Friday, 12 June 2015

Stag Rocks Donegal

 Living 7 kilometres of the west coast of Donegal are a tiny collection of three rocky islands known as Stag Rocks or simply the Stags of Owey. They live 2 km directly out into the ocean from the seaward side of Owey Island. The islands themselves are only 6 meters high on their summits and they are surrounded by semi submerged skerries which means they are normally surrounded by very turbulent water. This makes them a tad tricky to access as they are by any stretch of the imagination a long way from mainland Donegal.

 I have had the idea to land on these remote outcrops for several years now but always seemed to distracted by slightly higher offshore islands when the seas wee calm enough to allow safe access. Anyways after several recces looking at different options and exit points from mainland Donegal. It became very apparent I needed a more sea worthy vessel than the ever faithful Lidl dingy. Step forward the Decathlon one person inflatable kayak and what better way to to have its maiden voyage than the Stags.

Stag Rocks Film

 Set sail from the far tip of cruit Island at the Owey Pier with a short paddle out to the lee of Owey Islands north coast. It was then simply a case of making the 2 km open sea passage out to the Stags. This sea passage took it seemed forever as the Stags never got any closer no matter how long I was paddling for. When I arrived at the Stags there was a touch of white water and the only sane place to land was on the NE tip of the North Island and after a wee bit of hesitation and bouncing about made a successful landing.  

Donegal from Stag Rocks

 It is safe to say this very rarely visited remote rocky outcrop is an outstanding place to be especially when the sun is shining in a bright blue sky. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Donegal Rock Climbing 2015

The Story so far in 2015..........

 So far in 2015 it has been a very mixed bag of weather and sea conditions with a 3 week tropical heatwave at the start of April to the thunder storms and the near return of winter in mid May. But no matter what the weather brings we have been out to play pretty much every day, with visits to every main climbing location in Donegal so far this year and all, I hasten to add, in glorious sunshine.

Owey Island Rock Climbing

Owey Island Rock Climbing

Tory Island Rock Climbing

 On a wee visit from the U.K. Ian Parnell, Ben Wilkinson, Jon Winter and Henry Jepson made hay while the Donegal sun shone with visits to Owey Island, Sail Rock, Lurking Fear and Cruit Island. With new routes by the Holy Jaysus Wall on Owey and Lurking Fear Stack, the sea and the weather played ball.

Lurking Fear Stack

 No visit to to the cliffs of SW Donegal is complete without a look at Sail Rock. We arrived mid afternoon and after an abseil rigging and a 100m rope uncoiling session two teams were at the base of the face. Ian and Ben going for Mainmast and Jon and Henry nipping up Roaring Forties.

Sail Rock

Sail Rock in evening sun

  In classic bouncefest fashion and with a modicum of mild concern five different stacks have been climbed fourteen times so far in 2015. A considerable number of mainstream climbing press have had forays into the shady world of sea stacks climbing. It is an entirely different sport taking people onto sea stacks whom you know are going to publish their thoughts in well read publications. Taking someone who has never climbed a stack before (and in most cases never climbed before) onto a nautical summit through white water rage and into the pits of hate is a bit of a mind blower and it never ceases to be enormous fun.

   Sea Stack Climbing

The Sturrall Headland

Donegal Sea Stack

 Off course, sea stack climbing is not all about The Pits of Hate and Davie Jones Locker it also has a much lighter side and when Gaia and Neptune allow, a day out on a nautical summit will be a most relaxed affair with close encounters with many sea creatures in their natural habitat and a visit to your inner self. 

The End's of the Earth Sea Stack

Sea Stack Summit View 

 When not out playing I currently spend far too much time lying under a laptop editing the future Donegal Guidebook. A couple of months ago I thought it was finished alas my knowledge of publishing matters was sadly lacking and as it turned out there was still much to do. Where Dave Flanagan and myself are at the moment is we have approx 2/3rds of the book complete. As it is a select guide and covering the entire county what crags and routes to include was always going to be tricky but that is done and what we are doing now is all the nitty gritty editing that I did not realise had to be done. :-( Below are a couple of screenshots of finished pages, Gola island and Muckross as random samples.

 Donegal Guidebook Screenshot: Gola

Donegal Guidebook Screenshot: Muckross

 One of the great ironies of writing a guidebook is that even before it is published new crags and new routes are being found and climbed, that there is simply not room to include in a select guide to the county. So in essence you spend an evening editing a crag and the next day you go out climb a new route thus making your previous nights editing out of date. :-) Below is a couple of shots of Beyond the Ends of the Earth Crag, the first being a new two star route climbed with a couple of America visitors to the county last week. I95 take the centre line up the highest part of the crag at about 30m long and graded Hard Severe.

 Donegal Rock Climbing

Donegal Rock Climbing

 Living in such a fickle climate so close to the Eastern Atlantic it is always a case of good prior planning as to where to play out on the almost endless vertical mediums found around Co Donegal. 

 Sunset at Muckross Head