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Right Wall, Right Time?

August 28, 2015 Comments (0) Features

Tom Livingstone’s Great Summer

Tom Livingstone is a 24-year old climber with a penchant for trad, winter and alpine – “the bigger and harder, the better”. Super-motivated and up for a fight (on the rock) and a party, he’s set out to live “the greatest summer” and is determined to “up my game, push my grade and make the most of the season.” He is sponsored by Jottnar.
Tom is also a fine writer and has been chronicling his adventures on his website, www.tomlivingstone.co.uk  – this is an extract from his Greatest Summer series, regarding a recent trip to Ireland. Pic: Tom climbing Immaculata, by Henry Francis.

Every route we climbed at Fair Head was top quality. As in, every single route…

‘Uss ut wundih?’

The old man looked at me sternly, dark eyes and weathered cheeks. I had no idea what he’d said. ‘Err… sorry? I… what?’ I replied.

‘Uss ut wundih dun therr?’ he repeated. He was losing his patience. ‘The wund?’ His eyes narrowed slightly, annoyed with my ineptitude.

I fumbled with the rope awkwardly as I belayed Henry from the top of the crag. I felt embarrassed, wishing I could answer his question. I didn’t want to be a ‘stupid foreigner’. Could I get away with asking him to repeat a third time?

Suddenly it clicked. The wind! Of course, he wanted to know if it was windy whilst climbing. Wundih!

‘Oh aye,’ I said, beaming as the penny finally dropped. ‘Sorray, aye, ut’s ah but breezih dun therr! But yu’ll be faine thow,’ I said in my best accent. His mouth cracked into a toothy smile, eyes now shining brightly. He chuckled, apparently happy with the reply and muttered, ‘grand, that’s grand,’ before dropping his pack. I breathed a long sigh of relief and turned back to see how Henry was doing.

I’m happy to admit that I love accents. Like a parrot, I copy solely out of admiration. But the Irish accent was a whole new level…

we decided to take a gamble and head to Owey. It sounded an adventure…

Jack, Henry, Anna and I spent two weeks in Ireland this June, sampling a couple of the best climbing areas and the famous Fair Head meet. We were thoroughly impressed by the quality of Fair Head and Owey – they really do live up to their reputation. Every route we climbed at Fair Head was top quality. As in, every single route…

After the FH meet and consulting the locals, we decided to take a gamble and head to Owey. It sounded an adventure: call ‘Dan the Boat Man’ – a local with a boat and a friendly smile – and drive to the wild West coast of Ireland; enjoy the beautiful scenery, golden beaches and Atlantic sea, then hop across to the sparsely inhabited granite island; pitch your tent near the natural harbour and relax, before climbing a bunch of three-star classics.

I’d heard about Owey from UKC: John McCune put up two routes on the ‘Holy Jesus Wall’ in 2014. The climbing looked fantastic, with wild positions, good rock and a remote island feel. The grades obviously attracted me, too; John gave The Second Coming E7 6b and Immaculata E6/7 6b.

After a morning swim on a pristine sandy beach, we met Dan and motored across to the island. We had perfect weather throughout our stay, and enjoyed the fresh style of climbing. The Wild Atlantic Wall has plenty of mid-grade routes on immaculate granite, but we soon got distracted by the Holy Jesus Wall.

Jack kindly let me have a flash attempt on the right hand route, Immaculata – the E6/7 6b. I looked at the gear and put a bit of chalk on some of the holds on abseil. Things always look easier from above, so I didn’t stick loads of chalk on the route because it looked alright.

Jack led the first pitch of Immaculata. I then managed to flash the second (main) pitch. I was very pleased, particularly as I hadn’t really inspected the top half of the route so it felt like a bit of an onsight. The climbing is totally my style and the gear is great, so I felt confident going for it. I stripped the gear and Jack flashed it too – nice one lad. We both thought it was around ‘hard E5 6a.’

The next day we tried to go new-routing but it didn’t go well – Jack established a ‘3-star classic’ that was actually shit (sorry lad, but it was!).

We headed back to the Holy Jesus Wall to try John’s left hand route: The Second Coming. By the time we’d geared up it was 7 p.m., and we didn’t have much time, so decided to abseil in to the top pitch. This was a real shame as it would’ve been best to do the 5c first pitch as well. Oh well, another time. I zipped down the ab rope and got psyched for the onsight.

Lots of shaking out, up-and-downs and some tricky moves later, I managed pull over the top of the Holy Jesus wall after onsighting The Second Coming. It was a big fight, a proper ‘full-on’ experience, and I was chuffed. My arms were totally boxed, hands bleeding and tips shredded by the sharp granite, but hey – you’ve gotta love the fight. I think this is the second ascent.

Jack went for the flash but came unstuck after a good battle. He got it clean the next day – bon effort.

I’m not sure of the grade of The Second Coming. I didn’t think I could onsight E7 – even if it’s totally my style. Jack and I thought it felt a bit easier than E7 6b. We suggested a lot of grades, ranging from ‘hard E5 6b’ to ‘E7 6b.’ I guess it’s somewhere in the middle.

It felt a bit harder than a couple of the E6 6bs at Fair Head (Primal Scream andAbove and Beyond), but The Second Coming has so much good gear and the climbing is pumpy but not cruxy. Perhaps The Second Coming is worth E6 but I’m not sure. I tentatively suggested ‘hard E5 6b.’

Further ascents will clarify. I haven’t done loads of E6s and 7s, so who knows.Both the Holy Jesus routes are incredible, regardless of grade.

There’s lots more great writing from Tom on www.tomlivingstone.co.uk – this is part five of his Greatest Summer series alone!

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