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Blog #5 – Ireland, Pt. One
Chaos follows me everywhere. I arrived in Killarney, Ireland, barely rested from the ten-hour plane flight, and surprised my friend Con Moriarty by showing up two days early. Big smiles and bigger hugs came from everyone at his outdoor shop. It had been too long since I last shared a pint with everyone, and Con suggested I spend an evening camping in a beautiful location before crashing at his house. Reacquainting myself with the land of my ancestors, is something I cherish every chance I get.
Three hours later, I’m wandering the hills of the Macgillycuddy Reeks in a gentle breeze, following a babbling brook to a lake at the base of Corran Tuathail and reminded at how green everything is! A slight shower kicks in, making everything glow with the moistness and by 9:00 pm I’m at the campsite. Two hours later the sky darkens into night, allowing the gentle breeze and slight shower to change into one of the worst storms I’ve ever experienced. My tent, made for Patagonia winds, thrashes about and threatens to tumble me into the lake frothing the shoreline. Lambs bleating sound like women in pain in that darkness as they mix with the howl of the winds. I should be scared, but instead I smile at the memory of my father telling me of the Banshees that howl among the hills of Ireland. I now believe those stories more than I ever could as a child, and sleep soundly with the knowledge that not all things are myths.
Con called and had me join him in the southern region of Co. Kerry to meet with a priest also named Michael (pronounced “Me-Haul” in Irish) and many of his parishioners, for a tour of the Skellig Islands. These rocky outcrops require a boat ride to get to, and are home to thousands of birds, including puffins, as well as a remarkable village that was inhabited several hundred years ago, where the people lived for twice as long as most others on the mainland. The day’s conversation with Michael and his group, mixed with the spirit of the area, was exactly what this pagan needed and gave me hope that not everyone is as hypocritical in their beliefs as America’s current paranoid administration would have us believe.
Later that afternoon, back on the mainland, I wandered over to the sea cliffs, made up of stunning dark black sandstone and soloed 20 routes up to 5.11. My final route was a long overhanging face climb of tiny edges with heel hooks 200 feet in the air, and finished at the edge of a lush green pasture, with the sun setting behind me in a colorful bed of clouds. It was two hours past closing time for the kitchens, but Con convinced the folks we were staying with to save a meal, and what a meal it was! A massive slab of fresh salmon was followed by a plate of steamed vegetables, potatoes, and a bowl of apple crumble with home made ice cream bigger than my backpack — of which I ate every bite and felt hungry for more. Guinness and wine with a couple whiskeys satisfied the rest of my appetite in the ensuing craic (“party”).
The following day brought me to one of my favorite climbing areas on the planet — the great sea cliffs of Ailladie. This limestone wall is on the edge of an area known as the Burren. Miles of limestone stretch as far as the eyes can see, and only the purest of ethics are adhered to.
Ailladie itself is a wall that stands more than a 100 feet tall in spots, and the Atlantic Ocean regularly scours clean, with waves washing over the top every winter. I spent the next couple days meeting with new friends and old, sharing pints and soloing quite a bit, including a 5.13a that might be a brand new line according to the local guidebook author.
Several days of this mixed with great bouldering and wandering about the Burren, playing on routes I hadn’t been on before. Now I’m heading to the Dublin airport to pick up Damon Corso, who spent the last two days stranded in Philadelphia, partaking in the annual African-American Motorcyclists Pajama Party. I wish I could make this stuff up.