This weekend I had the grand opportunity to head over to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland on a trip with the mountaineering club. We left on Friday and got back Sunday night after two days of climbing, drinking, and general merriment in the Irish countryside! Someday I will catch up on sleep… but now is not that time 😉
When we left on Friday it was dark so I didn’t have the opportunity to see the view, but from what I could tell there were a lot of fields and a plethora of sheep. After stopping for needed groceries and dinner we meandered our way into the wild and wet roads of rural Ireland. After a bit of a fender bender between one of the cars (not the one I was in, thankfully, and all were fine except for a headlight) and a guardrail we made it to our destination- the Dooey hostel in a little village called Glencolumbkille (spelling questionable at best). I nabbed a bunk in a room with my car mates and soon realized that I was the Snow White among the Seven Dwarves- my lovely dorm mates were all boys. Oh well!
The night rocked on into the wee hours of the morning- card games were played, togas were fashioned, spider friends were made and relocated, pajamas were put on begrudgingly, pillow fights were had, more wine was drunk, music was played, and by the time 5am rolled around a pillow fort had been made and deconstructed.
The next morning saw the group ready to go at a reasonable hour after breakfasts were had and tea was drunk. I woke up to the sound of waves crashing on a beach and peered out my window to see this beautiful view just outside:
The hostel owner and builder, Mary, is an ancient old woman with hands like shovels and the most hilarious personality you can imagine. She puttered around the group getting to know the new faces and greeting the old ones like they were her own kids. In addition to building the hostel herself she knits the most extraordinary hats, of which I was able to nab a pretty pink one. Yay, staying warm!
We headed off to the day’s climbing spot near the coast which involved a brief car ride (I’m getting used to the other side of the road thing- it kind of messes with my head) and a tramp across a sheep pasture to the cliffs.
Some bouldering mats were set up on a few little climbs while top rope gear was set up on the other routes. I like bouldering because you don’t have to be attached to a rope and can kind of make your own way to the top of a feature- I’m not terribly good at rope climbing or bouldering, but I can manage it usually!
Where’s Waldo is called Where’s Wally here in the UK, and I managed to nab a sweet pair of socks with Wally on them the other day… They didn’t match with anything else, but who cares? It’s climbing time! Also, I love my climbing shoes. They aren’t the most comfortable things in the world, but I’d rather them over heels any day of the week.
There were three routes set up on this particular part of the cliff- I made it up all three with some trepidation but no falling, even when the rain started and things got a big slick. For now the weather was extraordinary.
Abseiling is a great thing to know when climbing- it’s a way of lowering yourself down the rock without needing a belay person already at the bottom. The trick is not letting your brain take over when you lean backwards over the abyss and put your life in your own hands and in the hands of a few bits of metal and a rope.
After a quick shower and some clean clothes we all piled back into the hostel for dinner and a few drinks before playing a new favorite game called The Box Game. The Box Game involves taking a cereal box, placing it on the ground, and going round the room having people pick it up using their mouths without touching the ground with anything else but their feet. This isn’t hard at first, but after each person playing has done it a strip of the box is ripped off the top. This way the target gets lower and lower and more people are unsuccessful at picking it up. Yes, there is a bit of spit swapping… but I made it to the last round, which is picking up the bottom of the cereal box as its entirely flat on the floor. Should I add that to the ‘special skills’ section of my CV?
A trip to the small bar in the village was made- as we walked down some of the local sheep were silhouetted on the nearby hills and looked quite ominous. After a great night we finally all made it back in bed- I’ve never slept better!
Sunday was another grand day of climbing. We got a bit lost on the way to our destination after checking out of the hostel, but it was another beautiful day exploring so no one in my car minded much. We went to a placed called McCross and set up a few climbing routes there.
Heading back to Belfast we were all exhausted, but I was happy. This was a great chance to get away from the city for awhile, get to know some cool people, and practice climbing on some real rocks. I enjoyed the chance to wake up to waves, to listen to the sounds of nature, and to laugh. I liked being tired for reasons other than academic, being nervous and overcoming it, and not having to check email or answer texts for a whole weekend. That rivaled being able to climb in the sun!
Needless to say, I’m happy with my purchase of climbing shoes and hope to be able to use them on some real rocks again very soon. For now it’s back to the grind of life!