Why’s Dis Climb Called Dat?

(by Steve Young, from IMC Newsletter Autumn 2010)
Steve tells us about his arrival in Ireland, and explains some of his Dalkey route names.


Hey Mister Young, if you’re out there in Canada send us more photos and stories from the temple – Luggala. Your last dispatch was great, seeing you and the other hard chaws from the 70’s, hearing the routes you put up and how they got their names. And hey, I’d appeal to any of your cronies to do the same. We know you’re out there. And not just stuff on Luggala. Glendo – The Quarry – Donegal – Fair Head – anywhere. Come on, this is great history, we love to see and hear it. I know others feel the same.

After calls from John Duignan and Barry Watts to put something down on paper for the IMC Newsletter how could one say no to such a “forum call” from Gerry Galligan on April 13, 2010.

New Routing

Somehow the thrill of seeking out new places and lines to climb has a far greater appeal to me than doing the existing routes or climbing harder and harder problems. Perhaps it was some latent explorer gene that was bursting to get out. Having previously climbed on the extensively developed granite of S.W. England, the opportunities there for new discoveries and lines were extremely limited; hopefully Ireland would be different. The excitement of the new route challenge is there; one must climb within your capability, both up and down. You never know what is ahead but hopefully you can remember how to reverse the moves if the impossible is reached.

The Gear

My initial rack in Ireland consisted of a Troll belt, through which you threaded the rope and secured it around your waist with a bowline and keeper knot. Protection consisted of a number of tape and rope slings for spikes and flakes, 3 Peck crackers (1/4”, 1/2”, 1”), 1 wired 3/16” Peck cracker, 3 Clog hexes and a 1/8” brass Clog on impossibly stiff wire, a small versatile Troll wedge and the one and only saviour, the MOAC wedge on tape. A ton of steely crabs and one Pierre Allain alloy crab completed the equipment. This crab had the dubious distinction of going “furry” after a day on the sea cliffs! Depending on location, a wide selection of chrome-moly pegs and hammer were carried and even a bolt, hanger and drill! After the arrival (1973) of our own walking climbing shop in the form of Bob Richardson I expanded the protection to a set of 10 Choui Hexcentrics and a wallet full of alloy crabs. The steely’s were gratefully accepted by others. The faithful blue Compton lid topped me off and a pair of Terray Saussois big wall boots or a pair of EB Super Grattons had me shod. How could I forget the infamous 8 that produced copious amounts of brass filings when abseiling on a gritty cleaning rope!

In the Beginning

On my arrival at Rosslare early one misty Wednesday morning in Autumn 1971, the climbing potential was soon realised. A stop by a grotto outside Wexford town, a run across the dewy grass and I was up a nice cracked slab. My old A40 Somerset had made it this far, I travelled light; my clothes, tools to fix the car, climbing gear, my mineral processing notes from University and a photocopy of pages from “Where to Climb in the British Isles” by Edward Pyatt that related to Éire. There was no mention of these rocks!

Thursday evening after work at Avoca Mines, I explored Bell Rock for its climbing potential, again no mention in Pyatt. I believe modern activity has developed this interesting rock!

The next evening I was up on Mottee Stone Hill, a-bouldering without a beanie and even following Ireland’s early via ferrata.


Steve Young in 1973, on the Mottee Stone

Now, it was the weekend; with no GPS, mobile phone or Climbing.ie forum or route database I set out to find the brief but intriguingly described Glendalough, Luggala and Dalkey climbing potential. The magic mist of an early Irish morning (I had not found Guinness yet) accompanied me across the wonderful road from Rathdrum to Laragh and onto the all but deserted car park by the lake at Glendalough. By the time I had eaten my “sarnies” and cheese, washed down with Tizer, explored the old mining buildings, examined the roll crusher, I headed up the scree towards the musical “clank” of gear. High on the dark granite to the right of the main buttress, two climbers battled with gravity. A call up to them was almost unintelligibly answered by “F-O”. Boy! the natives weren’t friendly. I headed off back down the scree past huge wild-looking goats. (I was later to learn it was Christy Rice and Doug Milnes on the first ascent of Rock Island Line). The initial reaction was, lots of nice-looking routes, obviously cleaned lines, little scope for my exploratory side, keep away from the natives.

Next it was on through Annamoe, past the church high on the hill at Derralossary, where President Erskine Childers was to be buried a few years later, past Roundwood and up the Sally Gap road to the gates above Loch Tay. Wow! That’s a crag. Little did I realise what a hell of a walk back I was to have as I skipped down the sheep-shit-strewn road to the lower gate and off down to the river, its stepping stones and access to the huge boulder field below Luggala. The crag offered a somewhat appealing sight but somehow there was something not right; were they slabs, what with all the vegetation, were there cracks, why did it look so “unvisited”? Lots to be done but I was soon to learn from “pub tales” that it was an ominous place and best to stay away from its lichenous garb! Didn’t meet any unfriendly natives!

It was Sunday; again I woke early and headed north in search of Dalkey, a quarry that appeared to be in the middle of a residential area. I parked at the top car park, walked across to the tower and view the scene below and over Dublin and the bay. Climbers punctuated the broken walls and gorsy ledges. I zipped down the steps and around to an area known as the East Valley. Here, three swearing climbers fought over who was to first tackle the white lift of granite; it was Diphthong. This trio was my greatest find to date, Jimmy Leonard, Joe Mulhall and Paddy Lyons. The end of the rope was handed to me; their argument was over, my trial began! Next it was Triptych; arrangements were made for Thursday night at the Teachers Club and my introduction to Guinness by Paddy. There was obvious potential within the quarry, blank unclimbed areas of rock, ivy-covered walls, vegetated cracks and friendly climbers! I acquired my “Climber’s Guide to Dalkey Quarry” (the 1964 O’Flynn edition) at this first IMC meeting.


Diphthong, autumn 1971

And now for the names

Cathy Crackers: this route started my quarry gardening. I was soon to become “the mad English gardener”, a name that I soon re-acquired over here in the Canadian Shield. A long strip of thick grass ran the height of the cliff; with a little prodding, it released from the line of the route to end up like a roll of carpet at the bottom. People lined up at the bottom to get in on a first ascent. As for the name, she inspired many routes!

Distrust: without an up-to-date guidebook, information and names were usually passed along at McDonagh’s pub over a toasty and a pint. I thought Thrust was actually Trust; it was either due to the noise in the pub, the slurred Guinness speech or my problem with the Irish brogue – was it “did I want thick socks” or “six socks” or were these to the be “3 pairs” or “12 socks”? The route needed extreme cleaning to remove ivy, loose rock and other vegetation (and from the look of the 2005 guide picture it never became a popular route). Tools of the trade included an entrenching tool and yard broom. Fuelled on sardines and Tizer, the route became reality. After we learned the true name of the adjacent route, Distrust seemed an apt name for the route that tackled the first loose rock in the quarry. Paul McHugh on the second ascent with Leslie Wooton confirmed its difficulty and character; it lead to an invitation a few weeks later from Sé Billane to join the Spillikin Club. Dónal Ó Murchú saw to it that I never achieved the entry requirements!


Distrust first ascent, 1972

Tipp Toed: came from having a girlfriend from Tipp. The peg was placed to prevent a potentially ugly ending on the steps. Remember she married me for my looks!

Yellow Line Rider: Bob Richardson’s breach of the Central Buttress, the first new route on the rock for 24 years. The name was derived from the Richardson brothers’ hazardous biking antics; they were the original Dublin bike couriers. Another 10 years and improvements in gear and training would pass before other features were named.

Brown Sugar: the rock had the consistency of BS.

Time Burner: exposed after a fire cleared sections of rock at either end of White Wall. A burnt-out watch lay on a ledge at mid-height.

Black Hand Gang: this route possibly lit the fuse on Gerry Moss; after the climb we both had “black hands” and were fired to explore.

Ultima Thule: our first venture out onto the “blank stuff”, “beyond the borders of the known world”; Seán Darby’s lead of the second pitch was impressive.

Visions of the Emerald Beyond: horizontal exploration heading for a patch of emerald grass over beyond Helios. A lot of new ground was covered.

Creeping Paralysis: what I believe was my hardest “aid-free” new route. Paralysed with fear, EB’s, no chalk and a long fall in the offing, the name seemed obvious.

Siesta: that afternoon I teamed up with Mick O’Shea; the banter was voluminous. After the climb, I went to see Ester, but I could not spell her name in my message to Dónal.

Mahjongg: spelling again, is it “g” or “gg”? . Extensive cleaning never seemed to get down to “solidity”. The Chinese game that involves a lot of little bricks seemed apt; each hold was a loose little brick! It was nearly called “7 Up” but we could not find two additional people to meet the loose challenge. Jim Butler wore his sandals (so the story goes) and Bob Richardson was mad that I didn’t let him lead it. I put in the hard graft to make the route so I should get the first crack at it!

Solid State: the micro-electronics age was just starting; the rock was far from Solid State, climbed in a gale while carrying an empty ruc-sac. The additional lift got me up; my accomplices Dónal and Jim B were unable to follow.

The Gnasher: first ascent 12.8.72 and not as recorded in the 2005 guide. Shame about the aid but it did lead to its future free ascent. The “nash” was of the Cathy fame.

Dillon’s Dawn: an aid extravaganza climbed the day Nash became Dillon. Again in the 2005 guide the ivy fights back. Free-climbed 20 years after the first ascent; should I have left it unclimbed?

Superette: the aid or super étrier was used as the route was battling up through ivy.

Orcrist Goblin-Cleaver: Ivy Wall area was thick with ivy. The initial explorations involved chimneying between the rock and the creepers and utilising a 17” long First World War bayonet as a machete to rid the wall of the infernal growth. Pre-environmental awareness! Tolkien inspired the name.

Damocles: another famous sword; I would not have wanted to fall carrying that weapon.

Tenashity: word play, shitty hanging on.

The Shield: the once-obvious iron disc, now sadly removed.

Eleven’s a Crowd: the Eliminates were crowded; I wanted to climb unhindered.

Up Slide Run: progress seemed to be up, slide, run.

Re-Entry: the reason for the name escapes me; the 2005 guide description makes me believe the route lacks ascents and it is wet. At the time of the first ascent, it was quality clean rock, spoiled only by the peg. Second ascent by Dónal Windrim confirmed its quality at the time.

Lumberjack: Christy Rice and others employed the first major quarry clear cutting of the ‘70’s.

Oggie: the name for a Cornish pasty, to match the Yorkshire Pudding theme for British regional food!

Stereo Tentacles: popular stereo music was just beginning; reaching out during the final bridging sequence was like music coming from different directions compared to the earlier thin moves. Dónal screamed in stereo as he stretched to bridge!

Shatt: described in the guide as dubious rock, to me it was “shattered” and so were we. Pre-cleaned on abseil from “stacked hexcentrics”, newly arrived from the USA with Bob Richardson.

Subpoena: Nixon, Watergate and all that.

For a future Newsletter, "Why’s Dat Climb Called Dis?" will explore more of my route names in Luggala, Glendalough, Clare and other places.

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