Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Tormore Island, Ireland's highest seastack

 The most outstanding summer weather continues towards October and with the first ascent of Bothanvarra sea stack last month I kind of thought that was the end of the foolish nautical activities for 2014. But no, a very prolonged period of uber calm allowed a 4k ring of confidence to project from the west coast of Ireland for a 16 hour period. The contents of the ring was a less than 1 meter swell and a huge wave period and so a free ascent of Tormore Island was pushed to the very top of the to do list.

Tormore Island Film 2014

 Tormore Island is Ireland's highest sea stack and stands at 148 meters above the mighty Neptune. Access to the base of the stack is a very involved affair and on the stack's first ascent in 2008 we used a RiB and a 250 HP out-board engine to gain access, story of this ascent is HERE. This ascent of the stack with noble brothers Pete McConnel, Alan Tees, Peter Cooper was a most excellent day out alas with hindsight the use of an internal combustion engine to reach the stack began to niggle.
 As time passed a very cunning plan to remove the use of motorized nautical transport was devised and I soon realised that the most perfect sea and wind conditions would be necessary to allow safe passage.
 The island sits in a very exposed location in one of the most remote stretches of coastline in Ireland. Around the landward side of it's base live a collection of skerries and stacks which cause a great deal of white water violence and potentially great concern for any would be mariner.

 Tormore Island from south

Tormore Island from the north

 And sho, after having spent the last 8 years playing out on the coastline around Tormore, I had a very cunning plan to access the landward channel of the stack using,off course, the trusty inflatable dingy and no outboard engine.
 Joining me on this rather foolish quest was noble brother Leman Lemanski and with an unsociably early start we were walking into Glenlough Bay across the dark sky bog. As always with all cunning plans of this nature you never know if your nautical calculations are correct until you first sight your intended the sea passage, and lo upon our arrival at Glenlough Bay, the sea was very well behaved indeed. :-) 

 Tormore from Glenlough Bay

Glenlough Bay

The Land of the Giants

Landed on Tormore Island

 The weather and sea were in absolutely perfect condition with a very long and low wave period and pretty much no hint of white water anywhere. We sorted the dry bags and set sail from the landward side of Southern stack and paddled directly across the mouth of Glenlough Bay. on passage we bumped into sea kayakers, Valli and her pal just before entering the realm of the giants. The landward channel of Tormore comprises a small cauldron of outstanding natural beauty surrounded by the giants of Tormore, Hidden Stack, Cobblers Tower, Cnoc na Mara and about a dozen other semi submerged skerries. Under normal sea conditions this wee cauldron is a white watered pits of hate and a suicidal place to be paddling but today it was the entrance to the further. 
 We paddled through the flat calm cauldron and landed on the landward side of Tormore. A swift racking up and we were off upwards. The cunning plan was to follow the original route of 2008 and as I had made a return in 2013 with noble brother Aidan McGinely the belays at the tops of pitches 1 and 2 were in tip top condition.        

Looking down pitch 1

Looking up pitch 2

 The first two pitches of the route take you approx 80 meters up the stack and to this point the climbing is more mountaineering than technical rock climbing. At the top of pitch two we were standing on a grassy ledge clipped to a couple of equalised pegs, above us loomed slightly harder and more technical rock climbing. The next 40 meters of climbing is by far the most technical on the route with spaced gear, suspect rock and huge grass cornices to play on. This took us to a huge grassy ledge in the middle of nowhere and high above the sea. 
 The views from this stance are outstanding with the most remote and beautiful coastline in Ireland beginning to stretch from horizon to horizon. Alas above us is another 60 meters of climbing to the summit with 40 meters of it being unprotected vertical grass.  

Glenlough Bay from Tormore Summit

Tormore Island

 And so, standing on the summit of Tormore Island at 148 meters above the ocean, 500 meters from your nearest point of mainland Donegal, 20 odd kilometers from the nearest main road and over looking the distant edge of the further. It is impossible to express in words a location that few even know exists and only five have ever stood. A summit in which the ground nester reign supreme and the transient world we exist in is a far and distant memory.   

Tormore Summit view


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