The Razor's Edge

(by John Duignan, July 2010)
The steady tapping of rain on canvas woke us on Saturday; we were in Dingle to climb The Needle, a sea stack off Dunshean Head.


The Needle, Dunshean Head

Joe Reville and Barry Denton, we had sussed out the climb the evening before. The Needle looked spectacular as we cautiously peeked down from the wet cliff above. The crashing waves below and seabirds screeching overhead added to the isolation of the place. A bull took a liking to Joe’s red jacket while crossing the nearby fields and added to the sense of fun. We headed off for a fine dinner washed down with strong Ozzie wine, fired up for a great day ahead.

The rain changes our plan – Hey, that’s Ireland in the summer. Camping beside the Rainbow Hostel gave access to a great kitchen for breakfast and we enjoy the craic with American visitors, who are unfazed by the weather. We head out for a coastal walk .

Gradually the rain stops and two o’clock finds us abseiling the Dunshean Head cliffs; the forecast gave us a small window to get in the climb before heavier rain returns. The descent line is on Stinky Phoo, an E1 – that looks stunning but daunting.

Joe abseils in

I could pretend that it was the confusing Beta alone that has me heading up Jumbo, an E1 on the Needle. Truth is I screwed up. After lacing it with gear I faff about and after 15 feet back off. This is way harder than VS! Joe saves the day by finding the start of The Razor’s Edge – a VS that drew us here. The climbing on it is beautiful – firm pockets and edges on the delicate sandstone. The gear, though sparse, is adequate and the views of the cliffs and seas all around breathtaking.

Finding the razor’s edge

As Joe comes up the climb, I plead for a picture of him looking stern and serious studying the route ahead with the foaming seas beneath him. The more I go on, the more he beams. Joe don’t do grim.

Smilin’ Joe on the edge

Soon we are all hunkering on the metre-square pinnacle trying not to dislodge a loose flake. The 30-metre abseil is a bellyflop overhang start and speeds by on the skinny ropes. I never get used to these. Raindrops spatter down … but quickly peter out.

Barry abbing from the Needle

I swing across to prusik up Stinky Phoo. It is slow going at the bottom. Joe starts up Good Times, a VS arete to the left, which no doubt spurs me on. Barry calmly photos away.

It seems like an age before we have all the gear packed and scurry off to find food; I am scheming of putting a sack over Joe’s head to stop him getting the life story – however interesting – off every soul we meet. The Dingle Reel Fish ‘n’ Chipper turns out to be owned by a Dub exiled here after coming to recuperate after a climbing accident. Mark piles in extra chips with our fresh fish along with an invite to climb with him on the Three Sisters when we next visit. On the way to the hostel, a brilliant trad session with Eoin Duignan – Dingle’s star piper – at the Marina Bar adds magic to the day.

The rain settled in again. Sunday finds us wandering Dingle’s narrow streets, each recalling holiday memories. Smilng faces and bright colour defy the greyness of the day.

At the new Dingle Climbing Wall, there is a warm welcome and a reduced climbers rate. The wall is featured and higher than any we have seen. It has separate areas for all grades of climbers. Soon Joe is getting the story of the beautiful blonde Vivi, a staffer, with her fascinating Finnish Kerry accent. There are plenty of friendly staff to belay and autobelay devices (scary!). An area to chill out and have a meal add to the great value and atmosphere.

Joe at the wall

Joe pretends he is not keen on a swim to finish the day. Whether the two fine lassies on the beach egging them on or just their lust for life, it is hard to pull Barry and himself out of the water. The lure of Murphy’s Dingle-made ice cream finally does it.

At Swim-Two-Birds

The journey home is shortened by Joe ‘n’ Barry swapping stories (Joe’s pet Jackdaw and Barry’s Heffalump tales get three-star ratings).

IMC meets – they bring their own sunshine!