A Slightly Less Ranty Post About Irish Tourism and Bouldering

Firstly, apologies for the ranting in my previous post. Some aspects of the trip did annoy and frustrate me, considering my background and expertise but that doesn’t mean i want to inflict that on my good readers. So, here’s a photo of me, Tess and my daughter looking super cute in the tent two days after my birthday, chilling to the Jungle Book soundtrack:

Now that we’ve brightened the mood, back to the activites of last week. As i’ve said, it wasn’t just a climbing trip this one, with family time being just as imortant and with that in mind, the Sunday was to be spent doing just that. The problem was we didn’t really know what family time should involve around the mountains of Wicklow…

After a morning of mild indecision, eventually we did head out, dropping in to the “market” in Roundwood – actually just a handful of old ladies with cakes and plants for sale in the local Church hall – before heading North. The plan was to head into Bray, to try and find an outdoor shop and buy gas, before grabbing something to eat and seeing where the wind took us. Little did we realise that it was Sunday in a very Catholic country.

Everything was closed, much as the same way as i’ve experienced around Europe in the past. A quick search online showed our intent to buy gas was doomed from the start and tensions started to fray as the day ticked on and we hadn’t actually done anything. We drove along the coast but were stymied by the roofbox and the added height and it began to look like we’d not achieve anything when unexpectedly, we found ourselves at the Great Sugar Loaf.

An obvious tourist trap – born out of the fact it’s visible for miles around – The Great Sugar Loaf is one of those unique mountains/hills that sits isolated from everywhere around it. At 501m above sea level, and with the road and car park eliminating quite a chunk of that ascent, it’s not really a tough walk, even considering the scrambly gully. It was a nice little wander and the view at the top was outstanding! We could see over Dublin, across to the Wicklow mountains and right across County Wicklow. Busy with people – and you could certainly understand why on such a nice day – it was a great little find and meant we headed back to the campsite after a successful Sunday after all.

Monday came and to my surprise, i was treated to another climbing day. I say surprise as to be honest, i didn’t think we’d get another one in but Em did a sterling effort in dragging us out quickly and efficiently, proving it is possible, and the poor forecast turned out to be a false one.

Yet again, we headed up the valley in Glendalough; partly because the crap guidebook didn’t actually show us where any other crags are but mainly because i had unfinished business on Andy’s Arete. At the car, we loaded up and i was keen to test out getting me, Rosie and all of our stuff in to the crag ready for Baby leave this summer. So, i saddled up with the Petzl pad on my back, my climbing bag and changing bag hanging off the back and a baby strapped to my front.

The problem was that i couldn’t get the waistband up properly so all the weight was pulling down hard on my shoulders. As a consequence, i was leaning forward quite a bit. That meant that little Rosie’s head drooped quite badly and then needed supporting by my hand. We got more than our fair share of funny looks on the way in! and i have enormous gratitude to Em for taking the baby and an unladen pad on the way back.

After a quick break to catch my breath and allow myself to stop sweating, i got on some of the boulders close to the path. These are really convenient and indeed meant i could also keep an eye on Rosie and not have to run off on my own. There are also some real gems in there. But then we get onto the subject of grading…

Now i’m aware that i advertised this post as less ranty than the previous but this does need to be said: the grades in Glendalough are shit.

Let me explain. In any area, there is often a disparity in what climbers think is, say, a 7a compared to elsewhere in the world. That’s quite normal and is to be expected but in the Wicklow mountains, it seems this is just that step too far. There were apparently classic 7a climbs there that i couldn’t figure out how to step off the floor (not a problem i usually have) as the holds were simply too poor. That just doesn’t happen on 7a.

On Saturday’s session, it took three attempts to finish off a simple 5 – and that was on the second session. Remember that not last year i climbed 7c+ in North Wales. Yes, i’m off form, and yes, i’ve not long had a baby but a fall from grace this large would only really result from a substantial and debilitating injury. A week before we left, i flashed a 7a+.

Now we're back, I get to regale the story of our trip to #Ireland to anyone who'll stand still long enough to listen! Here I am, #hangingout while trying Mark's Problem 7a+ which didn't go. Once back and ticking stuff on my @27cragsofficial logbook, I found out it's actually called Greg's Problem Traverse at 6b+. Always nice to tick something you didn't realise was even there! In #climbing terms, our time in #glendalough didn't quite meet my hopes but what a place! And the #bouldering certainly warrants a return! Thanks @emks93 for the photo and the support during the trip #irishbouldering #irelandbouldering #wicklow #wicklowbouldering #glendaloughbouldering #sandbag #rockclimbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

A post shared by Chez de la Bloc (@edwards.pete) on

You could make the argument that it’s a very different rock type to back home and you’d be correct, granite is a very different beast. It was when i climbed on granite in Ailefroide in 2005 and 2006, in Val Daone in 2010, in Squamish in 2011, in Zillertal in 2013, Magic Wood in 2012 and again in 2014 and on Dartmoor in 2012. That’s not to mention last year’s Great Swedish Bouldering Tour, mostly on, yup, granite.

I’ve also climbed hard while away. No less than two of my 7c ascents were abroad, as well as several 7b and 7b+ ticks. The point of this isn’t to blow my own trumpet, it is just to offer some evidence to the opinion that the vast majority of these climbs are at least two grades undergraded, compared to almost everywhere else i’ve been.

You could also make the fair point that we were there out of season, at the height of summer at the end of June and you’d be right too but again, bear in mind that all bar two of the places listed above were at exactly the same time of year. No, pure and simple, listen to me when i tell you, dear Irish climbers: your grading is just pure wrong.

Andy's Arete in #glendalough is one of the best climbs I've tried anywhere, not to mention in #Wicklow. It is immense, and a testament to the #quality of #irishbouldering. It is not 6c. The problems with grading here were huge in all of the climbs I came across and it was something I have gone into depth about (slightly more than I intended) in my latest blog post, link in bio. It shouldn't matter but sadly it does, it puts people off and makes a mockery of the system. And considering how amazing the rock and the #climbing are, it is nothing short of a travesty that needs to be addressed if they ever want to attract people to this wonderful country. #Ireland #wicklowbouldering #glendaloughbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing-pictures-of-instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #meclimbing

A post shared by Chez de la Bloc (@edwards.pete) on

It shouldn’t matter but the fact is it does. Grades are a measure of your ability, a way of selecting climbs that are at the level of difficulty that you want to try. When you get shut down on something you should theoretically be able to achieve, it is demoralising and can even put you off an area.

In many ways it was very similar as we trudged over to try Andy’s Arete ss again at 7a+. The bottom section hadn’t proved too bad, just the top to finish off and complete. So after a few tries, i opted to try the stand, mainly to work the upper moves.

I’d snatched for the right hand hold on the arete but not held it and didn’t really know how bad it was to be. Again, based on the grade, i was expecting it to be a pretty decent hold that allowed me to readjust before slapping the top. When i caught it and found out it was worse than the previous hold, i was more than a little surprised. It took the entire rest of the session to get the stand start complete. The grade: 6c.

Now, this really did annoy me, i shouldn’t be struggling like this on a 6c and if it hadn’t been for the conversation with Ryan mentioned in my previous post, i’d be more than likely trudging back in a proper sulk, shocked at being utterly abject compared to my former self.

Now the stand was done, i was keen to finish it from the sit start, the beta wired, although by this point i was conscious of Em beginning to get a bit bored. I did try a few more times, with an eye to her perhaps trying some of the quality lines on the Big Jim boulder but when the spots of rain arrived, i thought the bad weather was gonna hit us and we packed up quick. The stand will have to wait and i’ll have to return. If i didn’t know better, it would be easy just not to bother.

And therein lies the problem for Ireland and the Irish bouldering scene. Couple this latest one with the two issues mentioned in my last post and you just can’t see Ireland becoming a major bouldering destination any time soon. And here was me saying i’m not going to rant… Oops.

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