18th December

'Unique ascent' of the seven summits of Donegal

Iain Miller

The county of Donegal sits on the northwest tip of the Republic of Ireland and quite simply plays host to more rock than anyone can ever climb in several lifetimes. The diversity of Donegal’s rock climbing venues covers every climbing medium found in the rest of Ireland combined.

With the mudstone roofs of Muckross Head, the golden sea battered granite on the islands of Cruit, Gola and Owey, and two major Irish mountain ranges in the county, each contain some of Ireland’s oldest and longest rock climbs. And with over 2,800 recorded rock climbs (on 18 free PDF downloads) in Donegal, there is plenty to play on.

10.2 outdoor activities

On the summit of the icon. The sea stacks of Co Donegal are some of Ireland's oldest and longest rock climbs. Photo Iain Miller

But it is along the coastline of western Donegal where perhaps Ireland’s most unusual climbing locations are located. Living along the western freeboard of Donegal is a collection of nearly 100 sea stacks. The main residence of these gothic leviathans is the little known coast line of An Port, in one of Ireland’s most remote locations.

Of these 100 rarely stood on summits I’ve selected seven of the most memorable places to be, whilst tied on to the end of a dynamic rope. Standing on any one of these summits will live for a very long time in your happy and slightly relieved memory.

Each one of these sea stacks represents all that is great about adventure climbing with each stack presenting a very different set of logistical and nautical problems that must be considered and overcome to ensure a safe summit and return. The commitment required and the sense of primal fear that accompanies these journeys has to be experienced to be believed.

As always, a tad of logistics and planning is the key to success and of course the adoption of perhaps less orthodox climbing equipment such as 600m of 6mm polyprop; a lightweight Lidl dinghy; a single lightweight paddle; divers booties; a 20ft Cordette; a pair of Speedos; heavy duty dry bags, 20 m of 1.2mm polyprop; an alpine hammer; a snow bar; a selection of pegs; a chest harness / inverted Gri-Gri combo and a big grin!

Further details at www.uniqueascent.ie / www.orkney-seastacks.co.uk

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