Michael Duffy is a talented young architect, photographer and climber. Pierre Fuentes, who’s preparing an article on the recent developments of Irish bouldering for Grimper asked him a few questions.
1. Your Age? 28
2. Are you a true Dub (by mother and father at least)? Scanda jacket, air max, Temple Theatre.
3. What do you consider to be your first climbing achievement? Abseiling The Ghost slab.
4. How did you like climbing with Ron and Howard? Do you consider them as your first guides or were there any other before / after, that have been more important to you?
I was very lucky to have started climbing when I did. I was 12 and Ron and Wally had just built the board in Church Avenue. All my heroes trained or had climbed there, Ron, Howard, Donnie, Grimer, even John Dunne had a problem on that board. Church Avenue and its climbers played a major role in Irish climbing and to be taken under the wing of so many great climbers was a privilege. Ron blared out Rage against the Machine and trained us all up. He taught me everything he knew, took me on trips and sorted me out. I owe him everything for that, and my friends then are my family now. That was an exiting and inspirational generation to grow up in.
5. What is the toughest ideological discussion on climbing ethos that you can remember, and with who?
With myself. Bolting.
6. Did you ever have to pick a side between bouldering and sport, or between Bouldering and trad?
Ireland has always been trad. High quality trad. Which is great if you’re a trad climber. But if you wanted anything else you had to move away. As soon as you climbed E6 you left. Bolting was out of the question and bouldering just didn’t exist. Of course the routes and boulders existed, but the mindset didn’t. Bouldering only really started to develop in the late 90’s and sport more recently in the last 5 years so Ireland’s a late starter but things are moving well now, people are training and its all very exciting. People have loads they can go at now and hopefully they stay.
7. Are you still on the dole and if yes, for how long as it been going on? If no, how do you manage? Do your kids climbing classes suffice?
It’s a bit like being on parole and your not allowed to leave the country without permission. And getting paid a week what you used to get paid a day isn’t very glamorous. But that said were still lucky to have a decent welfare system here and I’m not complaining. When we graduated a couple of years ago half my class ended up signing on, the other half emigrated. Jen and me just had a little boy last year so I’m happily unemployed at the moment, lots of parenting with the odd bit of work here and there. The kids’ coaching is voluntary. It’s been 10 years of study and lots of work, too much work and now it’s no work, baby boy and climbing so I’m happy out. Things will pick up again unfortunately.
8. Have you finished your architecture studies and when? 1 year left to fully qualify need a job to do it, thousands of us in the same boat it’s a mess.
9. What’s your plan for the future, professionally? In 10 years to have a big studio in Dublin working with my friends who will have all moved back by then.
10. Do you think the recession has affected your climbing (obviously it has but, positively or negatively or both and how?) I’ll give you a tip, I think that without the recession, Wonderland would still be the Big Squeeze but correct me if I’m wrong.
Less work has its ups and downs. Having more time doesn’t necessarily mean more climbing, especially when there’s babies involved, when you’ve less time you try harder and when you’ve too much you become complacent so there’s a balance. When work dried up it was an opportunity to explore and find lines, I wanted to start climbing as well as I could and the only way to do that was to develop, and that takes a life time compared to going out and repeating stuff.
11. Your favourite ticks :
Bouldering : Contact, Carrigshouk. The move, the setting, perfect Wicklow line.
Trad : Right wall, Dinas Cromlech. Thought I was dead, great line, great setting.
Sport : Chomolungma E6, Dalkey Quarry, 3rd ascent at 14. This would have been considered a safe pegged sport route at the time (fr7a+) but the line is getting destroyed now because the pegs are falling out and getting replaced making it dangerous to climb and chipping lumps out of the rock. This is destroying what is arguably one of the best and most unknown lines in the country. It’s a strong and rare contender for retro bolting, 2 bolts would do it, and in a man made quarry, conserving a fine line as it was originally intended as opposed to damaging it further.
Other : Beating my heroes in the IBL’s.
12. Were you stuck on a plateau before building the Co-Op? Or did it not change your climbing abilities?
I was starting to lose interest. I couldn’t see how to continue climbing here. A good facility was desperately needed in general, but personally I needed somewhere to train for projects.
13. Do you think you have been able to establish the recent lines because the Co-Op gave you the possibility to raise the general level of the Dublin bouldering community, and therefore to develop a proper motivated team?
Motivation. The more of it the better. And cohesion. The Irish scene has always gone from strength to strength but at a slow pace and with small circles of friends scattered everywhere. In a wet and wild country you could argue that an overall scene and its standards only reflect the quality of its indoor facilities. So in Dublin when it rained everyone would split up or head back to home boards. By the time we built the Co-Op Church Avenue was in a skip and UCD was crap, so a new board seemed like a good idea. And now there are 3 of them; there are people training, people are starting to get to know each other more, people are out a lot more together and people are motivated. And naturally everyone starts to get better when they’re climbing together, so I suppose the general level is rising, both North and South. It’s weird, you don’t know people now, you used to recognize everyone. A team? I’m pretty anti-social.
14. Any problems with the Co-Op recently? I mean, can I say long life to the Co-Op?
Hopefully. Until a bad ass bouldering centre comes along and gobbles them up. But then another board will come along. There’ll always be boards.
15. Do you honestly think there is anyone in Dublin capable of climbing at your level? And in Ireland?
There has been for years and I’d imagine there are more people we don’t know of yet. That’s the problem, so many of the good climbers left Ireland. Either you left, stayed and developed or trained till you got bored and stopped. Now with a good stock of lines to go at and the secret mutants who stayed and kept training and all the new kids coming into the sport I’d say your gonna see some pretty freaky shit.
First Ascents (best of), including these over 200 first ascents around Ireland:
Wonderland 8b, Glendalough, December 2010
Contact 8a+, Carrigshouk, December 2009
People of the Sun 8a+, Glendalough, March 2011
Leviathan 8a, Portrane, May 2010
Dutch Gold left 8a, Glendalough, Feb 2011
Dutch Gold 8a, (with a top out) Chris Davies FA, Glendalough
Switch 8a/7c+, The scalp, July 2008
Leftism 7c+, Glendalough, December 2008
Astro 7c/+, Black Valley, Kerry, April 2010
Primer 7c/7b+, The scalp, July 2008
Super Bock 7c, Glendalough, December 2010
Exit Planet Dust 7c, Black Valley, Kerry, April 2010
White Lightning 7c/7b+, Black Valley, Kerry, April 2010
The Spunk 7c/7b+, Aytons Cave, Howth 2010
Maneater 7c/7b+, Aytons Cave, Howth, Summer 2010
Neon Lights 7b+/c, Electric Mountain 2008
Sow your wild oats, 7b+, Glendalough 2010
Lemon Sole 7b+, Summer 2009
Pascals’ ss 7b/+, Glendalough 1997
Electroshock 7b/+, December 2010
Block Party 7b / E7, Dalkey Quarry, Dublin, Summer 2009
Big Al Qaeda 7b, Robin Hoods Stride, Peak District, 2003
Kinky Reggae ss 7b, Glenmalure 2010
The Mentalist 7a+, Glendalough, 2009
Bump in the Night 7a, Black Valley, Kerry, April 2010
Piece de resistance 7a, Mall Hill 2009
Permadry 7a, Glendalough, 2008
Lip service 6c+, Electric Mountain 2008
Gen Tilly 6c, The Scalp 2008
Sherpa Tensing 6c, Black Valley, Kerry, April 2010
Dub Step 6b+, Brimstone West 2010
Duffy Slap 6b, Glendalough 1997