Patagonia and Back: A Tale of Denial and Friendship

Today’s music is taken from the classical collection of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky the Russian composer, born in 1840, he quickly became a star in musical circles.  Sadly his career tapered off after his death in 1893, but has seen a resurgence since he released this little number in 2015

We have all done it.  We have all watched a video of someone achieve something that we NEVER could.  We have all seen people like Daniel Woods climbing Hydrangea, or Pete Whitaker and Tom Randal climbing Century Crack.  But why them and not us?  THAT is the difference, they ask “why not?”, while we ask “how could I?”.  This is the story of when we dared to ask “why not?”.

For myself, Kevin Cheung and Stian Zimmer, our particular video was this one (which despite the all the bullshit this story is CLEARLY going to be, is a good video)

We watched these people, climbing amazing ridges, stunning lines and having amazing experiences.  And we thought to ourselves “I bet if WE owned Patagonia Gear, our lives could be like that….”.  And so we began planning our expedition to the Patagonia Outlet store in Dublin.  For those who are new to this “Mountaineering“, much of the clothing and gear is ludicrously expensive.  Some of this is justifiable, such as climbing gear (harnesses, cams, hexes etc….), which is primarily safety equipment (and in a secondary role, used as a display of power for attracting mates).  Most of this stuff is (in my opinion, so a known fact) absolutely useless, or at best, a luxury item.  I mean come on, who the fuck needs a coat that costs £450?!?!?!  But at outlet stores, one can attain amazing discounts, making these commodities almost justifiable.  We set our sights and sowed our plans, and set out at first light (which thankfully at this time of year is around 9am) towards Patagonia (outlet store).

In our planning stage of this expedition, we had opted for a less direct course.  Our route was to be more scenic, offering breath-taking views of the M50, and to pass through the critically acclaimed Dalkey Quarry.  This was a tactical decision, as more experienced members of the club well know, often expeditions do not go entirely to plan, and to arrive at your destination only to be grounded by bad weather for the whole trip is not uncommon.  To minimise the potential for failure, our stop at Dalkey Quarry would hopefully offer enough merit to claim the trip a success even if the main objective was missed due to unforeseen events.  The expedition began in high spirits, yes it was early, and yes I had stayed up until 3am playing computer games, but I drank some coffee and put my self loathing to one side for the day.  We slid our way along some well hidden country roads to get us to Newry with haste, and soon we were on the motorway to Dublin.  It was not long before we learned of Kevin’s true nature.  Kevin is and always will be……a 16 year old.  We were graced with such classics as “Tears Don’t Fall” by Bullet for My Valentine (or for the cool kids out there, just Bullet) and “Bury Me” by Thirty Seconds to Mars.  It was at this time that I learned something about myself, to my shame, I find these songs are amazing relics of my childhood never to be forgotten or slandered (I know I am a degenerate but I can’t help it).

Now around the time we hit the M50 is when the problems began.  Before this the primary adversary had been the awful driving of people native to county Down, which was normal to me but staggering to Kevin, and understandably so.  On the M50 we encountered a new foe, the guidebook.  This small piece of reconstituted tree covered in strange ink markings, had told us to follow the M50 until it joined the N11.  After hitting the N11 we were to do one simple thing, turn left and follow signs to Dalkey village.  About 2/3 along the M50 I realised a significant issue and pointed it out while laughing hysterically.  I had seen a small note in the corner of the map, “Note: at the time of publishing the M50 is incomplete, and the final 9km joining the N11 is still unfinished”.  This was a major set back.  As we found out soon, the plans must have changed a bit since then, because when we found the N11 we were a good bit south of Dalkey, and not on the coast at all.  A great amount of shouting, laughing, and verbal abuse of the guidebook lead to some rash decisions and lots of turning around on small irish country lanes, but eventually we made it to Bray train station, and between the road map beside the timetable and a nice old man, we found a promising route to Dalkey village, and were soon back on track.  All was well with the world.

As soon as we hit Dalkey village all was wrong with the world.  Again we had been swindled and confounded by the tiny paper-backed devil (some maintain if you say koobediug 3 times while standing in a quarry you can summon the aid-climbing devil, more on this later).  We were lost in a tiny village, trapped by cul-de-sacs and the poor map provided by the guide, all while we were within sight of the quarry though always just short of the carpark.  Eventually we made it, after bickering like a strange 3-way marriage.  Soon we were climbing one some of the strangest granite I, as a veteran of the Mournes, have ever lain hands upon.  Now until now I hadn’t mentioned, but Stian had to this point forgotten to bring he and Kevin’s lunches (forgivable as we picked food up at a service station) and a memory card for his camera (but luckily Kevin had a spare one).  We set up an abseil, mainly for on-route photos to be taken on our super epic S epic projects, and all was going well.  Stian was up for the first lead, but had again forgotten something quite important…….his climbing shoes.  And so he soldiered valiantly onwards in trainers (admittedly a braver action than I would have committed to), though placing bomber gear the whole way.  Soon I was seconding in trainers as well, as I felt I should endure the same hardships as my lead climber (solidarity brother), and fair play to the man.

After a bit of eating and top quality banter, mostly about how Kevin had said we abseiled down Paradise Lost, though at the bottom admitted we were actually about 15m to one side of it, I geared up for the lead.  I had selected a lovely looking route, with a bit of a hard move above a slab to some jugs.  I began up with some jugs, leading to a slab which all felt as though it would fall off at the prompt of a loud whisper, as such I placed one poor piece in the slab.  At the top of the slab where it met the vertical face I made a small nest involving tricams and took a good look at the section of wall I was to hop on.  Thankfully there was a good hold (sort of a pocket/crimp combo) with room for gear behind/in it.  After a large amount of fiddling I finally placed a good nut, though was hindered by my fingers….they didn’t really fit in the pocket.  So I entered full boulder mode, I crimped down hard on the edge of the hold and reached up for a sort of chip in the wall, a good hold but almost sure to break off the wall if I pulled too hard (a very real fear which thankfully went unrealised) and made it to the jugs.  A lovey top-out challenge, no feet and two jugs for hands, I smirked as I threw a well practiced high heel and rocked over on to the flat ledge and battled with rope drag to the top.  After making my anchor of gorse bushes and a hex (no I’m not joking, this is a normal thing in Dalkey) Kevin seconded me, and to my dismay audibly laughed at me, as my “bomber” gear in the pocket fell out as he reached for it.  Oh well then.

Kevin then resolved to climb the classic, Paradise Lost, while I documented (focused) the process.  All was well, I was taking photos (well I thought so) and Kevin was at the top.  While taking some shots of Stian seconding, I saw two men dander up to the bottom of the route.  My first thought was “wow, that one looks like Andy Kirkpatrick, or at least his Irish cousin”.  It soon became apparent that this man intended to climb with a bowline around the waist rather than a harness (each to their own).  It then seemed he was to be on body-belay (he must be old-school, I would never be so brave).  I then noticed…..that Aindriú Kirkpatrick was now teaching the other man how a body belay works for the first time, and so Kevin and I quickly decided to scarper before having to call an ambulance.  After more staring and finally some verbal contact on the belay was reached confirmed that this was in fact the real Andy Kirkpatrick before us, which did ease our concerns somewhat.  It seems that someone had summoned the aid-climbing demon, though he had been converted into an ultra-purist, climbing without harness, shoes, belay plate or chalk.  We left this legend after a quick chat and began our last section of our trip.

We headed to Dublin town, with a fair bit more success than previously, though I was berated as apparently I hadn’t actually taken any photos of Andy K, as I don’t know how to work a camera.  We dropped Stian off, as per the original plan, and searched for the Outlet.  It seemed a slight flaw to not actually know where the shop was, but I didn’t tell Kev that.  After a long while making jokes about the Greek embassy not paying their electric bills and walking around looking homeless, we eventually found this shining beacon to the branded climber.  The climax of the trip………and Kev didn’t see anything he wanted.  And that was it.  We began a VERY tired trip back to Newcastle, stopping for Burger King, where I got two BBQ thingys, making four in total for the day (so good) and played more 16 year old angsty songs to force Kev to stay awake through a necessity to sing along.

A grand day to be sure.


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