Rock Climbing: Placing Trad Gear

Whether it’s building an anchor or placing it while on lead, how can you tell if your trad gear is safe or not?

Luckily there are 5 golden rules for deciding if your gear is bomber without having to take a nervy fall to find out!

Placing Trad Gear in the Direction Of Pull

If the piece of gear you placed is only good when pulled up and you are going to fall down, then it’s not very likely to hold. Now, this might seem simplistic but it gets a little more complicated when you add in horizontal cracks on traversing routes.

If you place a piece in a horizontal crack that pulls right, but you are about traverse left, then a fall or even the rope could easily dislodge your piece.

placing trad gear in cracks

 

And remember, when placing a cam in a vertical crack, make sure the stem is angled at a 45-degree angle to the cliff (towards the ground) and not at a 90-degree angle to the cliff, otherwise under load, it could move or pop quite easily.

Quality Of Rock

If the quality of the rock you are placing trad gear in isn’t good, then it may not matter how well you place your gear.

We should investigate thoroughly the quality of the rock, both in the crack itself and the overall quality of the rock in the local area of the crack.

 

Using offsets in cracks

Quality of rock on sidewalls of the crack is very good!

If the rock has hairline cracks around it could it be friable and have potential to move or crumble under a heavy load? Remember a piece of rock only has to move a millimetre in order for your gear to pop.

 

Cam in crack

Flakes: I have seen gear placed behind suspect/loose flakes as a psychological piece to get through a movie. While this might be helpful to you on lead, if you fall it’s not just you in danger but your belayer too. Risking a bigger fall might actually be the safer thing here.

Surface Area Contact

This one should be simple but so often I see climbers not fully understand it. The aim is to get maximum surface area contact between the side of the nut/hex/cam-lobes and the side of the crack its placed in.

We can achieve this best by looking for a constriction on a crack, placing trad gear in where the crack is wider and sliding it towards where its constricted or narrowing.

Constriction alone isn’t good enough though, as maximum surface area contact between the piece and the rock ensures better hold and less movement of the piece by the rope.

Bomber nut placement

Size Matters

Yes, bigger is better, but not at the expense of surface area contact.

If you have the option of placing a number 3 nut with 100% perfect surface area contact or a number 11 nut with 70% surface, then size doesn’t matter and go with the size 3 nut. It’s more than strong enough to hold and should be trusted.

If you have the option of a size 3 nut or a size 11 nut and they both have similar surface area contact in a good quality crack, then yes, choose the bigger piece.

Deeper is better

The deeper we can place the piece inside the crack the better, however, again only if it doesn’t compromise the surface area contact.

Often we don’t have multiple depth choices with a nut as they rely more on an element of constriction. Cams however can work better in uniform/parallel crack.

So if you have the option of placing a cam 1 inch inside a uniform crack or 3 inches inside a uniform crack then obviously the latter is the better option. Just make sure you don’t put the cam so deep your second cant release trigger.

Scoring Systems for placing trad gear

I have seen people use scoring systems for deciding whether a piece of gear is good or not. I don’t use these systems for a few reasons, but mainly its because it can be totally redundant if not fully understood.

A piece of gear scoring badly on point number one (direction of pull) but brilliantly on all the other points is still likely to pull out under fall.

I hope the above post is useful. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this post.

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Mountain Leader: What is a QMD? (Quality Mountain Day)

Logging Quality Mountain Days (QMD’s) after your ML training is one of the core requirements of your consolidation.

It is important that this list of QMD’s is diverse, provides plenty of challenging moments for you and shows your dedication to becoming a well-rounded ML.

Logging quality mountain days

What constitutes a Quality Mountain Day?

A QMD should entail the following:

– The candidate is involved in the planning and instigation
– The walk would last at least 5 hours and take place in an unfamiliar area
– The majority of time should be spent above 500m, distance should be over 16km with over 600m of height gain during the day and cover a variety of terrain
– The use of a variety of hillwalking techniques
– Adverse weather conditions may be encountered

– Experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the Irish and UK hills

Criteria for a Quality Mountain Day

Challenging

The walk should be both physically and mentally challenging for you. A tired brain and legs are always a good sign that you pushed it on a day out.

If you arent tired by the walks finish, then perhaps you should have tagged on that extra peak along the way.

Exploration

Exploring new terrain and getting out of our comfort zones and the hills that we walk regularly is a great way to consolidate. We won’t be relying solely on memory to navigate and it will stimulate the all-important decision making parts of the brain.

Remember, we aren’t aiming to be a “Kerry ML” or a “Mournes ML”, we are aiming to be an ML, able to work anywhere in the UK and Ireland.

Conditions

Both the weather conditions and the underfoot conditions should provide a challenge for us. We need to be practised in all types of both so that we can be assessed and work on all types of both.

Murphy’s Law will dictate your assessment will happen on a weekend of atrocious weather, I know mine was. You have to build up that toughness and resilience along the way, so don’t only be a fair-weather trainee.

Logistics

When going to walk in a new area, figuring out where you are going to start/finish your walk, where you will park and if there are any access issues is a skill in itself.

These logistical skills will be invaluable for when you are working as an ML and have the expectations and requirements of real clients.

Quality Mountain Day Examples

The context of any QMD is important. Weather conditions, time of year/daylight and underfoot conditions play a huge part in the context of any of these examples.

Maybe that’s where the description in your DLOG can provide additional info to just distance, height and time travelled. It’s worth noting this before giving examples.

Wicklow QMD

A: Starting at Glendalough, you climb Derrybawn, Mullacor and Lugduff and continue along to Turlough hill. At this point you have 4 likely options:

B: descend the spur to the Miners Path, and take the trail back to the car park. This would be the weakest option and although you would have hit the time and distance for a QMD, I personally feel it wouldn’t count as the latter part of the day doesn’t provide any navigational challenge.

C: Descend via Camaderry, providing additional time spent on the hills and possible navigational challenges if the visibility is poor. A solid enough QMD.

D: Take the St Kevins way back to the car park. While this is more rugged and broken than the miner’s trail, it provides little challenge navigationally and I wouldn’t consider it a good QMD.

E: By dropping down to the Wicklow Gap and ascending Tonglegee and The Brockaghs, you have chosen a committed day out on the hills, will utilise lots of skills and will have logged an excellent QMD.

 

Quality Mountain Day QMD Glendalough

Kerry QMD

Most leisure walkers who climb Tomies and Purple Mountain either stop on Purple or at the Glaslough and retrace their steps to the car or drop down to the Head Of The Gap and walk home via the trail road.

While it may look like a small area on a map, both of the above would be full days out the distance and time-wise, encompassing steep terrain, major peaks and navigational challenges less obvious than it first seems.

However for the purposes of logging a QMD, retracing your steps (in this particular instance) would be a little contrived, unimaginative and personally I think a softer QMD.

Walking via the Gap Of Dunloe trail road (B) is one of the most scenic and beautiful walks in the country, but it’s not ML terrain, even after a tough climb of Purple. Not a QMD.

However, if you headed up Drishana (C) from the Head of the Gap, then down the Ballagh Pass to Strickeen, it would be a solid QMD, covering lesser travelled areas of the Gap.

Quality Mountain Day QMD Kerry

Connemara

Perhaps a lesser-visited part of the Connemara Mountains, climbing the Devil’s Mother and around Maumtrasna would make for an excellent QMD.

Steep ground, awkward underfoot conditions, potential difficult navigation across the plateau in bad weather and not a trail in sight. A great day out.

 

Quality Mountain Day QMD Connemara

The Mournes

Perhaps not the usual way to climb Donard, but by utilising the Mournes Shuttle Service or carpooling, a really great day out could be had by starting at Carrick Little.

From memory, it felt like a big day on the legs and a way in which you can encompass one of the provincial highpoints while still attaining the distance required for a QMD.

Quality Mountain Day QMD The Mournes

Exceptions

There will be plenty of times when you don’t quite hit all of the above criteria but still have a quality day in the hills and are a little unsure whether to include them as QMD’s or not.

I’m firmly of the opinion that if some of your walks hit most of the above criteria but possibly come up short in others, I still think it can be logged as a successful QMD.

Justification of why will depend on your description of the weather, terrain and events of the day.

In addition to the above info, I would add the following advice:

  • try to log walks on all 4 provinces of Ireland. If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the country then doing the 4 peaks is a good place to start. Just not by the obvious trail. Do the provincial high point one day and a lesser travelled nearby peak the next.
  • try to get to all the mountainous areas of Ireland at least once.
  • try tick off major peaks on your walks.
  • try to get to either Scotland, Wales or England at least once to hike, before your assessment.
  • get creative with your route planning and look at link up routes.
  • try log some classic “crossings” of the Irish hills. These take commitment, planning, navigation and logistical skills. There are many to choose from, for example :      
  • – The Iveragh Crossing (3-4 days)        
  • – The Sliabh Mish (2 days)        
  • – The Mournes Wall (1 long day or 2 days with camping) 
  •        – The Beara Penninsula (2-3 days)
  • – The Twelve Bens (1 long day or 2 days with camping

 

Should I log non-QMD’s?

In short, yes. Log Everything! Include everything you do on your DLOG. Even times when you gave up after two hours of persistent bad weather and retreated to your car with your tail between your legs. It might not be a Quality Mountain Day but it shows the assessor a few things, like:

  • you were willing to go out on the bad weather days, not just the good.
  • you know the frustration of what it’s like to fail, pick yourself up and come back for more.
  • That you are committed to the process of becoming an ML and that you didn’t just do the bare minimum required.

Can I just log the bare minimum before the assessment?

Technically yes. The requirements for Quality Mountain Days are set in stone. Unofficially and in my opinion, it’s a poor reflection on you as a candidate not to have above and beyond the requirements.

An assessor wants to see in you a passion for the mountains, the bare minimum isn’t a good impression.

When you start working as an ML, will you do the bare minimum for your clients or go above and beyond? If your answer to that is the former then perhaps the ML isn’t for you.

If you are interested in becoming a Mountain Leader please click here for further details.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this post or other skills or awards.

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RCI: Problem-Solving

This post will hopefully give clarity to trainee Rock Climbing Instructors around what kind of problems they will be asked to solve or discuss on assessment. If you haven’t read the problem avoidance post, its definitely worth reading too.

In this post I don’t discuss how to actually complete any of the problems that might arise, for a few reasons:

  • It would become a lengthy post.
  • you should have covered these on your training.
  • I don’t want to encourage the inexperienced to try out these methods.
  • Figuring the solutions out for yourself or with peers will lead to much better retention.
  • But please get in touch if you can’t remember how to manage one of these scenarios and have completed your RCI training.

What Problem-Solving Situations Are Covered?

We are going to look at common, less common and complex problems which could occur indoor or outdoor climbing at a single pitch crag.

If time and ability of the trainee allowed, the trainer might have chosen to discuss complex problems. However, there should have been a clear line to identify when a problem is considered too complex and outside of RCI remit.


Common problems

Examples of common problems are as follows:

  • Climber stuck on a ledge.
  • Climber moving off route.
  • Climber refusing to be lowered.
  • Climber inverting when being lowered.
  • Client belaying badly/incorrectly, under supervision.
  • Client hair/scarf/clothes caught in a belay/abseil device.
  • Knot on the slack rope below the belay device.
  • Harness on incorrectly/twisted.

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Less Common Problems

Examples of less common but still realistic problems are as follows:

  • second climbing past a runner
  • The second cant unlock the crab they used to belay you
  • The second cant remove a piece of gear
  • client belaying off a wrongly threaded gri-gri
  • client belaying of a gear loop
  • collapsing/fainting belayer
  • climber physically stuck in a crack
  • compromised/untied knot on a climber

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Complex Problems

I am including these as examples of what a trainee should not be asked to execute on an assessment or while working as a qualified RCI.

  • Y Hang, snatch or pick up a rescue
  • any scenario that involves you soloing
  • any scenario that involves you ascending/descending a rope using a prusik
  • any scenario that involves you rigging a haul system
  • counterbalance abseil

Common Problem-Solving Questions

Will I be asked to perform a “Y-hang” or “pick up” rescue?

No. While this was taught as part of the syllabus when I passed my assessment, it is no longer within the remit of the RCI.

To quote the MTA guidance notes directly “prusiking, counterbalance abseils and “snatch” rescues are beyond the scope of the Rock Climbing Instructor Scheme.

I hope the above gives a decent checklist of problems for you to practice solving, but feel free to get in touch about any scenario you would like further explained

And remember:

  • always practice problem-solving in a safe and backed up way or under the tutelage of an experienced mentor if you are unsure what you are doing.
  • problem avoidance is always better than problem-solving,

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this video or other skills.

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Reconnect to Climbing in The Burren

It can be easy sometimes to not see the wood for the trees. To spend so much time in nature that you develop a small blindspot to its natural wonder and beauty.

This would never happen if I was at a new crag or cliff but sometimes in the local spots you visit 3 or 4 times a week, it can be easy to forget to stop, look around and really take it in like you did the first time you saw it. Sometimes you simply need to decide that you want to reconnect to climbing.

Being on The Burren for instance is an integral part of both my working and personal climbing life. And the drive to The Burren can sometimes feel a little like a short “commute” rather than a scenic drive.

Landscape in Clare
Doolin

Work has been busy lately and as a consequence, the main road from Ennistymon to the coast road has been travelled quite a bit. Friday past I had my day’s work done and with the stretch in the evenings and the recent good weather, I realised I had time to fit in a decent bouldering session in Doolin.

Getting moving

So I hopped in the van and pulled out of the driveway, but something happened that made me stop and think. Instead of turning right towards the main road, I decided to turn left and take the back roads over the hill and into Doolin, rolling a theory around in my mind and wondering how it might transpire.

On the drive out there I theorized that taking a slightly more awkward drive, one with lots of narrow roads where I’d have to pull over for other traffic often and where it would be impossible to rush, that I would hopefully arrive at the bouldering area more relaxed, uplifted by the insane views of west Clare from the top of the hill and hopefully open to better problem-solving.

Reconnect to Climbing

I had a plan in mind for when I got to Lackglass. I wasn’t going to try anything too hard but instead revisit problems I’ve done lots of times before, but with the intention of climbing them this time with perfect movement and fluidity. A solo mission, with a focus, in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The first part of the plan worked, I stopped a few times on the drive to soak it all in. With it being clear and sunny I could see as from the cliffs of Moher to the Bens in Galway and everything in between, perfect swell peeling right off Crab Island and the Aran Islands across the sea in front of me.

Already the plan was feeling like a success. I was enjoying this immense natural vista as if seeing it for the first time again. Albeit from inside a car. Part two of the plan involved more of a physical reconnect.

Reconnect to Climbing
guided bouldering

It’s funny, I had spent the week around rocks and cliffs, from the volcanic ash of the Killary crags to the limestone of The Burren, but I’d been working and not playing on it. There’s a huge difference between telling someone else how to move on rock and getting on it yourself.

My plan had also removed any pressure that we sometimes put ourselves under. I wasn’t there to try really hard on a project, I was there to try really hard at getting better. Both involve repetitive failure, but the latter is a different type of failure. A more welcome one maybe.

So I warmed up and got on some traverses on Kostyas wall. Remarking to myself that these were the first outdoor problems I ever got on, close to a decade previous to now. And here I was now using them as practice for improvement rather than obsessed with just getting to the top out.

Some time went by, maybe an hour. Big waves crash behind me on the flat reefs and the heat of the sun cooled a little as the day got older. Wondering what to get my teeth into I remembered a link-up traverse problem that my friend Cian made up about 5 years ago.

Averse to the traverse

I’d always disliked the route a bit because he could do it most attempts and I would always gas out at the crux, body tension waning as feet and hands were spread wide on holds that were small and sharp. I was sure id done it then, but actually couldn’t be sure, in the way that I sometimes might not be too bothered remembering whether you had success or joy on a link-up eliminate (slightly contrived) traverse. Maybe I was just sore that he could top it and I couldn’t.

But 5 years is a long time in climbing, I was physically not as strong as then when all I did for summer was Boulder, but I was definitely climbing much smarter now. Surely with guile, I could remove the difficulty. Surely?

I love techy traverse boulder problems and I love figuring out the beta that suits me. I love bouldering. I love Doolin and the West of Clare. I love movement on rock and intense concentration. I love it when a plan comes together.

Topping out on Cians amazing, completely not contrived at all, link up traverse problem last Friday evening, using my new “smarter climber” beta was one of the best feelings I’ve had on rock lately. A total reconnect to why I love climbing and being in nature and to the addictiveness of accessing a flow state. A reminder of what I value most.

Inspiration, Effort and Time

I really like this blog. I find it cathartic and useful for relaxing.

Possibly because I now associate opening a laptop with running a business, apart from the odd occasion that I write a blog post, which is just for fun.

They’re fun to write and fun to share and it always amazed me that people actually take the time to read them.

On the few occasions that people have said to me that they read my blog, it has genuinely made me smile and feel satisfied. One face to face interaction and discussion of a blog post equal to a hundred online likes perhaps?

When I started this blog I was adamant that I would regularly post to it. That a failure to post was a failure of the website and by extension a failure of the business. My business. Me.

I don’t still feel this way, but when I started the website and this business I was both naive and time rich. The enthusiasm remains constant or if anything is amplified each day that I continue to do what I love.

Hopefully, I’ve lost the naivety.

Inspiration vs effort

Some times I tell myself that it’s a good sign that I haven’t updated the blog since last year but that’s an easy out. It’s true that my small business is a good deal busier than when I started, but to be honest it just a simple case of not planning or setting aside the time for it.

Its like hangboarding. I know I want to get better at climbing, I know it can help me greatly at getting better at climbing, I’m super psyched to get better at climbing, but I can’t find the time to consistently do a small session twice a week that will assist my improvement at climbing? I am always inspired, I just lack the effort sometimes.

But the will to exert that effort can be as easily found as it can be lost. I’m currently sitting in the map room, upstairs in Petes Eats, with a mug of strong coffee inside me and surrounded by mountains and crags synonymous with climbing. Inspiration level 100 for so many reasons.

So I found it not hard at all to type up a quick blog post and now I’m going to get outside into what is fast becoming a bright and sunny day and enjoy the stunning scenery and climbing of North West Wales.

I’m telling myself its not going to be that long ’til I post again … or get on the hangboard. Let’s see what happens.

 

sea cliff climbing
Inspired?

 

 

 

 

 

What is mountaineering?

It would take more than a short blog post to properly cover such a big topic as What is mountaineering? but lets give it a go anyway.

To me the essence of mountaineering is that it provides the adventurous with truly rewarding experiences, sometimes only enjoyed to its fullest when safely off the mountain.

But what exactly is mountaineering? Could it be simplified as saying its a cross between hill walking and rock climbing? In theory yes, but to simplify the skills involved in mountaineering is to possibly not understand it.

Howling Ridge, Carrauntoohill

The dictionary again gives a simplistic explanation: “The sport or activity of climbing mountains.

For me this doesn’t go far enough to explain the complexity of what true mountaineering is all about. To me, its about having a multitude of rock and rope skills, fitness and experience and putting all of this together to make quick but safe decisions, in an extreme environment.

Technical skills take time to learn, but with mountaineering, knowing when to use the right skills for the right terrain is as important as knowing the skills themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about mountaineering and its skills, but are unsure of where to start, or if you have a particular mountaineering objective like climbing The Cuillin Ridge or Howling Ridge, then get in contact with me by clicking here.

“The mountaineer is the person who drives their body where, one day, they’re eyes have looked.”

6 Times, so far

Why Climb Kilimanjaro Six Times?

On Monday 17th September 2018, at approximately 8.40 am, I summitted Mt Kilimanjaro for the 6th time.

I can’t really describe how amazing it feels to summit. There is no greater prize in life than the reward for hard work. Its a tough ascent, starting at midnight and climbing in the dark for 6 hours. But meeting that challenge head-on and pushing yourself through it is the key to any success.

For me, the feeling of reaching Uhuru never diminishes, it might feel different each time, but the sense of achievement and the profound nature of standing higher than any point for as far as the eye can see, at the highest point on the African continent, is truly awesome.

Climb Kilimanjaro with Earth's Edge

Personal and Professional Satisfaction

Apart from my own personal satisfaction at summitting, the professional satisfaction of seeing clients get to the top is a profound one too.  To be able to walk beside clients in those last few steps as they approach the summit sign is one of the most rewarding experiences I can ask for in my job.

Typically, some have it easier than others, but maybe those that have to push a little harder enjoy the summit all the more. At 5895 metres above sea level its certainly not a walk in the park.

Climbing Kili

I could write for hours about my experiences in Tanzania to date, but all the writing in the world won’t do justice to what it’s like to summit.

Glacier on KilimanjaroIn January 2019 I’ll be leaving for my 7th expedition, guiding for Earths Edge. It’s fast becoming a healthy addiction and a great way to kick-start another year working at this amazing job.

How will you kick-start your year?

Climb Kilimanjaro with Earth’s Edge

I work as a guide for Earths Edge, an Irish owned and ITAA bonded adventure travel agent.  If you are interested in climbing Kilimanjaro or interested in high altitude trekking in another far-flung corner of the Earth, get in touch with then by clicking on this link.

They have an excellent customer service team, based in their office in Dublin, who are happy to chat with you about any of the treks they offer.

Porters on Kilimanjaro

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The Crag booty Dilemma

The Crag Booty Dilemma

crag booty
Not a stuck nut.

Its mid June, I’m mid route and there it is mid crack. In-situ gear. Crag booty. You beauty!

Ive accumulated a wide range of retrieved or found goods in my time. Just like a professional gambler, I hope Ive got more than Ive lost.

Sometimes its a cam, the dark art of removing same among one of the finest games that can be played out on a rock face, apart from actually climbing that is.  But on this occasion its a singular nut, stuck but moving ever so slightly inside a crack. Its not been here long and there’s no obvious sign of rust. It looks like it might come out with the right amount of persuasion.

Decisions, decisions. Its a reasonably tough climb and I’m mid lead, but Ive done it many times before, I’m in no hurry and its a pleasant day. Do I clip and move on, leaving my second a gilt edge chance to retrieve or give it a quick go myself?

A complex game ensues. To start, I convince myself that the person that left it there had an inferior ability to me in the art of extracting gear. I tentatively investigate the movement of the gear, using guile, but mainly a nut key. I move the metal around in its range of motions. Probably in the same pattern its all ready been moved 100 times previously. The tentative changes to aggressive. The aggressive progresses nothing. I shake out arms and concede that my second will certainly have an easier time, whereas I had to contend with keeping balanced, they’ll opt to hang on the rope and have the free use of two hands. Surely that’s the only obstacle to success. Ive no more to offer. I admit defeat.

I announce the plan aloud to my second, as if to seem selfless and that I wish them to have a go at the fun, but really all I want is to avoid further pump and increasing fear.

“Ive two of that size all ready sure, who needs three of anything?” I fail to convince myself. Its not about getting extra gear though.

“SAFE…”

“You’re on belay, off you go”.

 

 

 

The Gap Meet and rock climbing in Kerry

The Gap Meet and rock climbing in Kerry

There’s nothing quite like an airy traverse. Questing rightwards for what seems like an age, but really isn’t, its impossible not to be affected by the exposure high on Faill Ceol. Three of the climbs on this high crag are given three stars and I’m on one of them, the amazing Kudos.

Faill Ceol
  Faill Ceol

I had a conversation recently about three star ratings on climbs. My friend suggested that the rating is mis-used and considering the three star shite we were climbing at the time, I agreed.

But then climbing is a very personal thing and perhaps not everyone would love the scenario I find myself in on Kudos.  My last piece of gear is a size 1 DMM wire, the small purple one. Its a good few metre’s off to my left, not brilliantly seated, in a small crack. Each move away from it is so easy, technically, but when faced with a long swing on small gear, my mind stalls my limbs a little.

A shout from below reminds me I’m well able and I spot good gear coming soon. I’m blown away by the scenario and quality of the climbing and despite the little stall I’m loving the adventure. Or so I tell myself.

We abseil off and move onto Scairbhn. It seems odd not to try Meltdown, as if it and Kudos  are symbiotically linked, but the wind has picked up and some more shelter would be nice.

Vicki takes the crux pitch this time and dispatches it steadily, but I still get full value from the bottom pitch, well protected and safe, but with its moments.

That wraps up the first day of the Gap Meet for me and I head off to Con Moriarty’s campsite to see who’s about. The crowd is gathering and I bump into Martin. A plan is hatched for the next day and with it an early night.

Saturday morning is dry and sunny and we head for the main face getting on Out of my reach. Its hard to fathom the steeliness and guile of the first climbers on these cliffs, climbing ground up on-sight in a time when the kind of small cams we have these days weren’t at hand. Again, the sense of adventure is high.

After lunch Martin sends The Stoop with panache. I battle with Bats, with less elan. Ill be back again for a less awkward ascent.

Climbing in the Gap
  The Gap from Poirse gully

 

We catch up with others at Kates and share a drink in the evening sun. Everyone is in good form, from those who sent their first 7C boulder problem to those who did their first trad lead, all sat at one table.

Later, back at the campsite, we settle in the communal room to hear Cons talk. Sixty slices of apple tart await 20 mouths and the odds are looking good.

What happened next though was the highlight of the weekend. Not sure what to expect, but having seen plenty of boring climbers talking about climbing, it was apparent early on that wasn’t what we were getting.

A tale of history and culture, the past and the future, of the Gap and its surrounding environment, it was one of the best talks Ive ever heard, delivered with a quiet passion and comedy. I could have listened to Con well into the night.

Maybe that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but then talks, much like climbing are a personal thing. A three star rating.

 

Leaving the cave on Bats
Leaving the cave on Bats

 

   The Gap Meet and rock climbing in Kerry

The Gap Meet and rock climbing in Kerry

The Gap Meet and rock climbing in Kerry

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Diamox

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Diamox

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Diamox

Its been eerily quiet for about 5 minutes now. Or maybe longer. Its about 5 am and the physical and mental effort of summit night is wholly obvious to the group right now.

Im holding up fine. Im feeling the incline like everybody else, but my legs and head have been in this situation before. I know where to go with it. I indulge in a little introspection. Another 5 minutes go by and with the help of Feargal Sharkey im cruising…

“I hear a lot of stories, I suppose they could be true
All about love and what it can do for you..”

Im having a love/hate relationship with Feargal for the past 7 days or so. The last song I heard playing before I boarded the flight and its become something of an ear worm.

“High is the risk of striking out, the risk of getting hurt
And still I have so much to learn..”

Its a long time before sunrise yet, but something dawns on me and not just that the puns here are as cheesy as the 80s lyrics.

“Well I know ’cause I think about it all the time..”

Its not my role to be introspective and just coax myself to the top, so I throw a few words out, a hook looking to engage the group in conversation. Get something sparked off here. Monosyllabic replies let me know I need to try a little harder.

“I know that real love is hard to find.”

I dont know where it comes from, Im by no means a good singer and theres plenty of witnesses to that right now, but I throw a couple of lines of Feargals out there for the group to hear. Thats when I realise I dont actually have the full song in my head. Just the same verse over and over. Thats going to wear thin pretty quickly, so I go back to the drawing board.

I come up with The Streets of New York. An odd choice, but sure I’ll run with anyway. A couple of lines in and I cant help feeling like im dying a death. Give me burning calves any day. Just when Im considering dropping this as an idea, in pipes Michael with a couple of lines and I dont feel so isolated any more.

A couple more songs get croaked out in the dark. I couldnt tell you what they were and Im pretty sure I got the words wrong on them all. Others join in from time to time and we keep trotting on.

I dont know how they went down with the group, am I one verse from getting pushed off a mountain? I dont know and dont really care. What I do know is some time has passed since the eerie silence and the distraction is as good a rest, well, kind of. It wont last long, but the suns coming up soon and that’ll do more for moral than I can.

Thats if it does rise, eh Brian!

Sunrise on Kilimanjaro. Pic courtesy of Brendan Hynes
Sunrise on summit night, Kilimanjaro 2016.         Pic by Brendan Hynes

The above is a description of a 20 minute period on the summit night of Kilimanjaro. It focuses on what for me seemed like the hardest and mentally tiring 20 minutes of the whole trek and does nothing to describe the rest of the trip.

How do you sum up a trip like this in a single blog post? Well, you dont even try. It can only be discovered for yourself. If you want to do that, then the first place to start is www.earths-edge.com

It was my first time to work as a guide for the amazing family that is Earths Edge. My first time to meet any of this group. We shared such a profound experience together, it will never be forgotten. I cant stress enough how much Ive enjoyed the company of each and every person on this trip. Each a very different personality and all with so much to offer the group dynamic.

“A good heart these days is hard to find.”

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Briamox

mountaineering ireland logo mountain training logo leave no trace ireland Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Briamox

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Feargal Sharkey and Briamox

Climb It advises that climbing and hill walking are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.