I got an email from a good friend in the US over the weekend replying in dismay (I think that's the best word, but if it's not, don't take offense buddy! :) that I was "jaded of Irish climbing". Since he was so surprised at the statement, I thought I'd post an update and clarify a bit more.
Burren/Fair Head climbing is amazing. Hands down, it's some of the best climbing you can get anywhere (and that's from experience of a lot of locations now). But, and this is where it's interesting, the harder routes are seriously bold in comparison to what you get in other locations. There's definitely the odd exceptions (the E6 in the cave beside of Blockhead springs to mind it seems, although I haven't been on it so could be wrong! and yes, I've forgotten it's name) but by and large the climbing is really bold above poor gear. I'll take the one example I've tried on a top-rope: Very Big Springs - the bottom half is serious, with bold moves above Irish bolts, sorry, pegs that have been there for almost 20 years. No way I'm trying that on lead. Having seen seriously hard routes abroad now, I've seen the possibility of really hard routes with great protection and low danger. Steve McClure puts it well in an interview recently:
"I’ll never be a big trad climber, as in big numbers, as they require a degree of risk I don’t think I can justify. However, safe, hard trad interests me more than anything, it’s just that there is not so many of them around."The big factor is that, especially for the Burren (Fair Head seems to be different, although I have my suspicions of people's word ;), there's not many of them. Prove me wrong though!
When it comes to doing something to a high sporting level, I'm not interested in danger, I want to be purely fitness/strength/mental (the latter ironically being super-important on trad, but on hard redpoints, just as important - I've failed/succeeded on most of my hardest routes due to mental issues)
As ever I'm interested to hear people's thoughts on this - do post in the comments and let me know!
Image Credit: Sean Villanueva on a new E7, Ailladie, Burren, Ireland. Photo by Pat Nolan (climbing.ie gallery)