(by Rachel Cinnsealach, from IMC Newsletter Autumn 2004)
A weekend in Wales, with climbing, craic, and a serious accident.
On Friday 30th July, a group of enthusiastic IMC climbers departed Dublin and drove to Rosslare to catch the 9.30 pm ferry to Pembroke. Dairín, Dave Dye, Martina, Denis, Marcus and Rachel met up with some of the Dal Riada crowd at the port and boarded the boat. As it was a Friday evening, a few drinks were consumed on board and it made the crossing an enjoyable affair.
Arrived in to Pembroke about 12.30 and docked, It was about 2.00 am by the time we got to the campsite, where we all fumbled about in the dark, pitching our tents. Saturday morning, all us were up bright and early … not, but we did manage to get up, breakfasted and on the road by about 11.00 am. It was a glorious day. The group split in two. One half went off to Govens East and the rest of us headed off with Toni Burd to Crystal Slabs.
The day was amazing, the climbing was not difficult or taxing at Crystal Slabs, but just really, really enjoyable, We set up an ab rope, and abseiled right down; the cliff was so large, that the 60 metre rope did not reach the bottom of the climb and hence a second rope had to be attached. This was an experience for all of us, using our prussiks to anchor ourselves as we swapped ropes; I must add Toni was an absolute superstar, almost like our personal guide for the day, talking us through different situations. All of us led one or two long climbs and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of climbing a sea-cliff route, with the sea bashing around beneath you.
Embedded within the cliff was a mini cave, which you could crawl right through, and out the other side, here you got a view of the other crags, an amazing experience, being half way up a cliff and crawling though a cave. The tide was quick to come in, hence the second and third times we abseiled down, we could not belay from the bottom. Hence we had to set up hanging belays and belay from the cliff itself; again this was a new experience for most of us, and invaluable experience. It was really great that the climbs were of VD to HS standard, so we could learn all then new techniques in complete comfort. We returned to Pembroke about 10.00 that evening after a long day of climbing.
However, all was not good. When we arrived back to the campsite, about 11.00pm that evening, we heard there had been an accident. This hit us all really hard. One of our fellow members, Marcus, had been climbing with the Dal Riada group and had taken a lead fall. The folks climbing with him at the time, Steve McMullen and Paul Harrington, were absolutely fantastic in the situation; they administered first aid, they did not move Marcus, but removed his harness and shoes, they talked to him and kept him as comfortable as possible. Jules, a doctor from UCDMC climbing club was also present and she came down to help out, while waiting for helicopter rescue to arrive. Marcus was brought to Swansea Hospital. The above incident was a big shock for all of us, and I guess there are a number of lessons to be learnt from it. All climbers should take responsibility for themselves. It is beneficial to attend courses such as the SPA training, to learn techniques, and to practice gear placements and techniques at a low level with experienced climbers about, before leading at your limit. It is also worthwhile for all members of the club to have first aid training, so that they can help out in situations should they arise.
The following day, we got up about 9.30-ish; again it was a gorgeous beautiful sunny day. Dave kindly said he would drive to Swansea, to visit Marcus, and “the girls” were to accompany him. Ralph had arrived the previous evening on his bike, and was buzzing to get some climbing done. We split up; Denis decided to climb with Ralph at Saddle Head, and the rest were to join them on their return from Swansea.
Saddle Head is an excellent climbing spot, for those that are looking to lead VD – VS type level. Again it is necessary to ab into the climbs; however, the climbs are shorter than at Crystal Slabs and no hanging belays are necessary. Again, even with the late arrival, all of us got some good climbing in, and by the end of the evening we were all buzzing to do more, each of us with our own targets and goals, and each of us wanting to come back to lead new routes.
We returned to the pub for a night of drunken debauchery. The Dal Riada crowd had headed off to Huntsmans and we met up with them, at this stage we were no longer Martina, Dairín, Denis, Ralph, Dave and Rachel, but had decided to get into the Welsh spirit and were answering to the names of Gwyneth, Gladys, Garent, Edwin and Hue. Leaving the pub at 11.30-ish, we headed back to the campsite, where the party continued in the “party tent” for some time after.
On the Monday morning, the weather was not as good; a faff-around day was had by all. We struck camp after a nice fry-up and headed down to White Haven beach for some swimming and bouldering, We boarded the ferry at 1.30, with our spirits still high; we had our de-naming ceremony to renounce our welsh names, and this was followed by a dancing ritual on deck, I must admit we did get some strange looks. An exhausted but contended crowd drove back from Rosslare to Dublin on Monday evening.