Revenge on Ifreann Direct

Plans for today’s climbing changed at least 3 times in the last few days. The constant struggle of deciding between the Burren, the Mournes or staying locally in Wicklow is becoming a weekly ritual.

Glendalough was chosen. It’s never a bad choice, although I’m starting to run out of routes to climb (in my grade). This time it was Diarmuid and Monika who joined me. Having odd number of people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, things will just go slower than in a pair.
From the moment I parked at the upper lake I knew today will be spent at East Wing – home to the Forrest Ledge, where number of fantastic climbs are located.

We’ve actually been there already this year (early in the season) and if you are reading this blog u’d know I’ve fallen on gear on route called Ifreann Direct. It was time to try again. And this time I wasn’t planning on giving up easily.

Monika approaching the base of our climb.

But from the beginning…. First of all there was a large group with couple of top ropes on Acorn buttress, so we skipped it by walking around.

Then Diarmuid lead what normally is 2nd, 40m VS (4a) pitch of Forrest Raphsody all the way up to the Forrest Ledge.

Monika following what was our climb number 1.

Then the revenge time came:

IFREANN DIRECT *** 18m HVS (5b)A superb finger-jamming crack, intense and engaging, lasting all too short a time. Start about 4m right of the pillar on Ifreann where a steep, thin crack runs up the right side of the prominent, rectangular overhang. It is hardest at the start. Excellent protection.E. Goulding, J. Tobin, S. Rothery, P. Kavanagh, 6/3/1966.

Getting ready for action.

I think I was a bit to relaxed (or maybe not relaxed enough?) and actually had to back off on my first attempt, just after 2 or 3 moves.  But in to time I got back on it and wouldn’t let go, until I clipped the anchors.

Route start

Monika and Diarmuid followed, although Mon had difficulties adjusting to finger jamming.

Above the crux, but still far away to the top.

Indeed it’s not something you can easily learn. Kudos to her for topping out.
While this route is graded HVS, it’s technical mark is higher than your average HVS. At 5b it is not easy.

The real deal came next – Diarmuid decided he’s gonna jump on a climb on the Upper Tier called:

An exciting climb requiring a studied approach; delicate to start with a strenuous finish.
Start 2m right of Aisling Arête, directly above the boulder embedded in Forest Ledge. Climb the wall just left of the thin seam: small wires. A breathless move gains a ledge at 13m (crux). Climb up steeply right to the overlaps. There are good holds high above.
K. Higgs, June 1977.

Technically, similar in grade than the route I’ve just done, but it’s not as well protected. As a matter of fact I know for a fact that I wouldn’t lead it because of the sparse gear placements. And that ladies and gents is the difference between HVS and E1…

It’s difficult to see, but there are 2 serious run-outs.

I climbed 2nd, collecting all the gear and waited for Monika just after the crux to encourage her not to give up. Even on what is essentially TR this wall is pretty exposed and can be intimidating.

Monika in action on CONCRETE WALLFLOWER

She didn’t disappoint and was up with me in no time.

In the mean time we run into Killian and Geraldine who were doing another classic upper tier route – Jackey (VS, 4c)


Both of our routes have the same belay/abseil, so I snapped this random photo, where every one is looking in different direction, but at least we all used 1 set of ropes to get down 😉

They went home (being at the crag since 9am) – we decided to do one more route.

I lead:

LETHE ** 31m VS (4c)Start 4m right of Aisling arête, follow the tempting quartzy crack to a ledge and gain a crack on the right with difficulty. Up this with increasing difficulty until an escape left is possible at the foot of an ominous, steep groove. Continue up left past a perched block to finish.P. Kenny, F. Winder, S. Rothery, 25/4/1954.

A route I’ve done in previous years, a rather fun one for the end of the day (no photos though).

One thing I very enjoy doing is photographing other climbers on the other side of the crag. Today’s special was a team of 3 in what looks like a serious, all day siege of Sarcophagus.
These guys seems to take at least 5 hours to get up it, very often getting off route (is that even possible?), coming back and forth, doing belays in  weird places. Looked like loads of fun!

Random group on the side of The Main Face.

Either way, we all had a great day, that finished with a big burgers and pints at Glendalough Inn.  Great reward for great day’s climbing!




The Dream Team

Derek is one of my oldest climbing partners (although I don’t get to climb with him that often these days) and I was very happy to hear that he was up for a day out in Glendalough. He’s still recovering from winter injuries, so we agreed I’d lead any hard(er) pitches we might encounter.

2 out 3 members of the original Dream Team.

Upon arriving to the base of the main face we ran into Andy&Vanessa, who were half way up first pitch of Prelude-Nightmare.

We settled on Scimitar Crack, one of the last of classic HVS routes in Glendalough I haven’t led yet.

Looking down half way up the Scimitar Crack route.



This is the curved crack-line slashing the great triangle of the central Main Face from bottom left to top right. The 40m main pitch is well protected throughout, except for the brief crux where the protection is adequate.
1. 34m Just to the right of Quartz Gully vegetation has overrun the original route to the crack-line. Instead take the first two pitches of Prelude-Nightmare to an imposing flake belay on a narrow ledge.
2. 40m Follow the curving fault-line. Difficulty increases as it steepens. Bridge up a broad groove to a hanging quartz vein (crux). The climbing relaxes higher up as large holds appear. Swing right out of the groove onto the arête for the final moves.
F. Winder, S. Rothery, 28/6/1953.

We did what every one does these days (and the book suggests) – and climbed (Del’s lead) superb first  pitches (VS 4b, 4b) of Prelude.

We swapped leads at the dodgy as hell flake (with some fixed slings) and I reluctantly moved on 40m adventure up the route.

Scimitar Crack pitch2,  (HVS 5a **) in all its glory.

The pitch wasn’t hard, definitely wasn’t harder than any of the HVS’s I’ve done this year, although the crux is VERY difficult to protect.

At the top I met a couple of Kerry climbers who were visiting for the weekend. They were just abseiling to the top P3 of Sarcophagus, to attempt the Left Hand Finish of it’s last pitch (E1, 5a) – something Diarmuid and I wanted to attempt on our last visit.

I met them later on, on the way home, and they said the top part of it was wet, but still worth doing. I still don’t know how to find the start of that pitch though…

Anyway, Del promptly followed collecting all the gear and we moved to Expectancy Slab abseil point.

Derek in power pose!

This is mainly because my 50m double ropes wouldn’t take us to the ground from the main faces’ abseil point (which by the way is a nice and shiny stainless steel wire, great job and I’m sure it will serve the community for few seasons!)

We met there Andy & Vanessa again (who were just finishing up Deirdre, a classic VS).

Vanessa peeking from behind Deirdre.

We decided to quickly ab off and and do it ourselves. I’ve led both pitches in 1 push (as it’s commonly done). The route has couple of variations, but I kept to what seems like the classic configuration.

DEIRDRE ** 25m VS (4c,3c)
Tackles the left edge of the Main Face right of Expectancy Slab and is clearly visible from below. There are several alternatives but the following is the most popular line.
1. 15m Just right of the foot of the true arête there is an open shallow corner with a thin crack. Climb the arête left of the crack to a good ledge. The exquisite, thin crack above is grappled past the vacant pod to another ledge. Belay in the corner.
2. 10m Continue up the corner crack and then move out left onto the arête to finish.
The original route included a now neglected introductory pitch at 4b which follows a rock rib to a midway ledge and then moves right to regain the groove which is followed to the usual starting belay on the path below the steep wall.
F. Winder, P. Kelly, 7/6/1953.

Half way up the offwith part of P2 of Deirdre. I had to move the camera to the other pocket, might as well snap a photo. 😉

We wen’t down again, this time to the base of main face and as we were packing up it started to rain. The rainbow over Miner’s Village was a signal to go home. Nobody argued over that 😉

Faint Rainbow over Miner’s Village.




Glenda summer

It’ not often when temperatures in Ireland reach +25C. Yesterday was one of these days. When Diarmuid and I showed up at the upper carpark of the Glendalough Valley it was already very  hot.


We started our  walk and discussed possible routes to climb. Someone warned us that the place might be a little crowded, since IMC had their meet there this weekend.

We opted in for:

SARCOPHAGUS *** 84m HVS (4b,5a,5a,5a)
An outstanding route. It takes the obvious line of corners right of Spillikin Ridge. Excellent protection. Start as for Fanfare and Spillikin Ridge
1. 24m Climb the quartzy groove and pull out right on top of a pillar. Step up right and surmount a bulge easily on large holds. Continue straight up to arrive just left of a pair of parallel cracks. Step right via the cracks and up to a good stance below a bulging corner.
2. 12m Climb the corner to a tree belay below the main corner groove.
3. 32m Climb the corner which is difficult to start but the pace relents at the top. Tradition dictates a sling on the spike at two-thirds height, a salute to the first ascent. Gain the arête on the right and climb the short crack before moving right to a small belay ledge in the corner.
4. 16m Climb the corner above with due respect to the tree.
E. Goulding, A. Ingram, 27/5/1961.

It’s a super classic that I’ve done before already few times, but this time the plan was to try to find the ‘secret’ E1 finish to P4.

3b. Left-hand Finish (5a) Follow the main corner to its end at the stance on the arête. Step left to join a thin crack with excellent finger locks. Finish up The Wake or traverse right to the Sarcophagus belay.
D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, September 1990.


Sure enough, there was already couple of groups of climbers on the main face. We’ve also noticed a party of 3 around half way up ‘our’ route. We decided to do it in 3 pitches (1&2 together for Diarmuid, I’d do the ‘regular 3rd crux pitch’, and he’ll finish the ‘new’ P4).

Unfortunately, after D. did P1 it was clear that the part above was super slow, so we had to wait as well. We’ve changed the plan, and did each pitch individually. I claimed P2&3.

On top of that, there was another group approaching from below. Definitely a busy day!

Anni H. approaching below. Mid P3.

When I topped out P3 it was Diarmuid’s turn to lead again. It turned out that’s not so easy to find that ‘variation’ route , and since we were under pressure not to stall, he just done the regular finish.

Diarmuid mid P4.

Now, after talking to other climbers who’s done the route, we know that one is supposed to traverse right earlier (than D is see on the photo above). It seems sketchy though. Maybe next time!

We quickly topped out and used communal static abseil rope setup by the IMC.

On the way down. IMC & Friends (Hello Derek!)

From there we moved left to Expectancy slab. Approach there is always super sketchy, but the route is always worth it. I did it few times already, but never in the HVS configuration.

CRACKS ON THE GARDEN OF EDEN *** 38m VS (4c,4a,4c)
Start at a clean right-facing corner just over 20m up left of Expectancy Slab. A crack leans right.
1. 12m Move up the corner which is difficult to start. Easier ground leads to a belay at a yew tree (treat it gently).
2. 12m Move left to the base of a steep, 3m off-width crack and climb it to a break; continue up the wider part of the crack above to a belay ledge. Alternatively, pitches 1 and 2 can be combined by taking the wall above the starting corner at 4m and following a thin finger crack which leads to the hand crack. This more direct approach upgrades the route to HVS (5a).
3. 14m. An exhilarating pitch up the steep, cracked groove above.
J. Morrison & party climbed the easier lower pitches, 1951.
R. Ohrtmann led Pitch 3 (without runners), 8/3/1953.
T. Ryan (led the hard direct start to Pitch 2), 1974.

Diarmuid claimed P1&2 running it in that nice, direct HVS approach.

I struggled a bit on P3. It was so hot that the super tight shoes I had hurt my feed more and more with every move. I was super tired, but also super happy when we topped out.


We promptly went around to see if the abseil rope was still there, but that was also an idea that a lot of other climbers had, so the queue was rather big.

We met Vanessa and Andy there, just topping out Sarcophagus. I haven’t seen them in a while (they were rather busy lately) , so it was nice to exchange few word 🙂

The newly wed V&A in the wilderness!

We quickly got back to the top of the Expectancy slab and abseiled from there.

With all the recent drama about anchors in Glendalough I twas nice to see a brand new & shiny abseil point there. Kudos to anyone who’s built it.


By 8pm we were in the Glendalough hotel enjoying cold drinks with the IMC crew. They come back climbing today (spending the night in their hut). We got back home. I had enough climbing for this weekend 😉


All the photos HERE.




First time

I’ve been leading trad for few seasons now but I actually never taken a lead fall on gear yet. Well, not up untill yesterday.

While I whipped it out on bolts many times before, both in the gym and outdoors I never got to ‘test’ my own gear placements in the way they are meant to ve. “It’s probably because you don’t push yourself hard enough” – I was told once by one of my climbing partners.  I like to think it just because I’m always extra careful. Unfortunately that said friend is probably right. I rarely go out of my comfort zone. I could count my above Hvs leads on fingers of one hand… 

This particular fall wasnt terribly bad, as a matter of fact it was as clean as they come. 

For this outing, despite all the wind and cold I managed to convince Pedro, Diarmuid and Paul to join me.  We split into 2 teams and decided to climb around Forrest ledge. 

One the way to the valley

Due to really bad weather (single digits temp and  cold wind) we practically had entire wall to ourselves. It was just  a matter of finding joy in all of it. 

 I won’t be getting into details of all the climbs we did as there wasn’t much going on really. We quickly got into the FL where Diarmuid lead a route called Ifreann Direct (Hvs 5b) in Glendalough is a special one. A perfect finger crack, thin at the bottom and widening as it progresses. Pedro was with him, while Paul and I went up to the left to look at the VSs up there. 

Diarmuid on Ifreann Direct HVS

 It was Paul’s lead now so he picked one of the VS lines(Aisling Arette) and off he went. 

Paul running it out with style

After we were done we went down to the route the boys just did and they took our spot. 

My lead. I only have 2 small cams and already cold fingers.  Oh well. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll fall. I did. 

3 Lobes cam. Half way up Ifreann Direct. HVS 5b

The route started pretty well. There is a stuck permanent pro off the ground, I placed my smallest Grey Bd next and then I was able to alternate the only other 2 cams that fitted the crack. Despite the fact it was my first Hvs of the season I felt strong. This over confidence is what got me down. I was already passed  what I considered the Crux, relaxed too much and my feet blew. By the time I realized I was falling I was already stopped. The green BD cam supported my weight only being engaged by 3 of its lobes. That is reassuring. 

I quickly recovered and finished the climb. Paul followed with no problems whatsoever. He is 10 years my junior  and already much stronger and more experienced than I’ll ever be. Sometimes I wish I discovered climbing earlier in my life. 

As we were abseiling to the ground  the other group were fighting with stuck rope. It’s never fun. They won the fight without having to going back up and quickly joined us at the base. 

Despite pretty bad conditions it was a great day out (at least both Paul and I think so). I’ve learned  lot about myself, my weaknesses and strengths and the fact that pushing one’s limits, one step at a time can also be fun. 

Of course today is over 20C, full sun and perfect conditions, but I had no 1 to go out with. Oh well. 


Sunday Glendalough is a busy Glendalough…

…unless you are a climber, and you go there on a June BH Sunday! Literally everyone we normally see there are either in Donegal, Fair Head, or some other places like Kerry, or Lake District – making Glenda walls today empty like a graveyard after dark.

PG and I decided to take advantage of the situation and do a quick run through some classic VS routes.

It’s amazing how empty the car park is at 8.30am as well (comparing to what is seen later during the day).

From climbing random

The usual walking, was as usual as it gets.

From climbing random

We were rather efficient and it didn’t take to long for us to be at the base, where decision time came:
Main Face:

From climbing random


East wing (Acorn Buttress, Forest Ledge etc):

From climbing random 2016

Since most of our outings last year focused around Main Face, this time we decided to head up Acorn.

From climbing random

Padraig started with Provo VS, 4c, I took over the next pitch, and we continued via combination of Forrest Rhapsody, that nobody can name anymore, all the way to Forrest Ledge – funny thing – I found 20euro on the way – another reason to always lead 🙂

From climbing random

We’ve decided to do couple of climbs from there – PG settled on Celia, 30m VS,4c – I seconded. I must say here that this a true *** pitch. Absolutely amazing crack, very enjoyable. Next time I might do it’s close neighbor – Jackie – seen to the left on below photo (both cracks share some distance, hence today we only did one of them).

From climbing random

Top has a nice abseiling station, so we quickly got back to the ledge, and I went up Lethe 31m VS, 4c.

From climbing random 2016

This was another fantastic climb – it’s so easy to forget how great Glendalough climbing is (comparing to mundane Dalkey one move wonders).

From climbing random 2016

After that we got down to the base of Acorn B, for quick tea.

From climbing random 2016

PG here in his natural habitat – nurturing a JetBoil!

We did 5 great pitches at this point and decide to call it a day. It was still early, but neither of was wanted to get stuck in traffic trying get out of the Vale with the hordes of walkers, tourists and all other sorts.

And hordes there were. While (as I mentioned before) – there was not a single pair of climbers other than us, there were hundreds of people everywhere else.

Car parks (both, upper and lower {for which they charge now as well}), were overflown, cars where parked absolutely everywhere (incl. roadside, making 2 way traffic almost impossible).

Lesson is – from now on early start is a must – 8am at the upper car park… otherwise you might as well not go at all…

This way or another – the day was great, and this place is probably my favorite Irish Climbing spot of all time.

From climbing random 2016