Roots

(by Gerry Moss, September 2011)
A chip off the old block takes a trip to the old rock.


Celia is one of only a handful of three-star VS routes at Glendalough. It was put up, in 1963, by a team that included the late Eddie Gaffney. As a token of his affection for the woman who was to become his wife and the mother of his children, Eddie named the route Celia. It was then, and still is, a demanding test piece for the grade. Fully deserving of its three stars, it provides steep, in-your-face climbing and comes complete with good jugs and gear placements.

Eddie was a great all-rounder – hillwalker, climber and mountaineer. Sadly, he died as a result of a fall while descending Monte Disgrazia, in the Bregaglia, after a solo ascent, in August 1996.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, and Eddie and Celia’s daughter, Niamh, herself the mother of two grown-up children, decides to take up rock climbing. Her first outing with the IMC was on last Saturday’s meet to Ireland’s Eye. As regards climbing, it would be true to say that Niamh is a good example of the apple not falling far from the tree: she took to the rock with great determination, positive attitude and a fast improving technique. During the course of the day she expressed an interest, at some future date, in climbing the route bearing her father’s stamp and her mother’s name. A sort of sentimental journey.

Today, we had planned to go to Barnbawn, to allow Niamh do some easy leading and get some practise at gear placements. But Barnbawn is really a winter venue, best left for those days when it is too cold to climb anywhere else. Today was too good a day for that, so when I suggested Glendalough, and mentioned Celia in passing, she didn’t have to think twice about it.

The crag is quite wet at the moment, after a week of heavy rain on the hills, but the rock was dry where it mattered. Although a fine day, the crag was unusually quiet, with just two other pairs on the rock.

Although the route looks improbably steep, Niamh coped admirably, and was delighted to discover that there are good handholds all the way up. Then, after a sos beag, we made our way over to Expectancy Slab, for her first abseil in earnest.

Then down to basecamp for a well-earned cup of tea. A good outing this, on her visit to the Glendalough crag, and a fitting way, surely, to follow the age-old exhortation to Honour Thy Father and Mother.

We will watch her progress with interest.

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