Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said that the Irish are one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever. This quote is invented, I checked. But it became famous with the release of a brilliant film by Scorsese, The Departed.

The fact is that to analyse people, you must let them talk about their feelings. This is something that the Irish are certainly not prepared to do.

My wife, who’s an Irish academic, sometimes complains about the fact that American and UK researchers always introduce themselves by stating how great they are. While she knows she should do the same if she wants to stay in the race, she finds the procedure extremely hard because pride is not something people easily express in her own culture.

I have seen this attitude in many areas of Irish life, and climbing is no exception. Grades, which are always a matter of heated discussions, no matter which country we are talking about, are usually contemplated with a fainted disdain in Ireland. Irish climber Dave Ayton regularly underlines this fact on his blog. In his latest post, he notes that in Irish climbing circles, grades don’t matter, and that “Grade Whore seems to be the phrase of choice at the moment back home”.

The fact is that talking about your achievement is expressing your pride, and pride is a feeling. Since the Irish are brought up not to express their feelings, they regard most expressions of pride with disdain, climbing achievements included.

But this attitude conflicts with national pride, because national pride is vital to Ireland unity. National pride is what allows any people to express a sense of identity, especially if we are talking about the most famous emigrating people!

And so, while the Irish do as if they disregard the importance of grades, they are desperate to make Irish climbers’ achievements more visible. This is probably why the Irish are often seen as a friendly bunch, because they manage to express national pride without the arrogance of self esteem.

Pretty much the contrary of the French!

My first E10

I never climbed harder than E1 in trad, but yesterday I got my copy of Dave Flanagan's guide book and discovered that I climbed an E10 in 2004.

I had originally graded 6a what was possibly the first ascent of An Taobh Tuathail, but it looks like Dave thought the line was even more lunatic that Lán Mara  and Lag Mara.

Okay, it is a bit reachy, fair enough. But the landing is fine (at high tide that is).