Donegal 2017 | Annual Reviews of Donegal

Rock Climbing in Donegal 2017

A Review of Donegal Rock Climbing 2017


    It is safe to say that 2017 was both an outstanding year and an extremely memorable 300+ days out playing with far too many people to mention from far too many countries to remember. 2017 will be remembered as the year of getting out to and standing on the summits of the "easier" sea stacks whilst they were surrounded by nautical rage. A tandem kayak tip at the base of Toralaydan Island in a suggestion of white watered rage being a great example of nautical tomfoolery this year.

Underneath Donegal

   It would seem a strange place to begin a look back at 2017 but in April and May this year Neptune was at his kindest. In the months April and May the Atlantic was looking and acting in a very respectable manner with deep blues and millpond conditions all round. After a swift tip-off from Noble Brother Gareth Doherty of Selkie Sailings and I paddled out to the lonely wee Umfin (Umphin or Iompainn) nearly 4km west of Gweedore. The film above shows the results, a 300 odd meter tunnel crossing underneath and through the island, with of course the 40 odd metre section of complete darkness in the middle.

Paddling through Umfin Island

   Slightly further to the south on Owey Island and on a slightly bouncier February day paid a visit to the lake under the lake on Owey Island, this is an excellent location for an underground visit. As it was on a bouncy winters day being on an uninhabited island, about 150m underground and approximately 5km from the nearest person turned out to be a slightly concerning day of play. The paddle getting back to Cruit Island involved a bit of a slingshot to Golfers Crag and the salvation of the tiny recess to the right of Ripple Wall. Followed by the kayak carry of shame around the outskirts of Cruit Island golf course.


A visit to the lake under the lake

Sea Kayaking in Ireland
Owey Island Sea Kayaking

Sea Cave
Sea Cave

Downpatrick Head at night
A 4am visit to underneath Downpatrick Head and Dun Briste Sea Stack

Rock Climbing

   An extremely long rock climbing season this year with routes being climbed starting in February and going all the way through to end of December. Main locations played on were End's of the Earth Crag, Beyond the Ends of the Earth Crag, Crohy Head, Skelpoonagh and off course, Cruit Island.

   Several visits were made to both Umfin Island and Inishsirrer with a number of new routes on previously unclimbed walls being recorded. These two islands require another 20 or so visits to sort all the sub extreme unclimbed rock. Umphin Island is a beautiful little uninhabited island alas access is usually white and bouncy.

   Patrick and Adam Tinney have kicked off development at an excellent wee single pitch venue close to Rosbeg.

   Owey Island has continued to attract visiting climbers from Ireland, UK and mainland Europe, with the harder routes getting a lot of attention. The Holy Jaysus Wall having now had a number of repeats and the grades settling at E5 and E6, still of course out of reach for most mortals. John Mallon and Princess Kathy climbed several new lines on the west side of Owey facing out to the Lady. On the East side of the island members of  Mynydd Climbing Club climbed three new lines up to E3. 

   Over the last few years Donegal resident Nigel "Yorkie" Robertson has been on a new routing frenzie around Western Donegal, mostly in the Horseshoe Corrie, The Rocky Gap Crag and Cruit island. He has climbed and recorded a shade over 100 new routes and developed over a dozen new crags in some very obscure places and in many very obvious locations too. 
   Nigel was fatally injured whilst out in the Derryveaghs this August and sadly passed away doing what he loved. Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of many long and enthusiastic conversations with Yorkie, mostly regarding the almost endless amount of unclimbed rock in the county, he is greatly missed.

White water climbing on Cruit Island
Cruit Island

Glencolmcille Rock Climbing
Glencolmcille Rock Climbing

Cruit Island Rock Climbing
Cruit Island


Sea Stacks

   Over 2017 there was a huge interest in sea stack climbing from both home and abroad, alas Neptune was miss-behaving badly for most of the year. This made access to the larger and more remote stacks south of Glenlough off-limits for nearly the entire summer when the sea was calm enough the approach slopes were running with water.
   Anyways, enough of my excuses, Cnoc na Mara only got a single ascent and a new route by the uber keen Ricky Bell and Michelle O' Loughlin this year. They canoed from the Port road end and climbed a new route on the north face of the stack. this was a bit of an epic journey as the sea was not kind or very helpful on their sea passages. :-)

   The lonely tower to the north of An Bhuideal got stood on at the end of August with visiting American climber Jennifer Nobles. I've wondered about this summit for a few years now and with an extremely soggy approach to Cnoc na Mara, this became the summit of choice. (the name of the route should perhaps hint at the rock quality and general situation)

The Un-Named Tower
 This is the 45m high sea level summit that is attached to the access ridge as for An Bhuideal.
Never Again   S 4a   45m
 Gain the base of the south-facing arete by an airy scramble/walk and climb to the summit ridge as direct as you dare. The closer you stay to the south arete the deeper the cracks and the more daylight you can see through to the seaward face. From the summit ridge scramble to as close to the summit as you dare, after thinking about standing on the true summit, descend by abseil.
I Miller, J. Nobles 26/08/17

   In May 35 members of the Mynydd Climbing Club made a mass ascent of Bristi Stack at Maghery, utilising a couple of inflatable dinghies and an uber calm Atlantic they shuttled the troops up the original route on the seaward face. Their original plan to tyrolean off the summit back to the descent gully was abandoned due to the fragile nature of the summit blocks on this stack.

   Arranmore Island still has several suitably foolish objectives to be played on, one of which was the sea stack/tower below the Lighthouse at Rinrawros Point. Went out to the island on a bit of a recce mission and ended up doing a couple of routes onto this nautical summit. The rock on the lower seacliffs below and around the lighthouse is of perfect wave bashed quality. Access to this stack is by a scrambling descent down the slabs to the south. 

Arranmore Rock Climbing
Arranmore Rock Climbing

Sea Stack Climbing
Bristi Sea Stack at Maghery

Donegal Islands
An Port Coast

Glenlough Bay
Glenlough Bay


 The mountains of Donegal have seen a great deal more attention in 2017 than in a previous year, mostly a symptom of the general poor sea conditions throughout this year. 


The Descent to the base of Slieve League

The Summit of Errigal
Errigal Summit

Errigal from Muckish Mountain
Evening Light on Errigal

Errigal in Winter
Errigal in Winter

Slieve League
Nikki Bradley on Slieve League

The summit of the Sturrall
The Summit of The Sturrall

Errigal North Face
The North Face of Errigal

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