Thursday, 24 July 2008

The best boulder problem in Ireland?

We all have a favorite bouldering problem, and generally it is our latest hardest ascent. But when you ask yourself honestly if that problem really deserves the award you generally come to the conclusion that there is actually a better line out there. So which one is the best bouldering line in Ireland?

Objective factors

Rock Quality
One might prefer sandstone to limestone but in the end it all comes to the same question: What is the quality of the rock like? Is it solid? Is it sharp? Does it get polished? Good rock is to bouldering what flour is to bread: It is the base ingredient that you cannot omit.

Although I am one of those who think you must deserve the climb, I must admit that a climb that stands on its own 2 hours a walk from the closest car park will never receive the attention it deserves. Ask yourself: What is the time ratio climbing/approach? How’s the walking like? Do you need a good pair of walking boots or will a pair of sandals do?


Some excellent lines are doomed by their conditions: Every time you want to try them, there is something wrong: too warm, too wet, midges, seepage, high tide, rain pond at the bottom....
Ask yourself: How often did you try the line?

Subjective factors:

Line Clarity
The best problem is a problem that does not need any description. I personally believe that the purity of a line is what the true boulderer should value most: No matter how good a problem is, it cannot be described as a proper line if you need to eliminate half the holds.
Ask yourself: Is this an eliminate? How easy is it to describe?

Line Quality
Probably the most controversial factor: what can feel really awesome to some of us will feel like absolute crap to others … However everyone will agree that the true boulderer is always looking for his ultimate hardest move: the most powerful, the weirdest, the stretchiest, the nastiest....
Ask yourself: What are the moves like? What are the holds like? If there are many moves, are they all very different? Is it sustained? If there is only one or two moves, how original are they?

I first thought this factor was objective, and then I thought of Bullock Harbour. I asked myself in which category would it fall. And surprisingly I could not choose. Obviously everyone loves beautiful places like Kerry, Wicklow, The Mournes or Donegal. They all have their stunning lonely valleys that you wish you could visit more often. And then there are the less attractive ones like Bullock Harbour: broken bottles, human and dog’s dumps, graffities and the junkie’s syringe. And of course the local bums who are always coming up with a good joke (You're a bit of an eejit mista', there's an easier way up there! ). Nonetheless I had some beautiful evening in Bullock Harbour, enjoying the sun, the sound of the sea, the view around and the occasional visit of the seals.
Ask yourself: Could I bring some non-climbing friend there for a picnic?

Finally a line is great because it receives attention. Otherwise it is just another piece of rock on Craggy Island.
Ask yourself: Is the problem well known? Has it been fairly described? How many ascents has it received? Do people refer to it by its name? Does it actually have a name? Is the grade still floating?

So I selected a list of 20 irish bouldering problems that I really like. I gave them a mark out of 5 (5=excellent, 1=very poor) for each of these preceding factors. Here’s the final score list:


Dave said...

Very interesting Pierre, I agree with a lot of what you said, I might do up mu version of your table for the sake of comparison?

Pierre Fuentes said...

Hi Dave,

No problem. It still very personal though.

I suppose the best would be to set up an voting sheet online with a lot of problems (50 or a 100?), but I don't know how to do that and that's probably a lot of work...

Tim said...

I think it's a good concept, the climbs are so subjective I'm going to do my own list . I like the rails and the deadpoint problem . Ohh to the iPhone list making machine!!!

diarmo said...

Nice one Pierre. I personally think the categories of Approach and Popularity are irrelevant to the quality of a single problem. Surely a problem cannot be regarded as better because it is beside the road or because a lot of people climb it? Maybe an area can be judged on these criteria but a individual problem I think no.