Pierce Goes Bouldering

Look, I never claimed to be a Mountaineer.  When you read these posts, you get exactly what you expect, the mumbled ravings of a lunatic brain-addled by caffeine which by some act of fate land in (barely) coherent sentences.  So I feel no guilt when I say this report is about a trip to Fairhead….for bouldering.

For far too long I had been reveling in the success and elation of being able to climb (almost) every route I tried, every trad climb a success or achievement handed out like some kind of trophy for “participation”.  It was time I tried the purest and most difficult form of climbing, bouldering.  A discipline to test all aspects of my climbing persona.  Physical power, technical prowess, mental fortitude, shite-talking level, and of course, my Instagram game (shameless self-promotion @caddenclimber).

As the fantastic morning person I am I was already awake at 3 am on the Sunday morning the climbing was to happen, then I went to bed.  Again I awoke at the hour of 7 am and began preparations for the brilliant day ahead, namely 3 coffees and a Cumberland sausage for breakfast.  Filled to the brim, I left the sanctuary that is Bryansford at 8 am and was in Belfast and collecting a Stephen Grew (I know astonishing) by 8:45 am.  Finally we rounded up Andrew Woods (no surprise there) and Pierce (the duck), and were at the PEC for 9 am.  To the interest of a businessman, we managed to wrestle four bouldermats and the three of us into my compact Yaris, and were on our way.

This progress was halted (well, more slowed down really) when we arrived at Greg’s services, and picked up some (more) breakfast and snacks for the day.  After a coffee and doughnut we were moving again, continuing North to the tall place, to climb the short things.  When we arrived we noticed the ever present Rob’s Van in the carpark, and another we didn’t recognize.  We mobilized the crew, though decided to ignore the “warm-up-boulder” so as not to crush our dreams just yet.  Soon we arrived at the super-classic Eat-It, a route one must attempt and fail on every time one passes the thing.

To our amazement there were other people here.  A crew of strongmen sent from BoulderWorld; Bart, Rory, and a man who’s name I didn’t catch (though equally as strong as the previous two).  Drawn together by the desire to succeed on the boulders, our two groups were happy to merge and attempt Eat-It and Stop Feeding It.  Of course the ever-present watcher was there….the bush.  The bush is an evil entity which resides below the Eat-It boulder, and has existed since time immemorial.  It’s primary forms of nutrients are blood, chalk, snacks or climbers thrown at it, or foolish enough to go near it.  Its sharp barbs allow it to reach out and entrap it’s prey, resulting in a slow death.

We did some general “bouldering” (eating snacks and chatting) before warming up and getting going.  After we all had a few rounds against Eat-It, I finally tasted success, grasping the final hold.  Laughing internally I realised I had forgotten the top-out moves since last time, as it had been so long ago.  Thankfully I didn’t fly off the rock-over and was soon back down.  I was feeling pleasantly satisfied, succeeding on a power-based boulder was a reassurance that I hadn’t lost “it” since moving away from Belfast.  This was the small distraction the bush needed.

As I reached out to my bag, beside the bush, to get some snacks I was attacked.  I grasped and pulled, immediately caught I stopped struggling and carefully picked the barbs off me to free myself.  The damage was done, among some fairly light scratches I had a deep cut along the side of my middle finger pad, running maybe 2/3’s the length of it.  “Oh dear” I thought, “that’s the rip over for me then”.  Thankfully all was not lost.  The cut was on the side, and wasn’t quite deep enough to bleed constantly, combined with the charity of Rory (many thanks sir) in the form of superglue, I was able to stick the pad back together.  Now I simply needed to restrict use of the finger to solid tries on our next planned route (getting to that) and maybe I could still make something of the day.

The BW squad moved on before us, but we chatted about our plans and both groups seemed to be going to Carbide in the near future and so agreed to meet them there.  We hung about for a while, Andrew and Grew growing ever-closer to topping the problem.  Fatigue seemed to be the main problem, and frustration reached it’s peak when Andrew just missed out on the top-jug.  It was horrible, but fantastic.  Not that he didn’t land it, but the feeling of anger FOR Andrew, that I wanted he and Grew to succeed as well.  It had been a while since I had been bouldering and felt that for other people, and was pleased to have a crew where everyone was psyched to try hard stuff and for everyone to bounce off each other.  But there was success still, as Pierce managed to flash Eat-It with beta from us, but it was a dodgy top-out and we were scared of him taking a fall.

After an impromptu tops-off photo shoot, we headed round to one of Grew’s problems, a slab, In Memory of a Swiss Man.  Andrew reached the top well, but I floundered at about half height, unable or unwilling to see the holds that I was to use.  After a bit more messing around on the other problems beside it, such as Hook and Reach, we packed out things and headed to Carbide.  We scooted round and soon were reunited with the BW squad and added our mats to the pile.  Carbide is usually scary, with up to four mats and two spotters one is greatly intimidated past the start moves.  But today with something like eight pads and five spotters it was practically like climbing in the gym.

We had arrived just in time to watch Bart send the hard thing and pull out a scary rock-over for the top out, which thankfully didn’t end in tears.  Everyone was now hyped for the route, and we slowly patched together a general beta with variations for each person, based either on personal preference or style.  Amazingly the superglue held well, and I was able to give it stacks on the crimps, and cling desperately to the flats.  Eventually Rory also made the top and rocked over to glory.  Grew, Andrew and I all made it to the move for the jug, but couldn’t quite stick it, though this was significantly farther than I had ever made it in sessions before.

Eventually the groups split again, Bart had gone to try Rob’s project with him, and we went to some fun looking slabs where Rory joined us for a while.  We generally dandered up some good  routes, eating refreshers bars as we went and not falling.  Pierce and I had a grand time talking shit and annoying Andrew by doing so.  Eventually Rory had to go as the BW crew was leaving, and soon after we were freezing and headed out, meeting Rob and Veronica on the way out.  We had a friendly chat about what we had been trying, Rob of course was hitting up new routes.

Eventually it was time to go, and as we drove home only fear of Grew slapping me kept me awake on the drive to Belfast.  Once there, a six-shot cappuccino from Starbucks gave me the strength to get home alive.

A fantastic day out with a fantastic crew of people.  Still bouldering, still 90% failure, still stacks of craic.

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Pierce’s impressive flash of Eat-It