We had a great fortnight in Ireland with some amazing weather really. We started our trip at Fairhead, joining the masses of keen climbers on the Mountaineering Ireland Meet. The weather tended to be a bit misty and damp first thing but improved to give some beautiful sunny afternoons and evenings. We started with a classic three pitch E2 called Cúchulainn that involved various off-widths, corners, roofs and grooves. What a fantastic outing, all fairly strenuous and very different to limestone face climbing.
Since wall climbing is my thing I asked around and Face Value E4 6a came highly recommended. This was great, plenty of edges to pull on but good gear as well.
Next up was the classic E5 6b Wall of Prey. I spent ages below the roof at this long reach, staring at the in-situ gear above my head but not being able to reach it and not daring to commit to the move without it. In the end Steve taped open the gate on a quickdraw which I pulled up, and this meant I was able to clip the gear off the good foothold. I then managed to reach the jug by a rather hard sequence then involved a press off a tiny edge, a poor smear and a very high rock-over. (Steve couldn't see what the fuss was as he just stood on the good foothold and reached up, a complete non-move he said!). I was then faced with the standard crux move, which was a big pull over the roof – this was a path in comparison and very well-protected. The 5c top pitch was also very good, with a few tricky moves to keep you interested.
I felt like I was really getting into the climbing but it was time to move west to Donegal and the less well known venue of Muckross. This was a great little venue, and we were able to park the van up about a minute from the crag which was a bonus. The crag is sandstone, not very high (about 15m) but generally pretty steep, and involved powered up between breaks or across roofs with plenty of gear in the main. Unfortunately, it tends to seep a bit so although it had been really dry, the couple of wet days we had meant some of the lines were too damp to climb. However, we still enjoyed one and a half days of climbing, interspersed with a bit of tourist action.
The highlights included Tandoori Chicken E3 5c, Elvis E3 6a, Stormy Petrel E4 6a and Willy Coyote E4 6a. Next stop was The Burren, after a rather tedious six hour drive. The weather really started to pick up here, with a couple of showery mornings but plenty of sun and a good breeze to keep the temps down. Last time we were here we had a lot of rain so the cracks started to seep really badly. This time, however, everything was bone dry so we were able to get plenty done.
The hardest routes I did included the varied Quicksilver E5 6a, the bouldery Blockhead E5 6a and the awesome fingercrack of Refraction E5 6a (pretty intense this one). However, some of the other routes worth a mention include the bold Siren and Key Largo, both E3, the totally amazing Wall of Fossils E4 and the unique The Ramp E1, which seemed to involve more crawling than climbing! We also had a quick play on Faith, an awesome E7 6c put up by Andy Long. I managed it clean 2nd go on the top-rope but the last move involved a big pop for the top quite a way above your gear and I wasn't too keen to commit to that. This move wasn't a problem for Steve, however, the high rock-over lower down was significantly harder for him so he decided not to lead it either! If it was nearer to home I would definitely have spent a bit more time on it to get that last move totally wired as the rest of the route was great.
After five days of climbing finger cracks Steve's fingers were looking a bit battered so we decided to head back east and spend our last weekend in The Mourne Mountains. We arrived to find the walk-in on fire so spent an afternoon at the beach instead. The next day we headed up to Buzzard's Roost to have a play on Divided Years. Unfortunately, it was getting battered by the northerly wind so once the sun left the wall it was baltic belaying. Climbing conditions were pretty good though and I managed to do the moves and string several sequences together. What a fantastic line with steep, well-protected climbing (probably worth F8a+). This was another route I wish was closer to home as I'm pretty sure I could do it, but it would take me longer than the few days both Dave's spent.
We might go back there next year but will the weather be that good again? The next day we both felt a bit battered but it was our last day so we walked into the popular Lower Cove Crag. All we managed though was an E2 then I'd had enough, so we headed to the beach again before catching the ferry home. Altogether a very enjoyable trip, with some fantastic climbing and the weather to match. Roll on next year!