Monday, 10 December 2012

Donegal's Hardest Rock Climb.

 On a flying visit to Co. Donegal at the end of the summer 2012, Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll and Ben Ditto climbed Donegal's first E7 graded rock climb. Their route takes the huge roof crack and bulging head wall on the Mindcrime Wall at Muckross Head in the South West of the county.
 Muckross Head has traditionally been thought off as Donegal's home of hard rock climbing as most of the routes are in the extreme grades and almost all the rock climbs being overhung or containing roof sections.  Muckross has been home to two E6 graded rock climbs which were first climbed in 1993 by local climber Paul Dunlop.
 Professional climbers Sean Villanueva and Ben Ditto are no strangers to hard rock climbing in locations all over the world with many first ascents on major big walls worldwide. Both climbers won the Piolet D'Or in 2011 for their Vertical Sailing GreenlandGreenland Vertical Sailing adventures.
 Check out the superb landscape and climbing photography on Ben Ditto's website at Ben Ditto photography.

Sideswipe E7 6c

Muckross Head Donegal

 The Muckross Head guide section has been updated and can be downloaded at,

Monday, 3 December 2012

Donegal Winter Climbing Guide

 And sho, Winter is almost upon us once again, it came and went last week with minus temperatures and a couple of inches of snow fall on Derryveagh's Slieve Snaght summit, and in the flash of a downpour it was all gone again.

Errigal from Maumlack Plateau

Winter in Donegal

 Donegal's winter climbing history stretches back to the 1970's when several routes where climbed in the Horseshoe Corrie by Lough Barra, unfortunately the details of these have disappeared into the ether, though I strongly suspect they were in The Morbid Angel falls area of the Horseshoe corrie. Since the 70's less than a route every decade was recorded in the county until 2009. In the winter of 2009/2010 the big freeze hit Ireland and with Donegal resembling a Scotland in miniature and with an almost unlimited supply of previously unclimbed gullies, cascades and ice smears covering the entire county the troops went out to play. With Donegal deep frozen and the road taking an Arctic Tundra appearance travelling by road around the county was an epic undertaking.
 Download the current and up to date Donegal winter climbing guide below.

Donegal winter climbing guide

Slieve Snaght summit, Derryveagh

 With the Donegal roads pretty much undrivable, two teams were out climbing as much ice and neve as possible in this period. Kevin McGee and Patrick Tinney stayed at the Northern end of the Derryveagh range hoovering up a multitude of lines on Muckish, Maumlack and the East face of Errigal. I was trapped at the Southern end of The Derryveagh range and did a similar hoovering campaign in The Poison Glen, Maumlack, The Horseshoe Corrie and Errigal. Many, many outstanding new routes were climbed in all these locations up to and breaking into the winter climbing grade of IV for the first recorded time in Donegal.

At 300m pitch 5, The Poison Glen

The West Ridge of Errigal, Donegal

Scardangal Falls, Derryveagh

 This superb winter cold snap culminated in a weekend visit to The Poison Glen by a group of six from The Colmcille Climbing Club led by Alan Tees. First Ascents of Gullies No1 and 2 high on the Castle face and the 450m long Sruahn na Bearna on the Bearna Face were climbed by separate teams on the first day. The following day a mass ascent of the massive and immaculate Castle Gully was made in outstanding winter conditions.
 Alas, this brought an end to the best winter climbing conditions the county has ever seen as the following day temperatures rose and the mountains returned to their green, brown and damp normal condition.      

 All that was left to do was haste to Scotland where the winter continued for several more months.......

Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis

 Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor
The White Room on The Cairngorm Plateau

High above Glen Coe

The Immaculate Cairngorms Summit Plateau