Thursday, March 1, 2012

Irish climbing scene?

Photo: Seán Walsh.

The bouldering meet has been running for 8 years now and has had its ups and downs in that time. It started with a bang, followed by a lull and now is in a steady state. While the attendance is usually pretty good at the boulders not many make the effort to stick around overnight in the hut. Every year this gets me thinking about the Irish scene. Is there one? Why is it so shit? etc.

I went along to the bouldering championships in Gravity a few weeks ago to put up posters for the meet. I was amazed and disappointed at the low attendance. Granted there was loads of kids there, which is great, but very few - maybe a dozen - older climbers. It looked like a youth comp. Gravity is a great venue for a comp, there was loads of space, the problems looked great, the weather was crap so where was everyone? Granted entry was pricey (€20 online in advance or €30 on the day plus you had to join MI (€44.20), so potentially €74.20) and that is something that should be looked at.

For the last few years there has been a climbing meet in the Gap of Dunloe in late spring. There is always a good attendance from a core of Cork and Kerry climbers but again very few make the effort to travel.

Trish did her talk for the IMC recently and apparently only a few greybeards and a few neophyte students attended.

Ireland is a small country with a small number of climbers so you might expect they would be a tight knit group but it doesn't seem to work that way. Each group seems to be focused on it's own area, rarely straying far. There are plenty of events (Gap meet, Fair Head meet, bouldering meet for starters) just limping along never really achieving their potential.

In Dublin it seems that most climbers are friendly with each other, but that doesn't seem to be the case in some other parts of the country. Personality clashes and grudges while not rife definitely are common.

So what makes a good scene? Lots of friendly rivalry, active climbers, new routes, good communication, good attendance by non-locals at organised events or even just lots of climbers travelling around the country.

Now I'm not on facebook so maybe I'm missing out on loads of interesting info but looking at the others Irish climbing sites there is very little going on. There very few bloggers and very little in the way of information flow about what people are up - that is assuming people are up to anything. Maybe some of this is an Irish reticence to blow one's own trumpet. If so I wish people would get over it, it's possible to share without boasting.



  1. I've often found the shite climbing scene in Ireland very frustrating. I can understand it in Cork though: no good rock less than 1.5 hours away and no good climbing wall in the city. The situation is improving though. I envy the kids in the CYCC. Give it 10 years and the scene will be better (although climbing walls tend to breed sport and competition climbers - great but it's not for me).

    While it may be frustrating at times the quietness of climbing in Ireland is fantastic. Personally I really dislike busy crags. Not that it effects me too much at the moment. I've a few weeks/months (I REALLY hope not months) to go before my shoulder is ready and I'm living in Mayo now where (I presume) the number of climbers is even lower than Cork. Christ I miss climbing...

  2. The Irish Climbing scene, it's good in my opinion and this is for a few reasons, I'll detail some here.

    The recent opening of a range of facilities has been very good for 'the scene'. Dublin for example, each new wall that has opened (coops, gravity) has seen increasing number of people not only training at climbing walls but going out and doing both easy and hard things. For example, when I go out bouldering, I see lots of people that I've never seen out before. Not only that, these people are doing things that 5 years ago were deemed 'very hard' if not elite. Also, the number of kids climbing has increased dramatically, Cork Youth CLimbing CLub is a prime example, established in the last couple of years and loads of kids climbing, I was really surprised when I saw this.

    Level - the hardest problems in the country, if not the UK (They are all unrepeated so...), have been recently developed by Irishmen. This can also be said for routes. These individuals have also uncovered a load of quality problem/routes in every part of the country and these have been and are been documented, e.g. the Quality Guide Produced by Mr Flanagan.

    Maybe I'm wrong and it's just my opinion but I think that the above can be considered a better reflection of the scene than the numbers of people staying over at climbing meets or attending competitions and/or talks.

    Just my opinion, take it easy fellas,

    What's wrong with climbing walls, the best climbers, including Trad, that I know climb on walls alot and then do hard routes. Walls also breed top class competition climbers, e.g. Dominic Burns. Not only that, climbing walls breed beasts!

    The future is looking good!

  3. Yeah Cork seems to be a bit of a climbing desert.

    When the kids start college it will change things mostly for the better I think. Hopefully they are keen to get outside otherwise I feel it would be a missed oppurtunity (for the 'scene' and for them as individuals).

    I also hate busy crags but there is so much rock there is no need for overcrowding. We seem particularly unimaginative about where we climb though. A half dozen areas probably account for the vast majority of climbing done in this country.

    Seems like plenty to go at in Mayo, what about this monster

  4. Barry. You have a point. The new walls, the kids are all very positive things. And yes there are lots of climbers around now some of whom are very strong.

    But but when I talk about the scene I'm thinking of something less tangible than numbers of climbers or hard grades. It's more of collective expanding of what Irish climbing is about carried forward by momentum.

    The hardest routes and boulders in this country are the work of two people. Their acheivements are all the more impressive as they are working in such isolation. But I don't want to focus on difficulty. My list of doable problems I have found and want to climb is so long I know I will never scratch the surface of it, I don't know if that makes me happy or sad but the point is there is so much to be done at all levels.

    A few weeks ago I a found a pretty cool boulder in Glenmalure, looked very hard and a little off the beaten track so I told a certain wad about it, I was delighted to hear he had been back during the week with 3 others and done it, said it was of the highest quality, and hard to boot. Now if word was spread about this, maybe a good photo or two, this would be a 'scene' like event. It might even inspire a repeat and suddenly the ball is rolling.

    Nothing wrong with walls, pretty essential nowdays.

  5. We could about talk intangible things but that'd go on forever so I'll leave that one.

    Maybe I'm just being very positive:

    With regards publicity, there are a load of examples of problems that I have done in the last year that were recent, were publicised and, in most cases, in your guide (Glendalough (Sunshine Boulders) Black Valley, Glenmalure (Kinky Reggae etc), Portrane (Leviathon, Lemon Sole) to name a few. The number of videos has increased dramatically and I've never seen bouldering and climbing mentioned in the national press so much. I did also hear about that problem in Glenamalure but, granted, I am not so sure lots of people would have yet but I think that we can say publicity is on the increase.

    There are big ascents that create a vibe - e.g. wonderland - but and unfortunately, problems do appear to have to be above a certain grade to be climbing news-worthy as there are tonnes of 5s and 6s that are top quality and remain unclimbed.

    The harder routes, not the hardest, in the country are down to more than two people, we won't start a name match, but I can think of a number of people who have done hard things in the last twelve months.

    Good to see ya in Font by the way and I hope all good,

  6. Great post and nice bit of banter resulting.

    Having been away for 8 years i keep finding that I'm blown away by the current scene! I think it's bursting with energy and potential at the minute. I think not only has the average standard risen but the popularity of bouldering is making the whole thing much more social. There have been groups going bouldering, pubs, training indoors - texts flying etc... The guide has given me a huge list of places to explore and places like Gravity are churning out new climbers in their Red Chili’s who will go out and boulder on rock themselves in time.
    I've always found the bouldering scene a bit clicky but that was back during it's early development - recently it seems like it's been blown wide open and there’s more of an overlap between the different groups. Comps are not for everyone and especially when they're expensive to enter. I think the scene in the UK has developed largely as a result of the climbing walls providing a focal point and central hub where climbers could meet regularly without the pressures of wanting to dispatch their current projects. Ironically the quality, quantity and range of bouldering venues within striking distance from Dublin spreads the psyched masses each weekend over a large area. Once climbers are gathering somewhere regularly it would only take a few knowledge hungry writer types to report to the masses the interesting occurrences - regardless of difficulty or grade. Take the UKC forums for example, it's massive! and it's a massive business too! The scene appears to be alive with news but there are usually very few people actually doing anything – a tiny percentage of the number of “climbers” active over there.
    By comparison our percentage of activists creating new routes, problems and exploring is way larger! I think Ireland is leading the way. The drive to seek out adventure and discover new lines is, if anything, overdeveloped/overrepresented on our rock rich island.
    The psyche is high!


  7. what we need is a decent forum, the irish equivalent of UK bouldering

    chris r

  8. Neal from MI got on to me about the cost of the competition

    "In relation to the Bouldering Champs, I'll put my MI hat on for this one. the MI membership will always stay for the National Comps. Essentially, the wall is being rented by MI for the day so membership for insurance reasons is a requirement. The event also being organized by MI so it should be a simple thing to do (although I will make sure people are notified earlier in advance this time.....) - you have to be a member of the BMC to compete in their national events as a comparable example, it's the same for most countries when it comes to their national events. Also the price of the comp this year was too high, put that down to a legacy of the previous years setup (where The Ozone had to be rented out at significant cost) and MI trying to make back some of the cost on the day (it used to cost over €2,000 to host the IBC's in Belfast) - I would suspect the price will change for next year, especially for pre-registered price, not the on-the-day one.

    From an MI-membership point of view anyway, for Civil Liability insurance alone, is it not worthwhile as a climber? I know that's the main reason I take up membership with a governing body each year anyway (And now I'll take my MI hat off to write that part :)."