Living at the outer edge of the hinterland that is the Slievetooey Massif in south west Donegal, Tormore Island at 148metres high is Ireland's highest sea stack. It stands head and shoulders above a large collection of sea stacks and skerries known as the Land of the Giants. Within this collection is both Cnoc na Mara and Cobblers Tower. To the north is Glenlough Bay, Ireland's largest raised shingle storm beach and 3 kilometres to the south is An Port, Ireland's most remote public road end. Simply put Tormore is a monster of a sea stack and it lives in a location that is fair to say requires a lot of nautical guile to reach its base safely.
1: Tormore island lives in one of the most remote places on mainland Ireland.
2: The grassy approach slopes are very steep to the raised shingle storm beach at the beginning of the sea passage from the south.
3: The nautical approach to the stack involves a sea passage through a labyrinth of submerged, semi-submerged and tidal islands and skerries. (The coast here is very exposed to Atlantic swells in the south to the north range)
4: The rock on the stack is good BUT your situation causes everything to appear a wee bit more atmospheric than it actually is.
5: The ropework on the stack requires a wee bit of thought as it is not conventional esp, as always ensure your descent by inspecting and if needed rerigging the abseil belays as you climb the route.
6: 60 metre half ropes are best, it is NOT possible to get off this stack safely with a single rope, as each abseil is 50 to 55meters long.
7: The summit is a bit of a mindblower.
First Free Ascent and 2nd ascent of Tormore
The above are just a few thoughts on climbing this stack, it's location out to sea from the Entrance to Shambalha storm beach and for that matter anyhere you care to launch from is outrageous. It is always worth bearing in mind that the actual climbing is by far the easiest part of your day with the logistics of actually getting to the base of the stack as the crux of your day and getting off the stack can be equally dramatic. It can not be stressed enough that the sea around the base of this stack is a law unto it self and always requires a great deal of nautical guile.
Tormore Island is a gigantic leviathan, a sentinal of the deep standing guard at the nautical gates to the Slievetooey coastline. At 148m at it's highest point above the ocean it is Ireland's highest sea stack. This huge square topped stack can be seen for many kilometres along the coast either side of it. It can even be clearly seen from the Dungloe/Kincaslough road some 40KM to the north.
In 1895 WP (Walter Parry) Haskett Smith wrote in his book, Climbing in the British Isles Vol 2, "Outside Port lies Tormore Island, one of a group of boulders, a rock which, though hardly half a mile round its base, is a tremendous sea fowl breeding-place, second only to Horn Head. At low water Tormore can lie reached from the slime, mid it is scaled in many places by lads in search of eggs. One native was on the Great Tor when a storm arose, and cut him off from the mainland and from all help. After 4 weeks he died of starvation and exposure. Local men returned later and buried his body in a grassy area called "Borraigh Na Cahal." It is, perhaps, about 400 to 800 ft. high."
Access is a very involved affair and entails gaining the storm beach as for Cnoc na Mara, Lurking Fear and Tormore Island. From here it is a 500m paddle around the headland to the north of the storm beach and a further 250m paddle through the outstanding channel separating Tormore Island and Donegal mainland. At the northern end of the landward face, there is a huge ledge just above the high watermark.
In 2008 a team of four climbers took a 250HP RiB and landed on the landward face of the stack. Two members of the party had made several attempts to land on and climb the stack in the past. We were aware of the story of the man who was buried here. During our climb of the stack, we searched any possible place where someone could be buried and found no possible burial site or any trace of the passage of people on the stack prior to our ascent. We found no evidence or trace of previous visitors on the summit. To get off the summit back to sea level we made four 50m abseils leaving behind two 240cm slings and 4 pegs as abseil anchors.
We climbed the very obvious landward arete at the northern side of the landward face, this huge feature can be easily seen from any position along the coast overlooking the stack. The route we took to the summit was climbed in 5 long pitches following the easiest line up this huge feature. The descent was by 4 50m abseils down the route back to our start point on the huge ledge above the high watermark.
Tormore Island's climbing history is very long and involves very few people, in 1895 WP (Walter Parry) Haskett Smith wrote in his book, Climbing in the British Isles Vol 2, that the stack was easily accessible at low tide and in the 1800's a local man was stranded in the stack for four weeks and eventually died of starvation. The stack has only ever been climbed twice once in 2009 and once in 2014, I was the primary organiser of both these ascents and both were very different adventures indeed.
The first ascent of the stack involved a 250hp rib ride and a very bouncy sea crossing from Burtonport, there were four climbers on this ascent and the day was very much a step up and into the unknown.
The second ascent of the stack was a much more relaxed affair and involved a little dingy paddle from the storm beach Glenlough to the north of the stack. I like to call this the first free ascent of the stack as we did not use an outboard engine to gain the base thus removing a point of aid from the first ascent above. There were just the two of us on the ascent and we rerigged the abseil belays from the first ascent.
Details of both these ascents, The 2nd Ascent of the stack.
The climbing takes the prominent landward arete which is the most obvious feature on the stack as you approach it from the mainland cliffs from the north or south