Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Cruit Island rock climbing guide

Cruit Island.

 In outstanding glorious sunshine in the last week, paid several visits to the Mecca of Donegal rock climbing, Cruit Island. There are currently over 300 recorded rock climbs on the island all on immaculate granite sea cliffs, all less than 5 minutes walk from the car. Alas after 3 years and climbing over 250 new routes on the island all the remaining unclimbed rock is getting a tad on the hard side. (for me)

Cruit Island

 Albatross Sea Wall

Green Gully

 Anyways I digress, went to Cruit with a view to adding more routes to the guide, alas gravity was the victory. So we went for a wee reclimb of as many of the previously climbed classics as possible and they are indeed all excellent! :-)
 A little known fact about Cruit and the other islands sitting off The Rosses is they sit in the Rain Shadow of the Derryveagh Mountains and as such they receive an incredible amount of dry sunny weather. (even of days when it is lashing on the mainland of Donegal) 

 Download the free climbers guide and have a wee visit, I guarantee it will be your first of many! 

Monday, 19 March 2012

The longest Rock climb in Ireland?

The Sturrall Headland.

 And so, a weekend in Port, we arrived late on the Friday night to a clear moonlit sky and a trillion stars. Made a swift visit to the Port Hostel to meet Theresa Hughes and Aaron Entringer our troopers from the USA who had come to play for the weekend. Many plans were discussed and various options were on the cards for a wee adventure, the deciding vote would go to our old friend Neptune and his current mood.
 Saturday was spent on a wee cliff tops wander we walked to the Sturrall Headland and back to Glenlough Bay along this outstanding coast line, and as the planet aligned the mighty Sturrall ridge looked to be the object of our desires.

The Sturrall

 The Sturrall is a true monster of a headland it's summit rising approx 180m above the sea. The first recorded climb to the summit was by WP (Walter Parry) Haskett Smith in about 1890. His route ascended the skyline ridge from the landward side and provides a very exposed 400m mountain ridge scramble to this excellent summit.
 The object of our desires was the unclimbed slightly terrifying knife edge ridge which rises for over 300m out of the Atlantic on the seaward side of the Sturrall Summit. 
 Alas the sea ward ridge has a few wee access issues and so we made an early start on Sunday morning for today was forecast to be a long one. 

Sunrise walk in

 A 3 KM clifftop walk once again found us at the Sturrall, we racked up, sorted the boat and began a very steep descent down the North spur of the headland, this is the nearest point of land accessible on foot to the base of our seaward ridge. From here it is a 300m sea passage across a truly outstandingly atmospheric location. 

Distant view of the boat approach

Close view of boat approach

 Alas Neptune was in attendance and two very emotional boat crossing over this scary wee sea passage found us all at the foot of the sea ward ridge of the Sturrall. Above us was over 300m of unclimbed rock and as the sea was now crashing 20 footers from the South West we were truly committed to the task at hand as a boat retreat was now out the question and so we climbed.

Standing at the base of the Sturrall

 And so we climbed up this mind blower of a ridge, in the first 150m the climbing was never difficult but very exposed and several sections involved crying, crawling and praying. The exposure, situation and commitment at our location was surreal. 
 Alas at approx 150m up the ridge the crux pitch lived. This involved an UBER exposed move from a vertical wall to a near featureless slab and followed by a couple of friction moves above the abyss to the mother of all "thank gods" and a jug romp to a monster block belay. Another outstanding slab pitch followed and we were on the home straight. A further 100m of climbing at about diff with monster big air all round took us to the summit as the sun was beginning to set. 

High on the ridge in the evening sun

 From sea to summit in a shade over 8 hours, 300m and a grade of XS 4c and so we beet a hasty darkening retreat, but if light had allowed we would have followed the skyline ridge back to the land ward side of the Sturrall by WP's 1890's original route giving a continuation route of over 700m of continual climbing. Maybe next time! :-)

 Many thanks to Caoimhe Gleeson and Oscar for their clifftop patience excellent photographs, we are currently editing many hours of scary video footage into a 20 minute film. :-)

 Special mention must be made to Theresa who completed this super scary committing route in exceptional style on her third days outdoor climbing ever. :-)  

Friday, 16 March 2012

Donegal Outdoor Instructor Course

FAS Outdoor Instructor Course

 This week was Week 1 of the rock climbing module of the FAS Outdoor Instructor program. This year long course and allows the participants to venture forth into the Donegal uplands, get qualified and become outdoor instructors.
 Mountain Skills training is in the Bag and now it was the start of their rock climbing careers.
 A day was spent on the Gartan indoor wall before 18 happy troopers descended on to Cruit Island the following day and for the following 3 days bucket loads of climbing techniques were poured on the eager participants. After 3 days of placing gear, belay building, top roping, bouldering, an abseil down "Tom's Diner" and of course climbing, it was back to Gartan for another day of belay building and playing on the indoor wall.
 And so to week 2...........

Belay Building in the Albatross Zawn

Top ropes at Outdoor Climbing Wall

View from the office window

A happy climber

First Route in the Bag! :-)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Donegal Adventure Race.

Coastal Cancer Challenge.

 Check out Coastal Cancer Challenge for an excellent way to spend an otherwise relaxing Saturday. With the course set at a 16km run, a 2km kayak, a 24km cycle, a 3km mountain run followed by a further 17km cycle, it is guaranteed to be suitably challenging.
 The course follows the outstandingly beautiful circuit from Horn Head to the summit of Muckish and beyond in Western Donegal.
 The mountain climb section is being organised by Unique Ascent in conjunction with Donegal Mountain Rescue Team and Sligo/Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team and is set to follow the south face route up Muckish Mountain.

Donegal Adventure Race

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Bloody Foreland (Cnoc Fola)

Bloody Foreland Sea Stacks

 Updated the Undiscovered Donegal directory with a new location, Bloody Foreland (Cnoc Fola) 
 These five sea stacks were rope solo'd by local climber Martin Boner in 2009 and as always, when making the First Ascent of a sea stack he chose the easiest line to the summit and came away with 5 new summits and 5 new routes from Diff to VS 4c. 

Bloody Foreland sea stacks

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mountain Skills Training Donegal

With a swift return from a rapidly thawing Scotland and straight on to a three day Mountain Skills course I was running from Gweedore. I had made a rather rash promise of glorious sunshine to the four troopers coming from Dublin for the course and as they drove the four hours in lashing rain from Dublin the night before the course my ears were defo burning. Another couple of troopers from Donegal who are preparing for their Mountain Skills and Mountain Leader Assessments also came along for a play and so we were seven.

 Day 1: A day of macro and micro navigation in glorious sunshine. As promised, HURRAH!
 Day 2: We had a mid day start as our cunning plan was a day into night walk navigating our way from features big and small in a horseshoe circuit from Thór. By 3pm we were wadding through blanket fog and by 6pm it was lashing horizontal rods from the South West. An excellent night nav was had with everyone leading technical legs in atmospheric conditions and by 9pm we were back at the car for a group hug. :-)
 Day 3: A day of consolidating what we had been doing over the course. Leaving the cars in glorious sunshine we headed into the hills and by 3pm we were once again navigating through a very warm pea souper.

 All in all, an excellent three days with a broad range of weather and testing mountain navigation conditions.

A slight difference of opinion? :-)

At the summit as the rain arrives.

Heading home into the gloom.