Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Donegal Ultimate Adventure Weekend

 After the massive success of our first Ultimate Adventure Weekend on Owey Island in May this year, we are running another mind blower of a weekend on the 16th & 17th of June.
 Below is the video made of our previous adventure weekend.

Owey Island May 2012

 What we plan for the weekend is a kayak to/from and around Owey Island, an ascent of a 100ft sea stack, a wet suit coastaleering traverse along the base of a 200ft sea cliff, a visit to the darkest place on earth, wild camping in an idyllic and surreal location and a sunset view you will remember forever.
 All camping, climbing and kayaking equipment supplied.

                                            4 Elements N I                          Unique Ascent

Monday, 28 May 2012

Irish Times Offer

 Just back in the door from a truly outstanding five days in Donegal's great outdoors, ran a Mountain Skills assessment, paddled along the sea cliffs of Malinbeg and Skelpoonagh collecting crag pictures for the forthcoming Donegal climbers guide book, climbed 5 new routes in a new zawn at Skelpoonagh, climbed a new route at Malinbeg and visited the base of a potentially unclimbed sea stack below the eastern end of the mighty Slieve League sea cliffs, which was a bit of a mindblower, but I digress.
 Had a wee offer in this weekends Irish Times Newspaper which resulted in returning to civilization and a keyboard with over 100 enquiries regarding sea stack climbing in Donegal. Now all that remains to do is introduce the four winning couples from the offer to places where more people have stood on the moon than have visited and on the western sea board of County Donegal there are many! :-)    

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Donegal climbers guide book

 And Sho, the forces of Gaia and Neptune were both in exceptionally good moods and a wee visit to Malinbeg and Skelpoonagh to take the last few remaining topo pictures for the forthcoming Rock Climbers guide to Donegal was the order of the day.
 Arrived first at Malinbeg as I was sure a wee sea passage or three would be required to get the best pictures. The sea was at it's lowest ebb of a spring tide which allowed easy barnacle hopping along the bases of the cliffs all the whilst taking lots of pictures. Alas the main wall proved to be a tad large to fit and so a brief swim was require to an outlaying skerry to get the best shot. On the return swim a moment of mild concern was had as a monster of a seal popped it's head out the water 6 foot from me and grinned. We shared a moment as Oscar from the clifftops began to bark at his mother in potential pearl. The seal barked back and I pondered " If he bites me, when was the last time he brushed his teeth?" And with a slink he was gone he did a quick swim by under me as I swim furiously to shore. Thus back on the clifftops and thoroughly chastised by Oscar we headed to Skelpoonagh.

Panoramic of Malinbeg's North crags

 Arrived at Skelpoonagh and began a swift scramble up and down the the access ramps and gullies to take the required pictures and raced back to the car as the first spittals of rain arrived.

Zawn 1 Skelpoonagh

  The work on the forthcoming Donegal rock climbers guide continues, though I have learnt from today that standing au naturel on a rocky island 50m off the Donegal coastline is perhaps not the best place to be working out how to take panoramic photo's on the camera. :-)


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

From Owey Island Sun to Costa Blanca rock

 Jumped off the kayak from the sun baked island of Owey and departed Donegal to catch a short haul flight to the Costa Blanca region of (the even sunnier than Donegal) Spain. My two companions for this week of Spanish rock were two young ladies who called themselves Pollyanna and Princess Sue and we were airborne.
 Arrived in sunny Spain and drove around every dirt track in search of the fabled N332 aided and abetted by the mildly unhelpful driving on the wrong side of the road system that the Europeans seem to favour. Finally arrived at Sella, a beautiful wee hamlet high in the hills far from anywhere and so commenced a week of outstanding bolted limestone climbing.

Puig Campana from our house

 For the next three days we braved the scorching sunshine to visit the cliffs in the shade at different times of the day. We visited Sella Valley and it's multitude of steep limestone crags, Echo Valley and it's even steeper limestone horror shows and the much more relaxed by the sea Sierra De Toix.  

  High on Pequenecos 

crux of La roja tres

El diedro

A between routes committee meeting

Another sunset finish 

 Day four and an ascent of the fearsome looking 1406m Puig Campana was the order of the day. An extremely early start to avoid the midday sun found us in the shade and ascending the never ending gully to it's summit. Puig Campana sits head and shoulders above everything else overlooking the Benidorm coastline  and the views from it's summit are truly outstanding.

Puig Campana from Finestrat

Puig Campana Summit

  The following day and a return to vertical pleasure was called for and so Pollyanna took the sharp end for her first ever lead followed by a few tricky F6a+'s were all dispatched in fine style. We then beat a hasty retreat as we once more began to melt in the unrelenting sun!

At the chains of a roja quatro

Pollyanna's first lead

A crag with a view

Future cunning plans :-)

 And sho, on the final day something a little spicier was called for in the form of an overhanging thugfest up a twin roofed wall, three happy bunnies at the chains later and it was time to board the flight home.
 With many, many massive walls and many thousands of excellent routes in this area of Spain several cunning plans for a return visit have been planned. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Owey Island: Donegal's Ultimate adventure weekend

 It was Saturday morning and in a convoy we travelled across Cruit Island towards the blue skies and sunshine living over Owey Island. In total 6 cars, 1 4x4 pick up, 1 transit and kayak laden trailer, 22 people, a film maker and video camera wielder, 2 dogs, a monster BBQ hamper and more kayaking/climbing/camping/coastaleering/caving and fishing equipment than a large outdoor hypermarket. We arrived at the Cruit Island golf course car park and began the transition from land to sea. We were travelling to Owey island by kayak and catamaran, using the catamaran as the mother ship to transport the colossal amount of equipment required for our weekend’s activities.

Preparing to depart Cruit Island

The Flotilla departs Cruit.

The mother ship departs Cruit.

Arrival on Owey Island.

 After a bit of a bumpy crossing we arrived on Owey Island we decanted the mighty vessel and set up camp at the head of the north end pier slip.

Setting up base camp on Owey Island

 We had several cunning plans for the weekend’s activities, Mark headed off to coastaleer along above the Atlantic on the West Coast of the island. Myself and six troopers headed south to climb a sea stack living off the south of the island. A wee bit of coastaleering, paddling and multi-pitch climbing later 6 happy troopers stood on top of their first sea stack, in fact, stood on top of their first ever outdoor climb! J As the sun was threatening to set we descended the landward face of the stack, paddled across the channel and climbed a route up the south face of Owey to once more stand on mainland of Owey Island.

The seaward face of Finbar Stack

 We all arrived back at base camp in the early evening and commenced the campfire activities.

Camp fire

 The next day Mark and 12 troopers set of at an unsociably early hour to circumnavigate the island by kayak. Myself and another party of 6 including our intrepid film maker set off to climb another stack.
 As another 6 troopers topped out on their first sea stack, the kayak flotilla passed through the channel below having encirced Owey Island.

Summit of the stack as the flotilla approach

The channel crossing

View from Finbar Stack

 Alas mid afternoon Sunday and after a weekend of tropical sunshine and high end adventure we left Owey by kayak in bouncing North West motion to arrive back on Cruit.
 In summary 12 people who had never climbed outdoors or kayaked on the open ocean before climbed their first sea stack and paddled around the island. All of course under the glorious Donegal sunshine on the beautiful and unspoilt island of Owey Island.
 This weekend was a joint activity organised by 4 elements NI and Unique Ascent. Our activities were filmed by CM Photography Ireland.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Learning to Rock Climb in Donegal

 It was an extremely busy and varied week of outdoor activities in Donegal, all in glorious blue skies and toasty sunshine! :-)
 On Sunday took the wee dingy for a paddle around Cruit Island and took the last of the sea face cliff pictures to update the current Cruit climbers guide, discovered approx 50 more potential new lines and thus the quest continues. Back ashore climbed 6 new routes on New Dawn Wall including a rather scary E1 4c "Strangeness," not wishing to under sell the route but a 15m fall into the sea from the crux move is a distinct possibility.
 On Monday the troops arrived for week seven of the FAS Donegal Outdoor Instructor course and so we began the learn to lead component of this year long course. In pairs the happy troops led a selection of routes in fine style utilising all the techniques they had been shown over the previous two months. I am unsure who was more psyched, the happy troopers topping out on their first leads or me witnessing the transformation of 18 students into rock climbers, anyways it was outstanding to see and major props to all 18 troopers!

Busy Rock Climbing in Donegal

Learning to lead

Learning the ropes at the sharp end

 Of course, there were a few moments of peturbment/mild amusement which I thought I'd share.

 Whilst racking up for their first led one of our gallant troopers asked if it was okay to place rubbish gear on lead "for quickness?" Internally I wept! :-)

 A few days later whist topping out on their first lead another wide eyed trooper remarked "top roping seems a bit boring now!" Excellent Mish Moneypenny!

 Come Thursday morning and one of the troops who had been leading since Tuesday went off and climbed a new route! 

 But the yellow jersey goes to the gentleman who dropped his climbing helmet into the sea, ran to his car for a wet suit and a BA, thus suited and booted ran back and swam out to save his helmet. A true multi-disciplined outdoor instructor.     

A wee swim

 In the evenings once the troops had departed and on a much quieter Cruit Island filled in a few blank spaces in the current guide, climbing a couple of new lines a night and of course discovering many more unclimbed lines in the process. :-)

Pulling through the blankness

 The week finished with a weekend trip to Wicklow to work on a Walking Group Leader assessment and so, in the at times howling winds and hints of torrential rain trekked across the Wicklow uplands looking for single contour features. 

A difference of opinion?

Night Navigation

 An altogether excellent and varied week as a Mountain Instructor from new routing on sea cliffs to micro navigation in a swift 3 hour drive.