Inishturk Island

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Overview

Inishturk may be the most remote inhabited island off the Irish coast, being 7 miles from the mainland at its closest point. Smaller than its neighbours, Inishbofin and Clare Island, and having only recently acquired a (quasi) regular ferry service, it receives few visitors.

Seen from the Connemara or Mayo coast Inishturk appears rather flat, especially compared to Clare Island to its north. This view is deceptive: the high point of the island is over 200m and the hidden western coast is an almost continuous line of cliffs. The cliffs reach their highest point at the right-angled cutaway at the north-west of the island maintaining a vertical profile of 120-170m for almost 1km. This 'Main Cliffs' area is an exceptional and intimidating place. The structure is reminiscent of parts of the South Stack at Gogarth in Wales or Tintagel Head in Cornwall, though on a far grander scale. Two multi-pitch routes have been climbed so far here and there is scope for many more.

Elsewhere on the island there are several other major features. The north-east coast has a very steep wall and the interesting 'Perrin Zawn'. On the west coast the crags become smaller forming a complex system of small bays and zawns, offering extensive scope for single pitch routes. The western tip is Dromore Head, the only other area developed so far, with excellent solid wall and slab climbing below a dramatic knife-edge ridge.

Rock type is a variety of Ordovician sedimentary layers (sandstones, slates) similar to those found around Killary Harbour on the mainland. There also appear to be some igneous rock intrusions.


Practicalities

The compact nature of the island means that all the crags may be reached by foot. The Main Cliffs are 40 minutes from the harbour and Dromore Head a little further.

Accommodation is camping or a limited range of B&Bs. Camping appears to be unrestricted on the common land that is on the north and western side of the wall that bisects the island. There may also be scope for camping closer to the harbour - ask the locals. Of the B&Bs, Delia Concannon's Harbour Lodge (098 45610) is recommended both as a place to stay and for tea whilst waiting for the homewards ferry.

The ferry operates between Roonah Quay near Louisburgh in Co. Mayo. Roughly there is an outbound sailing at 1100 and return at 1800 but check (098 45541) before travelling, and book if necessary. The sailing can be rough being exposed to full Atlantic swell for much of the distance.

There is no shop but there is a bar in the community centre. The Harbour Lodge does evening meals.

Finally, note that the weather on Inishturk is usually better than on the mainland.

An on-line guide to the island with photo-topos for the routes is at http://www.foordkelcey.net/inishturk/


Midnight Wall

Midnight Wall is the clean, highly-featured crag at the far north end of the Main Cliffs underneath an obvious overhanging prow. A rightward-down-sloping ramp starting 10m down from the prow marks the top of the crag. A smaller vertical crag lies above that ramp. The base of the cliff is defined by a slab sloping up to the left. The base of the crag is reached by a 110m (100m is just adequate with a final down climb) abseil from stakes (not in place) and some rock anchors on top of the prow. The abseil rope should be dropped over an obvious notch in the south-west side of the prow. The rope will then hang just touching the edge of the upper ramp. Whilst abseiling try to locate an obvious quartz-tipped 'beak' feature protruding from the crag about 60m down close to the abseil line. The cliff turns overhanging below the 'beak' having been vertical above.


Ataturk 120m E5
Dan Donovan (2,3,4), Toby Foord-Kelcey (1), 20/21 July 2002
A demanding and complex climb mostly following the abseil line. Start at the lowest point of the wall at the toe of the base slab. A short ridge above a trench into the sea provides a non-tidal position to belay.
1. 20m, 4b Climb up the slab for 10m then up an obvious corner-crack to belay on the higher slab/ break line under the overhanging section of the wall.
2. 30m, 5c The steepest pitch. Move 2m left then up into a short hanging corner. Almost immediately move left into a second hanging corner then up this to its capping roof. (This point is just below the 'beak' feature). Use undercuts and the fin on the left to make wild moves over the roof. Move up and right on less steep rock to a quartz break (directly right of the 'beak') then traverse back above the 'beak' on top of the quartz break for about 4m to a stance, trying to avoid rope-drag.
3. 25m, 5b/c The boldest pitch. Climb the open groove above the belay into a zone of juggy quartz rock. Continue into a more pronounced groove with some hard, poorly protected climbing. Before the top of the groove exit right onto the right arete which forms a vague ledge. Make a technical crawl leftwards on this ledge to a sloping stance above and left of the groove.
4. 35m, 6a Follow the blocky crack and flake line above the belay for 10m to the obvious line of rightwards trending overhangs. Traverse under the overhangs rightwards to a good ledge. Move up into the corner above which becomes progressively harder culminating in a very thin move up onto the upper ramp. Scramble up the ramp to belay on the abseil rope.
[5.] 10m. Finish by jumaring up the abseil rope. The corner to the right above the ramp has been top-roped at about VS but is very loose.
Dan believes the route to be easier than E5 but was climbing very strongly at the time .... individual pitches might only be E3-E4 but overall this route is substantial.


The Razor Strap

The Razor Strap is the local name for the very obvious slab above the stacks in the middle of the Main Cliffs. Abseil 75m from assorted stakes to grass ledges below the slab.


The Strop 90m E1 Toby Foord-Kelcey (1,2), Dan Donovan (3), 20 August 2003 A straightforward but sensationally-positioned climb. Much of the climbing is HVS, or easier, and well-protected. Bring a wide range of cams. Start from the lowest point of the slab.
1. 40m, 5a Follow a sequence of disconnected cracks up the slab, meeting the left arete briefly then slightly rightwards until the cracks end in a shallow corner. Up the corner then exit rightwards onto a grass ledge.
2. 35m, 5c Make thin moves up hair-line cracks above the stance (keeping out of the 'grass caterpillar' to the right), passing an in-situ peg. Easier ground is reached after 8m. Move left to the obvious diagonal wide crack system. Follow this for 20m then make a short traverse left to an obvious and extremely exposed stance on the left arete. Belay anchors in the corner crack behind.
3. 15m, 5a Follow the corner to the top.
Rusty stakes in-situ near to the top of this route do show that some kind of previous attempt has taken place. However the main part of the slab required extensive cleaning and it has been verified with the stake-placers that the route had not been climbed.


The Altar

The Altar is a prominent and peculiar flat-grass-topped buttress on the north side of the bay formed by Dromore Head and another peninsula to the south. Scramble down the loose gully on the east side of the buttress to reach sea-level.


Spume Storm 45m VS 4a
Toby Foord-Kelcey, Dan Donovan, 23 July 2002
Follow the obvious crack in the south-facing slab close to the left arête, passing an overlap carefully at two thirds height. Pull one rope up to reach belays well back.


Dromore Head

Dromore.jpg

Dromore Head is the distinct ridge, clearly marked on maps, at the furthest south-west point of the island. The very end of the ridge forms a knife-edge with a very fine 45m slab on its south face and a steeper wall to the west. To access all the routes, abseil down the south face to non-tidal ledges at the slab's base.


Okurano 40m E1 5b
Toby Foord-Kelcey, Shoko Okurano, 27 August 1998
An exciting route following the final crack, just before the left-hand arête of the slab. Start in a chimney, then continue in the same line to where the crack splits the obvious overlap. Make steep moves through the overlap, then finish more easily up the hanging slab above. Spectacular but easier than it looks.


Migi No Ho 40m E3 6a
Dan Donovan, Toby Foord-Kelcey, 22 July 2002
The weakness in the overlap to the right. Approach via a thin crack in the slab below keeping away from the easier corner system to the right. Tough moves through the overlap lead to an easier finish up the hanging slab above.

To the right the slab lies back at an easier angle:


New Schedules 45m Severe
Dan Donovan solo, 22 July 2002
The third (from the right) crack.


The Cleggan-Roonah Rally 45m Severe
Toby Foord-Kelcey, Shoko Okurano, 27 August 1998
The second (from the right) crack.


Kneel Before The Ferryman 45m VS 4c
Toby Foord-Kelcey, Shoko Okurano, 27 August 1998
The rightmost crack on the slab, with a crux section around half-height in a quartz-lined groove.

West Face

Scramble around from the south face to the base of the west-facing wall. The main feature of the wall is a leftwards slanting crack:


Trapped Nerve 35m E2 Toby Foord-Kelcey (1), Dan Donovan (2), 22 July 2002
Very fine climbing on perfect rock. Low in the grade.
1. 25m, 5b Follow the crack to a large ledge.
2. 10m, 5b Move up and back on to the front face. Climb the exposed face direct to the apex of the wall.