Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ancient Brambles arête & the lost ring

Rock Climbing is my favourite thing to do in the outdoors, the places it brings you, the freedom, the feeling of satisfaction are not really paralleled for me.
In 2009 I took a breath and realised I had not been on the rock since Easter 2006 when I spent an amazing five days at Pedraforca in the Pyrennes (including a benighting after climbing the stunning line circled in the picture).

Living in Waterford and hiking up to the amazing Coumshingaun I had been wanting to get up there climbing. I had a Saturday outing with Cormac in July to the excellent Ballykeefe Quarry in Kilkenny and then on a September Sunday I went up to the coum with Andy, where we fought through the typical rain and got up a 25m route on the south-facing cliff - Devices & Desires (HS 4B). Too many plans foiled by the weather, too little time.

Martin and I started hatching plans for Costa Blanca and that November we spent 3 prime days climbing there (including Penon d'Ifach pictured below).

I had not been on the rock since, going on 4 years. Over the June bank holiday weekend I brought my 6 year old on the climbing wall in Dingle, she flew up the 20m walls and loved it. Then I read McG's post about midweek night summer rides and I got inspired.

I started climbing outdoors through a beginner's climbing course in Dalkey quarry with the Irish 
Mountaineering Club in spring/summer 1992. On that course I made a lad, Colm, and we purchased a rope and basic rack together. 2 years later I moved to the USA, before going we split the gear, buying a 2nd rope which Colm kept, with me retaining the original. I climbed all over with this rope until I dislodged a rock at Ti Point in New Zealand in 2000 which ended up badly damaging the rope at the half way point and ending up with 2 25m ropes. I still have the damaged piece:

Colm and I had briefly got back in touch last year over a phone call but I had not seen him in a long time. I got on which hosts a wiki for climbing in Ireland and I saw 2 small crags in Westmeath both near Castlepollard. With me in Athlone and Colm in Dublin I proposed we meet up at one, the Rock of Curry, and go climbing.

We arranged to meet up the evening of Wednesday 19 June which turned out to be a lovely evening. We eventually both found the little farmers lane described on the wiki at about 7.30. The crag looked impressive, especially for the Midlands, perched up there from the road and we started catching up on nearly 20 years as we got organised.

We could hear farm equipment on the go and we kept an eye out for the farmer to have a chat. It was not long before he came up to us, he was a nice lad but unfortunately there was no way we could climb there he said. I showed him the details of the crag on the web and he was unaware of previous climbing done there in 2010 & 2011. His stance was that with the crag and access being on his land, one sue would shut him down.

It's an unfortunate situation in Ireland where there are almost no public right of ways at all. I got the farmers details and have since talked to the Mountaineering council of Ireland's Access officer who is going to contact him and expects to put him at ease. So I hope to get back to the Rock of Curry this summer!

I remembered the 2nd crag in Westmeath and getting connectivity back in Castlepollard we found the crag was close by in Fore. The small outcrop is unmissable from the town being a 5min walk up behind the graveyard. In the summer evening light the gorgeous view from the base of the crag of the valley overlooked the old Benedictine Abbey ruin of Fore Abbey where St Feichín founded an Early Christian monastery around 630 AD.

Colm had brought his rope, it turns out it was the 2nd rope we had bought in 1994, which I had never climbed on, tonight was to be the first time. The climbing wiki describes 3 routes on the rock the first put up in 1974. It must have been after 9 when I tied in and started up this route in the middle of the buttress. Starting to climb, I noticed my ring and down climbed tossing it into the side pocket of my bag. The rock was solid but had some loose bits due to not being climbed on frequently. There was an obvious crux (hard bit of the climb) which I worked on for a while, on stepping up over the bulge it felt a bit loose and taking account of the time of the day and wanting to get something done I backed off.

Really I fancied the small arête 5 metres to the right which was unclimbed! I have only put up one route before, on the North Island in New Zealand, a chimney I christened Buzzing Web. This was a not so difficult climb but it felt great to be on the rock again. As I climbed the arête the vertical ridge became more obvious and would look more aesthetic if some gardening was done to remove the vegetation.

With the fine evening we were in shorts and getting to the top of the pillar it became obvious pretty quickly when I tried to go further that I was being ripped to shreds. With the night drawing in I decided to setup a belay station which we could abseil from slinging the pillar with a 5m corlette.

When I got home I added the climb to the wiki and called it Ancient brambles arête. The following day I missed my ring and that night went through my bag - absolutely gutted to not find it. Christine had given me this ring when we got married at sunset on a boat in Hawaii, this was not cool. Colm checked and it was not in his bag. I could not believe I had not hung it on some gear and just tossed it in the bag loosely and absent-mindedly. I took a half day on Friday and rented a metal detector and went back to Fore with all the family where we diligently spent 2 hours finding and digging up old beer cans and the like. We came to the conclusion that a cow had eaten it in the grass. When I found a story about a wedding ring being found in a cow when it was cut up 3 years after being sucked off the finger I was not too hopeful. We talked about heading back with a couple of detectors checking all the patties. Also, Christine since rang the garda station and tourist office.
You can see the detecting going on in the picture!

Last night I finally got to reorganising my gear nearly 2 weeks after the climb at Fore.

Sorting my second last piece, I was blown away so see sitting on the carabiner on one of the extenders my ring! Subconsciously old habits died hard and I must have slipped the ring on a carabiner when throwing it into the bag without even realising it.
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Anonymous said...

I'll call off the divorce lawyers ;-)...Christine

Unknown said...

Super post, with the pictures bringing it to life. As usual, some drama - metal detectors and cow pats, such a Tom story :) Re. the farmer, that old line about being sued is a complete cop-out - next time you have this discussion, ask the landowner have they not heard of the Occupiers Liability Act 1995? (they will of course plead ignorance). There is no liability on the landowner for any injury to visitors (welcome or otherwise) on their land. There is NO precedent for any landowner being sued in such circumstances. Great to hear you are back climbing again - hopefully a taste for more. Finally, glad that the blog of my forehead impacting a big lump of granite inspired you to get out and climb some :)

Unknown said...

I am an IMC member living in Navan. Give me a shout if you want a partner for a trip to Fore whenever the weather picks up!_Dónal

Unknown said...

Finally got around to reading this brilliant post Tom. Brings back a lot of memories. Leaving the camera on the roof of the car after an epic climbing/caving day in NZ and driving the route next morning to find it had survived several miles before falling safely onto the verge. Once I get my wrist unscrewed I will be up for more....somewhere warm

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