Coumshingaun

Where: Coumshingaun South Facing Cliff, Co Waterford
When: 18 July 2009
Route: Devices and Desires 25m HS 4b

Since I moved to Waterford at the end of 07 I have been trying to find someone who knew the routes at Coumshingaun who would get on the rock with me. I could not find anyone, despite using ail the online forums and contacting local clubs. This year, though a friend, I met a Gorey based lad, Andy, who had not been on the rock in 10+ years and was up for giving it a go.

On Saturday 18 July 2009, armed with the printouts from climbing.ie, we made the familiar walk up to the magnificent Coumshingaun. We also had these topos with us, very kindly faxed on from a lad who got in touch on the forum. We had not remembered to bring a compass and spent a good while trying to make sense of the descriptions and topos. We had ourselves almost convinced that the right angling ridge in the topo matched lines on the south facing cliff we figured we were staring up at. We finally realised that this topo the lad faxed me was for Foilanprisoon, another crag entirely!

Finally after meticulously rereading descriptions and trying to pick out features we spotted the start to Money Business, a 40m HS 4B. I had been on the rock at Ballykeefe quarry the previous weekend for the first time in over 3 years and really enjoyed it. This looked vegetated but I was up for it. With the walk to the ledge at the base of the route already off the deck, getting on the rock one quickly had that awesome feeling of being high off the ground which one gets on mountain routes. The day was overcast and it had spit rain already that morning and recently enough too, but the coum with it's imposing walls still looked magnificent.

Route finding was not 100% obvious or maybe I was rusty on that front. Vegetated alright but lovely climbing. It being a mountain route I was testing the holds before using them. Right, where to belay. I tried to get onto the ledge I was supposed to arrive on according to the description. It looked from below that it was vegetated up here but christ there's an entire ecosystem on this ledge. I had to push around stout gorse bushes and eventually was forced to bend/break a few branches just to get a stance. Plenty of rope drag belaying Andy with the vegetation in between us as well.

Stanced here, one wondered why in November 1985 the lads (C. Gibbon, S, Gallwey) did not keep going. Maybe they ran out of light, short days after the clocks turn. Must have as S Gallwey came back with R Power 6 years to the month later and put up Devices and Desires (25m HS 4B), the natural next pitch. We sorted the double ropes and I set off up the groove and man there was a lot of vegetation. The description does not say it but now there was a nice two step traverse to the right to a groove. This was a tiring stance, after a bit of fiddling for gear, I did some gardening to reveal a hidden foothold which improved the stance. I stepped up into the groove and then another step up on my right leg and suddenly I was falling. The little pebble had snapped off without warning. Gear was solid and fall was mickey mouse but I needed a rest and a shake out and kept the rope weighted for a bit. Moving back up the groove and higher, man there was a lot of vegetation, hiding holds, hiding placements, hiding stances, hiding nice clean rock, making the rock dirty looking.

Looking across the coum at what we figured out was the Black Chocolate Gully area, all one needed to do is take a quick handy digital picture and draw a few lines on it. Who needs a topo? Damn printing costs. I imagined this mountain crag if it was in England, with it's large population of climbers, it probably would have a proper RockFax guide or something, certainly solid rap stations, necessary with lots of routes on the other wall ending with near vertical grass fade outs. And the routes would be clean, climbed on regularly and holds would not be breaking off. I could organise a cleaning weekend, get a bunch of climbers up with their gardening tools. Oh yeah, this is the Comeraghs and I live in Waterford.

When was the last time anyone had climbed Devices and Desires? Was this the 2nd accent! No way. Little, kind of, chicken heads kept giving me step-up options but where was the gear? And I made a bags of the twin ropes under the little leaning back traverse, the rope drag was unnecessary. The isolated rain drops were becoming more persistent and the afternoon disappearing. Hold it, don't let it beat harder, you've done this many times before. This is where you want to be, it's been too long. You love this. I stepped up again. No gear. Now it was drizzling. One more step-up and I was at a stance with a horizontal break to my right just under waist height. I nut-keyed out some earth, it'll only fit a small nut and they are all puling through, wait the #1 holds on a right pull, perfect...slotted a #2 in opposition....man, when was the last time I placed nuts in opposition like that, and it's granny bomber. I was psyched, 10m of run out below with the drizzle picking up, solid piece, big-time, sweet. Not far to go. Belay was helped with the 5m cordelette strung over a boulder and Andy climbed up in the rain.

We descended the steep gully with the little popping out here and there stream and overgrown tough grass. I had my rain jacket anyway but the mizzle was not dampening the elation I felt at all. Climbing like this a half hour drive and 45 minute walk-in from my current abode. Wicked!

Tom Corcoran

Back