Monday 19 March 2012

The longest Rock climb in Ireland?

The Sturrall Headland.

 And so, a weekend in Port, we arrived late on the Friday night to a clear moonlit sky and a trillion stars. Made a swift visit to the Port Hostel to meet Theresa Hughes and Aaron Entringer our troopers from the USA who had come to play for the weekend. Many plans were discussed and various options were on the cards for a wee adventure, the deciding vote would go to our old friend Neptune and his current mood.
 Saturday was spent on a wee cliff tops wander we walked to the Sturrall Headland and back to Glenlough Bay along this outstanding coast line, and as the planet aligned the mighty Sturrall ridge looked to be the object of our desires.

The Sturrall

 The Sturrall is a true monster of a headland it's summit rising approx 180m above the sea. The first recorded climb to the summit was by WP (Walter Parry) Haskett Smith in about 1890. His route ascended the skyline ridge from the landward side and provides a very exposed 400m mountain ridge scramble to this excellent summit.
 The object of our desires was the unclimbed slightly terrifying knife edge ridge which rises for over 300m out of the Atlantic on the seaward side of the Sturrall Summit. 
 Alas the sea ward ridge has a few wee access issues and so we made an early start on Sunday morning for today was forecast to be a long one. 

Sunrise walk in

 A 3 KM clifftop walk once again found us at the Sturrall, we racked up, sorted the boat and began a very steep descent down the North spur of the headland, this is the nearest point of land accessible on foot to the base of our seaward ridge. From here it is a 300m sea passage across a truly outstandingly atmospheric location. 

Distant view of the boat approach

Close view of boat approach

 Alas Neptune was in attendance and two very emotional boat crossing over this scary wee sea passage found us all at the foot of the sea ward ridge of the Sturrall. Above us was over 300m of unclimbed rock and as the sea was now crashing 20 footers from the South West we were truly committed to the task at hand as a boat retreat was now out the question and so we climbed.

Standing at the base of the Sturrall

 And so we climbed up this mind blower of a ridge, in the first 150m the climbing was never difficult but very exposed and several sections involved crying, crawling and praying. The exposure, situation and commitment at our location was surreal. 
 Alas at approx 150m up the ridge the crux pitch lived. This involved an UBER exposed move from a vertical wall to a near featureless slab and followed by a couple of friction moves above the abyss to the mother of all "thank gods" and a jug romp to a monster block belay. Another outstanding slab pitch followed and we were on the home straight. A further 100m of climbing at about diff with monster big air all round took us to the summit as the sun was beginning to set. 

High on the ridge in the evening sun

 From sea to summit in a shade over 8 hours, 300m and a grade of XS 4c and so we beet a hasty darkening retreat, but if light had allowed we would have followed the skyline ridge back to the land ward side of the Sturrall by WP's 1890's original route giving a continuation route of over 700m of continual climbing. Maybe next time! :-)

 Many thanks to Caoimhe Gleeson and Oscar for their clifftop patience excellent photographs, we are currently editing many hours of scary video footage into a 20 minute film. :-)

 Special mention must be made to Theresa who completed this super scary committing route in exceptional style on her third days outdoor climbing ever. :-)  

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic work sir! Got to say, I miss Donegal. Hope yourself, Caoimhe and Oscar are keeping well. All the best.