By Michael Reardon. Michael is a well known american climber who was recently profiled in 'Rock and Ice' magazine, he has done some pretty hairy solos in his time. Check out his website www.freesoloist.com. He recently visited Ireland and here are a few of his thoughts on the trip.
I just wanted to say thank you to the kind folks who showed me around a bit at some of the areas I visited. I'm still in awe of the sheer amount of climbing you have available to you, the quality of the rock, and even more impressed with the maintained presence of pure ethics. Here in Southern California there have been repeated ethical debates regarding how routes are put up, and in the process rap bolting has become prominent, glue, and even rampant abuses of chipping all in the name of trying to gain a first ascent.
Ireland appears to have much more respect regarding the rock by encouraging headpointing, routes put up on lead, the disallowing of bolts, and the minimal use of brushing and chalk. It's an ethic that I also prefer and really enjoyed seeing in person repeatedly at so many areas around your country.
As for the areas I went to, the weather was very kind and allowed me to climb at several places. The following is not meant as bragging or otherwise, but I am curious about some of the routes and boulder problems, particularly if I happened upon an FA or repeated a route rarely done. One other point of mention, all the routes were done solo (without a rope), and lacking a crashpad, I kept most of the boulder problems lower to the ground or over relatively safe areas. My wife was with me for all of this and brought along a camera, and was just as impressed as I was with the quality of the areas and the kindness of the locals. Again, I apologize if this post comes across as bragging, that truly is not my intention:
Went bouldering and really enjoyed the friction of that rock! Every route on Big Jim and Jane were brilliant! Not sure if it's been done (probably has) but my favorite was a link up from left to right on the stream facing routes on Big Jim (finished with the big slaps). Also did a variety of routes along the lower path and by the ruins, including a sit start to an unidentified problem next to the path and two blocks up from "Howard's Roof" (a great hand crack by the way!). The problem starts to the left with your butt on the path, then trends right on edges, ending on a finger crack. Note: this is on the topos, known locally as the overhanging face. DF Wandered around for another couple hours basically jumping on anything that looked fun, most not in the guide I printed from short span, but the wind finally got too chilly and it was time to move on. This is definitely a place to visit again in the near future!
Gap of Dunloe
Spent a day there and again, enjoyed the quality of the friction. Climbed all of the routes on the "E" crag as well as some variations. I tried to remove the fixed piece on one of the routes but started to get a little pumped and didn't want to risk a fall to the ground so I finished the route and left it in place. "Deadline" was quite fun and got a little pumpy as I traversed the base from the far left before starting up the route. "Darby O'Gill" and "Sweet Surrender" were a little wet, but also quite fun as well. Tried to get to the "B" crag but I couldn't figure out the path to take, so I went up to "C" and "D" instead. I only did a few routes there as the downclimbs were a bit exciting to say the least. I've never been one to advocate rappel bolts, but that crag might be worthy. "Diving for Pearls" was a little dirty and there was a sheep carcass near "Valhalla" that made me pay attention as I walked to the base, but my favorite bit of excitement came from "Black Friday" and "Bash on Regardless" as I chose to downclimb "Moloise" rather than risk downclimbing the ridge again.
Paradise is all I can say. I'm not sure what the name of the routes were that I did there as I did not have a guidebook, but everything was perfection! Again, very sunny weather that allowed me to climb in shorts and without a shirt for most of the day I spent there. Every route on the limestone cliff near the road was great. If anyone knows the name, it would be great to have more information on a route towards the right that was a bit steep at the bottom, with a very thin overhanging fingertips crack (spiderweb and no chalk that I could see in the tips crack) that finished with a large edge to the left about 30 feet up that was my favorite. I did all the obvious cracks plus a handful of routes without protection in the middle of each crack and bouldered quite a bit along the ridgeline above and where the cliffband came close to the road. The afternoon was spent all day on the seaside. Climbed several obvious crack lines and also got on the more obvious big boulders. My personal favorite boulder problem nthat side was a large boulder with a small crack in it on the sea facing side. The boulder itself would take a healthy jump up to touch the top and was near the leftmost crack routes (the crack routes on the left of the cliff, directly behind this boulder had a large horizontal ledge that ran about 10 meters towards the right, about 4 meters from the ground). Did several sit starts on the sea side of the boulder, including a fun micro edge problem right of the crack that finished with a sloping mantel topout. I also traversed the entire boulder which had a few exciting friction moves on it, again, on the sea side of the boulder.
We were flying out of Dublin so we spent the last day climbing for a couple hours at the Quarry. Unfortunately the rain finally caught up to me when I was soloing in the lower right alcove. I did several lines on the left side, but found myself in a bit of a jam on a route with two pins on it (a bit thin) with an exposed top out when the rain decided to come on down. That rock gets slippery when wet! I also might have annoyed a couple of French people that were toproping. They pulled their rope and in my excitement of climbing, I ended up soloing the route there were on. I'm sure I must have looked like a brash American moron! Wished I had more time as there were so many routes to play on!
Stopped by several other areas, but either time or weather didn't permit me to play everywhere. Again, many thanks to the handful of people I did see, and the information I received from folks on this site. I look forward to coming out your way again in the near future!