Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Mick Fowler seal of approval, Donegal Sea Stacks.

 And sho after nearly a decade of cyber correspondence regarding such maters of state as St. John's HeadThe NeedleCliffs of Moher and of course, Donegal Sea Stacks. It came to pass noble brother Mick Fowler came to play on Donegal Sea Stacks alas the weather forecast was unseasonly unpleasant for an August in Donegal, and so the most remote location on mainland Ireland was the obvious solution to the crisis.
 Ends of the Earth Stack sits at the north end of Glenlough Bay and is as far as it is possible to be from a main road on mainland Ireland.

Glenlough Bay

 An hour or so walk from An Port in the lashing rain/sunshine and we arrived at Ends of the Earth stack to bright blue skies and sunshine.

The walk in to End's of the Earth Stack.

End's of the Earth crag & stack 

The Land Ward Face

 A swift paddle out to the stack though the outlaying skerries and we coastaleered our way around onto the sea ward face of the stack. The sea ward face of Ends of the Earth Stack overhangs alarmingly and Mick made the executive decision that this was the line he was to lead. The route takes a series of huge quartize spikes and flakes up this overhanging face with increased exposure and concern the higher you climbed. The finale was a tricky wee summit groove with considerable air beneath your feet. (link to film at end of this blog post) 
 It would have been rude not to climb another new route and so the immaculate smooth slabs on the south end of the landward face were climbed at about Hard Severe.      

The Sea Ward Face

Mick Fowler on the sea stack summit

Mick Fowler & Iain Miller on Summit

 A few days later wee visit to perhaps a more family friendly location was called for and so Berg Stack was the obvious choice being close to the Port road end and with a much shorter sea passage. With the full complement of the Fowler family, Caoimhe Gleeson, Stephen McCann and two UBER keen dogs in attendance we made the crossing to Berg Stack and several routes on this excellent wall were climbed in fine style. 

Descent to Sea Level

Awaiting calm seas

Berg Sea Stack sea crossing

Berg Sea stack & Vertical Picnic

Access to Berg Sea Stack

 Alas the Fowler eye have noticed the unclimbed north arete of Vertical Picnic Stack and so Mick and Nikki  went and climbed this outstanding unclimbed feature, whilst the rest of us continued to play on Berg Stack.

New route on Vertical Picnic Stack

 A swift abseil off the unclimbed south face of Vertical Picnic back to the awaiting dingy and we were all back to terra firma. 

Mick and Nikki ab off Vertical Picnic sea stack

An Port from the South

 A most excellent couple of days out with team Fowler and for me having Mick Fowler (no slouch in the sea stack department) agree that Donegal's sea stack were indeed a most suitably adventurous location to play out in was indeed excellent! :-) 

Ends of the Earth Stack Film

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Donegal Adventure

 Another truly excellent two weeks in the Great Outdoors of Donegal.
 A day on the North ridges of Errigal Mountain teaching roped scrambling, a wee bit misty to begin with but soon clearing and revealing our exposed positions as we got into the upper reaches of our route. We chose Tower Ridge, a little known 200m grade 3 scramble up the North face of Errigal to the summit of Donegal's highest point. This route has several excellent and very exposed pitches which tickle the underside of a Diff rock climb. I first encounter this route during a wee winter exploration and have since climbed the route over 50 times it is without a doubt the best way to the summit of Donegal's highest point.

Errigal Mountain, Tower Ridge

Errigal Mountain, Tower ridge

Errigal Mountain, North Face

 Nipped down to Sligo and ran a Mountain Skills Assessment, well done to the four troopers who passed the assessment. :-)

 Next day was a visit to the subterranean pleasures of Owey Island with a scramble down a 50m sink and a 250m paddle across the lake under the lake 50m below ground into the true pits of darkness and silence. A wee float in the pool of tranquility and a return to the light was the order of the day.

View from Owey Island

 The following day went for a wee visit to the most remote point of land in Ireland where the Ends of the Earth Crag lives. This 45m slab of immaculate quartzite sits hanging over a huge sea cave and with the correct seas running creates a sonic boom as vapourised saltwater explodes through its fissure. We encountered the boom! :-)   

Abseil in to The End's of the Earth Crag

End's of the Earth Crag

Rock Climbing in Donegal

Donegal Rock Climbing

A crag with a view

 The following day a swift return to was made with Josie Mcgee to An Port as there was an immaculate hanging slab of unclimbed rock on a sea stack sitting 500m out to sea to be played on. We paddled out from the road end slip through a wee collection of nautical bad boys to land on the sea ward face of the object of our desires and each of us led a new line to the summit of the stack following the most obvious feature on this outstanding slab.

Donegal Sea Stack Climbing

Josie on Summit

Josie at the top of her new route. :-)

Donegal Sea Stacks. 

Donegal Sea Stacks

 And sho, after a solid two weeks of taking people to the most outstanding locations in Donegal and therefor Ireland, the sun sea and wind remain at equilibrium and a few cunning plans remain..................

Playing out!....



Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ireland's Highest Tower?

 At approximately 330m high Eagles Rock in Glenade, County Leitrim is a true monster of a free standing tower/pinnacle!
 And so, with an ominous text "Can you Play?" from Stephen "Jock" Read another epic adventure was underway! :-) Joining Jock and myself on this quest was Stephen McCann, Stephen is a trainee FAS outdoor instructor and is spending a month with Unique Ascent as part of his year long course and this was his inaugural visit to the shadowy world of adventure climbing and The Realm's of Chaos.

Eagles Rock, Co. Leitrim

 We met in a sunny county Leitrim and began to sort a huge collection of perhaps to the untrained eye, non standard rock climbing equipment for the mission that lay ahead. Our rack included technical ice axes, 2 alpine hammers, 20m of 12mm polyprop, 23 assorted pitons of various vintages, 2 snow bars, several mallions, a huge standard climbing rack and of course, 3 enormous grins. 

sorting the climbing rack

 Having sorted the rack and divided it between the three of us we headed out for a days recce of the tower. Jock had made an extensive research of our objective and was armed with an account of the first (and only?) ascent of the tower. From the road end the tower looked suitably tetchy and as we walked closer the apparent tetch became outstanding, this was indeed to be an epic adventure. 

The west ridge of Eagles Rock

The east ridge of Eagles Rock

 We spent the first day trekking around the base of the tower surveying the climbing potential and finding the original 1971 route to the summit, which climbs three pitches up the east face of Eagles Rock. The rock, the route and the location were suitably atmospheric, having had enough of the glorious sunshine and fresh air Jock disappeared underground to inspect a cave system, whilst Stephen and myself sat in quiet contemplation of tomorrows task at hand.

Surveying Eagles Rock

The view from the start of the route

 The following day we once again arrived at the base of Eagles Rock having left all our climbing gear at the base of the tower the previous day and having taken the Eastern approach we arrived in quick time, psyched and ready to climb. We racked up and scrambled to the base of the 1971 route which starts at approx 280m above sea level and is a mildly scary place to be.
 Without further ado Jock led the first pitch to the grassy topped pillar over looking the abyss. I joined him on this lofty perch and he led the second pitch to the summit of a semi-detached pillar, this pillar appeared to be about 20,000 tons of boulders defying gravity and held in place by a miracle. A swift decision was made and Jock led the final terrifying grass pitch to the summit.  
 Which of course left Stephen and myself to follow Jock to the summit, watch the attached film, it was without a doubt the most terrifying rock climb we have all done to date. :-)

A wee film of our Ascent of Eagles Rock

Jock on the summit of Eagles Rock

Stephen on the summit of Eagles Rock

The summit of Eagles Rock Co Leitrim

 Once all three of us were safely on the summit we roped up alpine style and explored this most outstanding summit plateau. The entire plateau is covered in a super thick carpet of the most luxurious soft bouncy heather and gives mind blowing views towards Slieve League in Co Donegal and over the summit plateau of Arroo to the north.
 Alas the abseil descent of the route was as scary as the ascent and it was with great relief that we all arrived back at our start point.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Adventure Tourism in Ireland

 And so, a most outstanding two weeks of taking people on journeys with the sole purpose of realising their potential and inner goals.

 Ran the mountain leg of Coastal Cancer Challenge, Donegal's and the North West's most demanding adventure race. I spent the day before the race flagging out the course up the steep gully on the south east face of Muckish Mountain, carrying and placing 40 marker posts in 100m intervals from the roadside quarry up the gully and onto the south east shoulder to a turn around station high on the mountain.

Race Course

Course Flagged

 The day of the race and all marshaling troops were dispatched to their designated manning stations on the course as the first of the cyclists arrived. For the next 5 hours 200+ participants romped past us and headed up the mountain, from our position over a KM away from the steepest section of the course we could clearly heard the runners opinions of the near vertical mountain shenanigans they were involved in. :-)    

Runners on the course

 After the bulk of the runners had passed through this section of the course the last but one participant got a wee bit overwhelmed/over heated/exhausted and assisting the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team with a quick crocodile belay, we got the troopers airborne with R118 and a paraffin budgie trip to Letterkenny General for a spot of re-hydration. 

Paraffin Budgie in attendance 

 As soon as the race was over made a late night dash to Dublin to pick up a mini bus and 10 international visitors for a nine day tour of Ireland's high places. A most excellent group of travelers and uber psyched for a tour of the Irish great outdoors. We worked our way up the west coast of Ireland to arrive at a sun kissed An Port. I had advertised this as Ireland's most beautiful place and considering the outstanding places we had already visited, the bar was set very high! An Port was as always in prime condition and more than lived up to my hype. We walked along the clifftops via Cnoc na Mara and down into Glenlough Bay, Ireland's most remote location. The troops concurred, they were now standing in a truly magical location and this walk was the highlight of their trip to Ireland.  

Killary Harbour

Diamond Hill summit

Irish Beaches

An Port, Donegal

An Port, Donegal

Descent into Glenlough Bay

The Most remote place in Ireland

The most remote house on mainland Ireland

The summit of Ireland's highest sea stack.

 Arrived back in Dublin and left the troops at their hotels on the Monday night, I had planned to stay for a few schoops but alas I had to race back to Donegal for a 30 minute radio interview on the Shaun Doherty Show on Highland Radio on the Monday, a wee bit surreal! :-)

 Working over the next few weeks with a very prominent local Donegal business man to fulfill his quest to stand on top of the Planets highest summit, Mount Everest, he is off course, super psyched and we will indeed play out and visit a few less well known summits MUCH closer to home but equally mind blowing! :-)