Glendo On-sight Delights

(by Ambrose Flynn, June 2011)
A weekend climbing the classics of Glendalough.

Two weeks ago the long-term weather forecast for Éire was sunny … sunny … sunny. Therefore a weekend trip to Glendo was the only sensible option. But alas, the Atlantic Ocean had other plans in store and closer to the date the weather ‘forecast’ looked decidedly more "Irish"!

Being stubborn folk we decided regardless to frequent the IMC Hut for two days and see what the weather gods had in store for us.

Saturday was a beautiful 20+C with just enough breeze to confine the evil midges to their lairs! The wonderful Quartz Gully was our first port of call. I had the pleasure of climbing Quartz Gully last year but this was Barry’s first attempt and he dispatched the crux second pitch with style. The 60-metre abseil from the Expectancy slab to basecamp was equally enjoyable.

We then switched our attention to Expectancy as Emily joined us for shenanigans … climbing Expectancy, Georgia, Adam’s Rib and Lassitude with the occasional sun-worshiping taking place. Emily left us and we decided to "take a look" at Cracks on the Garden of Eden.

The first pitch of CotGoE (nice eh?) provided a difficult layback start that led to a nice spacious ledge that was unfortunately the home to every midge in Wicklow … that apparently like to attack a belayer’s eyeball with enthusiasm and dedication. Barry took the second pitch and dispatched it in style urging me, on topping out, to take my time and enjoy the pitch … fantastic off-width crack climbing. I started the third crux pitch with light fading feeling strong and confident but on reaching the steep wonderful crux my hands started to sweat and as I reached round for the sanctuary of my chalk bag it decided to plummet to the second belay station (if found a return would be appreciated) thus developing the ebbing away of my "strength and confidence". I decided to down-climb and Barry took lead but due to failing light and our head-torches being in our rucksacks at Expectancy he moved left of the crux and so it was the quickest coiling of ropes and abseil ensued as we reached our rucksacks as we we’re enveloped in darkness. An exhilarating and informative experience no doubt!! But alas, the burden of walking back to the IMC Hut was lessened by the arrival of our saviour, Vincent. And so it was we awoke on Sunday with a slightly sore head and empty stomachs but still looking forward to another day’s climbing and the arrival of Áine.

We walked into Glendo with the spectre of rain a real possibility, however sometimes blind optimism pays dividends.

Barry and I decided to see what all the fuss was about and headed for Prelude Nightmare while Vincent and Áine were braver and hit Sarcophagus.

I took the first pitch of P.N. and really enjoyed the ramp and the delicate climbing on the slab. Barry led the second pitch with ease and as the exposure increased his enjoyment increased. The third pitch was fantastic starting with the steep right-angled corner and an airy ascent up and traverse onto Nightmare Ledge … it didn’t disappoint … what a fantastic belay ledge.

Barry took the final crux pitch and in no time was calling "safe!" I deconstructed the belay and followed up onto the "sensational swing" rightwards and towards the enjoyment of exposed and atmospheric Glendo climbing … what a pitch and situation. Cue the applause for Mister Kenny, Ohrtmann and Winder … fantastic climbing.

Word had reached us at this stage of events that the rest of Éire was under water but Glendo saw only the occasional mist and it was from this mist we heard the familiar French voice of Vincent coming from the "small belay ledge" after the crux third pitch.

He proceeded to inform us that the third pitch was "interesting" as he belayed Áine. I believe my chalk bag wasn’t the only thing left in Glendo that weekend as some of Vincent’s skin may be found on a quartz handhold … the return of which is not necessary. I digress!

Being ravenous we decided to call it a day and our chef mister Murphy assisted by his French partner in crime cooked up a storm … only to be surpassed by Áine as she whipped out the Romantica … bloated we retired to the "minute movement devices" known as the air mattresses.

Monday began with the arrival of Emily and Jo, the departure of Vincent and the arrival of a beautiful day with the all-important midge-slaying wind present!

Myself and Emily headed for Cracks on the Garden of Eden for a rematch with the third pitch, while Barry and Jo hit Quartz Gully for Jo’s first Glendo multipitch adventure.

Once again I was amazed with the quality of the climbing on CotGoE as I led pitches one and two with the spectre of the third pitch getting closer and closer … and it didn’t disappoint … what a fantastic steep pitch. This time the crux went first time and with comfort which was displayed verbally with hoots and howls. Meanwhile, Emily was climbing and enjoying each pitch as this was her reintroduction to multipitch climbing after several years’ multipitch absence.

We descended to Expectancy to meet Barry and Jo who dispatched Quartz Gully with style and vigour.

Jo then led Expectancy comfortably and Emily, who led her first HS route the day before, decided to lead Lassitude (VS) with little resistance. With all troops content and at peace we decided to call it a day.

The weekend provided many challenges and experiences each of which contributed to an overwhelming sense of peacefulness and fulfilment. But, like all questions answered "I wonder what Prelude Nightmare is like?", another takes its place, "I wonder what Sarcophagus is like?" And so the journey continues.

To be continued …