Annual Reviews of Donegal

Rock Climbing in Donegal 2015

   As 2015 comes to a close it is safe to say it has been beyond an outstanding year. With nationwide rumours of bad weather, of which very little reached western Donegal and so 2015 allowed over 300 days out playing on the sea cliffs, sea stacks and the mountains of the county. With most of these days out being in the company of visitors to Donegal from over 20 different countries, it would be an enormous blog post to highlight every great day out this year.

 This is a review and round-up of all the rock climbing developments with the new routes and significant repeats of established routes from around the county.

Slieve League Rock Climbing
Playing on An Seol Mór

   The year kicked off with perhaps the shortest winter ever, with just 4 days of good néve and then it was gone in a deluge of heavy rain. A well-timed visit to the northern corrie of Muckish Mountain was the only solution to this ice(less) crisis. In attendance were Donegal troops, Kevin Kiely, Patrick McDermott and Jason Black and we made the most of this 4 day winter. Patrick and Kevin climbed a new line of mixed grade II ground to the right of "The Escalator Gully." Whilst I tried to keep up with Jason, Jason is currently UBER fit and in preparation for a few big projects in the worlds greater ranges. Have Fun Sir.

Donegal Winter Film 

   April was a month of tropical downpours and sunshine in equal amounts as several teams of international troopers played out around the county. A new route on Lurking Fear Sea Stack, ascents of Mainmast and Roaring Forties on Sail Rock, visits to Tory and Owey Island. Everyday in April was a new island, stack or location. Whilst on Tory Island we sat and watched the Northern Lights, not the faint glow on the horizon but the merry dancers high into the stratosphere.
 Ian Parnell, Ben Wilkinson, Jon Winter and Henry Jepson added a new route to the south face of Lurking Fear Stack in the Land of the Giants.

Owey Island Film

Donegal Sea Stack Climbing
Ian Parnel on Lurking Fear Sea Stack

   Owey Island continues to receive visits from the strong with a collection of routes up to E7 being climbed this year on several new seaward walls including the very steep wall in The Black Spink to the east of Wild Atlantic Walls by Ronan Browner, John Gilmour, Michelle O'Loughlin, Pat Nolan, Kris McKooey and Ricky Bell. The following three pictures are robbed from Ricky Bells Blog and were taken by Pat Nolan.

Ricky Bell on owey 
Ricky Bell at the base of Holy Jaysus Wall

Michelle O'Loughlin
Michelle O'Loughlan in The Black Spink

Ricky Bell
Ricky Bell on Wild Atlantic Wall

    Sion Brocklehurst and Brian McAlinden climbed three new routes from E4 to VS on the steep walls between Wild Atlantic Walls and The Flutted Zawn, inc the excellent sounding route below.

A Race Against Time   E4 6a/b   22m   ***
 A fabulous route that has everything, jams, crimps, kneebars, and very physical with the crux approaching the top of the route. The obvious right to left crack is more overhanging than it first appears and is guaranteed to get the arms pumping. Start at the obvious thin corner and crack, climb to a ledge at the bottom of the main crack as it heads leftwards. Climb quickly as the crack steepens and your arms begin to wither with the climbing becoming more difficult as you head for the top. large cams, BD 4 & 5 handy
S. Brocklehurst, B. McAlinden June 2015 

   In April Ian Parnell and Ben Wilkinson climbed the seaward corner of the slab that faces onto Holy Jaysus wall at E2 and very exposed.

   Over the summer months, John Mallon and Princess Kathy have been kayaking out and adding new lines to a newly discovered seaward wall, details in PDF download.

Cruit Island Guidebook Download

   Whilst in the area Ronan Browner and John Gilmor played out in the Albatross Wall adding Hansel, an alternative finish to Gretal at E2 5c following the very obvious left trending flake crack. Below is Ronan's details of his excellent addition to the left of the Saco corner and takes the steepness and flared cracks to join John McCune's, How to Draw a Spaceship in the upper reaches.              

Suspended 3.8   E4 6a   20m   ***

   A brilliant little gem of a route; short but involved. Follow Best Possible Taste to a good stance 1m below the roof. Stretch left to a good side-pull rail and make a tricky move out to the blunt arête and hanging crack. Continue up this and onto the face to reach the diagonal flakes which terminate to a very rounded finish.
R. Browner, J. Gillmor, 3 August 2015.

 In 2013 Terry Ralphs, Nigel Robertson and G. Lancaster have made a couple of very productive visits to the island developing Scalpachore sea wall adding an E2, an E3 and the islands first E4. Terry and Nigel then returned in 2015 and developed several new wall on the far side of the golf course. An area to my horror i had completely forgotten about. Nice one Gents. :-)

 Paul Swail and Ellie Harvey climbed Cruit Islands hardest route to date, Kahlua's Scratch E5 6a/b * on 18th April. This route takes the steep ground (overhangs by 3 metres in its 12-meter height)  by Chimney Sweep on the Traderg Walls and is currently Cruit Islands hardest route.

The Aréte

 Paul Swail and Kevin McGee dispatched one of Paul's previously tried routes and came away with a contender for Ireland's best E6. For further details and a topo contact Paul at his blog HERE.

Rolling in the Deep   E6 6a/b   20m   ****
 A well-protected and spectacular overhanging arete.
Take a stance 2m right of the arete on the sloping non-tidal ledge. Easy moves lead out left and onto the base of the aréte and climb the Aréte direct with crux at half-height roof.
Paul Swail, Kevin McGee 19/04/15

Paul Swail
The Aréte    pic Craig Hiller

Beyond the Ends of the Earth Crag

   This sea cliff is located just to the north of Glenlough and is a very strong contender for Ireland's most remote climbing location. The main wall received 6 new routes this summer, all climbed with visiting American and Canadian troops.

Glenlough Bay
Glenlough Bay

Sea Stacks 

 It has been a year of a deeper exploration of (and Off) the Donegal coast with solo visits to The Stags of Owey, Roan Inish and The Stags of Broadhaven but it was in June that I feel I looked into the abyss beyond the outer Realms. A free solo of Cnoc na Mara was always the original intent with this sea stack and combining this with a paddle to and from An Port road end made the whole experience a bit of a mindblower.

 Cnoc na Mara freesolo

Freesolo on Cron na Mara
Alone on Cnoc na Mara

 A multitude of stacks have been climbed throughout the year with a huge range of visitors to Donegal and Ireland.  

Glenlough Bay
Tent Stack in Glenlough Bay

Gweedore Rock Climbing
Gweedore Rock Climbing

Berg Stack

Teena Gates Rock Climbing
Teena Gates on Berg Stack

Ends of the Earth Climbing
Ends of the Earth Stack

Poisoned Glen

   There has at long last been a renewed interest in this long-neglected crag with three teams over the last two summers cleaning and climbing new routes on the main faces.
 Kevin McGee and Iain Miller climbed Micheál at E1 5b and 159 metres long on the West Buttress at the end of 2014.
 During the last few years, Calvin Torrans and Clare Sheridan have been busy cleaning in the Glen and have currently climbed two new routes in the most impressive location in the glen. The Streets of Laredo E4 (6a,5b) ** and Gallowglass E4 (5c,6a) *** both climb the steep ground at the very top of the Bearnas Buttress. A swift repeat of Gallowglass in October by Kevin McGee, (P1) Pat Nolan, (P2) and Gerard O'Sullivan is perhaps an extremely good sign in the renewed interest of this long-neglected crag.

Poisoned Glen Donegal
The 2nd Ascent of Gallowglass. 18/10/15


News from a year or two ago that I feel was a tad overlooked was one of Inishowen's last great rock features got climbed. I was back in Kinnego on a grey day to get pictures a while back and this rock feature is one of the standout features in the bay.

Rugged Extreme Exposure E4 6a 30m
Climb the big seaward facing prow/arête. Start in the big V slot under the face. Climb directly up a steep crack with a few suspect holds to an overhang and rest at half height. Pull through the overhang on small holds into a rightward crack continue left and finish up the airy arête.
J. McCune, K. Maxwell 21/07/12

Tororragaun Island

 Tororragaun is the large lump of rock living between Gola Island and Umfin Island to the north. Made a couple of visits out to this island this year and opened an account with five new routes on its seaward face. The online guide is HERE.

Tororragaun Island Film

  And Sho, after 4+ years of sitting at a laptop fiddling with text and pictures, going to crags and islands at sunrise and sunset to get crag shots and 1000's of e-mails back and forward, It all came to an end. The Rock Climbing in Donegal 2015 guidebook got published.

donegal Guidebook 2015
Donegal Guidebook 2015

 A version of this article appeared in 2015 in an old blog of mine hosted on Blogspot

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