East-facing (Main) Cliff
The big back or east facing cliff of Coumshingaun has 200 meters of rock divided into two tiers, each about 100 meters, with another 200 meters of steep unclimbed mountain and rock bands above. It is an adventurous place to be, its size and concave nature giving it a real big-wall feeling. The climbing so far, however, is mostly on less-than-vertical rock and nowhere is it extremely technical - rather it could best be described as atmospheric.
The following climbs, with the exception of "The Weasel's Twist" "To Sweep the Spanish Main", were climbed onsight. They generally followed "lines of weakness" which were in the main lines of vegetation. Thus they are not likely to prove popular with the modern rock climber. The grade will depend greatly on the dryness of the rock, and the climber's ability to handle vegetation (of which there is much). They are, however, well worth climbing, as they are interesting journeys of exploration, wandering up the face through deep chimneys and clefts, up slabs, and along ledges, following the easiest lines. The climbs end at the halfway ledge, from which the simplest escape is to traverse off to the left (exciting), so it is important to allow time for this after completing a climb. Access to the cliff is best made from the north shore of the lake, as without local knowledge, a traverse from the south might not be possible.
yet to be named 40m [E5 6a]
Start at the black streak left of To Sweep the Spanish Main. Go straight up.
Protection was found on abseil inspection but little or none on ascent. "Death on a stick"-- EK
S Villanueva, E Kennedy May 2010
TO SWEEP THE SPANISH MAIN 40m [E4 5c]
The blank face left of The Weasel’s Twist.
Start just right of the black streak. Follow the curving flake crack to its apex. From here, go straight up to ledge. Abseil point at ledge.
H Fogg, G Fogg 12/9/09 Prior abseil inspection.
25. THE WEASEL'S TWIST 110m E1 5a, 5a/b
S. Gallwey, E. Hernstadt August 1984
An atmospheric route of varied geography.
This route is located on the large rounded buttress situated at the southern end of the main cliff, left of the scree slope and just left of a large gully. The climb follows the obvious dog-leg corner.
Originally graded HVS and climbed in four pitches, this route should not be undertaken too lightly. It requires resolve, composure, 60m ropes and, maybe, mobile phones for communication.
Start - At the base of the corner.
1. 40 m. Climb the slab, trending rightwards over easy ground until just right of the large overhang. Move leftwards to place a large "friend" in the crack before pulling up strenuously into a pleasant and well-protected corner. Climb the corner and belay on ledge on left beside a holly tree.
2. 60m. From just left of the holly, below a short left-facing edge/corner, climb up past the horizontal top of a thick flake [protection] into worryingly blank territory. Trend right and gain the edge of a plate/flake and step onto the easy-angled slab. There follows a 20m run-out to the 'grassy hat'. At first there is no cause for concern but just before the grass is reached, the angle steepens and the rocks becomes a smooth sandstone and care is needed. Make the delicate transition to the grass and then swim strenuously through woodrush, against rope-drag to reach the cliff behind. Hopeful prospecting under wet vegetation may reveal the possibility of excavating nut placements.
At this stage, communication with your second, except by mobile phone, is generally impossible.
3. 10m. The way to the terrace and the traverse off is barred by the short, heavily-vegetatd cliff. Depending on your attitude, this might be a simple scramble or an horrendous ordeal.
To get back to your bags: Traverse off to the left and descend near the stream. The route back across the shoulder requires prior knowledge.
26. PRELUDE 105m HS
S. Gallwey, R. Gossip. June 1978
The first route to be done on the back cliff. The climb follows the diagonally leftwards slanting vegetated groove, formed where the large rounded buttress of Weasel's Twist joins the main face. Start - Just left of the base of the large gully. Climb the groove up past ledges, belaying where appropriate, to gain the grassy hat on top of the buttress. The crux is gaining the grass from the groove. Leave buttress as for Weasel's Twist.
27. MECONOPSIS 93m HS 5a
S. Gallwey, O. Jacob. July 1979
This climb follows the buttress to the right of the large gully. Start - At the base of the gully.
1. 18 m. Climb the rightward-trending groove to gain a large ledge.
2. 18 m. Climb slab to a second large ledge. Enter a cleft in the rock to the left and gain the top of the huge block that has been detached by the cleft.
3. 30 m. By a complicated series of moves, get across the gap which separates the block from the base of a chimney (this chimney, the crux pitch of the climb, is not visible from below). Ascend the chimney to exit onto a large ledge, the back wall of which is stained dark from seepage water from above.
4. 27 m. Climb up the right-hand side of the dark stained rock to the halfway ledge, encountering some 5a moves (easily avoidable) in a short corner about halfway up.
28. GANGRENE 100m S
S. Gallwey, O. Jacob. July 1979
Start - as for Meconopsis. Climb up to second ledge as for Meconopsis 1. 33 m. Instead of entering cleft, climb the slab, following the vegetated crack lines to gain a ledge. Climb a vegetated off-width fracture to join Meconopsis at the belay ledge. The upper half of this pitch is unprotected. Follow Meconopsis to the halfway ledge.
29. EAST FACE DIRECT 87m HVS 4c
S. Gallwey, W. Lee. (alt. leads) August 1978
Start - From the top of the scree slope.
1. 15 m. Chimney up between the detached block and the main cliff. Belay on large ledges above.
2. 27 m. Ascend diagonally rightwards along the base of the main slab, until the adjoining slab overlaps it. Climb cracks in slab just to the right of the overlap. Belay in base of a corner above.
3. 27 m. Climb corner and then up a series of flakes and small ledges, trending rightwards until the base of another markedly overhanging corner can be reached. Climb corner and exit right onto a ledge above the first overhang.
4. 18 m. Traverse rightwards along ledge and climb crack in the wall above to gain halfway ledge.
30. UNCERTAIN PLEASURES 30m E1 5b Proposed revised grade E2/3 5b
S Gallwey, J Bergin. Spring 1990
Located on a large clean wall at the North end of the main cliff, just south of a large gully. The climb follows a crack line just to the right of the overhang which spans much of the wall. Protection very hard to locate, therefore very sustained -- tell your belayer to bring to book to read! Start - Climb a faint crack line, placing as much protection as possible. Where the crack veers leftwards towards the overhang, move diagonally rightwards through an unprotected area of pebble pinching to gain a good crack which is climbed easily to the grassy terraces above. An abseil point is reputed to be located behind holly bushes to the left but not everybody has found it.
It is necessary to approach these routes from the south side of the lake, then it is possible to get to the terrace at the base of the routes by scrambling up some grassy slopes or by following the gully in the corner.
NOTE - These three routes have a long run out at the top across a grassy terrace in order to get a belay. Double ropes with one end pulled through facilitate this.
Note on Grading
VS and HVS are regarded as quite easy by today's competent climber and perhaps even as slightly infra dignitatem.</i> Anyone approaching these routes in this frame of mind is liable to get a shock. It is not that the grades are wrong. Rather that they, like the routes themselves, are best described as 'Old School'. The routes are long; the walk-in is long; getting to the start is problematic and time-consuming [esp. Colossus]. Then there is the vegetation, the possibly unfamiliar rock and style of climbing, the long run-outs [see Jabberwock], communication difficulties and dodgy belays [see Colossus]. These routes are best climbed during set weather during the long days of mid-Summer. Enjoy.
31. JABBERWOCK 95m HVS 5a, 4b, 4b
S. Gallwey (1,2), O. Jacob (3). April 1982
Start - At the base of an undercut slab.
1. 40 m. Pull strenuously onto the slab and continue up to a short overhanging corner. Climb this with difficulty to a stance immediately above. From here a high runner may be placed on the left. From the stance, traverse diagonally rightwards (2 marginal "rock" runners) to gain the arete where it steepens. Traverse back into the centre of the slab to the overlap for a good "friend" placement. Continue on up the slab to the overhang and climb this on large holds to belay on a stance.
2. 40 m. Traverse diagonally leftwards to a break on the arete. Climb the arete on good, though fragile, holds to gain a grassy ledge. Climb directly up the face above using a good crack to gain another grassy ledge with willow tree. Belay. Note: The last piece of protection is placed before the arete is reached. This means that there follows 30m of unprotected climbing on weathered [and therefore not fully-reliable] rock on an arete hundreds of metres above the lake. Depending on your state of mind, this will be exhilarating or terrifying.
3. 15 m. Climb directly up the slab to the right of the tree (poor protection) to gain the large terrace and belay well back. Adequate protection, although placements are not always obvious. Many small "rocks" are recommended.
32. GARGANTUA 90m HVS 5a, 4c
S. Gallwey, E. Hernstadt, O. Jacob. May 1981
This climb takes the chimney/corner that splits the arete just left of a large gully. Start - At the base of a steep corner which becomes a flared chimney higher up. There is a wet seepage spot on the ledge and a detached boulder to the right.
1. 45 m. Climb the corner strenuously to gain the bottom of the chimney. Ascend chimney with increased difficulty as the left wall fades out (crux). Pull out of top of chimney into a corner and ascend this more easily to a sloping ledge to belay.
2. 45 m. Continue up corner to a triangular grassy recess. Climb up left hand side to a grassy ledge and climb the short corner above. Trend right across broken ground to good rock belay. A further 20 m. of scrambling reaches the large terrace.
33. COLOSSUS 104m VS 4c, 4c, 4c
S. Gallwey(1,3), E. Hernstadt (2). June 1981
This climb takes the right-hand side of an enormous triangular flake resting on the halfway ledge immediately to the right of the large gully. The right-hand side of the flake is vertical and forms an obvious corner. Start - At the base of the corner.
1. 35 m. Climb the corner between the flake and the main face. The crack goes off-width in its upper part, though it may be bridged all the way. Protection may be had at the resting points and by a short detour left beneath the overhang on the left wall. Belay on top of flake.
2. 24 m. Traverse diagonally leftwards and climb a thin crack going straight up the face to the base of an undercut corner and belay.
3. 45 m. + . Climb the corner to the overhang. Move left onto the arete and gain a small ledge above. Climb a vegetated corner to broken ground. Trend rightwards up onto the grassy terrace and belay well back. Note: With 50m ropes, you will end up belayed to tufts of heather. With 60m ropes, you will make it to the feature-lacking jutting boulder. There, with ingenuity combined with lateral-thinking, you might construct a poor-to-middling belay. Communication at this point is best carried out by mobile phone.
South East Facing Cliff, Upper Tier
Located on a wall to the right of the large main face gully which delineates the northern side of the East Face proper. The wall is bounded on its left by a large grassy ramp sloping upwards from left to right and connecting with the upper sheep terrace, and bounded on its right by a deep chimney. Access to the terrace below the wall is either from above via the ramp, or up diagonally from the 'Crusader/Cue for Clare' area via a series of terraces. The wall is distinguished by 2 parallel cracks in its centre. This climb starts up the left crack.
34. TEMPORARY SHELTER 35m HVS 5a
S Gallwey, J Bergin. Autumn 1990
Start - Climb the left-hand crack to where the larger right-hand crack is joined. Continue straight on up the face, keeping somewhat to the right of the large crack. (Led on - sight).
TASTE THE FROCHANS 35m HVS 5a
To the right of `Temporary Shelter',
From the boulder, go easily up a short slab to ledges. Follow the twin cracks, with protection in each; use left one near top.
G Fogg, H Fogg, H Fogg 14/8/06 onsight.