The music is loud and it's nearly 3 in the morning. I grab another beer and glance around the hut at the swaying throng of happy revellers, all of them laughing, dancing, singing, ranting about this and that, like it's the last night of their lives. Some are even wrestling on the floor which by now is soaked with spilt drinks. Others are attempting wild break dance manoeuvres and back flips. Everybody is rolling drunk and grinning like cheshire cats – this is what I came for, the famous Irish 'craic' and it feels so good to be here. Several hours ago - around the time that I witnessed a whole room of people sing beautiful traditional folk songs in a manner completely alien to my city boy upbringing - I came to the conclusion that I love all these people, and right now I want to marry them and take them home to show my wife (I'm sure she would want to marry them all too!).
The party rages on, fuelled by a joyous spirit and a hefty supply of take outs bought at closing time in the nearby pub. Sometime later I stagger into my pit and fall back with the biggest smile possible cracking my face. Sleep takes me but my last thought as I drift away is that in coming here I had 'done a good thing, a very good thing'.
I've been on two Irish Bouldering meets, once in 2004 and once the following year in 2005. I recall both visits with a deep sense of affection and I know the same is true of my friends from Llanberis who also made the trip across the Irish Sea with me. Our time in the Wicklow mountains was a raucous affair with much crazy partying stretching into the early hours. I was impressed with how hard the locals partied but I was also equally impressed when they emerged through the fog of heavy hangovers the following morning with a clear mission to boulder like maniacs, or at least until fingers were bleeding and muscles ceased to work any more.
On both visits tradition dictated that Saturday was spent at Glendalough, the putative best bouldering venue in Ireland, and Sunday saw us trek into Glenmacnass, a little bedraggled after yet more hardcore partying but still keen for granite slopers.
Our information at the time came from downloaded topos produced by Dublin local Dave Flanagan who edits the Irish bouldering website: www.theshortspan.com. Since then Dave has kept on fine tuning his topos and creating new ones to freshly discovered areas. The conclusion to the arc of this story came when the crashing Irish economy rendered him jobless. Dave took advantage of his new time-rich, albeit cash-poor, lifestyle by dedicating himself to publishing Ireland's first printed bouldering guide. Although he faced a steep learning curve in transferring the digital to the printed form – a rocky road if ever there was – the years of producing virtual topos had served him well.
The results are impressive. This is a thoroughly modern affair, similar in style to Rupert Davies' Peak bouldering guide and Ryan Plews and Steve Dunnings' recent Yorkshire bouldering guide. It showcases the best that Ireland has to offer, and is both revelatory and inspiring in the process. This intriguing country it seems is blessed with an extraordinary array of geographically dispersed and geologically diverse bouldering venues, perhaps best experienced on a wandering road trip (Now there's a good idea for a holiday!).
Although Ireland is best known for its granite bouldering I was intrigued to note the presence of attractive sandstone and grit boulders at several locations I'd never heard of. And then there is the coastal limestone on the wild Atlantic-facing Aran Islands off the coast from Doolin (a place I had visited once, unaware of what bouldering lay so close at hand). The impression I'm left with is that there is much to see and explore.
One slight gripe is the absence of a more thorough rendition of Irish bouldering history – at the very least I would have put known FA details after each problem description. I know from experience that if you don't nail these things down as they happen they have a habit of fading away. And aside from keeping the historical record intact it adds to the character of a problem if you know a little (or a lot) of the person who did it first.
The book is lifted by a range of mouth watering images, many of which give a strong sense of the beautiful Irish landscape. There is the occasional duff shot but overall the standard is high, and if the dramatic front cover doesn't leave you inspired then I don't know what will.
To summarise, Dave has 'done a good thing'; this is great guidebook and an absolute bargain at £14.00. Get yourself a copy, get a car full of mates and get over there. And if you can make it for this weekend's bouldering meet, all the better!
To get a copy go to the V12 shop site.