Climb to victory


UCD Mountaineering Club clinched the intervarsities cup after a dramatic finish, reports Jon Hozier-Byrne

After a remarkably dramatic three day competition, UCD held off bitter rivals Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s College Belfast to snatch the 2011 Rock Climbing Intervarsities title away by the narrowest of margins – UCD beating Trinity by just two points out of a possible 2,000. The competition, held in the UCD Sports Centre, also bestowed UCD the top climbing college in the country.

With 13 colleges from around the country competing over one weekend, this marks a huge achievement for UCD Mountaineering Club Captain, Michelle Ryan, and her team. Ryan was ecstatic saying “it’s great for the climbers, it’s great for the club, [and] it’s great for UCD”.

UCD’s own Jonathan Redmond came top of the Male A’s competition, winning with a modesty that belies his status as one of the strongest climbers in the country. Eoin Diamond also claimed first place for UCD in the Male Beginners competition, showing great promise for a man so new to the sport.

Joan Mulloy of NUIG, with UCD’s Linda Monaghan claiming a hard-fought third place, snatched the Female A’s Competition up. Emily Panter of Galway, who put in an impressive performance, won female Beginners. Surprisingly, there was nothing but disappointment for odds-on favourite Claire Ryan, who, despite a spirited performance, fails to place in the Female A’s competition.

Bigger disappointment still for UCD’s own Shane Smith, who was stricken down with an injury not long into the competition; “I felt my finger go, and that was that,” explains Smith, “It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m just sorry for all my fans that came out to see me climb”. His injury is all the more devastating considering his massive win at the National Bouldering Championship not two weeks previous.

The weekend was fraught with injuries, including one competitor from the University of Limerick who fell off a particularly difficult problem, breaking his ankle upon impact with the floor. The injured party was promptly rushed to A&E before the competition could continue, albeit with a more solemn air to proceedings.

The competition opened on Saturday with twelve problems set by acclaimed climbers Michael Duffy and Ricky Bell, ranging from the difficult to the downright impossible. The Bouldering problems for the first day held a massive challenge for the hundreds of competitors who had shown up to try and prove their worth, fighting their way up a huge over-hang, with sure footholds few and far between.

The ‘unlimited attempts’ system meant that competitors could attempt the problems again and again, resulting in dozens of young climbers lurking around the walls until the late hours, at which time services had to practically drive them out. On the first day, it became clear who were the real contenders to place, with UCD’s Paul Mallee leading the pack with an effortless display of both strength and gentlemanly fair play.

Louis Malloy of NUIG and Seamus O’Boyle of Trinity also put in a particularly great effort, but special notice must go to Trinity’s so-called Darragh “Bender” Sweetnam, who not only put in a remarkably impressive climb, but also worked with the crowd with an unexpected boyish charm.

By Sunday morning, veteran climber and Mountaineering Ireland Training Officer, Alun Richardson, and the UCD Mountaineering Club Committee, were back at the wall preparing for the final day of the Intervarsities, and the daunting challenge of the leading competition.

A particularly difficult route was set, making use of massive stretches across the sidewall before competitors could even attempt to clip on to any protection above them. The air was filled with the anticipation of both climbers and spectators alike, as competitors attempted the last routes just one more time before the results were calculated.

When all the results had been counted and verified, Alun Richardson presented the trophies to the winners, including a vast slab of engraved granite handed to Ryan as prize for Overall Best Ranked College. Richardson told The University Observer: “It was a fantastic weekend for all involved, and although it was competitive, ultimately you’re just working to beat yourself, to prove you can do it better. That’s the beauty of the sport and everyone got a taste of that this week.”

All eyes are on UCD Mountaineering Society to see if they can keep up this remarkable form in the coming year, but with some of the immense talent seen representing UCD in the Sports Centre this weekend, there’s high hopes for this group once the Jordanstown Intervarsities begin in 2012.