The Greatest Summer - Part V. 'Wundih?'
Flashing the main pitch of Immaculata. Photo: Henry Francis
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
‘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...
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!).