Donegal 2020 | Annual Reviews of Donegal

Rock Climbing in Donegal 2020

   And Sho, Mid March 2020 the inevitable happened with the arrival of a modern plague in Ireland and with its arrival, the country closed and our playgrounds became a 2 km radius around our houses. Within this narrow corridor, many, many "rud a chur ar an méar fhada" projects and tasks got completed, as time had now become available. 

   During this time Matt Pycroft and his troops at Coldhouse Collective spent an inordinate amount of time looking at their computer screens editing together their excellent 45-minute film Feather in the West. This film was produced in conjunction with Pertex and for me, it represents the very essence of outdoor climbing. A combination of a beautiful remote location, pristine unclimbed rock, a suitably tetchy Neptune and the good company of a collection of steely fingered troopers. 

   This was closely followed by the Redbull film of Will Gadd and John Price visit to Donegal in June 2019 with Redbull Canada. During their visit, we played along the coast and islands of south and west Donegal. Chaos Stack got stood on after nearly 20 years of looking, wondering and several attempts, full details of the visit, Will Gadd in Ireland.

Owey Island

   The bumper load of new developments in Donegal this year was on the sea cliffs of Owey Island with four new crags being developed on different parts of the island. Of mild inconvenience off course, was as soon as the lockdowns and movement restrictions started to ease, Neptune showed up. This meant that for most of the summer months the sea was playing the autumn game with near continual moderate to large west and southwesterly motion in attendance.  
   In the Black Spink, a couple of new walls around the black tower feature got developed with 17 new lines so far, up to about HVS 5a. These were climbed over twelve or so visits with a wide range of troops in between lockdowns. The landward end of the inboard wall has a very convenient ledge above the rage with the possibility of starting 8 routes from here if Neptune is kicking up a fuss. Props to 13-year-old Katie Pierce who climbed a couple of new lines on a day when the pounding heart of the ocean raged below, around and sometimes over our ledge.
   The Black Tower on the seaward face of this side of The Spink got a handful of new lines the best of which are "The Locker" V. Diff and "Maternity Leave" Svr 4b ***. Climbed with Lisa Murdiff and thought to be retired and fresh from nappy changes Stephen "Jock" Read  
   Around the corner from An Sron Wall, Selkie Buttress and Selkie Wall development began with a couple of visits from Síle Daly, David Craig, David Keogh and Anne Huovinen. This area now has five lines recorded from E1 5b to E3 6a between 40 and 40 metres high and a large collection of stars between them.  All the routes climb very obvious features on immaculate rock and there is room for considerable further development. I have very detailed topo's of these walls, so detailed that it seems unsporting to post them online until off course, the wall has considerable further development.
   Just around the corner towards the Cruit Island, the cliff is much less steep with a multitude of huge cliff height features  There are currently three lines here and all are 75 meters long. The best of these is "Dead by Dawn" V.Diff *** and takes the first two pitches of "Belayed by the Reaper" to exit through a flying ramp pitch out right. Owey Island Guidebook HERE

Owey Island rock climbing
Developing The Black Spink with the first route on this wall

Climbing new routes in Ireland
Playing above the Rage

Freesolo rock climbing Ireland
Alone time on "Belayed by the Reaper" approach 

Owey Island Topo
Black Spink Topo

Umphin Island Swim Through

   As soon as the initial lockdown restriction began to relax it was a swift paddle out to Umphin and a swim through an Sceadamán Iompainn. This 300-meter long tunnel travels through Umfin Island from seaward to landward sides and has a 50 meter or so section in its middle in complete darkness. At certain tide states and sea conditions, it is possible to paddle through it, just take as much light as you can carry.
   There is something quite surreal to being alone 40 meters under an uninhabited island, a 100 meters from daylight and 3.5km from mainland Donegal.
   Not a climbing post but I feel this set the tone for 2020 nicely with a massive amount of uncertainty, a smattering of fear, paranoia and malaise whilst swimming through the darkness to arrive into cascades of white light. 


   The second post lockdown project was a 4 am kick-off for a paddle out to Inis Oirthir (Inishsirrer) for a sunrise visit to Tor na Faoileog. (Rock of the Seagulls) this wee island lives in the bay off the seaward end of Inishsirrer. Access to the island involves a short swim across the channel from the base of the Spaceman Wall. The island now has eight new lines on the wall facing mainland Inishsirrer up to about severe 4a. 
   For more information and the Inishsirrer Guidebook Here

Inisirrer Rock Climbing
playing on Spaceman S 4a

Freesolo Ireland Climbing
Playing on Tor na Faoileog

BASE Jumping

    At the start of August, Slieve League got its first known BASE jump when Greg McEntee successfully jumped from the skyline clifftops at Nead an Iolar (The Eagles Nest) and landed his parachute on the storm beach at the base. In Greg's words, this was a technical jump with minimal canopy opening time after exit and a very tricky landing on the storm beach with spiralling eddy winds. Much more details about this BASE Jump HERE.

BASE Jump Donegal Ireland

BASE Jump Slieve League

BASE Jump Ireland

Cruit Island

   Without a doubt, Cruit Island has had more people climbing on it this year than the previous 10 years combined with over 60 climbers on its granite sea cliffs on one of the busiest days this year. The Outdoor Climbing Wall and top-roping Dave Millar's "Don't call me Rooney" E2 5c and "Captain Birdseye's Reactilites" E2 5c in the Albatross Zawn being by far the two most popular places to play.
   Once the crowds had thinned at the start of October we entered level 4 again, climbed The Crescent Arch E1 5b 20m *** in the Albatros Zawn with Fiona Fhionnlaoich. This new line climbs the thug crux of "Fresh Fruit" to the hands-off rest then follows the right trending edge of the face with air to your right. The line then traverses out right following the horizontal cracks to finish on top of the Gretel pillar. Cruit Island Guidebook HERE

Cruit Island
The Crescent Arch E1 5b ***

Deep Water Soloing

   I found a new location this year that I had previously paddled by and never had a good look at. These wee islands have been getting a little bit of attention as summer disappeared, mostly of the deepwater soloing variety. This venue consists of six interconnected Islands with immaculate rock and deep water below all the main faces. So far, there is a shade over thirty routes up to 5b with the best route being a 100 m sea level traverse of the main face at about 5b and ***. Alas, I ran out of summer and then spring to get all the prime lines climbed and there is still one outstanding looking line running up the main face to get climbed. I'll ideally get this line and a few more done in the early spring to upload a deep water soloing guide to Donegal. This is one of three places I have found in the county that provides as safe as possible soloing above neptune

Deep Water Soloing Ireland
Donegal best deep water soloing venue?

Deep Water Soloing Donegal
An early morning playing above an unusually calm sea 


   Stalwart troopers Alan Tees and Marty McGuigan whilst on a visit to Arranmore with the NW Mountaineering Club played in the zawns around the Lighthouse at Rinrawros Point. A collection of new lines were climbed around the stone steps leading to the wee sheltered Irish Lights harbour. The best of these was Crex Crex HS 4b 25m *** which takes the very obvious fault, now it has been climbed, out from the middle of the steps. Both Alan and Marty have been new routing for several decades with Marty with a neverending supply of route names related to our feather friends. They also made a repeat of "Hybrid Theory" the 2 starred V.Diff which climbed the access or escape route from Lighthouse Stack.  More details in the Arranmore Guidebook.

Arranmore Island

Donegal Sea Stacks

   It was perhaps a quieter year with regards to new routing on the sea stacks this year. The north stack in the Canyon on Owey got a nice little collection of starred routes. With Conall Ó Fiannachta, John Gilmore and Iain Miller climbing four new routes up to E2 5c and all following very obvious features with Connall testing the integrity of his gear placements in fine style. These routes are listed in the Owey Island Guidebook.

   At An Port Andy Thompson and an amigo from Kerry (whom I canny remember his name) deepwater solo at high tide a complete circular traverse of Realm of the Senses sea stack at about 6a+. The best wall being the landward face in the narrow channel which provides a slightly overhanging wall of immaculate Quartz jugs with off course, much room for further development. More details in the Donegal Sea Stack Guidebook.

Sea Stack Climbing
Connall Ó Fiannachta on Tor Lice Riseach on Owey Island

Donegal Sea Stack Climbing
Realm of The Senses at An Port

Malin Beg

   Gavin Conlon and William Briton climbed a new line at HVS or E1 in a zawn approximately 50 meters to the south of The Prawn Zawn. RIP beautiful orange transit van takes the left-hand side under the overhang at a group of unprotected blocky mantel self's. these to the start of a steep leftwards trending and a slightly overhanging corner, continue up here on small gear and delicate feet to the top use a big flake to pull through the crux. The Malin Beg Guidebook HERE 

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