Sunday, 10 July 2016

Free Soloing on Tory Island

Tory Island Rock Climbing

   And Sho, as the summer wears on with its usual mix of tropical and not so tropical days, the current to do list was crying out for attention. Quite near to the top of the list was a rather cunning plan to free solo the landward face route on Centre Stack just off the north face of Tory Island. (Tory Island guidebook is HERE)   

Centre Stack Film

   Centre Stack (more detail HERE) was first climbed in 2009 by Phillip "Chuck" Stevens and Martin Boner, they climbed the full stack height arete running up the sea ward face in two pitches. The second ascent of the stack was in 2011 when Wolfgang Schueller and my good self climbed the slightly intimidating looking landward arete at Severe.  It was then, in 2011, that a first thought that this route would make a superb free solo began to manifest itself.

   Free soloing is quite simply climbing without any ropes or other protection, so for most part a fall will potentially be terminal. The moral of the story is you can not fall, which in turn focuses the mind onto the present in a way that very few other activities ever could. Of course, it is not without a bit of concern that you endeavour to play out in this manner.

Overlooking the stack from the clifftops

   Once the decision to free solo the stack was made it was simply a case of waiting for the weather, tides and sea state to all play ball and once the planets have aligned in a suitably calm manner then the games begin.
   On the Sunday in question I caught the 11am ferry from Magheroarty on mainland Donegal and travelled the 14km out to Tory Island, this meant I had to be back on the cliff tops on mainland Tory by 5pm latest to catch the ferry home. I have found that time is the key to gauging progress in all activities where concern can overwhelm. For me it is a mini internal relief valve as I always have a cunning timescale in which pretty much each stage is double the length it realistically needs to be, a bit like John Cleese in the film Clockwise. It is also a case of ticking as many unknowns as is possible before they become a problem. The case of a sea stack on Tory Island the greatest unknowns are sea state and weather, especially the amount of sea motion in the channel between the stack and mainland Tory. This 50m sea passage is prone to monster seas as it is open to west to north seas and off course being 14km west of Ireland in the Atlantic it is never easy to gauge from the mainland of Donegal.    

The short paddle out

   Arrived on Tory at about 11.30am and after an audience with The King and Moira ni Gallagher I headed across the island and at this point I was moving as quick as I could. Up to this point it was only an educated guess as to whether the sea channel to the stack would be crossable or whether there was too much west to north sea on. Once overlooking the stack from the clifftops it was game on, a bit of northerly ripple in the sea below but nothing to stop the mighty dingy on its voyage of foolishness. 

Looking up the route

   A swift rigging of the 50m single from the clifftops to the storm beach below and I abseiled to the Tory mainland exit point on the house sized boulders below. It is only once the process has began that the sense of equilibrium can be achieved as it is all to easy to say, no i'm too scared and simply stop and return to the Tory Hotel to drink coffee with Moira.
   I inflated the dingy and made the short calm crossing to the base of the stack. Once at the base of the stack I decided to only take one of the 6om half ropes as weight and the overhanging start of the route made me feel a bit uneasy. This would also mean finding a second abseil point on the stack as a single 60 was going to mean two abseils from the summit back to sea level. This was a minor cause for concern but was vastly overshadowed by the weight of the second rope and the ever spiraling thoughts of falling.   

Climbing the route

   And Sho, I began to climb, the first move of the ground is the hardest and makes you commit to a bit of a lunge for a flat hold. Once you reach the hold you bring your feet up to a small stance and begin to feel sick as you are now committed at 5 ft off the ground, 30 ft above the sea, 100ft from mainland Tory at the base of a 45m stack and below a 50m sea cliff surrounding you from the Tory side, which in turn is 14 km west of the Donegal mainland. You are, off course totally alone having told no one where you are or what you are doing except "heading out to Tory."
   It is now, once you are committed to the climb that real mind games begin.

Standing on the summit of Centre Stack

   I climbed a couple more moves onto a good big sloping ledge, where Wolfgang took a belay on the first ascent, 7 years previous. From here I followed the easier angled cracks to a bulging overlap at about 25m above the sea. Climbing through this overhang is by far the most exposed part of the route and a couple of big easy moves on jugs takes you to a stance above the nose. Standing here was the moment I knew everything was going to be good, as the climbing above was nice Severe ground and I also now knew I could abseil in two pitches from the summit on the doubled 60m.   

The Toes of Balor

   Sea stack climbing is an extremely foolish activity in which the consequence of getting it wrong can be death. Free soloing sea stacks is a mind bending game in which each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Alas the odds are also heavily stacked in the sea stacks favour with hundred of good reasons why this is a bad idea. The equal and opposite side of this is the overcoming of primal fear and loathing that comes from meeting and facing the inner you, your most tricky opponent.   


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Ireland's Highest Tyrolean Traverse

Tyrolean Traverse

   "A Tyrolean Traverse is a method of crossing through free space between two high points on a rope without a hanging cart. This is used in a wide range of mountaineering activities: rock climbing, technical tree climbing, caving, water crossings and mountain rescue." Wikipedia

   Over the years I've rigged a number of these traverses and have ensured the safety of approx 500 happy troopers at the step of the edge of a cliff moment to haul themselves along the thin semi-static above the void to the other side of many chasms.

   The most public of these traverses was a couple of years ago on Berg Stack in south west Donegal, when a team of 12 international bloggers and journalists took a step off the edge. This was the first of the "wonder what is possible" traverses and opened the possibility some very scary locations.

Berg Stack Traverse

   And Sho, to the present day in an ever present quest I've been on the constant lookout for suitably outrageous traverse locations. The higher, longer and the more remote the better the location. There are currently 11 on a list in a descending order of foolishness. The first on the list is the highest location I have found in Donegal and required a day of uber sun and a willing team of gear carrying sherpas. :-)

   Derryveagh Mountains

   Alas by their geological make up, the mountains of Donegal have very few suitable traverse locations as there are very few deep and steep sided gullies. An exception to this general rule is The Rocky Gap which sits at 590 metres above sea level on the west facing slopes of Drumnaliffernin Mountain at Grid Reference B933155. This huge and spectacular is home to outstanding grade 1 winter climbing, when off course winter visits Ireland. 

Tyrolean Traverse Film

   And so, with the continued tropical sunshine a team of four set off on 16th March 2016 to rig a traverse across this high and lonely gully. In the house were Conall Ó Fiannachta, Conor Ó Braonáin, David Lee and off course my good self.
   We parked as close as we possibly could on the Doocharry to Churchill road which reduced the walkin to a 2 km uphill pathless amble up the granite slabs and heather. For a traverse of this span (70 meters) we were carrying a 200 meter semi-static rope, 32 HMS lockable carabiners, a full multi pitch rack and each of our personal climbing gear. The youngest two in our merry band of uphill plodders took it in turns to carry the 200m static rope which quickly became known as "the pig."

Summers day walk in

 An hour or so later, we arrived a bit redder in the face at our intended launch point and began rigging the doubled 200 meter static across the void. This part of the rigging process takes by far the most amount of time. Rigging the static involved finding and placing 6 anchors at each side of the gully and equalising them to two independent points. 

Rigging the Traverse

Rigging complete

 A couple of hours later and with the rigging, tensioning, checking and re-checking completed all that was left to do was to step off the edge. Alas as this was my idea for a day out, I was first up to test the rig.
 There is nothing quite like stepping off a cliff with nothing but a couple of very thin strands of rope spanning a huge void in front of you. Once you are air borne and all the dynamic and static parts of the system are loaded it is simply a case of lowering your heart rate and hauling across the open air with massive amounts of exposure all round you.  

Leaving the exit point

From Below

Gully View

 To date this was the highest and longest tyrolean traverse rigged in Ireland and it has opened the door to the next potential traverse across a much longer span above the ocean. 

Air Time

Head of the Gully

Walking Home

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Dunaff Head Inishowen

The First Ascent of Bothanvarra

 Living on the north west tip of the Inishowen Peninsula is the 230 meter high Dunaff Hill. This hill is hemmed in by Dunaff Bay to the south and by Rocktown Bay to the north, which in turn creates the huge Dunaff Headland. This headland has a 4 kilometre stretch of very exposed and very high sea cliffs running along its western circumference to a high point of 220 meters at which it overlooks the sea stack Bothanvarra and Dunaff Head.

Bothanvarra Film

 Bothanvarra is a 70 meter high chubby Matterhorn shaped sea stack which sits in the most remote, inescapable and atmospheric location on the Inishowen coastline. It sits equidistant from the bays north and south and is effectively guarded by 4 kilometres of loose, decaying and unclimbable sea cliffs.

 It was until the 24th August 2014 one of only two remaining unclimbed monster sea stacks on the Donegal coast.

 It was in 2010 when I first paid a visit to the summit of Dunaff Hill and caught a first glimpse of Bothanvarra. Alas this was on a day of lashing rain and with a pounding ocean and so it was buried in a todo list of epic proportions.

Inishowen Rock Climbing

 Fast forward to 2013 and we were at Fanad Head to do a shoot Failte Ireland film and abseil off the lighthouse. It was then that I saw the true nature of the beast from a totally different perspective from across the bay and so it was game on. A week later and as a troop of four we headed to have a wee look at gaining the stack from the summit of Dunaff Hill by descending to sea level and a nautical passage from there. On this visit it was very apparent that this was a beast of a stack with major access and logistical problems but a lot was learned from this attempt and several cunning plans were formed.

 In October 2013 accompanied by a couple of troops (Sean O'Keefe and Julia) from London we descended the 200 meter high gully to the south of the stack to a monster storm beach at sea level. It was then a 300 meter sea passage to the base of the stack from here. On this occasion we made it on to the base of the stack but alas the sun only arrived on the stack very late in the afternoon and alas the entire stack was soaking wet and the climbing on the sea ward face looked very involved. We retreated and re-ascended the gully as evening and rain began to approach.

At the base of the gully

 In May 2014 made a fourth attempt at the stack, this time with Louise O'Connor, with a slight change of plan we hammered in a stake and abseiled/scrambled down the steeper gully directly facing the northern tip of the stack. We descended this grotfest of a gully until about 20 meters above sea level alas with no sensible anchors and with 20 meters of steep slime covered slabs to the hideous boulder beach death drop below us we retreated. Again from this position just above sea level directly opposite the stack there did not look to be any easy way to the summit, which gave a mild note of concern.

 And sho, after four attempts and having viewed all the available approach strategies, a very cunning plan was hatched. 

Climbing Bothanvarra

 It had by this time become very apparent from the previous attempts that this was an Uber stack of epic proportions and it was now time to go it alone. This is not as foolhardy as it may first appear as logistically and practically being along on such an endeavour, as it reduces potential collateral mishap but alas increases the commitment and fear factor to epic proportions.

 It was now the 24th August 2014 and attempt five was underway, there was a 12 hour window of less than 1 meter swell from the south west and winds were blowing off shore for 24 hours. This time I was accompanied by Aidan McGinley as a cliff top photographer and the cunning plan was a circumnavigation of Dunaff Head by small inflatable dingy to access the base of the stack and solo climb to the summit. 

 We arrived at Rocktown Harbour, the bay to the north of Dunaff and I immediately inflated the mighty vessel and set sail whilst Aidan headed off up to Dunaff Hill summit. The sea state was nice and relaxed as I paddled around the coast below the unescapable and extremely scary ever growing sea cliffs looming above me. After about 30 minutes and about 1 and a half kilometres of atmospheric paddling I landed on an offshore skerry approximately 200 meters to the north of Bothanvarra. From this sea level position the stack towering above me looked very much like suicide as all round me on this very exposed wee stance the entrance to Hades became a very real doorway to the further. I decided to simply leave the stack summit to someone else as a rising tide of fear was beginning to dull the real world senses to a point where it was difficult to tell whether I was really there or simply in a dream having already drowned on the sea approach in the last 30 minutes.

Standing on the summit

 I returned to the boat and began paddling home through the channel between the stack and land. It was then with a lightening bolt of total recall, a crystal clear memory of a groove system running up the south face came to mind. I paddled into a position approximately 150 meters to the south of the stack to view the south face, YES the groove system was there and it looked a very real proposition. Primal fear had now been replaced with endorphins of the highest quality as I landed on the stack and hauled the boat and gear onto a most excellent non-tidal stance.          

 The best way forwards from here was to simple freesolo the ground above until it became necessary to employ the inverted gri-gri climbing partner. The climbing was easy but very loose and just (and I do mean just) the right side of terrifying. I just continued climbing up through a huge hanging slab and bypassing monster roofs to my right, I found myself on the huge summit ridge. A quick glance at my feet and there was plenty of rock to create abseil anchors, the sense of relief was overwhelming. It was now a scramble to the stacks highest point and I now knew I could safely get off the summit, it was a bit like finding a hundred sets of lost car keys at once! :-)

 A swift scramble along the summit ridge on to the small very exposed summit. The summit ridge of Bothanvarra is an excellent 50 meter ridge scramble along a true knife edge with an ever growing sense of exposure as the death drop either side of you increases to a 70 meter crescendo at the pin point summit. As with all mountaineering objectives the summit usually only marks the halfway point, but in the case of the unknown this summit marked the end of the uncertainty.
 With hindsight the uncertainty on the outward journey was the most intense I have ever experienced. Will I make the long unescapable sea passage? Will I be able to climb the stack? Can I then get back down off the stack's summit? These were three reference points of top end mental anguish which faded upon reaching this summit.
 This stack is the second last of the unclimbed monster stacks in Donegal, with only one left and summer fading fast, looks like next year for a return match with the fear.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Rock Climbing in Donegal, Ireland 2015

A review of Donegal Rock Climbing in 2015

 As 2015 comes to a close it is safe to say it has been beyond an outstanding year. With nationwide rumours of bad weather, very little of which reached western Donegal and so 2015 allowed over 300 days out playing on the sea cliffs, sea stacks and the mountains of the county. With most of these days out being in the company of visitors to Donegal from over 20 different countries it would be an enormous blog post to highlight every great day out this year.

 This is a review and round up of all the rock climbing developments with the new routes and significant repeats of established routes from around the county.

Donegal Rock Climbing

 The year kicked off with perhaps the shortest winter ever, with just 4 days of good néve and then it was gone in a deluge of heavy rain. A well timed visit to the northern corrie of Muckish Mountain was only solution to this ice(less) crisis. In attendance were Donegal troops, Kevin Kiely, Patrick McDermott and Jason Black and we made the most of this 4 day winter. Patrick and Kevin climbed a new line of mixed grade II ground to the right of "The Escalator Gully." Whilst I tried to keep up with Jason, Jason is currently UBER fit and in preparation for a few big projects in the worlds greater ranges. Have Fun Sir.

Donegal Winter Film

Donegal Winter Mountains

 April was a month of tropical downpours and sunshine in equal amounts as several teams of international troopers played out around the county. A new route on Lurking Fear Sea Stack, ascents of Mainmast and Roaring Forties on Sail Rock, visits to Tory and Owey Island. Everyday in April was a new island, stack or location. Whilst on Tory Island we sat and watched the Northern Lights, not the faint glow on the horizon but the merry dancers high into the stratosphere.
 Ian Parnell, Ben Wilkinson, Jon Winter and Henry Jepson added a new route to the south face of Lurking Fear Stack in the Land of the Giants.

Owey Island Film

Lurkin Fear Stack

Owey Island

 Owey Island continues to receive visits from the strong with a collection of routes up to E7 being climbed this year on several new seaward walls including the very steep wall in The Black Spink to the east of Wild Atlantic Walls by Ronan Browner, John Gilmor, Michelle O'Loughlin, Pat Nolan, Kris McKooey and Ricky Bell. The following three pictures are robbed from Ricky Bells Blog and were taken by Pat Nolan.

   Ricky Bell At base of Holy Jaysus Wall

Michelle O'Loughlan in The Black Spink

Ricky Bell on Wild Atlantic Wall

 Sion Brocklehurst and Brian McAlinden climbed three new routes from E4 to VS on the steep walls between Wild Atlantic Walls and The Flutted Zawn, inc the excellent sounding route below.

A Race Against Time   E4 6a/b   22m   ***
 A fabulous route that has everything, jams, crimps, kneebars, and very physical with the crux approaching the top of the route. The obvious right to left crack is more overhanging than it first appears and is guaranteed to get the arms pumping. Start at the obvious thin corner and crack, climb to a ledge at the bottom of the main crack as it heads leftwards. Climb quickly as the crack steepens and your arms begin to wither with the climbing becoming more difficult as you head for the top. large cams, BD 4 & 5 handy
S. Brocklehurst, B. McAlinden June 2015 

 In April Ian Parnell and Ben Wilkinson climbed the seaward corner of the slab that faces onto Holy Jaysus wall at E2 and very exposed.

 Over the summer months John Mallon and Princess Kathy have been kayaking out and adding new lines to a newly discovered seaward wall, details in PDF download.

Cruit Island

 Whilst in the area Ronan Browner and John Gilmor played out in the Albatross Wall adding Hansel, an alternative finish to Gretal at E2 5c following the very obvious left trending flake crack. Below is Ronan's details of his excellent addition to the left of the Saco corner and takes the steepness and flared cracks to join John McCunes, How to Draw a Spaceship in the upper reaches.              

Suspended 3.8   E4 6a   20m   ***
 A brilliant little gem of a route; short but involved. Follow Best Possible Taste to a good stance 1m below the roof. Stretch left to a good side-pull rail and make a tricky move out to the blunt arête and hanging crack. Continue up this and onto the face to reach the diagonal flakes which terminate to a very rounded finish.
R. Browner, J. Gillmor, 3 August 2015.

 In 2013 Terry Ralphs, Nigel Robertson and G. Lancaster have made a couple of very productive visits to the island developing Scalpachore sea wall adding an E2, an E3 and the islands first E4. Terry and Nigel then returned in 2015 and developed several new wall on the far side of the golf course. An area to my horror i had completely forgotten about. Nice one Gents. :-)

 Paul Swail and Ellie Harvey climbed Cruit Islands hardest route to date, Kahlua's Scratch E5 6a/b * on 18th April. This route takes the steep ground (overhangs by 3 metres in its 12 meter height)  by Chimney Sweep on the Traderg Walls and is currently Cruit Islands hardest route.

The Aréte

 Paul Swail and Kevin McGee dispatched one of Paul's previously tried routes and came away with a contender for Ireland's best E6. For further details and a topo contact Paul at his blog HERE.

Rolling in the Deep   E6 6a/b   20m   ****
 A well protected and spectacular overhanging arete.
Take a stance 2m right of the arete on the sloping non-tidal ledge. Easy moves lead out left and onto the base of the aréte and climb the Aréte direct with crux at half height roof.
Paul Swail, Kevin McGee 19/04/15

The Aréte    pic Craig Hiller

Beyond the Ends of the Earth Crag

 This sea cliff is located just to the north of Glenlough and is a very strong contender for Ireland's most remote climbing location. The main wall received 6 new routes this summer, all climbed with visiting American and Canadian troops.

Glenlough Bay

Sea Stacks 

 It has been a year of deeper exploration of (and Off) the Donegal coast with solo visits to The Stags of Owey, Roan Inish and The Stags of Broadhaven but it was in June that I feel I looked into the abyss beyond the outer Realms. A freesolo of Cnoc na Mara was always the original intent with this sea stack and combining this with a paddle to and from An Port road end made the whole experience a bit of a mindblower.

 Cnoc na Mara freesolo

Alone on Cnoc na Mara

 A multitude of stacks have been climbed throughout the year with a huge range of visitors to Donegal and Ireland.  

 Tent Stack in Glenlough Bay

Berg Stack

Teena on Berg Stack

Ends of the Earth Stack

Poisoned Glen

There has at long last been a renewed interest in this long neglected crag with three teams over the last two summers cleaning and climbing new routes on the main faces.
 Kevin McGee and Iain Miller climbed Micheál at E1 5b and 159 metres long on the West Buttress at the end of 2014.
 During the last few years Calvin Torrans and Clare Sherridan have been busy cleaning in the Glen and have currently climbed two new routes in the most impressive location in the glen. The Streets of Laredo E4 (6a,5b) ** and Gallowglass E4 (5c,6a) *** both climb the steep ground at the very top of the Bearnas Buttress. A swift repeat of Gallowglass in October by Kevin McGee, (P1) Pat Nolan, (P2) and Gerard O'Sullivan is perhaps an extremely good sign in the renewed interest of this long neglected crag.

The 2nd Ascent of Gallowglass. 18/10/15

 News from a year or two ago that I feel was a tad overlooked was one of Inishowen's last great rock features got climbed. I was back in Kinnego on a grey day to get pictures a while back and this rock feature is one of the stand out features in the bay.

Rugged Extreme Exposure E4 6a 30m
Climb the big seaward facing prow/arête. Start in the big V slot under the face. Climb directly up a steep crack with a few suspect holds to an overhang and rest at half height. Pull through the overhang on small holds into a rightward crack continue left and finish up the airy arête.
J. McCune, K. Maxwell 21/07/12

Tororragaun Island

 Tororragaun is the large lump of rock living between Gola Island and Umfin Island to the north. Made a couple of visit out to this island this year and opened an account with five new routes on its seaward face. The online guide is HERE.

 Tororragaun Island Film


 And Sho, after 4+ years of sitting at a laptop fiddling with text and pictures, going to crags and islands at sunrise and sunset to get crag shots and 1000's of e-mails back and forward, It all came to an end. The Rock Climbing in Donegal 2015 guidebook got published.

 Donegal Guidebook Cover 2015

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Donegal Rock Climbing Guidebook 2015

 And sho, what seems like a lifetime ago when I first started out on this noble quest the Mountaineering Ireland Donegal Rock Climbing Guidebook 2015 is back from the printers and is on sale through Mountaineering Ireland. More information HERE

Donegal Guidebook 2015

 This is a select guidebook to County Donegal it contains over 1000 outstanding rock climbs found throughout the entire length and breadth of the county from Muckross Head in the South to Malin Head at the northern tippy toe of the Inishowen Peninsula.

 The guide comprises 25 very different rock climbing areas these areas include Ireland's longest rock climb, Ireland's largest mountain crag, Ireland's highest sea stack as well as many more standard single and multi pitch venues above the sea, by the road, on the islands and in the mountains. Each area comprises descriptive text and an area map to ensure the ease of finding the location by any first time visitor. Throughout the book over 250 colour photographs have been used to help desc ribe every cliff and crag listed. This ensures that 96% the routes in the guide are shown on full colour photo topos with the photos that were taken from best angle/position and in optimum light so as to allow first time visitors to find their chosen routes. Each separate location is based on the online guide at Donegal on-line guide with each chapter in the book having an online counterpart. This allows more regular visitors to Donegal to explore further using these online more definite guides.

 The guide starts at Muckross in the south of the county and follows the coast clockwise to Tory Island. Along this coast we visit several of the previously established and documented locations such as Sail Rock, Malinbeg, Gola Island and Skelpoonagh Bay. This coast is by far the most developed areas of Donegal since the previous guide in 2002 with large numbers of new routes and locations on An Port coastline, Cruit and Arranmore Islands.

  Sail Rock

Cruit Island

Gola Island

 After Tory Island the guide goes inland and starting in the Bluestack Mountains back in the south of the county travels north over the Derryveagh Mountains, Muckish and Crockanaffrin to finish on the Inishowen Peninsula. The main developments since the previous guide have been at Ballaghageeha Buttress in the Poison Glen, Crockanaffrin and at Malin Head.




 The guide then finishes with a short four page chapter outlining the huge winter climbing potential of the county and developments over the last 50 years.

Donegal Winter Climbing

 What this guidebook will provide both first time visitor and more seasoned Donegal climbers is several life times of outstanding and in many cases world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

Iain Miller 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Ireland's Newest Climbing Location

 Taking advantage of the outstanding late summer in the last few days in western Donegal, paddled out for a visit to the rarely visited Tororragaun Island. 
Tororragaun Film

   Tororragaun is a 22 metre high rocky granite island living in the channel between Gola and Umfin Islands four kilometres off the Gweedore coast. The island is effectively guarded on all sides by Gola Island quality Granite sea cliffs and off course the potential for climbing new routes is enormous. Running through the centre of the island is a huge, and I do mean HUGE, sea washed water spout. It is difficult to imagine the size of this water spout but it would easily accommodate a million tons of sea water at a time. During his visit Iain free soloed (unroped) five new 60 foot rock climbs on the seaward face of the island. These are the first recorded rock climbs on the island are in the Tororragaun free guidebook is Tororragaun Guidebook Webpage

   This rocky outcrop has been on the to do list for a couple of years and only now with a shiney sit on top and an indian summer the new routes account has been open on its seaward face. :-)

   There is no fresh water on the island and pretty much every horizontal surface is birded as this is home to approx. 500 nesting pairs of Fulmar and a token amount of Gannet.

   Access to the island by sea kayak from Port Arthur Pier at Map ref B798284 on the Gweedore Coast. Landing on Tororragaun is not without a certain degree of rocky uncertainty as there are no easy landing beaches, coves or recesses. The easiest landing is at the eastern tip of the island onto rock sea level ledges. With a west sea running the island provides excellent lee and this eastern tip has large non-tidal ledges for kayak storage.

Gweedore from Tororragaun

Gweedore Islands

Tororragaun Arch

Rock Climbing on Tororragaun

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sail Rock. Donegal Rock Climbing

 And sho, as summer comes to an end it is most definitely time to catch up on the backlog of much neglected unedited U-tube films, footage, pictures blog posts and in general trying to document some of the 200 or so days out playing on Donegal's sea cliffs, sea stacks and mountains this year so far. It has been beyond an outstanding year but more of that in future posts.

 One of this years Unique Ascent trainee Fionnuala Donnelly spent the middle of the summer seeking vertical pleasure on the Donegal coastline. On a sunny Saturday morning we paid a visit to one of Donegal's older and more established climbing venues to make an ascent of the classic VS Roaring Forties.

Sail Rock Film

 Sail Rock is an outstanding 80m high quartzite slab in an excellent coastal location living in amongst the much poorer quality rock on the sea cliffs along the spectacular Slieve League coastline in the south west of Co Donegal for the free online guide click here to download.
 The Slieve League area of Co Donegal has changed dramatically in the last year or two with the new improved access roads and the massive visitor footfall that Slieve League and the Wild Atlantic Way brings this to this area, it is now possible to drive very close to the crag and save the carrying of a 100 metres static abseil rope from the old car park.
 To find Sail Rock from the Slieve League access road, from the road keep looking towards the sea was you walk/drive along the road until you see the clifftop watch tower then simply follow the path from the road down to the tower, Once at the tower the summit of Sail Rock is but 50 metres to your east.
 Access to the base of Sail Rock is by either an abseil or by a very steep and quite loose alpine scramble down the ridge on the opposite side of the basin to the face. The abseil down the face is by far the best way to reach the base of the face and the start of the routes. Alas as this was not our primary venue choice for today and there was a sea stack in Mayo still laugh at us from across the bay we did not have our 100 metre static with us and so a descent of the ridge it was by default. 
 It took about 25 steep loose minutes to gain the cauldron at the bottom of the routes. We descended the loose aréte until approx 40 metres above the sea and then did an easy 50 metre traverse into the top of the bason and pretty much the start of Mainmast.

Abseil down Sail Rock

Access Traverse

The Base of Sail Rock

Looking up Sail Rock

 Anyways on this occasion Fionnuala and my good self climbed Roaring Forties combined the first two pitches and savoured the last pitch especially the final 10 metre pull out onto the main face jugfest. 

 Looking down pitch 2

Topping Out