Mini Epics for Beginners

(by Moira Creedon, from IMC Newsletter Autumn 2003)
September climbing on Ireland’s Eye

Despite dodgy forecasts, a perfect day. Light wind, blazing sun, the short paddle to Ireland’s Eye was as smooth as a lake. Paddling around the back coast of the island, the pale rock of the stacks looked enticing and the climbing more impressive than the grades would suggest. We meandered lazily into rock pools and caves, seals playing on the decks of our boats. Landing on the beach, the fire was already lit, barbecue running, paradise.

Realising it was already 4 o’clock; we roused ourselves for a brief spurt of activity on the crag. Sitting on the top of the inner stack in the warm heat of a September sunset, Howth looked like a Greek island port with the white masts of the yachts in harbour waving in the evening breeze. The world of reality and the mainland seemed an eternity away.

The Ab rope we had up all afternoon was badly jammed when we went to pull it down. At this stage, fast running out of daylight, after a few expletives I soloed up the easy diff to free the rope. Realising too late of course that I should have brought a sling to leave behind, I abbed down on the shoelace of prussic. Trying hard not to wonder whether Maurice had a phone if and when he needed to call the emergency services when the prussic broke. Particularly at that point where the ab leaves you hanging in mid air. Dropping my own phone into the Irish Sea that afternoon no longer seemed like such a good idea.

At this stage pitch dark, partly clouded moon, have to gear up the boats in the dark. Time to get the hell off the island, except…I had discarded my keys SOMEWHERE on the island – as I threw off wet suit and rain gear in the blazing sun of the carefree afternoon – a lovely black pouch, very easy to find in the dark, containing car keys, house keys….

Head torches, as always in these stories, sit safely in the glove compartment of a locked car on the pier in Howth.

Half an hour of running, increasingly panic-stricken around every path on the island, feeling like Ratty in the Wind in the Willows. Eyes appearing everywhere. Those enormous black rabbits, cute in broad daylight, appeared everywhere in the increasing gloom. False trails everywhere, falling into bracken and nettle, scurrying feet and rustling sounds all around made me thankful for the rabbits as rats began to emerge from their daylight haunts to reclaim the deserted island. I cursed myself for leaving Maurice on the beach to gear up the boats. Staying the night on the island definitely NOT an option.

An hour of panic and a lot of quivering lip later we finally geared up the boats, and paddled back, reunited with keys but totally exhausted to VERY late night chips on the pier.

The lesson … ?

Don’t tell me, I think I’ve worked it out!