Wonders of Wicklow

So here we are, June 2017 and abroad again, continuing the pattern that has sustained me beautifully over the past eight years. It’s my birthday and i’m in Ireland as i turn the lofty age of 33.

While many things are different this year – i’ve not been away with a baby in tow before, certainly not my own! – there are many things that remain satisfyingly familiar. After a morning/early afternoon of faffage, we’ll be heading out for a climb again, after checking out the spectacular valley and awesome blocs of Glendalough yesterday.

So here’s a recap of events since my last post and an insight into this Irish trip.

The prep

Em and myself opted for very different ways of preparing ourselves for this adventure: Em took Rosie south for a few days to celebrate her dad’s birthday and go to a gig while i stayed home to work, unburdened by the responsibilities of parenthood.

This coincided nicely with a period of glorious weather and, unencumbered by evenings making baby bottles and dealing with soggy nappies, i headed out into the hills. Every night.

It helped to have some super psyched lads from work joining me and over the course of three evenings, i ticked off no less than 12 climbs i’d not managed to date.

Si Lake joined for Dan Webb’s latest foray from string as we made the last minute change of venue up to the Wavelength boulders. Si completed an impressive ascent of King of Drunks sit 7a (North Wales premier 7a no less) while Dan completed Wavelength Central 6b. Meanwhile, i surprised myself with a snap tick of King of Drunks Right Hand 7a+ that i didn’t really know existed until recently and found it the most outstanding line! Climbing at the Indy has helped, if you haven’t done it, go there soon.


That was Wednesday and Thursday saw me head to the venue that was my original destination the previous day: Upper Tier Tremadog. Dan was supposed to join us but after an unexpected family related calling, left the session to me and his fellow AI from Plas y Brenin, Rich Cooper.

Tremadog is known possibly worldwide for it’s outstanding trad climbing but there is currently no documented bouldering. That’s about to change with the release of the new guidebook and we went to explore.

Oh my Jesus wept, what a venue! We barely made it past the second boulder, getting sucked into some awesome blocs. We both made good progress, ticking various lines and having a great session.

Friday was coaching but it turned out there was time beforehand to get a sneaky session in. After some fannying around, i ended up at the Gelli boulder for a solo mission, going off northwalesbouldering.com and ticking the entire crag. I even added my own first ascent, named Wottalottacockacino 7a+. A long name but a good one, i hope.

Heading West

Anyway, fun though last week was, this is traditionally the highlight of my year (although this year, it’s hard to beat the birth of my daughter so i’ll specify the climbing highlight). Bless her, my significant-better-half-other understands how these things matter to me and is keen for me to keep it up and equally keen to come and have adventures with me. This is, after all, the woman who flew to Stockholm to drive hundreds of miles in a Land Rover with me last summer… I always knew she was special.

This year, having a four-month-old baby restricted our options significantly – so much so, i didn’t even bother with jokes like leaving her at home… As such, we opted to use one of the easy options that has been in the back of my head for a few years.

The ferry to Ireland takes around three hours, the port of Holyhead a mere 40 minutes from home and the Wicklow mountains are only an hour south of the port in Dublin. Before anyone says it, no, i have no interest in going to Fairhead as apart from anything else, having had the Bouldering in Ireland guidebook for years, the Wicklow area accounts for a third of the book and Glendalough is supposedly the best bouldering in the coutnry. I don’t need much more to tempt me somewhere!

I’d taken two days off work before we set off and so these were dedicated to seeing grandparents briefly and packing ready to head off on our first family forray. As the moment approached for us to take the plunge, Rosie just didn’t quite seem right. Conscious of the situation we were potentially heading for – and that we were yet to clean the kitchen – we opted to play it safe and lose a day at the start rather than risk losing the whole trip with a sick baby.

She wasn’t sick, she was fine, just a bit baby-like and so 24 hours later, this time with a gleaming kitchen to come home to, we left the house and headed for Holyhead.

After a restless night of broken sleep, which Rosie decided to see through without a wink on the ferry, keeping me up, we found ourselves in her first foreign country! A brief stop off at The Scalp just south of Dublin (where i was surprised to find a little bouldering venue – complete accident!) to take Tess for a little scenic walk in the woods ate up some time before we headed to the Roundwood Caravan site, which turned out to be lovely. Tent pitched twice, as we searched for shade from the baking heat and all three of us crashed out, exhausted.

We woke, cooked and battled with sterilise-by-boiling on a camping stove; something that is quite time intensive but effective. Then Rosie’s first night under canvas and the little trooper took to it just like her parents. She was, as she always is, a gem.

Yesterday saw our first full day and after more faffage with sterilising bottles, we headed to the boulders at Glendalough through the stunnng valley. The walk on it’s own would’ve been a fantastic day but the boulders really do live up to their billing.

I do get the impression that the big boys have yet to come here to play, although that may be because we didn’t venture far enough into the venue, distracted by the immediate problems. The last section proved tricksome with a pushchair but we’re back up there once i’ve finished writing to explore more. There was certainly enough to keep us happy for a week!

But i tell you what, i really couldn’t ask for a better family. I have an immensly supportive better half and a daughter who takes all these activities in her stride. Children do change your life and you just can’t do what you did the way you did it. But as i stand in Ireland on my 33rd birthday, ready to head back out to do what i love to do, i thank everything i can think of for these two wonderful ladies that they mean i can still pursue my passion.


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