(by Ambrose Flynn, June 2011)
A great day on Great Gully Ridge, Wicklow.
As Fraughan Sunday (last Sunday in July) is some way off, myself, Emily and Connor decided to give in to our impetuous nature and venture into Fraughan Rock Glen. It was to our surprise that the best of the pickings were to be found on the ascent towards the Great Gully Ridge and it just so happened that we had our climbing gear with us.
The weather was fine and the ever-present midge-destroying wind was appreciated as we scrambeled towards the first pitch … I could feel the madness in the air … a few howls later I started the first pitch using 60m halves. But on reaching the first belay I was compelled to continue upwards and as close as possible to the left stopping after about 25metres and some nice climbing.
Connor followed up effortlessly as is his manner as did Emily. Connor took the next pitch and felt the madness also as he continued towards the controversial "tat belay". Emily followed and dispatched the "crux" in style and I followed enjoying the warmth of non-polished granite.
On reaching the belay we took a look at the offending tat and decided it’s always better to back up tat if in doubt … and just in time a sling arrived on the back of Lassie … trusty K9.
I took the last pitch and was drawn to the off-width crack to the right of the route, which is instantly recognizable as there’s half a rack stuck in it. The crack is both delicate and strenuous as it pushed one out and to the left but is totally worthwhile (I think the guide gives it an S 4a "Variation") and I’d grade it a stiff 4c with bags of exposure. The top-out directly above the off-width crack is also challenging as the only hand-hold is clumps of grass.
Although I was using 60m halves and extenders I still experienced significant rope drag – I’d suggest that on arriving at the off-width crack one should set up belay and bring your compatriots over to you thus reducing rope drag and when the weather is poor the position at the ‘tat belay’ is very exposed, unlike the off-width belay.
Emily followed and enjoyed the pumpy route as Connor pursued. A few howls and a spot of barking later we were chilling out eating cola bottles … num … num!
After discussing world debt and the housing market … NOT!! … we were moved to consider our options of descent. I suggested an abseil as I’d done so before but Connor was reluctant if it wasn’t necessary and a walk out was possible. Intrigued yet understanding the seriousness of abseiling we discussed further and after hearing his tales and views based upon several seasons in the Alps, I now have a more respectful considered opinion towards abseiling … i.e. if it’s not necessary then don’t do it!
An enjoyable walk down the gully ensued and a little boulder-hopping was in order … only punctuated by more Fraughan berry picking; and a master class on flora by Emily.
Hurrah (nod of the cap) to Fraughan Wednesday … Hurrah!