Quarry Ghosts

(by John Duignan, December 2008)
Christmas Eve in Dalkey Quarry … eerily empty …

Christmas Eve in the quarry. Rush to enjoy a few last climbs between a half day at work and family. Eerily empty – even the usual strollers desert it today.

Climb East and West Quarry and finish on the Upper Cliffs – now a year-end tradition. Great excuse for skiving off the preparations at home …

Eliminate A dash; Rock cold and damp holds so hook a sling at crux. Indoors never the same. Great to be here, even under grey skies. Anchor on. Barry breezes up, glad to be moving; Love this view. Back over Sandyford, The cavalry of cranes now melted away. Out to sea, a single cargo ship at anchor in the bay.

They are here still. Close your eyes and see over – Gerry Moss mantelshelfing on Joas, Conor Murphy soloing up the climb below late at night in runners, full backpack of gear, his big grin radiating fun. Loud laughs as Theo falls again on the crux of the Shield – so near this time. Howard on a 6c boulder problem over at Ivy Wall area. Terry O Neill, Seán Barrett, Andy Greer parade themselves on their climbs.

On then to West Quarry; Quick … afternoon moving on; Grave is dry and lighthearted fun; Bill Hannon effortlessly drifts up Sham Gully – still climbing in his 70s; Liam Convery’s iron grip as he wrenches out gear long after I have given up. Seán Barrett’s first lead on Crash Landing – my arms ache as I field him on the first moves (or am I praying?) – he glides up. Hugh Sharkey nearby bridging on Bushmills, legs at a crazy angle, calm and unhassled over a big drop. My mouth dry as I watch, willing him on. Look over at Calvin soloing Blood Crack, Clare alongside soloing Charleston – my two girls whispering in awe as they look up. The murmur of small talk, the chalk marks on the rock.

Keep this one till last: Upper Cliffs Prealpina: Never mind the wet beginning. Feel the joy of the final mantelshelf up to a brilliant belay site; Hop the wall, tree anchor and lean out from the Upper Cliffs; The streetlights are coming on like a chain of fairy lights as darkness creeps in. Barry Denton, nimble as a schoolkid playing hookey, sings on his way up; In the corner of your eye, you can still see Hugh Reynolds balancing carefully as he commits to Preacher (‘Preacher Man don’t tell me Heaven is on the way’); Kevin Byrne and Antoinette Gough laughing and waving as they pass below at the end of a Summer day; Feel the courage from the wine you had at lunch evaporate, and find yourself stupidly on our first lead of In Absentia. Wobble onto the nose, eyes blinded with sweat, the single wire you placed looks ready to fall out; Then the piercing scream as the unkownn climber next to you on Helios takes a 30 foot whipper; See Dermot Sheil easily mantelshelf the nose on In Absentia with one hand, no shuffling around it, still chatting away to his belayer …

These Christmas ghosts alive when all about is so dead; Myles Na Gopaleen’s cyclist exchanged molecules with his bicycle seat over time; Do Climbers leave some psychic energy in the rock as they pass?

Don’t explain it, just love these ghosts as they climb with you this time of year in the quarry.

Merry Christmas

To all in this mad wonderful Climbing Game