Bell Rock - Avoca
Bell Rock Avoca
Sport Crag (please observe approach details especially)
This crag is situated on the western side of the Avoca valley at grid ref 199 814 on OS sheet 62, or about 1 mile north of Avoca village, overlooking the R752. It sits amongst a clump of pine trees, on top of yellow colored scree slopes. It’s located in a picturesque setting, with nice views from the top, and receives good morning sunshine (east and south facing). There is even a pleasant swimming hole in the river just upstream. It gets its name from the bell that was placed on top which was rung to inform mine workers in the 1800’s. There is still evidence of that bygone era on the crag today. The rock seems to be black shale that has undergone volcanic treatment and is very hard and brittle, sharp and somewhat chossy in places. Considerable effort has been made to clean off all loose stuff, however it is likely that there will be more and thus wearing a helmet is advisable (at least for belaying). Belay stances can be a little awkward, though belay anchors have been placed where needed. Traversing along the base can be a little sketchy. This crag probably deserves a more adventure type climbing approach than a sporty one! All that said, it does provide some surprisingly nice, safe sport lines. The routes range from F5+ to 7b?, and all have double bolted anchors at the top. The climbing style is very technical, steep in places and often quite cryptic; very different to any other climbing in Wicklow. Holds tend to be tiny edges, layaways/sidepulls and under clings and often present rather obscure climbing. The rock doesn’t lend itself well to natural gear, hence the rational to equip as a sport crag. Apparently a couple of lines had been climbed here by the previous climbing generation, but details are a little vague. As far as I could gather this crag is on private land, however I understand there may be a change of ownership going on. Permission has not been asked for, nor granted to climb here, so do so discreetly and at your own discretion. The more subtle we can keep this crag, the longer we may get to use it. Please exercise caution when climbing here, especially on approach, where there is most public visibility. As this crag has been developed slowly over the past few years it is apparent that ravens nest around the main wall, so I would urge folk not to climb here during the springtime. They seem to be gone/happier with visitors from about end of May on. After rain, the main wall drys quickly, however the routes in the trees below take some time to dry out.
APPROACH There is ample parking in a car park by a disused industrial building at the entrance to Ballymurtagh recycling depot. Walk south 200m until beside a council type yard/depot, opposite a scree slope where a stream pours out of a culvert. Whilst there is an obvious route from here up the scree, I think its inadvisable to use it as it may draw too much attention. Instead, walk further south about 100m, and as the verge becomes a foot path proper at the apex of the bend, cross the road (caution), through the trees and cut straight up the scree slope via a vague gully. From here turn hard right, and follow a wee path along the very edge of the embankment. After about 20 m turn sharp left, into the treeline, along a ditch until its end and turn hard left up through the trees to the base of the crag. The first route you see is Buckaroo, long slabs leading into a right hand corner.
Routes are described from RIGHT TO LEFT. (Lengths are approximate)
*BUCKAROO- F6C 20m Climbs the very right hand face and groove on long clean looking slabs. Stick clip first bolt to protect a bouldery start. Climb the corner and face being careful what you pull on!. Follow the steeper top groove until dynamic moves up and right relents to a leftward scramble to the lower-offs. Good technical climbing with an exciting finish.
ROCKYS ROUTE- 5+?? 20m
Bouldery start, heading left after the first clip of the previous climb. Follows an easier groove leftwards, with a pleasant tree encounter on route. At the top climb right to the same anchors as Buckaroo.
Continue up along the base for the next 20m, until you come around a steep overhanging prow. Starting from the bottom left of this is:
*AFTER THOUGHT- 7b?? 20m
Open project. Left up the groove to good under clings, then a series of powerful moves up the right hand wall leads to an easier but bouldery top out directly over the last bolt (don’t chicken out sideways!). Brilliant climbing.
5 m left, some hand lines start. For the following routes it is advisable to gear up here, but you can squeeze into some (awkward) corners higher up. Carefully scramble up leftwards to the base of the main wall along the hand lines. In the middle of this is:
A MANS BEST FRIEND- 6b. 15m
Diagonal leftward line up the middle of the overhung wall. Don’t forget to enjoy the views from the top. Sustained.
As you lower off the previous route, you can swing left to a set of anchors about half way up the wall. The climbing to these is powerful and nice, but the rock is pretty dubious to hold a bolt, its probably better left as a top rope route……..?
*RUBIK’S GROOVE- 6b. 15m
Perhaps the route of the crag. As you round the arete on the left of the wall, a series of short grooves lead to the top. The very first one gives brilliant climbing up and right, meeting the arete at about half height. Funky/obscure climbing.
GROOVY TUESDAY- 5+ 12m
The second groove gives nice climbing up into a corner, surmount this crux leftward and weave to the top anchors as for ‘Rubiks’.
If you continue up and left you will see the last clean looking line, which has a set of anchors at the top, but no runners in. its short and pretty blank, I think this nice line can be climbed; although never has been….. any takers?