Unlucky #13

Remember how housing has always been the bane of my existence?

Well. Nothing new to report there.

Three weeks ago I moved into a house close to where I’ve been staying since I moved out of the palace that was student accommodation. My, those were simpler times… anyways, I moved and was all cheery because here I go, having my own place again, blah blah blah.

Yeah. Not so much.

The location, fine. The one housemate I currently have seems nice enough despite being under the illusion that his bottle of Febreeze in any way masks the stench of the pot he’s been smoking. Unfortunately something has been broken the entire time I have been here. Once that thing is fixed, something else breaks. The cycle hasn’t ended and my landlord doesn’t seem to be in any rush to fix things, despite the fact that he seemed like a nice enough fellow.

I really don’t get it.

I know light bulbs break, but they’re not that hard to replace. I don’t like cooking in the dark. I like having clean clothes. Clean clothes don’t happen when the washer leaks all over my kitchen floor and the dryer trips the circuit and plunges the house into a temporary blackout. My clothes are currently ‘drying’ on various surfaces around my room while I snuggle under 2 (2!) duvets because it’s July which means nothing to Ireland. The radiators don’t work- I tried. Again, “summer” combined with shitty house means Liz is nooooooot a happy camper.

On the upside, I finished data collection for my dissertation (struggle bus) and can start analyzing and writing. I am going on a rock climbing trip to Croatia in October and can’t wait. I ate delicious chips for dinner (healthy choices, oh yeah) and am currently looking up destinations for a short trip to anywhere the sun shines that isn’t too expensive to get to. I finally caved to procrastination and opened a Netflix account.

Grad school. Nearly there. How is it almost August already?

Bonfire Weekend

This weekend was/is an interesting one for sure, both personally and culturally in Northern Ireland. I finally moved into my own apartment (a tent was looking like a good option) and have one room in a 5-bedroom house. No one else lives here at the moment which I, of course, love. I’m hoping with all my might that no one else moves in until September when I’ve turned in my dissertation and don’t have to care as much about noisy/messy/horrible flatmates!

Anyways, I moved in and my friend Maria came to visit me. Timing is everything. She’s a few months pregnant and had this weekend off work, so she came down from Norway for a little Ireland time! Unfortunately for her I forgot to mention that this weekend in particular is one of the most, ahem, ‘cultural’ ones in Northern Ireland. This weekend falls over the 12th of July which is when many of the Protestant groups around town celebrate old war victories and burn big bonfires and parade around town blocking traffic.

[For a more comprehensive history of the 12th of July, try google :)]

Basically half of the sane population of Belfast hits the road and gets out of town while the other half stays at home or is out in the street causing trouble. It’s been a pretty dead weekend overall- not a lot of people out and about although the weather has been pretty nice!

Maria and I walked around town on Friday and checked out the big fish, the Titanic Quarter, the Cathedral Quarter and more. Lots and lots of walking! There was also coffee and delicious things to eat, as per the usual. On Saturday we got out of town and hit Giant’s Causeway, where the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy the views.

001 002 004 008 012

It was so green! I guess the rain is okay sometimes. We snuggled down for some great Irish food in a nearby pub before getting the bus back to Belfast. As I’m getting settled into my new house I’m realizing that I chose a pretty good room, as it seems to be the only one that doesn’t have a carpet that smells like moist sweat socks.

Yeah. Let that sink into your brain. The Belfast damp is unfortunately alive and well…

Also unfortunately is the lack of hot water in the taps or in the shower, a problem that extends not only to the boiler but to the electrical system as well. Since it’s a holiday weekend it can’t be fixed until next week, which means it’s cold showers or no showers for me until then. I live in a developed country and it’s not warm in any sense here- while cold showers were the norm on my trips to Nicaragua or during Jordan summers, cold showers are a one way ticket to me not being a happy camper and probably getting ill again in Northern Ireland.

Sunday was spent relaxing and meandering, as few things were open in preparation for bonfire burnings and parades today (Monday). Today is a national holiday so many people have it off work. Smoke trails were evident in the sky over Belfast and the smell of the sea was strong- it’s a weird combination for a weird town, haha.

I walked Maria to the bus station this morning not so bright but definitely early. One of the bonfires in Sandy Row was still burning, definitely not something you see every day. The city was quiet and people were out setting up parade barriers for the parades that will go through later in the day. It is raining.

014

I am home again waiting for the repair guy who was supposed to be here an hour and a half ago and still hasn’t showed. I know it’s a holiday, but if you say you’re going to be somewhere at a certain time and that determines whether or not I get to shower today? Kind of important. Depending on others to fix necessary shit is really a drag.

What an interesting weekend, indeed…

Keep Edinburgh Weird

Last weekend I had the chance to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend to attend a derby bootcamp (yes, another!) and be a tourist. Don’t worry, I brought along dissertation crap to work on, too! The flight took a measly 25 minutes once we were in the air… talk about a short nap.

My hostel was cute and in the old part of Edinburgh, with lots of things to see nearby. I was right down the road from the Edinburgh Castle, explored the Royal Mile every day, climbed Arthur’s Seat and ate all the food I could find!

The weather was beautiful for the most part- only got rained on going to the derby boot camp, and I had a spare change of clothes with me anyways. Edinburgh was delightfully weird and there was always something going on that I could stop and watch for a little while. There was a lot of walking in Edinburgh, rain or shine!

007

St. Gile’s Cathedral

011

More invisible men!

013

Cool church artwork

014

Looks like the cow skipped the moon and jumped through the pub instead

021

The side of Edinburgh Castle… have fun stormin’ it!

036

You’ve chosen… poorly.

043

FLAMING BAGPIPES!

046

Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper just down the street from the flaming bagpiper

047

This magician had a balloon on his head. See again: Edinburgh is awesomely weird.

071

Arthur’s Seat

015 017 025 029 031 033 045 048 049 054 058 060 072 073 074

I have also never heard or seen as many bagpipes in my life as I did during my four days in Edinburgh. Also: kilts are totally a thing and I giggle at them Every. Single. Time. The casual kilt is just my favorite.

Sun of a Bitch

I have another post coming up that demonstrates this, but it seems like life has had more than a few ups and downs in the last week or so. Unfortunately in the last 24 hours this trend has been amplified and exacerbated… whomp whomp. Here’s a brief rundown of the last bit of time in my life.

Unbeknownst to me the house I’m staying in has an alarm system. A housemate set it. I set it off. It made a horrendous sound and didn’t stop for a very long time.

I then realized that the same housemate had dead bolted the front door, which I do not have a key for. I cracked a beer and decided to deal with it the next day.

The next morning I woke up at 5am to sunlight streaming through my window. I love the sun dearly, but 5 should only come in pm times.

Running on four hours sleep I had to climb out the living room window (rucksack first!) to go climbing. Still locked out, obviously. Good to know I have an escape route if necessary.

I spilled coffee down my clean, white climbing shirt approximately ten seconds after I took my first sip.

Literally a mile before the car park where we were going I realized that I forgot not only my harness (kind of important), but also my rock shoes. I remembered to grab my chalk bag and helmet from my bag conveniently stored in the upstairs attic. I remembered to borrow ropes and a full rack of gear. I couldn’t open a drawer and get my harness and shoes.

Mother. Fucker.

This whole living out of a suitcase thing? Getting real old.

Thankfully my climbing partner had a sense of humor! Also, he dropped his wallet somewhere and found it this morning lying in a puddle in the middle of his street. Struggle bus much?

We drove an additional 30 minutes to the house of a friend who kindly lent me his harness and shoes, which were 2.5 sizes bigger than mine. Better than nothing!

I realized I could fit in the trunk of my friend’s car. I put myself in time-out for a minute.

I slipped going up the first Severe of the day, a route called Final FU. It almost Final F Me-d… The climb then turned into a glorified VDiff, which was disappointing.

It began to rain.

It kind of stopped raining.

I stuck to my goal and climbed a Hard Severe (the gloriously named Ron Burgundy), a grade above what I’ve been climbing. I didn’t fall, although there was some faffing about. Kind of felt like a hollow victory. Perspective, though- I climbed a HS in big, borrowed shoes in the dreary Irish mizzle. Success?

The skies opened as I was at the bottom of a harder climb, and the granite turned into a little wee water slide.

Boo.

BOO.

Through a bit of innovation and some swearing we managed to get all the gear out of the wall and were on our way back to the car. Where it promptly stopped raining.

(All in all I seconded Whit, led Ron Burgundy, seconded Double Berth, led Final FU, and rescued gear from Broken Arrow which should count for something.)

My camera’s SD card failed so I couldn’t document the misery/epicness but, to be honest, pictures couldn’t have done the day justice.

When I got home I realized I had my underwear on inside out all day.

Silver linings: I upped my climbing grade and gained confidence in my meager climbing abilities. My climbing buddy helped me solve my forgetfulness issues patiently. He didn’t kill me or even attempt it. The sun shone for a few wee hours, even if it was horribly early in the morning. The USA legalized gay marriage, which from here on out shall be known simply as marriage. I haven’t failed my Master’s degree yet. I got home, had a shower, and had a beer. Climbing day success.

In not climbing related news, I’ve made the roster for the Belfast Roller Derby A-team as an alternate skater. Talk about a huge confidence boost!

I hope this is the end of this weird little roller coaster my life has been on, but we’ll see. Fingers crossed.

A trip to Madrid

A trip to Madrid, or, how I will someday move to Spain.

Lemme just preface this entire post by saying that Madrid is flippin’ AWESOME.

Americans use the word awesome too much, but I’m gonna own it. MADRID WAS AWESOME.

The morning after Gola camping adventures ended I was on my way to meet some of the derby girls to grab a bus to Dublin, and from there to Spain. We were going over to play Roller Derby Madrid. As I’ve mentioned before travel is like crack to me, and this time was no different.

I’ve never been to Spain before but know a couple awesome Spanish peeps, so I couldn’t wait to get there. Plus, I heard a rumor that it was warm there and I wasn’t ready to give up the sun just yet!

We got to our hostel on Friday in time to explore the city a bit and orient ourselves. The first thing we found was a packed food market, which is always a good sign! I had my first tapas and it was delicious. Could keep eating forever.

001

Gotta love a neon beer bottle wearing a hat!

Spain is great because people are out and about until all hours of the morning. They’re out with their families, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing, socializing. There was an incredibly open vibe to the city amplified by wide open streets, bars that don’t close, and something happening no matter where you look. For us who are used to last call being at 1am, this was a welcome treat!

We didn’t enjoy the Madrid nightlife too much the night before the game, but woke up early enough the next morning to get some exploring in. Turns out our hostel overlooked the palace and was close to a few cathedrals and the Madrid opera house. Pardon the many pictures of buildings I took- they were just so pretty!

002 008 011 012

Walking through the streets gave me, the avid people watcher, the chance to have some really good things to look at. Living statues, flamenco dancers and this guy who played songs on the water glasses abounded. Tourists and locals flocked around. I realized that, while I understood some things, the majority of my Spanish is entirely irretrievable.

013 018

019

Give me some cafe con leche any day. It was delicious!

20150613_130512

I’ll save you a long description of the roller derby game we played because it was crap. Completely the worst game I’ve ever played. I think our team did fabulously and played well together, however, the floor was ice-rink slippery and none of us were prepared with a better set of wheels. Madrid kicked us over and then skated over atop of us.

It. Sucked.

And here everyone is trying to remain positive and I can’t even stand it. I’m PMSing and flew all the way to Spain to look like a total asshat, unable to move, unable to skate, unable to grip, unable to move forward. I haven’t skated since 2010 to look like that in my first real team game. I haven’t tried as hard as I’ve tried to be foiled by a goddamn gym floor.

I cried in the bathroom during halftime. More than losing I hate losing it, especially in front of my teammates when they’re relying on me to score points and I can’t.

Sorry not sorry for all the swearwords. I was seriously PMSing and losing that game (by an extraordinary number) was awful. I also have no pictures to offer of this moment in time because the ones taken of me were flippin’ awful and I look gross.

The after party, once we’d showered and somewhat composed ourselves, got better as the night went on. A ten euro cover charge didn’t prepare us for a dinner of finger food (not whatcha need after playing a derby game!), but, as it turns out, if you eat enough of it sometimes the waitress will just start handing you platters of food and you can munch all night long.

Yeah. Winning at the afterparty.

We drank. We danced. We watched horrible things on the bar tv. Irish songs were sung in the toilets and in the street after the bar closed at the early hour of 4pm. My feet hurt but, hey, I had some delicious margaritas.

The next morning, sans hangover (no idea how I avoided that), a few of us meandered to a local flea market and spent the day basking in the sun and delightful shops. I got a couple cute tank tops and found an earring shop that sold all sorts of things for one euro each. Woo!

037

Creepy goat thing!

030 032

039

My favorite Madrid moment was after the flea market, walking back near our hostel and finding an adorable outdoor cafe with food we couldn’t resist. I was on a mission to drink as much sangria and eat as much Spanish food as possible, and the paella was calling me!

Note: I get that some Irish people, for whatever reasons, don’t leave their island that much. However, this is no excuse to mispronounce Spanish words. Paella does not have audible ‘l’ sounds in them. The double ‘l’ in Spanish makes a ‘y’ sound. Insert the words ‘calle’ and ‘tortilla’ here. My teammates realized this bothered me and spent the weekend using it to their advantage.

Additionally, because of the lack of travel experience of the majority of my teammates I was surrounded by people who were scared of planes (I don’t blame them) and/or didn’t realize some specific things about air travel that I’ve come to take for granted. I can’t give them too much shit because I’ve been lucky enough to get to travel bunches, but still. Kinda funny and kinda aggravating all at the same time.

Back to paella! This delicious dish finally made it to our table and I joyfully scarfed down my half.

And then used the shrimpies as finger puppets. I should have taken a picture but my fingers were covered in shrimp goo and I was laughing so hard I cried and couldn’t have taken a picture if my life depended on it.

20150613_152222

I’m drooling just looking at this picture.

I also had sangria. Day made.

All too soon the vacation was over and we’d checked out of our hostel, winging our way back through the outskirts of Madrid to the airport. Mild mannered Irish teammates also didn’t enjoy how fast the Spanish taxi drivers drove, which was still nowhere near as chaotic as the same situation in Jordan so I just had to laugh. I cannot wait to go back to Spain and am seriously considering moving there… I hear there’s great rock climbing!

However, I may have to stay in Belfast until Madrid rolls their way into town on our turf. I am not getting stomped on twice…

Eat, Sleep, Climb, Repeat Part 2

My next climbing adventure came right on the heels of the Fairhead Meet in the form of a little thing the Queen’s Mountaineering Club like to call the annual Gola trip. Gola is an island off the coast of County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland and it is pretty amazing!

We headed out in a little mini bus early Monday morning and were soon bouncing along narrow Irish roads towards a little town called Gweedore (which is Gweedor-able, to say the least). We caught the ‘ferry,’ which is a small boat called The Cricket and were soon riding the waves all the way to the island. Hello no cell phone service and all the camping fun you can pack into four days!

048

Islands in the distance

043 045

We trucked inland with all our gear- it took a couple trips. Eventually we made it to the camping spot, right in the sun and right by the beach! I was entirely happy with this setup.

053

I have to admit, I made fun of the inflatable couch at first… but it is a great perk!

054

Squishing ants with a rock… effective

056

Creating a cozy bonfire circle

060

Barbecue circle and tent city number two!

059

061

Unfortunate smoke positioning

The sun set and we were primed for a little wee barbecue and hangout time. The climbing begins tomorrow!

We had a lot of people on the trip who hadn’t climbed much outside before, so there were a lot of chances to learn.

068

Having a contemplative moment by the sea.

087

These are our adorable Nepal headbands from the Fairhead Meet. So cozy!

067 070 071 072 076 079 083

Day one and, in fact, days two and three were blurs of sun and fun, sand and camping and general hilarity. All these Irish people burned like bacon in the sun (I did as well, so I can’t laugh too much) and there was a lot of finding shade, slathering on sun cream and hiding under rain jackets and hats. I led a couple of climbs and generally enjoyed the tough granite and beautiful views of Gola.

095

Wellies were a good choice. There were a lot of bogs on the island and most were unfortunately located around a nice rock I peed behind.

088

Creep sheep!

099

Beach volleyball made with materials we found on the beach. Innovation!

084 094

The evenings were spent cooking dinner and drinking around the campfire, trying not to trip on rocks in the dark and generally enjoying ourselves. One night a certain member of our group learned to play the ‘drums’ (two sticks and a pan) with his feet and then realized he could turn on the gas stove, light it, and put a pot of water on it also using just his feet.

What can I say? I surround myself with talent!

I have nothing bad to say about the Gola trip at all, other than I should have brought sun cream. In my defense, the sun hasn’t been enough to turn me any color except translucent in the months that I have been here! Unfortunately when you are out camping for a few days certain necessities of life become a bit more inconvenient. One of these things is bathroom visits.

Now, I can pee outside like a boss. I’m no stranger to finding a nice rock or tree and enjoying nature while I take care of business. I can even pee with my rock climbing harness on (TMI? Oh well.) On Gola, though, there is always a bit of a walk to get to a nice spot to do what you need to do.

There was a particularly long walk to a location fondly known as Shit Creek where things of the Number 2 variety could take place. This place was located on a rock crack (hah) near the sea where the tide would come in quite high and wash away any indiscretions campers had left behind. You yourself or your friends were quite visible walking towards this part of the island, toilet role in hand.

I do not like Shit Creek. I do not like pooing outside. This is my least favorite part of camping.

I’m sorry I just posted on my blog about poop. It really was memorable, though. Glad you could join me in reliving that experience.

118

Attempting to fish (unsuccessful)

104 106 111 115 116

It was an amazing trip and I can’t wait to go again. I hope I get to go again! I didn’t get to climb all the routes I wanted to try, but I did get to go up some pretty sweet rocks. I tried to lead a harder route than I was used to and failed. I didn’t fall, but I backed off. Hated myself for it. Hated myself that the guy who successfully climbed it when I couldn’t didn’t seem to struggle at all. Caught my first lead fall (same friend) and thankfully no one was hurt. Realized that I’m an ok climber and there is so much more time to get better. Laughed so hard I cried, multiple times. Arms and legs hurt from climbing, abs hurt from laughing. Lost my patience with myself but the people around me always made me smile.

I seconded Bootleg, led Dideye and Chinface, led a variation of the Speed of Darkness, seconded Weathered Window, seconded Corner Boy and Days of Wonder, led Gaddafy Duck and seconded The Angelas. I put this here mostly to remind myself of the crap I’ve climbed, not to bore you with (more) climbing details!

Getting the boat back to the mainland (is it the mainland if it’s still an island? Islandception…) was bittersweet. I enjoyed the delightfully cold smoothie I had at a tiny cafe in Gweedore, and enjoyed using a real toilet even more. I miss the simplicity of life on an island where you don’t have to worry about technology, don’t have to worry about school, and get to interact with the people around you on a different level. I also didn’t mind the lack of cars and nature being all around me, seeing stars and hearing just the wind as I fell asleep at night.

Still reveling in post-camping bliss, we were very surprised when our car broke down two hours outside of Belfast and we started an entirely different adventure that what we had thought…

Long story short, the car is broken beyond reasonable repair and it’s still in the parking lot where we left it. The tow truck driver gave us a lift with all our camping gear to the train station where we rumbled through Northern Ireland, finally finishing our journey with a walk home like little Sherpas with all our gear.

Tiring? Yes. Unexpected? Yes. Does not having a car suck? Abso-frickin-lutely. But, all in all, what a great week.

Next up: a weekend trip to Spain. Get ready.

Eat, Sleep, Climb, Repeat

Eat, Sleep, Climb, Repeat,

Eat, Sleep, Climb, Repeat.

Eat Sleep Climb Repeat

EatSleepClimbRepeat

… and that is a relatively accurate explanation of an entire awesome week of my life.

Short, sweet, and to the point simple.

Eat, sleep, climb, repeat.

Explanation.

I attended a climbing meet up in Fairhead with some of the UK’s finest climbers, and climbers from beyond the UK as well. We traveled up on Friday and stayed until Sunday, met up with friends and pitched our tents in what had to be Farmer Sean’s softest pasture (seriously, that grass was lush). Friday was beautiful and I regret not getting up earlier to climb a few things myself… but we set up our tent and meandered over to the cow shed later that night to hear a short talk by a mountaineer named Will Sim, a man who at 25 years of age has already accomplished things that I can only hope to participate in across the span of my life.

002

Deceptive sunshine…

004

Forget apartment hunting. I’m fine right here…

He’s climbed serious mountains all over the world, including some which people didn’t even have photographs of (yeah, that still exists!). He uses Google Earth to find cool shit around the world and then climbs it.

Rad, to say the least

Another gal was also at the meet and had these super cozy headbands and hats made in Nepal, and proceeds were going to the earthquake relief fund. I had to get one (no regrets whatsoever. SO WARM).

Saturday dawned windy and rainy. Boo. Breakfast was eaten and naps were taken until other friends came around and coerced me into climbing despite the recalcitrant weather. It rained on and off which made belaying in the cold not fun and attempting to climb on wet rock even less fun… I was a bit cranky although the banter with friends made it much more enjoyable.

But we climbed two things, the column (central crack) and Easy Go. Both were incredibly difficult (for me, seconding, on top rope… I am not a graceful or happy climber sometimes) and I have to admit that I was in no mood to suffer wet feet and wet rock, struggling to climb things that by all intents and purposes I should have flown up on a better weather day.

Adaptability and the learning curve are my enemies….

006

This sheep has the best haircut, doesn’t it?

007

Our little tent city!

016

Climbing Central Crack, a ridiculous V.Diff in the rain.

012 021 022 023 025

Once back in camp and dried off, dinner and drinks were procured. Our tent was dry and warm and tea was always available- yay camping stoves! We also had the glorious benefit of a few little porta potties that had been trucked in for the occasion, although they soon became less enjoyable to use than nature due to the number of climbers… yuck.

029

Nap time

The talk that evening was by the lovely Hazel Findlay, a UK climber who is a total badass and who may be my official rock climbing girl crush. There aren’t a lot of women professional climbers, but despite a shoulder injury she has made it to the top of the climbing world regardless of gender. Her talk was about being strong and brave when climbing (two of my particularly obvious mental struggles) and it was awesome to hear someone so experienced talk about such simple, yet powerful concepts. She took us through some of her most epic climbs and travels and I was super, uber jealous.I think we all walked away from the cow shed with a bigger crush on her than we had before!

Sunday dawned beautiful and a bit windy, but the mental downer of the rain on Saturday (when so many of us, myself included, were so stoked to climb) meant we only climbed one thing. We climbed Balooba which ended up being a crumbly mess of a route that I got stuck on, swore at, and nearly cried on because I’m a big baby.I was disheartened by my inability to make it up a route only slightly harder than what I’ve been leading without struggling or falling (despite subsequent climbing adventures I’m still in this position, frustratingly). The worst part of it was yelling at a rock, which couldn’t hear me, while incredibly talented climbers shot up much harder routes on either side of me.

Yeah. I’m an asshole and I feel bad about it.

All in all the Fairhead Meet was fantastic, and I’d love to go again. I’ve gotten to know some pretty fantastic climbers from Northern Ireland, and now that circle has expanded. Never underestimate the power of community when it comes to any activity, including rock climbing!

Cheers until the next adventure.

031

Again, deceptive sunshine. I should learn to enjoy it while it’s there, right?

039

Pooped climbers. Shortly after this we got fish and chips and all was well with the world.

037

Balooba nonsense surrounded by awesome climbers climbing crazy hard things

Meeting in the Mournes

This Saturday I had the awesome chance to meet up with some cool ladies and climb things in the lovely Mourne Mountains. We detoured through some winding Irish country roads in order to avoid the Irish Open, which is a golf tournament for those who care about such things (note: I do not).

I was excited to get out and climb knowing that I would have the chance to lead a couple more things. The first route I led was scary because it was my first time being entirely in charge of myself while climbing, but the grade itself was easy as pie. I was keen to head on up a Severe to see what that felt like.

We had a good ratio of women who came out, about 4 who had outside experience and 4 who didn’t. Walking in was a bit slow as we also had a ratio of people who were fit to people who weren’t, but hey- climbing, like roller derby, is for everybody (and every body).

The day was lovely and not too many clouds threatened to make things miserable. The wind was rushing down the gully where we set our stuff up which made things cold, but not unbearable. I led my first Severe (called the North Wall) and flew up it- woo! I was nervous, but not scared. Leading makes me aware of precisely where my feet and hands need to be, and to be entirely confident of what I am doing with my body. Putting gear into the rocks wasn’t as much of a struggle as I usually make it, and before I knew it I was at the top with an anchor and hauled one of the newbies up after me.

I got to lead a second Severe called New Decayed which was, if possible, more awesome than the North Wall! I really enjoyed, and the me who is scared of heights/falling/spiders/other series of unfortunate events was nowhere to be found. This climb got precarious, but I didn’t mess it up.

Until I clipped the rope wrong on a bit of gear and made things super hard for myself… rope drag is a bitch. Aside from that brain fart and the subsequent tug of rope I had to do to set up my anchor, I was pretty darn happy with the day.

Climbing with ladies is awesome, because there’s no inherent competition. When I’m around the lads I find there is always a competition to get a certain crazy move right first, or race up a certain route the fastest, or just generally playfully fight over who is top dog. This isn’t a bad thing- it’s just how guys operate sometimes. Climbing with the women I climbed with allowed me to converse while climbing, take advice that was needed, laugh, and learn from others more experienced than me while teaching those who are much newer than I to this crazy awesome sport. I was right in the middle experience-wise, near the top fitness wise and definitely one of the most stubborn… Haha.

It started to sprinkle as we got to the base of our route after our second climb, so we hightailed it back to the car as the heavens opened. The weather in Norn Iron has been on again, off again rain for the last few days… can’t take anything for granted weather-wise over here. The walk back to the car was long and sodden, but the rain tap tapping on my (new) raincoat* hood was oddly therapeutic.

My semi-waterproof trousers had officially lost their semi-waterproofness, and soon I was forced to walk with fingers through my belt loops to keep them from sagging to the ground completely. Socks and trainers were soaked, but thank the deities for rain covers on rucksacks. I was still riding my happy high from my two climbs and humorously noted that I could pee my pants and no one would notice.

We finally made it back to the cars and into town for a much needed stop at the chippie. Drowned rats we may have looked… but at least we weren’t one of the people outside watching (or playing) golf! The course might be world class, but Irish weather certainly isn’t.

Happiness was a hot shower and my pajamas, sleeping in the knowledge that I’m slightly less of a crap climber than I was last week. For now, anyways.

This week I’m off to do an outdoor safety course for climbers (back to the Mournes where I hope against all hope that it will be dry), this weekend is a meet up in Fairhead with some cool climbers getting together, next week we’re off to the Republic for a climbing/camping trip and then my weekend in Spain (with an added derby game to boot) will introduce my sun-deprived body back to warmth!

In academic news, classes have ended, my supervisor is still terrible, my research still hasn’t been approved and my dissertation is metaphorically gathering dust. So… yeah. Not the most exciting or interesting part of my life.

005

My first lead of a Severe (North Wall) and first independent anchor built. Woo!

003007

012

North Wall

013

New Decayed

016

GAH RAIN go away.

  011  015

*Side note: you know you’ve lived in Ireland for awhile when you get madly excited about a new rain jacket. Sad.

Senor Chuckles McFaffin, III

[Note: ‘to faff about’ is the Irish way of saying to screw around, or to mess about with a task that should be simple but isn’t.]

I have discovered my climbing alter ego. His name is Senor Chuckles McFaffin, III.

He is a dick.

Senor Chuckles McFaffin, III comes out a lot when climbers climb. He is there when you spend an hour racking up (aka getting all your gear together in non-climber speak), while you make your way down to the base of a route, and when you spend another chunk of time untangling ropes that have mysteriously become intertwined despite having been placed in the boot neatly coiled the last time you went climbing.

Senor Chuckles McFaffin, III is all of us during a climb.

Last Friday I headed up to a beach town called Ballycastle to partake of a particular brand of procrastinating at a place called Fairhead. Fairhead is a gorgeous line of ocean cliffs from which, on a nice day, you can see all the way to Scotland.

001

Baby moos!

Fairhead is known for its crack climbing which I am slowly but surely warming up to the idea of. Implementation, that’s another story.

Matt and I climbed two routes, one called Girona and another called Chieftain. It’s been awhile since I got to be outdoors and I didn’t exactly enjoy our first climb, but by the time we rolled around to Girona I was enjoying myself. The sun poked its way out a for a little while and it didn’t rain until we were on our way back to the car, so there’s that!

012

Climbing Girona like a boss

018

021

Hello, heights :/

Yesterday we went back to Fairhead to tackle Hell’s Kitchen, an HVS that totally rocked (pun super intended). The weather was extraordinary and I even got a wee nap in the sunshine. Irish sunbathing still means I had three layers on over my tshirt as well as my wool hat from Donegall 😉

003

006

Poor sheepy!

Hell’s Kitchen’s first pitch wasn’t too tough and Matt sailed up it. What makes Hell’s Kitchen interesting was the hanging belay that occurs about halfway up as you get ready for the second half of the climb. I’ve obviously never done a hanging belay before (I prefer my feet to be on something, generally) and wasn’t too excited about it seeing as though I spent the entire 80-meter abseil practicing deep yogi breathing and not looking down…

008

Abseil like it’s no big deal

010

Sailing up the first pitch of Hell’s Kitchen

A climber who doesn’t like heights. Ironic?

015

Hanging belay. THE WORST FOR SO MANY REASONS.

Between me awkwardly climbing up and Matt sorting out his own nonsense, the rope managed to get ridiculously tangled and we spent a little while untangling it whilst dangling over thin air. The sun was oh-so close, and yet so far away… Darn you, rocks!

Senor Chuckles McFaffin strikes again…

We made it to the top eventually only to discover that half of our other climbing pair had fallen and twisted an ankle. Thankfully he was alright and we had a sunny day to faff about while we waited. I would have loved to get another climb in, but as it was we got to enjoy a beautiful day outside in lovely Northern Ireland.

018

The crew sorting it all out

014

023

Until next time, Fairhead. Until next time. I’ll try to leave Senor Chuckles at home, but somehow he always manages to squeeze in at the last minute.

028

Creeper sheep