Doss Day on Hobnail

(by Gerry Galligan, July 2010)
New-routing in Glendalough.

Last Sunday Shay and myself had a grand day dossing in Glendo. Back at a favourite haunt – Hobnail Buttress. We had studied a crack on the Pine Tree Slab last spring, one to the left of the well-known [i]Pine Tree Crack[/i] route, and we knew it had never been done. So what better way to while an afternoon, post World Cup?

Time seems to stand still at this crag. It has a spellbinding affect on you. When you’re the only party there, which is usually the case, a languorous mood takes over. Movement slows down and flaking the rope becomes an act of soulful meditation. “What time is it, Gerry?” asked Shay. “Time?” I replied, somewhat mystified. “It’s day-time, man.”

Onto the route. But first, the hard bit. Cleaning. It needed a make-over. So it was out with the machete, axe, brush and gear remover. Shay blissfully supervised while I worked. I thought, it’s funny how diligent we get cleaning a route in the middle of the mountains, especially when our homes are being consumed by garden jungles. Ah, but it’s all about priorities, I countered. Important jobs have to be done first. Soon a thin, clean crack emerged from the wilderness.

On with the climb. I geared up and hopped onto the slab. Up to a ramp and shallow recess. A few bits of gear went in and then moved onto the crack. Bridged up the overlap and worked from right to left. Then came to a horizontal crack. Inserted a nut and alien. Then kept going. Next the hard part – up the ramrod-straight crack. Only one problem though – it had bottomed out. I stuck a left toe into a dubious hold, recited a decade of the rosary and shimmied toward PT crack to plug some lifesaving gear. Moving up, our crack as good as disappeared. A hex got thrown into Pine Tree. Then wedging my right foot into PT, while smearing with the left, I clambered on. Next, the crack re-appeared. Almost there now. Then followed the climber’s dilemma: make a high-risk dash for the end-line, or suspend yourself in terror while inserting gear. Quite sensibly I chose the former. Shay was getting his money’s worth below. Steeling myself, I guntered towards the ledge with all the grace of an angry Sumo wrestler. Thankfully I was home. OK it wasn’t aesthetic, and on the style-scale I’d rate my performance 6 out of 10. But hey, it was a first ascent. A new variation start to Pine Tree Crack, and a meaty one at that. I reckon of a grade VS 4c.

Hobnail it must be said is a great place for a doss. There are enough interesting routes there to keep anyone amused, and the situation overlooking the lake and miners mess is great. It also offers an appealing, lazy walk-in. And unlike the main crag further up the valley it doesn’t make you feel like you’re climbing on the set of Big Brother. Because of this I’d recommend it to anyone new to climbing or, like us, if you just want to doss. “Now Shay, pass us the spliff. Second ascent, anyone?”