Monday, 9 February 2015

Donegal Rock Climbing Guidebook 2015

Donegal Guidebook 2015

 The future volume 1 Rock Climbers guidebook to Donegal is currently in it's final stages of proof reading and grammar correction, to say it has been a bit epic getting the project to this stage, would be an understatement of biblical proportions. Gathering the new route information from lines completed since the previous guide involved 100s of e-mails and PMs to many different climbers mostly following vague rumours and whispers. This information was used to build the free on-line PDFs for each section and location found around the county, Donegal on-line guide.
 Due to the vast and dis-connected nature to almost 3000 of the recorded rock climbs in Co. Donegal it was necessary to first decide how much rock to actually put into a guidebook. It eventually made sense to produce two guides each detailing two very separate climbing mediums and locations. 

Volume 1
 The first guide covers Belshade to Tory Island by simply following the coastline clockwise and jumping on and off and island or three. This volume covers vast areas of new locations, crags and islands. Having been heavily involved in the development of many of these areas it made the process both very easy and very difficult to decide what to include/exclude. For example, having met an angel at the base of a remote sea stack on a solo first ascent mission, does this influence the inclusion of the stack in a guidebook? Thankfully this stack provides a world class rock climb, so the decision to include was an easy one to make.

 An Bhuideal Sea Stack Film

Volume 2
 In the second guidebook we travel inland and visit the uplands of the county in both summer and winter. With visits to Ireland’s largest mountain crag and Ireland’s longest ice climb both of which live in the Poison Glen in the Derryveagh Mountains. We then head north over Errigal and Muckish Mountains to Kerrykeel. Our final destination is Malinhead at Ireland’s most northerly point on the Inishowen Peninsula.

Muckross Rock Climbing

Owey Island Rock Climbing
 Volume 1 covers a vast collection of areas on many different mediums, starting on the established two mountain granite venues in the Bluestack Mountains, Belshade and Eglish Valley. We then simply follow the coastline clockwise to Tory Island. The locations around the coast of South and West Donegal contain a perfect mix of previously published venues such as Muckross, Gola Island and Malinbeg. Over fifty percent of the guidebook is previously unpublished information on locations and routes such as Ends of the Ends Crag, and the Slievetooey Coast. Where perhaps the largest change in routes from previous Donegal guides are on Cruit, Owey and Tory Islands where development since the previous guide has been a bit prolific. These sections are much larger by a country mile than any of the previous guidebooks to the county. And finally there are off course the sea stacks, with far too many climbed stacks to possibly ever put into a standard and sensible sized guidebook. What I simply did was choose a good selection of outstanding and in several cases world class sea stack climbs from Diff to XS from all along the coast and islands.       

Cruit Island Rock Climbing

Gola Island Rock Climbing
 In the past year or two, three Irish guidebooks have been published one was in the form of an App to Donegal created by me. (Donegal rock climbing App). It was most definitely a wee experiment in Irish guidebook writing and several parts of it are recreated in a slightly different format in these two hardcopy Donegal Guidebooks.
 The next was the Fairhead guide, edited by Craig Hiller and Ricky Bell. Craig being a professional photographer and Ricky being Ireland's best rock climber, their guidebook raised the standard of Irish guidebooks considerably. It was the first to use all colour double page spread topos and it was also the first to be edited and indesigned by the authors and not a publishing house.
 Then came Dave Flannigan's select Guide to Ireland, a huge undertaking to not only choose but to fit all the best rock climbing in the country into one book. It raised the already high bar set by the Fairhead Guide up a notch or two and currently sets the standard for Irish climbing guidebooks. It should be noted Dave had already began raising the Irish guidebook standards in 2009 with his first guidebook "Bouldering in Ireland."
 With "Rock Climbing in Ireland," currently setting the Irish guidebook Gold standard, any guide coming out now at a lower standard is alas doomed to fail. With this in mind I returned to many venues around Donegal at different times of morning and evening to get the best crag shots. It is the modern crag shot topos and clear directions to the crag that make a guide user friendly to the first time visitor to the areas described.
Ends of the Earth Crag

Friday, 6 February 2015

Winter Climbing in Donegal, Ireland.

 Winter climbing conditions in Ireland are a reasonably rare commodity with the ever present south west trade winds stripping all Jack Frost's good work from the mountains in an alarmingly short time. With the majority of Ireland's mountains being of a more modest height than their Scottish counterparts and  being subject to the same freeze thaw cycles as Scotland, the thaw cycles can be a lot more devastating to the néve and fat ice build up.
 What is required for good winter conditions is at least five days of at least minus 5 at night with daytime temperature hovering about +3. Two further requirements to create good conditions are a good freeve prior to the first snow dump to allow the turf to freeze. It is quite rare for Donegal to get several big dumps of snow which create a complex snow pack. It is much a more regular occurrence for Donegal to get one large snow dump and then consolidation occurs to this single snow mass.

 For more information check the Donegal Winter Climbers guidebook, Donegal Winter Climbing.     

Winter Climbing in Donegal Film

 Anyways, when winter does play ball in Donegal the mountains are transformed into a winter mountaineering playground. The north faces of Slieve Snaght, the Poison Glen, Errigal and Muckish being the prime winter climbing venues. These faces are predominantly very wet places during the summer months with this seepage in the winter months providing the perfect amount of water for good ice build up.

 Below are a few wintery pictures of Donegals mountains over the past few years, every winter has been very different from the previous year. Some years there is an abundance of snow and very little freezing temperatures and other years it freezes so hard and quick that no snow falls and streams freeze at source and no ice cascades form.

Errigal from Slieve Snaght

  The above picture shows the view from the summit of Slieve Snaght looking north towards Errigal. The gully in the foreground contains a shade over 6 meters of snow drift. We attempted to sleep the night in a snow hole, which took hours to dig out, alas the thaw came a few hours earlier and the roof collapsed as the sun set. We walked home off the hills in the dark.

Looking across the Poison Glen to Slieve Snaght

   From the summit of Maumlack looking across the Poison Glen to Slieve Snaght, the alpine faces of the Poison Glen were in pristine winter condition with near 1000ft of compact néve in the gullies and the two falls transformed into near complete multi tiered cascades.

The Aghlas from Dooish Summit

Grogan Mor Plateau

Ice climbing on Muckish

Errigal above very dense cloud

Sunrise walking on winter mountains