3rd crux pitch’, and he’ll finish the ‘new’ P4).

Unfortunately, after D. did P1 it was clear that the part above was super slow, so we had to wait as well. We’ve changed the plan, and did each pitch individually. I claimed P2&3.

On top of that, there was another group approaching from below. Definitely a busy day!

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Anni H. approaching below. Mid P3.

When I topped out P3 it was Diarmuid’s turn to lead again. It turned out that’s not so easy to find that ‘variation’ route , and since we were under pressure not to stall, he just done the regular finish.

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Diarmuid mid P4.

Now, after talking to other climbers who’s done the route, we know that one is supposed to traverse right earlier (than D is see on the photo above). It seems sketchy though. Maybe next time!

We quickly topped out and used communal static abseil rope setup by the IMC.

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On the way down. IMC & Friends (Hello Derek!)

From there we moved left to Expectancy slab. Approach there is always super sketchy, but the route is always worth it. I did it few times already, but never in the HVS configuration.

CRACKS ON THE GARDEN OF EDEN *** 38m VS (4c,4a,4c)
Start at a clean right-facing corner just over 20m up left of Expectancy Slab. A crack leans right.
1. 12m Move up the corner which is difficult to start. Easier ground leads to a belay at a yew tree (treat it gently).
2. 12m Move left to the base of a steep, 3m off-width crack and climb it to a break; continue up the wider part of the crack above to a belay ledge. Alternatively, pitches 1 and 2 can be combined by taking the wall above the starting corner at 4m and following a thin finger crack which leads to the hand crack. This more direct approach upgrades the route to HVS (5a).
3. 14m. An exhilarating pitch up the steep, cracked groove above.
J. Morrison & party climbed the easier lower pitches, 1951.
R. Ohrtmann led Pitch 3 (without runners), 8/3/1953.
T. Ryan (led the hard direct start to Pitch 2), 1974.

Diarmuid claimed P1&2 running it in that nice, direct HVS approach.

I struggled a bit on P3. It was so hot that the super tight shoes I had hurt my feed more and more with every move. I was super tired, but also super happy when we topped out.

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We promptly went around to see if the abseil rope was still there, but that was also an idea that a lot of other climbers had, so the queue was rather big.

We met Vanessa and Andy there, just topping out Sarcophagus. I haven’t seen them in a while (they were rather busy lately) , so it was nice to exchange few word 🙂

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The newly wed V&A in the wilderness!

We quickly got back to the top of the Expectancy slab and abseiled from there.

With all the recent drama about anchors in Glendalough I twas nice to see a brand new & shiny abseil point there. Kudos to anyone who’s built it.

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By 8pm we were in the Glendalough hotel enjoying cold drinks with the IMC crew. They come back climbing today (spending the night in their hut). We got back home. I had enough climbing for this weekend 😉

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All the photos HERE.

 

 

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Fair Head Meet 2017

Fair Head is one my favorite places for climbing (even though I’ve only been there once before!). This place is an absolute must for anyone who is considering himself somewhat serious trad climber. I takes no prisoners, is very intimidating and absolutely unforgiving for the ego (albeit it takes all the gear you throw at it!)

There is no easy climbing at Fair Head. I think two thing are required to start enjoying this place 1. Know how to jam 2. Be comfortable leading grades  HVS/E1 (you really want to be minimum E2 climber to ‘truly’ appreciate the might of Fair Head though).

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Climbers enjoying good weather

The Fair Head Meet is an annual gathering of climbers taking place during June Bank Holiday weekend. Around 300 to 500 climbers from all over the Ireland, UK and beyond calls in to Sean’s Farm (the land owner) and for those few days totally overtakes the place.

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This was my first time attending,  mainly because in previous years I just wasn’t strong enough before to jump on anything above VS (and trust me, all the classics are always under siege, with people queuing to give them a shot).

This year was meant to be different, as I though I’d be strong enough to try myself. Unfortunately the poor weather forecast meant that a lot of my potential partners decided to stay behind (and save their weekend ‘passes’ for better occasion). Fair enough.

And here is where it got different for me – I normally don’t climb with random, just met people, but I took a chance and posted a mini add on the FB Irish climbers group ‘Looking for  Fair Head climbing buddy’. Sure enough a quickly got a response – and that’s how I met Peter.

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Turns out he was also solo for the weekend, and after some brief vetting (also known as internet stalking) we’ve decided to team up. Peter is a NI native who lives some 40mins drive of Fair Head.  He has passion for the great outdoors, been climbing for similar amount of time and grades as I do. Perfect match. Not even tinder could do it better!

I arrived to Sean’ Farm (that hosts the event) on Friday evening.  We sorted the gear, decided on early start (7am wake up) for the following day, got couple of beers and headed to the Barn for Calvin Torrans  and Clair Sheridan’s talk.

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These two are absolute legends and pioneers of Fair Head.  First ascensionist of many, many of the routes in Fair Head and beyond (over last 50 years!). Calvin, at a young age of 76, still climbs super hard, just recently (last 2 weeks)  establishing 3  new routes in E4/5 range ( example: Njold’s Saga,  E4/5, 6a/b. 2PA. 43m. C Torrans, C Sheridan. 25/5/17)

 

Saturday morning welcomed us with good weather forecast – it supposed to stay relatively dry until later afternoon (3.30pm or so).

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One of many sections of Fair Head (that itself over 2 miles long!)

We set of from the campsite as planned and were by the base of our first route by 8.30am:

Pangur Bán *** 36m HVS (5a)

C Sheridan, C Torrans. 14/10/1977.
A delightful pitch. Climb the corner and crack as for Crib Pad Crack and continue straight up past a short steep wall to finish via the sustained crack above.

I got the first lead, and with the double set of cams set out into the unknown. I got to say, Fair Head HVS is nothing like Dalkey (where average route length is 15 meters) or even Glendalough HVSs. It’s always long, sustained and just full on experience near my limit.

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Another team on Pangur Bán. Taken, just 20 mins after I lead that.

We quickly abbed off. It was Peter’s turn. He’s chosen:

Lazarus * 24m VS (4c)
T Ryan, K Higgs. 10/1977.
Climb the first crack in the gully to a jammed rocking block and continue up the groove above to an overhang. Pass the overhang on the left (crux). Continue more easily up the crack above.

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Peter getting up to the base of Lazarus.

We were flying up these routes, but more and more people started to show up. For my next route I’ve chosen:

Stone Mad 39m HVS (5a)
T. Hand, J McKenzie. 19/5/1979.
Start just right of Sabre Rattler. Climb the short slab to the start of a crack, continue up the crack past a bulge (crux) to a large platform. From here step right into a short corner with jammed blocks and continue to the top.

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Peter topped out Stone Mad.

I remember both of my leads to be very long. Longest single pitch HVS I’ve ever done. I also remember using all of the cams I had on me (and I had doubles of almost each size up to size 4 BD).

We knew the weather was closing in, so quickly picked a route for Peter:

The Offence 24m HVS (5a)
D Stelfox, R Lawson. 8/4/1980.
Runs up from the left side of the grassy ledge. Climb the arête just right of The Fence using blocky holds on the right to the base of the cracks. Climb the cracks to a ledge on the right. Continue up a crack to the top of the pillar on the left, follow the crack to the top.

Even though these last 2 routes didn’t have any “*” (meaning they’d be of high quality & recommended) they were super enjoyable, and if they were in any other place, they all would have at least one each.

As we were topping out our 4th route together, it started to rain, and we knew that was it for the day. It was still relatively early (around 3.30pm), but the forecast had ‘rain all afternoon’. It wasn’t wrong. We got back to the campsite, had some food, beer and rest, and set off to Tom Randal’s (of Wide Boyz fame) talk on his and his climbing partner’s exploits and adventures.

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Another great presentation by one of the world’s top climbers.

The Sunday plan was simple – do two quick climbs before the rain catches us (forecast for showers from 12).

8am departure with bags full of hardware got us plenty of time to accomplish that. It was definitely colder that day (tshirt climbing previous day vs 2 layers on Sun).

We got pack to The Prow sector and decided to jump on whatever was free at the time. Simple pick:

Curlew 28m VS (4c)
I Rea, E Cooper. 17/3/1985.
This takes the crack right of Revival. Climb the crack to the top of the pillar and finish up the right-hand crack.

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Peter seconding Curlew. Bit of poor rope management in the foreground. Courtesy of ‘it’s cold, I dont care!’

As I made first steps into that route, a lone American wolf from California, and aspiring crack climber, Connor, who recently moved to NI, bumped into us and asked if he could join us (we met him the previous night, so he wasn’t exactly a stranger). No problem at all, since we had extra time, and clear agenda of 2 routes for the day anyway.

For the final route of the trip Peter picked:

Good Morning Judge 24m HVS (5a, 4a)
S Billane, V McCartney. 19/3/1977.
Start in the corner beside a short chimney with an overhang.
1) 12m (5a). Climb the short chimney to the overhang. Pass this on the right and belay on the pulpit.
2) 12m (4a). Continue up the crack to the top.

I’m not sure why would someone do it in 2 pitches, we did it in one.

I actually don’t have any picks of the start of the route but chimney climbing is not something I’d have much experience with.

As I made my way up the chimney (ass jamming FTW!) two big blocks (water melon size) got loose from under my feet and hurled down with force, stopping some 200m below the crag (or so I’ve been told by people how narrowly missed them). Luckily I managed to shout and anyone at the base of other climbs managed to move aside. No injuries.

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Peter belaying, with Conor topping out ‘Good Morning Judge’

The climb was mighty, and hopefully the boys taken some shots of our struggles. Again – loads of hand jamming, probably the most of all the climb we did.

That was it for us for this weekend. Peter is travelling for work tomorrow, I was also happy to call it (mainly in light of poor weather that was supposed to hit the region).

We sorted the gear, had celebratory hard boiled egg each (cause why not!), and headed back.

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It was meant to be one egg each. Peter must have swallowed his in whole, as I swear i thought he still had it when i took that photo!

I have a feeling that’s not the last time I see him though 😉

 

Update:

I got rest of the photos here .

Also EpicTV’s coverage from this years meet is worth watching (to get a glimpse of the feel of this place ).