Friday, May 18, 2012

Climbing in the Gap of Dunloe and going to W.A.R

My lead goes from the bottom left up to the centre and then straight up the face.
Recently myself and Frank, decided to head to the Gap of Dunloe to do a spot of rock climbing. The weather forecast was iffy so it was a real pleasure to discover a cloudless sky and no wind. A great day was in prospect. On days such as this there is no finer place to spend a few hours than the Gap. There is a wide range of routes here from the relatively simple to multi pitch brutes well into the Es. The relatively easy is where both Frank and I ply our trade. We decided on Bohane as our crag of choice. This is easy to access and offers several routes at the HS and VS standard with some harder options thrown in. It is a short climb to the base of the rock and I was surprised to find that we appeared to be the only climbers in the whole of the Gap. Soon we were at the base of the crag and I decided to jump straight in and lead the first climb. Perhaps a little foolish as I hadn't exactly been climbing at all of late. I set my sights on First Comes First Served a 15 mtr VS that is easily protected. I huffed and puffed but finally made the final moves to the top. It had been a fair while since I had led any serious rock routes so it felt tougher than perhaps it should but I enjoyed it none the less and it set us up for the rest of the day.
Frank abbing down the face.

We enjoyed a great day in warm sunshine and climbed another six or seven routes, all top roped. We were both very pleased with how we climbed, for although the rustiness was obvious we felt better than we had expected and when we were done we resolved to go rock climbing whenever we could. The following week we went to the crag by the road called Brennans Leap. Here again we enjoyed a very good day on all quite difficult routes up to HVS. All top roped again but we felt we needed to practice before we led some more. I did spot a couple of routes that I intend to lead the next time I am there. Both at VS so not setting the world alight but they will do me. Watch this space. One aside was on our last climb there I managed to give my ribs a good bang. They didn't come against me when we went up to Rescue Rock for a final few climbs that afternoon but the following few days they grew quite painful and I feared I had done some damage but thankfully they improved towards the following weekend which was just as well as I was entered for the Wicklow Adventure Race on Saturday 14th April.

Wicklow Adventure Race (WAR),

I had been running a fair bit and getting on the bike occasionally so I was reasonably confident that I would have the stamina for what is billed as one of the toughest adventure races in the country. At 73k long with two hill runs and three cycling sections it certainly lived up to its billing. I headed up to Glendalough with James Moore on the Friday afternoon and we stayed in the excellent local hostel. We were fascinated by the sight of a guy practicing changing his tubes for in excess of 200minutes into the gathering gloom. He professed himself pleased that his time was now under seven minutes. Dedicated or what. A decent nights sleep followed but when we awoke the morning of the race we were greeted with a blustery cold morning and thunder and lightning lending and ominous soundtrack to our breakfast. Thankfully the storm did not last long and by the time we were gathering for the start things had improved considerably. Still there was a chill in the breeze and the sight of snow on the hill tops ensured that we donned all our running kit before the start. We were in the third wave as it would have been somewhat pretentious to call ourselves experts. James was at something of a disadvantage as he has been really busy since the arrival of his baby son Elliot last Autumn and so his training had suffered but he is nothing if not determined and he was as eager as me for the off.

The first section was a 10k hill run over Spink mountain. It started off zig zagging up a forest track before joining a well made trail on mostly railway sleepers. It took a while to trust that these weren't slippy but once confidence was gained they allowed for rapid movement over the boggy ground. There followed a technical on a rough stony trail back to the bike changeover. I was very pleased with how the run went and I reckon I was about third in my wave.
I had tinkered with the idea of changing the pedals on my bike from cleats to basket types. This would have negated the necessity to change shoes at each interchange from hill running to the bike section. This meant I lost a fair bit of time at the changeovers and over the course of the event I reckon I lost in excess of 10 minutes.
Anyway the first bike section was OK with a very gradual climb on good roads before a swift decent to the next stage on the Kayak. Here I didn't bother changing shoes and ran in the cleats the few hundred meters to the water where I paired up with a young fella for the two kilometers. He was not a great help as by the time we had rowed three hundred meters he was complaining that his back was aching and he spent most of the rest of the section laying flat on the Kayak. A few pairs overtook us but when we reached the shore I said goodbye and ran back to the bike.
I'm having fun...honest
The  swift descent to the lake meant that the return on the bike was steeply uphill. Cold was now a bit of a problem, especially after the initial climb and moving swiftly over open country meant the full effects of the chill breeze was felt. Soon enough the punishing climb up to the start of the second hill run up Djouce Mountain arrived. This was a bit of a ball breaker and I had to hop off the bike and walk for 50meters to surmount a particularly steep spot. I was very glad to get off the bike but again considerable time was lost trying to fit cold wet feet into the running shoes. On the plus side the day was now lovely. Chilly yes but blue skies ensured that the countryside was being seen at its best. A long flat traverse around the mountain meant I was able to keep running until the gradual climb to the broad boggy summit. I was feeling the strain by now but at the top we joined a well made trail of sleepers again and soon I was moving nicely on the return leg to the bike.
Again the problem of changing footwear and I was off on the final cycle. This was the longest section that passed over the Sally Gap and then a long descent to the final section. The pull over the Gap was tough on my weary legs but the descent went fine although I tried to push a good gear and therefore was tiring. Eventually the final changeover arrived and now all I was faced with was a run of just three kilometers to the finish. Gosh it was tough. I had to stop and walk several times and frankly I thought it would never end. I was exhausted as I crossed the finish. I  was cold and hungry yet nevertheless very pleased with my effort. I finished in a little less than 5 hours and came 67th. The long hot shower afterwards was heaven and went some way to reviving me. Well done to James who also finished well. I think we will both be back.

Rock Climbing.
Dingle climbing wall

High on Howling Ridge VDiff

Frank and myself have continued to get on rock whenever we can. We have had a couple of great days in the Gap of Dunloe and had a lovely day climbing Howling Ridge on Carrauntoohil. Here are a few pics from those days.
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