Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Donegal Rock Climbing 2013

A review of the rock climbing events in Donegal 2013.


 But first, towards the end of 2012 Sean Villanueva 0'Driscoll and Ben Ditto climbed Sideswipe E7 at Muckross Head and thus created Donegal's current hardest route. (More details HERE)

Winter Climbing

 The winter came a wee bit late to Ireland at the beginning of 2013 with several monster cold fronts hitting Donegal in January and March. These cold front were short but harsh enough to produce perfect winter conditions all be it for a very short time. Due to the North Atlantic Drift being a tad warm and a temperature inversion in the Poison Glen, Muckish Mountain was the only location in the county to produce the white goods. Kevin McGee and Patrick Tinney climbed a new mixed route on the Nutcracker Buttress, Comfortably Numb at winter grade IV. The depressingly talented Kevin McGee, Patrick McDermott and my good self made a previous attempt at this route in the film below. The free Donegal winter climbing guidebook is HERE.

    
Winter Climbing on Muckish

Winter Climbing in Summer Conditions

Irish winter Climbing


Winter Climbing in Donegal, Ireland.

Donegal Guidebook 2013

 In May the latest Donegal rock climbers guidebook was published as an App available for both Android and I Phones. It is a select guide and covers a shade over 1000 routes throughout Donegal all 1000+ routes are shown on picture topos. The definitive on-line Donegal guide lives at Undiscovered Donegal with over 2800 routes all available on 20 free PDF downloads. The most popular download so far is Cruit island with over 500 copies so far downloaded. For more Donegal climbing App information CLICK HERE.

  Western Donegal Rock Climbing Venues

Cruit Island

 The development of Cruit Island continued throughout the year with another two new crags getting developed. Over the course of the year an additional 32 routes have been recorded on the island with Cruit Island getting it's first E3 and E4 on the steep rippled wall on the seaward face of Schalpachore Wall. I kind of think this is the start to the harder lines getting done on the island as there are many steeper and blanker sections awaiting the steely fingered. :-) The Cruit Island guidebook now has over 370 routes and 75 pages. Cruit Island was also the venue for this years Climbfest, organised by Alan Tees and CCC massif, the weekend was very well attended by both climbers and unfortunately, lashing rain. As is always the case, come Monday morning and with most of the visiting climbers having returned home the sun came out again.

Cruit Island Rock Climbing film

Cruit Island Rock Climbing 

Rock Climbing on Cruit Island

Cruit Island Sunset

Owey Island

 Steely fingered troopers from Belfast, namely John McCune, Kevin Kilroy, Ricky Bell and Clare Strawson made several visits to Owey Island and came away with a superb collection of new routes, mostly in the extreme grades. These new routes climb the larger, steeper and very exposed Atlantic walls on the sea ward face of the island. With a grade range from VS to E5 and a mildly intimidating abseil approach the climbing development of Owey took a large step forward this year. Spider sense tells me the exploration of the Donegal Islands and their wilder unclimbed crags is set to continue with whispers of unclimbed walls on Arranmore, Umphin and Tory. ;-)

An Sron Wall

Donegal from Owey's Summit


Crohy head

 A dozen or so new routes have been added to this pretty much forgotten corner of the Rosses. Aidan McGinley, Louise O'Connor and my good self made several visits over the summer adding new routes to two previously unclimbed crags and another couple of longer routes to the looming main wall at the far end of the crags. Why the main wall remained unclimbed until this year is a bit of a mystery as the rock was perfect and access was a leisurely abseil to a huge non tidal ledge. HURRAH!

Crohy Head rock climbing film

Crohy Head South

Aidan Mc Ginley on Belay

Louise O'Connor above Neptune



Horn Head


 A new 200 meter, 6 pitch route was climbed up Horn Head's highest face by Hugh Hennesey and Mark Keogh, "Vertical Hillwalk" at 205m long and graded SVR 4a this route follows an obvious line of weakness up this very intimidating face. Nice One Gents!

Inishowen


 The development of Malin Head continues with a steady stream of routes on several new walls by the local troopers, Alfie Conn, Alan Tees, Bill MaGowan and Trevor Hartley. There are a many developments currently on the go at Ireland's most northerly point regarding access and a planned new visitor center for Fáilte Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way route. At Kinnego Bay John McCune and Kevin Kilroy made rare repeats of Niall Grimes and Al Miller's, Ocean Atlantic Wall an E4's from the early 90's, reports of 3 star climbing for this route. :-)

Sea Stacks


 It has been a truly excellent years on Donegal's sea stacks with 100 summits stood on by a shade over 150 people. Most of the previously rarely visited stacks got an ascent and off course, a film made. Three new stacks got their summits visited and 12 new routes were climbed on other previously climbed stacks. It would be impossible to pick a highlight or two, but outstanding days out were had on Pyramid Stack, several visits to Cnoc na Mara's summit, Slieve League Stack, Arch Stack (Na Bristí), Gull Island, Tent Stack and many, many more. The summer in Donegal kicked off on the 28th of February in Glenlough Bay with Josie McGee with a visit to the summit of Tent Stack and continued to a superb finish on 24th October with a paddle out to Owey Island.
 Perhaps the most notable new route/summit was Cobblers Tower, Donegal's highest free standing tower, with Noble Brother Stephen Jock Read we climbed an amicable 100m Diff route up it's North face to a very scary summit. What made this an outstanding day out was the UBER calm nature of the sea which allowed us to circumnavigate the mighty Tormore Island and land on this tower in a place normally under attack by the white legions. Another excellent fact about Cobblers Tower is there is no other sane route to it's summit! HURRAH!

Donegal Sea Stacks 2013

Gull island

Tent Stack

Sea Stack Climbing

Vertical picnic

Cnoc na Mara from Cobbler's Tower summit


Cobbler's Tower Film


 A slightly unusual new route was on the previously unclimbed "Beyond the End's of The Earth Crag," which funnily enough is just beyond The End's of the Earth Crag in one of the most remote places in Ireland. Joining my good self on this occasion was noble brother Peter O'Tool and a mildly tetchy Neptune. DJ Locker is an 80m rising traverse at about severe and was excellent if a little scary fun. :-)

Beyond the End's of the Earth Crag


Roll on 2014! 


  

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Donegal rock climbing guidebook

 And Sho, the quest with Donegal's rock climbing guidebook continues, we are currently approaching 2900 recorded routes though out the county. I have sub dived the entire county into 21 sub sections each with it's own free downloadable PDF guide. As it stands at the moment 17 of these 21 sections are live on the Unique Ascent website and available to download free. The remaining four sections await good weather and calm seas to get suitable topo photographs, Owey Island's seaward facing cliffs are being particularly nigglesome. :-(

 And on to phase three in the cunning plan, I am currently editing a short film for each of Donegal's 21 main rock climbing locations, each of the films will be approximately 3 minutes long and will show as much of the location as well as the climbing as possible.

Crohy Head Guidebook Download


 Crohy Head Film

 Crohy Head is an excellent wee location on a huge forgotten peninsula just to the south of Dungloe. Aidan Mc Ginley, Louise O'Connor and my good self played out there on several occasions over the summer adding another dozen or so new routes to four new crags. The most surprising routes were two 30 meter lines of the main crag at the far end of the good rock both routes went at very modest V.Diff but in a spectacular location. This whole section of coast is prone to monster seas and very much like Malin Beg offers excellent wave battered climbing.

  Donegal Rock Climbing, Crohy Head Main Walls

Zawn 1 Topo

Cruit Island Guidebook Download


Cruit Island Film

 The ever dependable Cruit Island has very quickly become the most popular climbing venue in Donegal and new routes now tickling into E grades are continuing to be sent in by visiting climbers. The are currently over 370 routes on the island on 34 separate crags. What makes the island such a dependable locations is many of the crags are facing different aspects and with a tiny bit of nautical knowledge it is possible to climb under almost any sea states and motion. None of the crags required any cleaning prior to any first ascents thus the crags are permanently cleaned by angry winter seas. 

Cruit Island Rock Climbing

Cruit Island rock climbing map

Donegal Sea Stacks guidebook download


Donegal Sea Stack Film

 This year on Donegal's sea stacks was spent visiting many old friends and introducing a large collection of people to the edge of the real world. Three new stacks were climbed and 12 new routes added to existing stacks, perhaps the most important find was a new unclimbed 130 meter high sea cliff in, by far the most outrageous location in Ireland. Alas the cliff is prone to monster green and the easiest looking route looks mildly terrifying. The cliff also contains the mother of all exit points and so a very cunning plan to climb and jump off the edge of the real world begins to take hold. :-)

Sea Stack climbing

Glenlough Bay Sea Stacks

Gull Island Sea Stack

Bingorm's Rock Climbing Guide


Derryveagh Mountains at their very best

Owey Island rock climbing Guidebook


End of the Summer on Owey Island

 The above film was shot on a day I had intended to circumnavigate the island in the wee dingy, alas overnight monster green appeared from the West and simply getting to the island was a bit of a mission and involved a wetsuit. :-) Owey is top of the list in the spring for a visit and a circumnavigation to get the sea ward facing cliff sorted. 

Mainland Donegal from Owey Island

 Glenveagh National Park is next on the list for a short film with only two more locations to be visited and editing begins. :-)



 




Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Donegal Summer 2013

 It has just turned November and I am finally in agreement that summer is over in Western Donegal, BUT it has been a most outstanding and very long summer. The Rosses summer officially started on the 28th of February and finally came a rain soaked halt on 25th of October. During this extended period of blue skies well over 150 people have stood on the summits of a shade over 100 sea stack summits along the coast of Western Donegal and pretty much all of them had no previous outdoor climbing experience. Hurrah! :-)
 The bulk of the visitors to Donegal's sea stacks came from all four corners of America, with another large proportion coming from Canada, a small portion came from mainland Europe inc the UK and a tiny portion travelling from all over Ireland.
 This blog post is a small selection of the you tube films we posted over this summer from around the coast of Donegal.

 
Glenlough Bay on 28th February 2013

 The summer kicked off at Glenlough Bay on February 28th with Josie McGee, Glenlough Bay is Ireland's largest raised shingle storm beach and is located in one of the most remote places in the country. Our cunning plan was to make an ascent, probably the first of Ulsters highest free standing tower. Cobblers Tower is a 110 meter high spike of land connected to mainland Donegal by a very loose knife edge ridge, alas a mildly tetchy Neptune and a 40 meter white water sea crossing meant we paid a visit to the summit of Tent Stack instead.

 
Donegal's Highest free standing tower

 Made a return visit to Cobbler's Tower with Noble Brother Steven "Jock" Read and this time with an UBER calm sea paddled around Tormore Island from the Entrance to Shambhala to land at the base of the north face of the tower, we scrambled up the north face to a very insecure and mildly scary summit.

The most remote place in Ireland

 Made a return visit to Pyramid Stack with Andy Cronin, this very remote archipelago lives 300 meters out to sea from the base of the 1000 foot north face of Slievetooey. It sits approximately 22 kilometers from the nearest main road, 5 kilometers from the car and in a very inaccessible location open to both west and north sea states. This was the 2nd ascent of the stack the first ascent being a solo affair back in 2008.

 
Slieve League Sea Stack

 With the sea so calm and with Ireland gripped in the middle of a heat wave it would have been rude not to go for a wee visit to the sea stack at the western end of the Slieve League massif, this time with noble brother Des O'Connor, (no, no thee Des O'Connor) access to this stack is by a 500 meter paddle out to sea from Silver Strand at Malin Beg, one of Ireland's most beautiful beaches. 

Cnoc na Mara

 Cnoc na Mara, Ireland's most popular sea stack had six ascents this year including an ascent by 15 year old Jake Scollay from Scotland and Steven "Jock" Read. This 150 meter route has now been climbed by over 25 people in the last five summers, not a massive amount of people but still makes it easily Ireland's most climbed sea stack. :-)

Luke

 In the midst of these nautical misadventures young Luke was born, arriving safe and sound into the world a week early. :-)

Beyond The End's of the Earth Crag

We opened a new crag slightly further away from the real world than "End's of the Earth Crag," climbing with Peter O'Toole (no, not thee Peter O'Toole) and a very angry Neptune this excellent single pitch venue provides a very atmospheric place to place where solitude is guaranteed.

Owey Island on 24th October 2013

 A final wee explore was a solo trip out to Owey Island with the last of the summer sun forecast to disappear in the evening of the 24th of October, it would have been rude not to go out for a look.

Donegal Summits


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Inishowen Rock Climbing


 The county of Donegal currently plays host to over 2800 rock climbs on pretty much every rock climbing medium that Ireland has to offer. From overhanging mudstone, multi-pitch mountain crags, uninhabited islands and off course, nearly 100 Sea Stacks, I tend to think of the rock climbing available in Donegal as Ireland in miniature. The Donegal on-line guide gives details of all these different climbing mediums and locations in 20 free PDF guidebook downloads, CLICK HERE.

 The peninsula of Inishowen in Northern Donegal is in rock climbing terms, Donegal in miniature, with a huge collection of climbs and locations around its coast. From the stack and sea cliffs at Leenan Head, the slabs, corners and cracks at the ever popular Malin Head (Ireland's most Northerly point) along the coast to Culdaff and down to Kinnego Bay. The current Inishowen climbing guidebook is available as a free PDF download CLICK HERE.

Dunaff Head rock climbing film

 Residing on the west coast of Inishowen lives the huge Dunaff Head, this headland is 210 meters at it's highest point and covers an area of approx. 4 square kilometers. Running along it's north face is a very impressive and slightly imposing sea cliff. Alas being a north facing cliff it sees very little direct sunlight and is thus very vegetated and is prone to feldspar leaching. It is in essence a huge wall of loose hairy sea cliff, very impressive to look at but alas not so impressive to climb.
 Living approx 200m out to sea from the base of this wall is a superb 50 meter high sea stack.

Inishowen Sea Stack

 And Sho, a swift E-mail from Sean and Julia, who were across in Donegal on a short break from London, it was descided a wee play out on the Dunaff Head sea stack would be a suitably adventurous activity.  

Julia on the storm beach

 Access to the stack from the surrounding cliff tops is an emotional affair, which involves descending the huge full crag height gully to the south of the stack. This 200 meter long gully descends steeply passing down through one 60m near vertical section below half height. We descended through this steep stepped section on a tensioned back rope using each other as anchors. This part of the gully was loose, wet and very overgrown in places and it was with a hint of relief we lowered down the final steepening and onto the boulder apron below.  

Sean at the base of the gully

 We continued to descend down the gully apron and the more we descended the larger the boulders became until we were approx 30 meters above the sea. Below us the boulders were more the size of houses and stacked in a way by Neptune that there was no easy way down to sea level. We made a very convoluted path through the boulders to a huge flat topped house sized boulder at approx 10 meters above sea level.
 A swift inflation of the wee dingy and one by one we made the 250 meter crossing to the sea level platforms at the seaward side of the stack. This is a very remote, isolated and committing place to be standing as stretching either side of us for at least a kilometer is the 200 meter high walls of Dunaff Head's north face. The sea had gone from being flat calm to a half meter swell from the North West and the winds were now blowing at 19 knots. A deep depression was moving in from the North West and with it an inch of rain was forecast for the following day.
 Due to our location and the height of the facing cliffs this stack does not get very much direct sunlight, especially in mid October, and so it was still very damp and very greasy. We worked our way around the sea level platforms and made to boat journey back to the bottom of the gully. Landing the boat was now a tad move complex as the boulder beach was now surrounded by slightly annoyed white water. A suitable harbour was found to the south and a short coastaleer later we were back at the base of the outstanding gully.  

Back on mainland Donegal


 An hour later we had re-ascended the gully and were standing on the clifftos once again overlooking the sea stack. As always nature has the last laugh as it had now been over 8 hours since we had left the car and this was the first time we had been in sunshine all day. It had of course been blazing sunshine on the summit of Dunaff the whole time we had been climbing. :-) It was at this point that the sun finally hit the stack. 

Re-ascending the gully

Evening Sun on Inishowen

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Fanad Head Lighthouse

Fanad Head Lighthouse Abseil
 September has been an extremely busy month with everyday bringing a new place and a very varied selection of slightly foolish activities. With a 15 day tour of the coast of Ireland taking 11 international visitors up all the highest summits in the country. Another 7 days were spent private guiding, taking a couple of gentlemen to the summits of several mildly scary sea stacks and another few days spent preparing a young trooper for their first visit to the greater ranges. September has been a truly excellent end to an excellent summer in the vertical world of the North West.
 With a call from Fáiltre Ireland last week it was a visit to Fanad Head Lighthouse. The cunning plan was to do an interview for the TV cameras and abseil off the outside walkway at the top of the lighthouse.
 The forecast was a tad breeze blowing 30 knots from the east but thankfully no rain was on the cards and sunshine had been ordered for about 1pm.

Fanad Head Lighthouse Abseil Film

 It is always a tad surreal to be playing out under the ever watchful eye of a film crew. This is third time this year doing this type of thing under such scrutiny of the lens. The trick is to arrive early, get everything set up and in this case do the abseil before anyone else arrives. As when the film crew arrives there is always a flood of preparatory questions prior to them switching the cameras on. BUT much more importantly it also means you do your first abseil with its customary moment of mild concern as you weight the rope over a 30 meter drop and "Elvis entering the building," is not captured on film. HURRAH!
 Anyways, 6 abseils and an hour long interview later, job done, it was duly noted that Oscar the dog also regained his crown as Donegal's most filmed dog. :-)   


Fanad Head Lighthouse
Inside Fanad Head Lighthouse
Fanad Head Lighthouse Abseil





Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Donegal Rock Climbing. Gull Island

 Living at the base of Slievtooey's north coast in one of Ireland's most remote and isolated locations, there lives a 100 m high flat topped island. The island sits approximately 6 KM from Maghera caves to the east, 8 km from An Port road end to the West and 4.5 KM from the nearest place to park the car to the south. Whichever way you approach Gull Island it is a long way across open, unpathed and rarely visited uplands.
 Access to the raised shingle storm beach which separated the island from mainland Donegal is by a 100 m steep grass / loose rock down climb and scramble.
 This marathon walk in and careful descent of the surrounding slopes takes you to an outrageous location as you stand on a huge horseshoe shaped raised shingle storm beach surrounded by a majestic back drop of the 300 m high sea cliffs of Slievetooey.  
 But it is what stands out to sea in front you that instills your first rushes of primal fear. The landward face of gull Island is quite simply an enormous 150m aréte of near biblical proportions. Standing at the base of this aréte tying into your rope and preparing to climb is where your internal battle with your inner demons begins. Inversely it is also what makes this type of adventurous rock climbing in potentially very serious locations one of the most foolish and rewarding activities it is possible to participate in.

Gull island Rock Climbing film

  It was in April 2009 that I made the first of many visits to this island, in attendance on this first visit was Martin Bonner and Andy Mcinroy. At this time both Gull Island and stack behind it were unclimbed. Our intent on this first visit was to climb the 80 m high twin summited sea stack off the seaward face of Gull Island but alas due to Neptunes rage and us being scared we opted for the "less chance of drowning "option of the landward aréte of Gull Island.
 Martin and myself climbed this monsterous aréte in three very dangerous feeling pitches. We used three pegs at the top of the first unprotected 45m pitch and placed an abseil stake on the summit and backed it up with a cairn. All in all an excellent and mildy terrifying day at the end of a rope.
 The original route description I gave Gull Island kind of speaks volumes of the type of climbing ans situations involved.

Gull Island   XS 5a   145m
 Pitch 1: 50m 4a To the left of landward aréte climb the soaring corner crack until the grassy rake. Traverse upwards and right to gain the aréte proper. Two good gear placements in 50m, fall and you will die)
 Pitch 2: 50m Climb the aréte by a very atmospheric scramble and up the jenga tower to the perched boulder at it's summit.
 Pitch 3: 45m Crimp left and up superb rock and continue to the summit by your easiest convenience.     Iain Miller, Martin Bonner 24/04/09

 Many thanks to our cliff top voyeur Andy Mcinroy, Andy's Photographic site is HERE.

Gull island, Donegal

 And sho, with these rather worrying memories lurking in my head it became time for a return visit to Gull Island and it's landward aréte. In attendance on this occasion were Aidan Mc Ginley and Louise O'Connor, both Aidan and Louise have been doing work experience with Unique Ascent over the summer as part of their FAS outdoor instructor course. And what better way to finish a work placement than a visit deep into the Realms of Chaos.

Storm Beach at the base of Gull island

Pitch 1

 And Sho, Gull Island round 2. We left our homes at an unsociably early hour in the morning and had a clandestine meet up and car share in Ardara to our real world exit point on the south face of Slievetooey. It was a misty, wet and pretty miserable two and a half hour walk over Slievetooey to the cliff tops overlooking Gull island and Satan.
 A swift abseil over the 100 m high edge and we pulled the Ab rope and scrambled / down climbed onto the huge storm beach. It was indeed the scary place that I had stored on the back shelves of memory as we racked up and prepared to climb. Louise and myself were to climb whilst Aidan was our photographer.

Pitch 1

 I led pitch one very carefully digging about for any meaningful gear placements and with a modicum of relief reach the tri-peg anchor at the top of the 45 m pitch. In total seven gear placement alas only three of them would have held even the smallest of falls and up came Louise.
 At the top of this pitch, 45 m above the storm beach we crouched on the 10 cm mud ledge as a passing shower paid a brief visit.

Pitch 3

 On pitch 2 due to the instability of the 15 m jenga tower, I built another peg belay on solid terra firma and Louise joined me for tea and tiffin.
 Pitch 3 is the beast in the back garden as you edge your way higher and higher above excellent gear amidst a sea of uncertainties. This pitch has a vast selection of unpleasant charactaristics which include a crimpy slab and an overhung jug haul to the salvation of a huge flat topped summit and it is a most outstanding sumit.
 Louise and myself had a wee wander around this football pitch pitch sized summit and all too quickly we began the descent.

Crux Moves on Pitch 3

 The descent from the summit of Gull Island involves two 50 meter abseils and a wee bit of guile and rope trickery in the middle section and we were back on the beach.
 with the addition of the peg belay at the top of pitch 2 and the digging about for gear placement I have altered the route description to allow for a more up to date idea of what an ascent of this stack involves.

Gull Island   E1 5a   125m
 Pitch 1: 50m, 3a. To the west of the landward aréte climb the huge corner crack until it terminates. traverse right and ascend the ramp to gain the aréte and a tri-peg belay. (3 good gear placements in 50m, fall & you will die)
 Pitch 2, 25m. Continue up the aréte by a very atmospheric scramble to the big block overhang at the base of the boulder field. (2 peg belay)
 Pitch 3, 50m, 5a. Climb the stack boulder field to the two big boulders perched on top. Crimp left and ascend to the summit through the two rock bands

The summit of Gull Island

Rock Climbing is not a spectator sport?

Gull island Panoramic

 Fear is not a negative emotion, fear is an understanding we have nothing to fear.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tormore Island, Ireland's highest sea stack

 There are few places on Earth that can compare to the surreal nature of the coastal architecture that surrounds Tormore Island. This island sits at the southern end of Glenlough Bay at the far western tip of the Slievetooey coastline in South West Donegal.
 Living approximately 300 meters out to sea from the storm beach at the Entrance to Shambhala, resides this huge island/sea stack. At about 160 meters high Tormore Island is Ireland's highest sea stack and it stands guard over a truly outstanding collection of sea stacks and towers in this very inaccessible and mildly scary location. Surrounding the sea approaches to Tormore are the 100 meters high Cnoc na Mara, Lurking Fear, Hidden Stack and the 100 meters high Cobbler's Tower.
 This really is a surreal place of giants, the routes to the summits of the giants are all in the Donegal Sea Stack Guide and this guide only really scrapes the surface of the climbing potential of the Donegal coastline.

A paddle around Tormore Island


 Access to the base of the Tormore involves a 3 kilometer clifftop walk from the An Port road end and a 250 meter scramble down to one of two storm beaches at sea level. It is possible to access sea level from both The Entrance to Shambhala storm beach and An Chlochán Mór storm beach below Glenlough Bay. Each of those exit points for the sea crossing present it's own set of potential marine difficulties and both are very dependent on a specific set of nautical conditions and tide phases. Each of these two sea passages are of course equally emotional.
 From sea level it is then a 300 meter sea passage to the narrow channel separating Tormore Island from Cobbler's Tower. Cobblers Towers is Donegal's highest free standing tower and is connected to mainland Donegal by a series of suicidally loose ridges and collapsing minor towers. What this essentially means is the approach and possible escape from the labyrinth surrounding Tormore is by sea passage with no sane over land entry/exit points.

 Commitment to the task in hand is the key. :-)  

  Tormore Island (South View)



 The channel separating Tormore from Mainland Donegal is a nautical labyrinth comprising 4 major sea stacks and the Cobbler's tower massif. These five major land masses work well in conjunction with the myriad of smaller outlaying tidal skerries to produce a stretch of very difficult to predict tidal conflictions which unfortunately produce a great deal of white water violence.  


Tormore Island (North View)


 It was in August 2008 aboard a 240 HP driven R.i.B. four troopers left Burton Port bound for Tormore. On the R.i.B. was Alan Tees, Peter Copper Pete McConnel and Myself and off course captain Paul Bathgate. The short story of that day out and the First Ascent of Tormore Island is below.


The First Ascent of Tormore Island.


 It was in the midst of a monsoon at 7am on a wet and dark Sunday morning that four troopers gathered on Burtonport Pier. In attendance were noble brothers Peter Cooper, Alan Tees, Pete Copper and myself, we all sat in the impending gloom as the dark vertical rods of rain from the blackened sky rained down on our cars.
 The object of our collective desires was the summit of the 160 meter previously unclimbed Tormore Island, Ireland's highest sea stack. Alan and Myself had made several attempts at taming this beast in the past, so by default the approach of choice today was to be by R.I.B. Our noble stead was being Captained by Paul Bathgate, a veteran of nautical misadventures along the Donegal coastline. Our noble stead it's self was a 76 mph monster of a R.I.B. and we were on our way.
 Now I'm not sure if my fellow cohorts knew what to expect when I mentioned using this type of vessel for an attempt, but upon setting sail and Captain Bathgate opening the throttle a tad, the white knuckles and blank expressions from the troopers spoke volumes.
 It was indeed excellent to see that after 30 seconds of this adventure that we were already mildly terrified.
 Ten minutes later we rounded Torneady Point at the Northern tip of Arranmore Island and into very atmospheric seas and for the next 40 minutes we got a bit of a nautical kicking as we pounded up, over and through 20 foot walls of white nautical rage. Words can't describe our journey from Arranmore to Tormore Island suffice to say it was very emotional indeed.
 As we arrived at Tormore Island it was under siege by the legions of the damned and they were riding monster white horses, Neptune was in attendance and was furious. Our fearless and mildly insane Captain navigated the channel separating the stack from Cobbler's Tower, sensory overload had already been well and truly reached and breached as we entered the cauldron of angry white sea in the pits of hate. After 10 minutes of pretty amazing boat handling skills four wide eyed fools were left on a non-tidal ledge at the bottom of the landward face of Tormore Island.
 With a "See you at Four" our boat and Captain screamed out of the channel and into the maelstrom. 
 And Sho, as ordered the rain stopped and the Sun came out. 
 "Lets cane the beast" we all cried in unison.
 The first 45 meter pitch was an excellent affair of V. Diff climbing up superb quartz and growing atmosphere to an excellent block belay at the very edge of the abyss.
 We were climbing caterpillar stylee, which means as three troops met on a stance, the next pitch is led while the fourth trooper is ascending the previous pitch. 
 Anyways, as Peter Cooper came up pitch one, Alan Tees led off up pitch two of slabby mixed ground to a lofty perch below the monsterous roofs which loomed above us in the middle distance.
 Pitch three bypassed the roofs on the left and had a modicum of exposure and atmosphere as further mixed ground took us to a huge ledge and superb tri-peg belay stance. Thankfully the discovery of this belay meant we could now definitely abseil off this stack, a minor point of concern I had been giving due consideration all morning.
 Pete McConnel hoovered up pitch 4, it being a vertical celebration of mud, grass and grot with 2 useless runners in the first 30 meters, it was a rude awakening to stack world for Noble Brother McConnel. The summit ridge was reached and a solitary block belay in a huge ocean of green was found. One by One we scrambled the last 20 meter grass ridge a spectacular summit at about 160 meters above sea level. 
 Photos were taken and evidence of previous visitors sought, we found no evidence of any previous visitors.
 We made an abseil descent of our route, 4 X 45 meter abseils using the now insitu peg belays, took us to our non tidal ledge to await our lift home.
 Being last to abseil, I arrived at the ledge to a very ominous silence. The seas were now crashing either side off the channel and every forth wave threw thousands of tons of green on to Hidden Stack about 40 meters away opposite us. This was absolutely outstanding to stand and watch but alas it was not so good for our travel arrangements as we had no sleeping bags.
 "What do you think?" Asked Brother Tees
 "Aw, it'll be fine." came my confident reply. Internally I considered us to be in a spot of mild peril.
 And so, for the next half hour we sat in quiet contemplation, and with a bang, into the channel of rage came our noble stead listing at 50 degrees to Port and riding a monster Greeny, full astern and Captain Bathgate and Crewman Mike Crowe got thrashed about in an astounding display of seamanship, our mighty vessel was getting an almighty nautical kicking. Several passes of our ledge and with the luggage was safely stowed on board, our noble stead spent the next 10 minutes in the center of the cauldron riding the chaotic seas.
 "RIGHT, I'M COMING IN AGAIN, I CAN'T SAY IN HERE ANY LONGER, GET IN!" came our orders from our now slightly manic Captain Bathgate and in he came and a single nano second later we were all in the boat.
 "THANK F*CK FOR THAT!" our nautical maestro roared as we crashed through the green to exit the channel and out onto the high seas.
 Now that, Ladies and Gentlemen was a high end emotional exit from a sea stack.
 The journey back to Burtonport was bumpy, but in full daylight and sunshine it was excellent sport. Half an hour of wave bouncing later saw us into sheltered water between Arranmore Island and Burtonport harbour, it was at this point Captain Bathgate gave the beast full throttle and 60 mph + we arrived in Burtonport Harbour, a bit like flying on a very very low flying Plane.
   
 Tormore Island Route

 Tormore Island   VS   220m
 Grid Reference G556908. At 160m high is Irelands highest sea stack and is the daddy of Donegal's sea stacks, it can be seen from Dungloe, approx 40 KM to the North East. 
 This route climbs the very obvious landward arete at the eastern end of the island. This feature can be clearly seen from any position along this coast overlooking the stack. Access to the stack is an involved affair and a boat approach is recommended.
 Descent is by 4 50m abseils down the route using the block and peg belays described.
 Pitch 1. 45m Starting on the non tidal ledge in the centre of the landward face, directly opposite Hidden Stack. Climb the blunt arete to the right of the basalt vein, follow the corners and ledges on superb quartz to a large block belay.
 Pitch 2, 40m Continue up the blunt arete on slabby mixed ground to a large ledge below the huge capping roof. (Peg Belay)
 Pitch 3. 45m Climb direct to the left end of the huge roofs on excellent rock, with an increased awareness of your surroundings. Pass the roof on their left and continue up the huge shallow gully on mixed ground to a large ledge. (Peg Belay)
 Pitch 4. 45m Climb direct up the vertical grass to the exposed summit ridge, scramble along the ridge for 15m to a large block belay.
 Pitch 5. 20m scramble the grassy ridge to the summit.
 I. Miller, P. McConnel, A. Tees, P. Cooper 10/08/08

Glenlough Bay Approach


 There are/were two sea stack along the Donegal coast that on their first ascents the bases of the stacks were accessed by the use of a R.i.B. and an outboard engine, these two stacks were Tormore Island and the 120 meter high Giants Reek Stack off Aranmore Island. I always thought this was a tad unsporting and just lately Aiden McGinley and myself made an unmotorized landing on Tormore island, alas we only climbed the first two pitches (100 meters) and abseiled back to sea level due to oncoming wind and rain. We are currently awaiting a suitable day with Neptune in a good mood to return to Tormore and make a full unmotorized ascent of the stack. 

Landing on Tormore

Climbers on Pitch 2

climbers on pitch 2

Top of Pitch 3

Summit of Tormore Island

Hidden Stack & Cobbler's Tower from Tormore

Cnoc na Mara & Tormore from Cobbler's Tower 

Shambhala