Yesterday had all the makings of a Christmas bouldering meet.
I knew I couldn't climb - I could barely walk.
There was no way, however - I was going to miss being around my friends at my favorite boulders on Christmas Eve.
The Doctor had supplied me with a sufficient cocktail of pills that have completely deadened the pain in my lower back. I sent a text to Kev on Friday night asking for a lift to Glendalough and he said, 'no problem - can you walk?!'
I said yes, The drugs have worked, they've made it all good.
Admittedly when the full compliment of the midlands climbing club arrived in Rathmines to pick me up (Shane was driving) there was still a niggle and I worried that the cold and hanging about might make it worse... when push came to shove though... I didn't care.
We got a last minute call from Shane O Donovan who said he couldn't start his car... The guys did some rearranging of the bags in the back seat and squashed everything into the boot to accommodate Shane.
No man would be left behind!
To my delight, the walk in loosened up everything in my back and I spent the day hopping from one boulder to the next taking photos of all the action.
It was cold, there was a good baltic wind... but most of all - it was dry.
I was so very jealous I couldn't climb, but the banter and seemingly endless activity took my mind off my misfortune and I ended up having a really good laugh with a bunch of boulderers that just love what they do!
Tim and Chris warming up on the 'Pathside Traverse'
When we arrived Tim, James, Diarmuid, Dave, Ped and Jeff (who I just met yesterday) were warming up on Big Jim. and I crossed the river to say hello, and found out that they were pretty much finished there and were headed back to the pathside boulders to see what the craic was.
Chris, Kev, Shane, Shane, Paul, Sean and Juan were warming up around the Egg Boulder and when the lads all came back across the river to join us, the fun seemed to really get going... All the while - it was really damn cold!
Ped... Leading his troop
Kev coming down off the Egg Boulder
Ped off in the Scree
The gang all split off as everyone had different boulders they wanted to try. Diarmuid, Dave and Jeff all went to check out 'Squamish' and it was maybe the only boulder in Glendalough that was damp and seeping. Dave seemed hell bent on giving it a go - but no matter how much chalk he mashed into the wet holds... there was no grip to be salvaged and finally he and Jeff had to give in... there would be no send of that boulder on Christmas Eve.
Not to worry and the lads found this gap between two boulders that they decided would be a fantastic new problem. they tried and tried to squeeze their way through it using knee bars, chicken wings, head jams, but seemed to come away with only scraps and scratches.
They loved it!
Dave told me that the gap was in fact the 'Chimney' he had dared me to try on my first night bouldering session nearly a year ago!! I'd actually never seen it in daylight and memories of a terrifying top out in the pitch black of midnight came flooding back to me!!
There was a short stint on Pascals where the guys lost lots of skin and Kev topped out the stand start. Soon after though, Tim, Diarmuid, Jeff, Dave, Ped and James all had to go...
Tim legging it home
I made my way back over to the others and a session on Superstars had got underway. Shane O Donovan had wanted to finish it off and yesterday, he made very short work of it indeed. The contorted shape of the first move made me wince a little as I thought of the state of my back and how far away from being able to assume that position I was.
Shane topping out on Superstars of BMX (7a+)
The guys tried and tried, and soon settled on leaving it be and heading around the back of the block to try the 'Nu Rails' (6c).
I was packing up my stuff and Sean came along and took a few attempts on the line. He had a few nifty little hand moves that I've not seen used before and he sent the line quickly. Very cool to watch!! I'm psyched to get back on that line when my back is finished it's nonsense.
Sean and I headed around to the Rails Boulder and I took a nice vantage point to get some good shots of the lads catching the opening hold. My favorite photos are the ones of Juan in his christmas jumper!
After the session on the Nu Rails we headed over to the Big Jane Boulder which meant another river crossing. My back had loosened up splendidly well at that point and I had little bother negotiating the rocky rocks and jumps that make up the way across the rushing river. It's always a case of... keep a calm exterior so as not to let the guys know I'm bricking it inside as I step from one poorly angled unstable wet rock to the next, then walk away from the river without looking back as if to further illustrate that it doesn't bother me what so ever!!!
What then began was an onslaught on Andy's Arete (6c). The guys tried and tried, in the rain to hit the stand start and kept being spat off. It's such a frustrating problem for those who are more than 4ft tall.
In the end Shane O Donovan sent it first (I think!) followed by Sean who let out a massive cry of satisfaction when he hit the top. He was having trouble keeping his foot on the stupid little wet crystal and so I told him about Barry's method, which enlists the technique of an unnaturally high foot placement. He gave that a go and exclaimed with delight that it would work!!
He is, I think, the only other person (aside from Baz) I've seen send the problem that way!!
When Sean finished sending Andy's Arete he said something like, ok now I can accept it's raining! The rain had in fact been pouring down in sheets for about 20 mins or so, making the send of Andy's Arete all the more impressive...
Even more impressive still was Michael's send of 'The Groove' (7c) in the rain and the fairly substantial wind!! I asked Chris what grade it went at because I thought - having looked at the ease at which Michael did it, that I might like to project it myself... eh, ok - 7c... maybe next year!!
Michael topping out on The Groove (7c)
Good news for me is, all the anti inflammatories have worked and my back definitely feels good enough to try some bouldering tomorrow... Psyched to get out!!