Glendalough (The Valley of the Two Lakes) is a glacial valley of great beauty, deeply cut into the eastern flanks of the Wicklow mountains. The valley sides are very steep with cliffs in many places. Most of these consist of friable schist but beyond the Upper Lake the rock changes to granite with the climbing buttresses visible on the right-hand or south-facing flank of the valley above the boulder slopes, as one travels west on the valley track. Climbing is concentrated in three areas as follows:
(i) Twin Buttress: This is the main crag, steep and prominent, clearly visible near the upper western end of the glen. It is split down the centre by a darkened recess, usually a double watercourse, into East and West Wings.
(ii) The Upper Cliffs: These are at a slightly higher level and to the east or right of Twin Buttress. They consist largely of a discontinuous line of slabs which are prone to seepage and often heavily vegetated.
(iii) Hobnail Buttress: This is a minor buttress just below the right-hand end of the Upper Cliffs and becomes visible on the right when leaving the last trees on the valley floor.
APPROACH & CRAG LAYOUT
Glendalough is about 50 km from Dublin and can be reached by following the N11 as far as Kilmacanoge from where the R755 is followed through Roundwood to Laragh before taking the road westwards into the valley to the car-park just below the Upper Lake. There is a regular bus service (St. Kevin's Bus) to the lower lake of Glendalough from Dublin which is also served by the Wicklow Local Link 183 Wicklow to Glendalough route, using Wicklow station this local link service facilitates much earlier arrival and much later departure times than the former.
To reach the crags follow the track along the right-hand side of the Upper Lake. At the head of the lake Hobnail Buttress is the first prominent feature to come into view below the near end of the Upper Cliffs. To reach it, follow the zig-zags of an old mining track which is reached by following the edge of the last trees on the right.
If heading for Twin Buttress or the Upper Cliffs continue past the derelict mine buildings on the right of the Glenealo River to the zig-zag path at the head of the glen. Leave the zig-zags where the track turns left for the second time and follow a well worn trail, waymarked by red paint blotches, to the foot of a small outcrop called Acorn Buttress. This is Base Camp below Twin Buttress and is reached in about 45 minutes from the car-park.
The Upper Cliffs are usually approached from here by heading up diagonally right in the direction of the large whitish slab of Lifeline, clearly visible from below.
Route descriptions begin on the left side of Far West Buttress and continue in a left to right direction to the Main Face, Acorn Buttress, East Wing Lower Tier, East Wing Upper Tier, Upper Cliffs and Hobnail Buttress.
TWIN BUTTRESS This is the centrepiece of climbing interest in Glendalough. The climbs are steep, clean and generally free of vegetation. Lines a re usually fairly direct, taking corners or cracks with good protection. The faces catch the sun and dry quickly after rain and climbing is possible at almost any time of the year.
The central waterfalls separate Twin Buttress into West Wing to the left and East Wing to the right.
The West Wing consists of the Far West Buttress which is westfacing and out of sight of Base Camp and, to the right and around the arête, the south-facing Main Face, visible from Base Camp. To the left the Main Face is quite featured and disjointed. Its central feature is a steep, narrow sweep of exposed and relatively featureless rock while to the right it breaks into steep and even overhanging corners and walls. The routes on this imposing monolith, variously long, airy, delicate and strenuous, embody all of the finest elements of climbing in Glendalough. The East Wing is directly above Base Camp and Acorn Buttress. It is traversed at half-height by tree-covered ledges. Routes on the Lower Tier give access to these ledges. The best of the climbing is found on the walls above these ledges on the Upper Tier.
Descent is possible, but not easy, from the top of Twin Buttress as follows:
1. Abseil down various routes. The shortest of these is Expectancy which requires only a doubled 50m rope but care should be exercised on the tricky scramble further down after the abseil.
********* Note that the 'tricky scramble' mentioned above is exposed and has become very eroded. There has been at least one nasty accident (full helicopter etc. rescue). It is advisable to avoid this potentially lethal scramble by making a long abseil (double ropes)from the top of expectancy down the gully to safe ground.********
2. From the top of the East Wing follow a short track east down a slight depression to the edge of the cliff. Descend a 2 metre rock step and continue east with one short descent and ascent to a grassy gully. Go down this eastwards to the base of Witality Slab and the slope running down to Base Camp. Care should be taken as the start may be difficult to find and the descent down the steep section can be slippy and dangerous in wet weather.
3. Follow a broad heathery rib just west of the shallow gully near the upper left-hand side of Far West Buttress. This is very awkward.
Links to route descriptions
"Deviation" may be "Vortex" which was badly described in the old guidebook. Comment or removal welcome.
Deviation HVS 5b
Essentially a variation on "Vortex". Climb "Acorn Crack" as far as the jammed chockstone and step out right onto the vertical wall - reaching for a fingery ledge and mini-jug situated above the left of two thin parallel cracks (crux) A quick sling over the mini-jug will prevent a potentially hazardous fall. A semi-dynamic move from here gains another good hold and the large ledge above. Cross over the chimney of "Inferno" and finish as for "Vortex".
C. Mogensen, P. Carolan. 18. Oct. 2008.
"Patash" may be the variation described in "Provo" Comment or removal welcome.
Patash HS 4b
Takes the thin crack between "Provo" and "Facilis Descensus" - finishing to the left of the block at the top.
P. Carolan, C. Mogensen 18. Oct. 2008.