One good day at Ailladie is worth all the rest. The “rest” often being dripping wet and strong onshore winds.
Saturday was one good day.
In my mind, Ailladie is the second best crag in Ireland. It would easily be the best were it not for a wee crag called Fair Head, but then I think Fair Head is the best crag in Europe, so my opinions might be a bit biased and parochial.
Getting to Fair Head represents a reasonable logistical challenge for me though, so with the blind mans cliff being less than 20 minutes from my front door I really look forward to the Burren meet each september.
I do most of my climbing and most of my work on The Burren. It’s common enough to see little or no traffic on the cliffs, but with this year’s meet being a joint Dal Riada and IMC meet, I had the feeling there was going to be a good turnout, all we needed was the weather report to go in our favour.
Early indications were that it would be a wash out, so I started my Meet on the wednesday beforehand and clocked up a nice tally of routes by Friday, with the help of Alan, Eric and Fionnuala. Nothing too hard, much like the Irish rugby team, I take a while to get into the swing of things.
Saturday morning arrived and so did the weather. The sun was out, the wind was calm and I was feeling confident. At the lay-by I enlisted Martin and Eva for a belay and some psyche and had a go on a route that spat me off once before. Line of Fire has a reputation of being bold and loose and the first time I tried it, a few months ago, I think I let the reputation get into my head. Turns out it’s actually quite safe, with some bomber gear and fairly solid rock and with an unusual amount of confidence I topped out quickly.
As I set up anchors I looked around the crag. Paul was topping out nearby on Skywalker, Brian and Zoubi strolled by and it was clear from early on that the psyche around West Clare was high.
I seconded Eva on Moon Rill and was psyched to see her cruise it in style.
The crag was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. Lazily walking back to our bags for some lunch it was great to chat to so many people. Also, I had my eye on climbing Stoned next and was in no hurry to get scared. The guidebook might say its soft for the grade but the start is bold and you probably don’t want to fall starting the crux moves either.
Thankfully there was plenty of distraction and I took a break in the sun and lay on a boulder. There were more people climbing on Aran wall simultaneously than you would normally meet in a whole week at Ailladie and it was awesome to see it. With so many friends pushing themselves on tough climbs, it was easy to ignore my own ambitions.. and fears.
Nastya was cruising on Sunstone. Adam was super solid on Marchanded crack. Robin was stoked to be topping out on Lucy, but there in the middle of the wall was Chloe, epitomising what it means to try hard and never give up on Eliminator.
Watching them all had a positive affect on my courage, I had no excuses anymore and conscripted Paul for the sort of assured belay that he would bring. And Bren for a spot, just in case.
Again, before I knew it I had topped out and was stoked to be building an anchor and basking in the sun. Finding a crafty peanut placement just before committing to the crux making the moves all the more palatable.
I had climbed Stoned before, but it’s been a few years. Its been a few years since I pushed myself on rock at all. With setting up a business, buying a house and committing so much time to passing my MIA qualification, it seems like my climbing progression had stalled. I’m so happy to have done all of the above, but equally happy to have found time to push myself again.
I’m sure some people wouldnt have to push themselves to climb the grades I do, but grades are relative… etc etc blah blah blah. Stoke is also relative and that feeling is’nt exclusive to the uber strong.
Anyway, that’s a nice segue to Saturday evenings talk. Angus knows a thing or too about uber strong. He’s also quite funny and self deprecating so he went down well with the local crowd, who had gathered to hear him talk in O’Donoghues.
I first met Angus in 2015, just after he did Rare Lichen, his first E9 and had a good idea of his back story, but it was great to hear him describe his journey so far in more detail. He brings such a level of articulation and passion when talking about climbing. He lives and breathes to climb and that’s super inspiring. That and all the hard grades.
“Inspiring” is a word that can be bandied around alot after talks, but I was inspired and not just by the talk. On the short drive home I thought about what had inspired me and made saturday such an amazing day on The Burren?
All of the above, I guess.
*Sunday was pissing rain. Ah well, that’s West Clare