This island lies about one mile north of Howth Harbour, and the known climbs are to be found on the big quartzite stacks at the south east. corner of the island. The climbs, typically, are steep but with good holds. It was one of the earliest crags tackled by Irish climbers and it was definitely visited before 1914 by Conor O Brien and friends from the Arts Club. They probably climbed the Inner Stack by the North Chimney, and it is possible that they climbed South-east Ridge. The majority of the routes date from 1942-44 when the Old IMC was very active there. There was renewed interest after the founding of the IMC in 1948 and some more in 1978. It is a great venue for a relaxed and different climbing day out.
RESTRICTIONS. Gulls, guillemots, and other seabirds nest on the Stacks, which should therefore be avoided from the beginning of April until mid July.
Access is by boat from Howth Harbour. Check out www.howth-boats.com for regular sailings.
Motor boats usually come in to steps near the Martello Tower, canoeists will probably prefer the sandy beach to the south east. Either way the climber will approach the Stacks from the SW. As he gets near, he will see, laid out from north west to south-east three small block/gendarmes the Pinnacles. There are scrambles on all of these. Separated from the Pinnacles by a square gap (The North Chimney) is the biggest Stack, the Inner Stack, on which are most of the best climbs. The very obvious ledge on the seaward edge of the Inner Stack is the Crows Nest. Further south east and rising directly from the sea is the Outer Stack, a square block of rock, with a slender pinnacle at the landward end. Access to almost all the climbs is from the open, bouldery gully which runs down to the sea on the Southwest side of the inner Stack.
The easiest route to the top of this stack is to scramble to the gap, The North Col, between the stack and the easternmost small pinnacle, and then climb the open chimney. In descent, abseil down to the col (this route is described below as North Chimney).
The climbs are described starting from North Chimney and working anticlockwise round the stack.
North Chimney 2lm. D
J. Greening, W. Perrott, Sept. 1942 (or perhaps Arts Club 1912)
Start at the foot of the rocks below the col.
(1) 9 m. Climb easily to the col.
(2) 19m Walk 5m right to the shallow chimney. Climb the chimney and exit right onto the top of the stack.
Left-hand Wall 24m. VS
Start at the first accessible point to the right and slightly down from the North Chimney start. The climb goes up the steep wall just left of North Chimney. Broken rocks lead to a ledge below the final wall. A belay can be taken here. Go straight up bearing first left and then right. The slight overhang is surmounted by a left arm pull.
Hamilton Crack 27m VD
A. Hamilton, W. Perrott and party October 1943.
This is the crack in the wide re-entrant about 15m right of North Chimney. A good climb. Start at the right hand end of a broad ledge at the foot of the crack proper
(1) 9m Easy rocks lead to a ledge at the foot of the crack proper
(2) 18m Start slightly left of the crack, traverse in after a couple of moves and follow the crack to the top. Steep but with good holds and plenty of protection
Theft 27m S
D. Mitchell., J. Lynam, 23rd July 1972. Earlier the same day, J. Mulhall. and S. Young climbed the route as far as Hamilton Crack.
This follows the lower of two diagonal ramps which cross Hamilton Crack, rising from right to left. Start from the ledges connecting the Crows Nest and the foot of Hamilton Crack, at the foot of the diagonal ramp.
(1) 20m Gain the ramp either at its beginning or (easier) a little way along, and climb it to a recess (thread runner). Swing round into Hamilton Crack, and climb it for a few steps until the ramp can be regained beyond the crack. Climb the ramp until it ends on a ledge.
(2) 7 m. Climb the steep bulging wall above. The holds are large but the rock is doubtful, and care is necessary. This may coincide with the finish of Left-hand Wall.
Swing Wing 27 m. VS
S. Darby, 20 August 1972.
This follows the upper diagonal ramp crossing Hamilton Crack. Start at the foot of the ramp on the Crows Nest/Hamilton Crack ledges. Climb the ramp. The crux is the awkward swing around the corner towards Hamilton Crack.
Skyhook Wa1l 33m S
Old IMC, Spring 1943
This route lies up the crack in the centre of the rather smooth brown wall low down the gully. Start in a recess crack.
(1) 16m Climb the recess to a big ledge; go a short way left up a ramp, and than climb the wall using the crack. Alternatively, go further up the ramp, then traverse back to the crack along a narrow ledge.
(2) 17 m. Go straight up over steep but broken rocks to the ledges leading across from the Crows Nest. Continue to the top of the stack either by scrambling to the Crows Nest and finishing by the South East Ridge or moving a few metres left to the foot of Theft.
American Express 39 m. VD
J. Lynam and party, Summer 1950.
This follows the chimney on the right wall. The foot of the chimney is defended by a big overhang which is avoided by a traverse from the left. Start: as for Skyhook Wall.
1. 18m. Climb the recess, traverse right along the broad ledge and swing into the chimney. Climb the chimney and exit left
2. 21m. Easier climbing over walls separated by good ledges leads to the Crow's Nest.
Southeast Ridge 66m D
W. Perrott, J. Greening, Stella Cant, June 1943.
An excellent route up the longest edge of the Inner Stack. The interest steadily increases and there is considerable exposure on the top pitch which might be graded HS. A classic route.
Start at the foot of a chimney reached by scrambling round a few metres to the left from the foot of the big gully.
1. 24m. Climb the chimney, go diagonally right on easy rock to a spacious ledge. Move up a slab on the left and then right to another spacious ledge on the right-hand side of the ridge (The Waiting Room.)
2. 24m. Go up to the right-hand edge for about 4m. A short traverse left brings one to the lower edge of an easy-angled slab. Climb this diagonally left to a ledge on the south face. A short wall leads to a second ledge and the " dark and evil-smelling chimney" at the back is climbed to a big ledge (The Crows Nest.)
2a. 21m. Alternatively, continue up the right-hand edge of the ridge, and climb over the overhang (spectacular but easy) which breaks the ridge. A gentle slab leads to the Crows Nest. (Pitches 1 and 2 can easily be broken at good ledges.)
3. 18m. From the left-hand end of the Crow's Nest pull up over the bulge on good holds. Continue up to the foot of the vertical rib. Step left around the base of this and and climb up on good holds. Then move right to the small cave,right again (crux)and straight up to the top. Belay is about 10m back.
Mermaid 66m VS
C. Rice. P. Redmond, 19th September 1971
Start on the north side of the stack, opposite the Outer Stack, about 5m above high tide, where a crack runs up a corner which overhangs at the top.
(1) 45 m. Climb the corne right. Step right at overhang and climb to a good ledge. Move left and then back right, climbing two overlaps to ledge.
(2) 21m Climb steep groove above. Traverse the wall to good crack. Climb the crack to chimney. Climb chimney to the top
West Chimney 30m S
F. Winder, S. Rothery, 14th September 1952.
This is actually the obvious chimney in the upper part of the north side of the stack. Start at the North Col
(1) 9 m. Traverse across the vertical north-east face of the stack to the base of the chimney. Rather loose.
(2) 21 m. Climb the chimney and continue up broken rock to the top of. the stack. (loose chock stones in the chimney).
This is now permanently inaccessible because of the density of the gannet population. The sea allows access for about 2 hours on either side of low tide by stepping across boulders in the channel which separates it from the Inner Stack. It tends to be slippery with guano, and is less inviting than the Inner Stack. Most of the climbs start from the White Slab, a large, gently inclined whitish slab, low down on the Howth side of the stack.
Having crossed the channel, reach the White Slab by one of two routes, (a) 9m Climb the wall bearing slightly right and surmount an overhanging bulge (VD) Belay well back on slab. (b) 13m. Traverse right to a point where the wall is low, and step around onto the slab (M)
Taman Shud 27m VS
J. Shellard, A. Hamilton, W. Perrott. Spring 1944.
Start at the belay on White Slab.
(1) 12m From the top of the bulge on access route (a) a progressively narrowing shelf runs up to the left. Follow this until it merges into the vertical face. Continue left for a few feet until it is possible to make a long step left into the bottom of a crack. Climb the crack with difficulty. Easier climbing leads to a good ledge.
(2) 15m Easy climbing leads to the summit.
South Ridge 20m VD
F. Winder & party, 28 May 1950
Start as for Taman Shud.
(1) 11m go up to a corner on a slabby ledge, covered in guano to a good belay.
(2) 9m Traverse right to the edge of the ridge and then go directly up to the summit.
Outer Stack Ordinary 50m M
Old IMC January 1943
This is the normal descent route. From the belay on the White Slab, walk across to the obvious v-corner and climb it. Walk to the left across vegetation for about 20m and take the easiest way up the rocks to the top of the pinnacle.
Corner and Ridge 65m D
Old IMC 1942.
Follow the Ordinary Route to the top of the v-corner. Go along a good ledge to the right and crawl round a corner below an overhang. Climb up and to the right to reach the crest of the main ridge of the stack. Scramble along this and climb the pinnacle.
This is the smallest stack, to the SW. of the Outer Stack. It is accessible except at high tide by descending the big gully, and scrambling across boulders to the inshore corner of the stack. Routes are described from here. Descent is generally by abseil.
The Ridge 17m VD
K. Wilson, W. Perrot, J. Lynam. T Calvert, F. Winder, and others. Spring 1949.
This is the obvious ridge facing the shore. A good little climb. Start at the foot of the wall, just left of the overhang in the ridge.
(1) 8 m Climb the smooth wall via some cracks to a fine stance above the overhanging section of the ridge.
(2) 9m Continue straight up the ridge to the top.
Skyward 15m HS
D. Milnes, Summer 1969
Start a few feet left of the ridge. Pull up onto a ledge, traverse left to blocks and obvious flake. Climb directly above flake and move right and pull onto ledge. Step to right and climb direct to the top.
The Traverse 24m D
Start as for the Ridge.
(1) 15m Traverse left across the slab at about high tide level, and then go around the corner onto the seaward side of stack. Climb the slab to a small stance.
(2) 9m Easier climbing to the top of the stack.
NB. Changes in the boulders at the foot of the climb may have made this climb more difficult, or even impossible.
The Main Cliffs
These are on the north coast of the Island From the stacks walk across the island to descend on the east side of the main and highest part of the cliff. A vague path runs down towards the highest part of the cliff, ending about 30m above the sea. The first route starts near the edge of the rock at the top of the steep vegetated slope leading down to the sea
OCTOPUS 25m S
N. Maguire, S. R. Young 3rd September 1978.
Takes the obvious right-trending break with steep rock to the left and a steep slab to the right. Startup a short steep corner with crack to gain a ledge. Climb the awkward corner to the right and follow the obvious line to the top. Rock generally sound with good protection.
The next route starts 12m further along the path
DELIVERANCE 35m VS
P. Da1y, P. Coakley. September 1978.
Start 10m down track at left-hand side of the cliff, at two small grooves right of a cave. Climb right-hand groove and exit right. Climb slab and short vertical section on good holds. Climb obvious right-angled groove and exit with difficulty to thread and nut belays.
12m beyond this the path ends and overlooks a deep gully bounded on the far side by the Main Face and Eye Opener. Above the end of the path is an arete. The next route follows the left side of this.
SQUID 45m. HS
N. Maguire, S.R. Young. 3rd September 1978.
Climb up on the left of the arete and move further left across vegetated rock to gain a steep corner with shaky blocks. Continue up the corner and over more blocks to move across and up an airy corner to a niche. Climb the superb crack line above to the top. Belay well back. Protection good.
EYE OPENER 60m S.
D. Wa1sh, P. Donnelly, 3rd September 1978.
Start at high tide level to the right of the large cave, beneath and left of a ramp/corner on the right side of the main cliff. at high tide level to the right of the large cave, beneath and left of a ramp/corner on the right side of the main cliff.
(1) 20m. Gain the start of the ramp/corner and climb it relying on fist jams, main difficulty is low down. Continue until the ramp levels off at a huge flake.
(2) 20m Follow the ramp to the right-hand side of the cliff. Step down a bit and to the right then to a large bollard (very exposed).
(3) 10m Climb vertically upwards for about 2m to a nose. Step out right (crux) and climb flake above steeply right to a tridented step in the ridge on the right-hand skyline.
(4) 30m. Traverse right to the foot of an easy-looking groove and climb, scramble, gaunter and ascend ever upwards.
PHILATELY 35m HS
J. Hobbs, J. Daly, October 1978
Start on the right-hand side of the main cliff at a groove beside a small cave. Climb groove and enter crack on right. Climb crack and up easy ground to finish.
On the west of the island, a little north of a high cliff, easy approach.
RUBBER DUCK 27m. S.
N. Maguire, S. Young. September 1978
Start about 2 m right of a bulgy overhang, the first obvious line of weakness runs diagonally right. Climb 5m to a difficult move right on the wall below the ascending crack. At 9m gain a bird-spoilt ledge. Continue up right over bulges to the top.
BIG BEAR 38m HS
N. Maguire, S. Young. September 1978.
40m right of 'Rubber Duck', where it is difficult to proceed any further, lies Big Bear. Start up left of the protruding spur moving left over loose rock and vegetation to below a wide chockstone-filled crack. Climb this to a stance above. Move right to below an overhang. Exit right to a steep forked crack. Finish directly or to the right.
The next two routes can be located by going east from the Martello Tower to the last promontory before the main cliff. Scramble down the gully on the east side of the promontory and traverse left at sea level to the extreme edge. Alternatively abseil from above.
SALTY DOG 15m S
D. Doyle, P. Norton, 1st October 1978
Climb edge for 11m, traverse right into awkward chimney. Move up slightly then left through the narrow exit.
SALTPETRE 15m S
P. Norton, D. Doyle, 1st October D.
About 3m left of Salty Dog there is a depression. Do not let this affect you but climb up steeply, following the right-hand edge of the depression, to the top.
MEINDL CHIMNEY 12m VD
A.G. Beirne, A.C. Ryan, 15th October 1978
At low tide descend the steep, rocky slope just left of the first large inlet east of the Martello tower to sea level. Traverse about 20m left to the base of the obvious chimney with the text-book chock stone at the top. Ascend the chimney, being careful of loose rock in the last 3m and squeeze up behind the revolving chock stone.
SLACK 11m S
A.G. Beirne, A.C. Ryan, 15th October 1978.
In the second large inlet there are four incuts. The climb is in the rightmost (dry) of these. Scramble down from the right of the incut to the grassy ledge below an obvious gully near the left end of the incut and start about 2m left of the bottom of the gully. Climb diagonally up to the top of the gully and up this to the top. Poor, brittle and loose rock.