Our first climbing stop in Ireland was Dalkey Quarry in south Dublin. This is an awesome venue and should be high on the list of places to visit for all climbers coming to Ireland. A sizable granite quarry originally used to provide rock for the nearby Dun Laoirigh harbour, the quarry now holds over 300 traditional lines from Easy to E7 with potential for much more. This is where I took my first climbing steps and I have spent probably far too much time on its lower grade classics throughout my years living in Dublin. Once I began to climb at other locations the quarry lost it’s appeal for a while as I had effectively climbed it out – there were no routes left for me at my grade. A few years later I spent some time working with youth groups in the quarry just before moving to North Wales and I began to see the quarry in a new light again – there was loads to go at! Now I see the quarry as a venue to go and spend some time on something hard. Unfortunately many of the better lines have seemed to fallen into a state of disrepair with vegetation reclaiming many of the less trafficked lines at an alarming rate. It is a sad situation but there are just not enough people climbing these lines to keep them in good nick.
View from the Quarry
One of the main problems with attempting some of the harder lines in the quarry is the fact that many rely on some element of fixed protection, usually in the form of pegs placed where no other protection will fit. The problem with this is that unlike bolts, the pegs are often placed in very thin cracks which act as drainage lines, exposing the pegs to more then their fair share of water – throw in the close proximity of the sea and you’ve got a recipe for corrosion. As many of the harder lines were first equipped over 15 years ago their protection is currently incomparable to its original state… yet the grades remain unchanged. Lets get one thing straight, Dalkey is not an ego-massaging venue, with a few exceptions it’s not home to many soft ticks.
One such line that I had tried over 3 years ago was CHOMOLUNGMA Sans Oxygen, which goes at something like E6/7 6c. Originally the line was vigorously cleaned and equipped with 5 pegs, some of which were cemented in place to add extra protection. The route forces a direct line up Dalkey’s largest expanse of overhanging rock and is a contender for the best line in the quarry in my opinion. Currently only 3 of the routes 5 original pegs remain and two of those can be bent by hand. Without the time or equipment to invest into overhauling the route I contented myself with toproping the route to act as a gauge for how I had progressed over the previous few years. Surprisingly the route felt great and not too difficult. After a few clean ascents on a very slack rope I began to lust after the lead and the tick – it could be lead entirely on natural pro but all of it would have to be placed below you as you climbed, as the gear would obscure the crucial hand holds needed. A lead on completely natural pro is a worthy goal for this line, removing the last 3 pegs. Unfortunately such an ascent will have to wait as 3 of the crux fingerlocks simply refused to dry out despite me spending 4 days out in the quarry waiting! No amount of chalking or sponging would pause the drip, drip, drip long enough for me to consider leading the route in it’s current state so I contented myself with the fact that it provided some good training and that I had repeatedly climbed it clean on a safety line despite the seepage.
The Rest before the final 6c sequence on CHOMOLUNGMA SANS O2
Another interesting hard line that I spent some time on while in the quarry was bitter aftertaste. This route has an interesting history… originally bolted, it breached the overhang left of tower ridge. Causing considerable interest, then controversy the bolts were eventually removed and it’s first ascentionist placed a single peg and then lead the route traditional style at E6 6a. Firstly, it’s not 6a… Infact it couldn’t even pretend to be 6a with powerful moves on small but positive crimps up an overhang with it’s only protection a fair bit below and some nasty looking angular ledges not to much further below that! This is a serious route, made more serious due to the fact that originally there was a thread near the lip of the overhang, which has now crumbled and disappeared – does this add to the difficulty? Maybe not, but the route has still to receive a repeat and I’m at the point where I may step out of the queue for it. In all honesty I think the bolts belonged in it. It is not a traditional climb, the style of the climbing the terrain it goes through… had the bolts remained it would have added something unique to the quarry and probably gone a considerable way towards removing the glass ceiling currently putting a cap on Irish climbing standards. Some lines should remain as hard trad testpieces – and some should be opened as sports lines allowing Irish people to experience hard SAFE climbing on home turf… The deciding factor should be the style of the climbing and the natural protection available. Currently the route remains there with it’s one peg and empty boltholes – seldom touched and wasted. After spending 4 days out in the quarry I came away from it wondering what the MCI or the climbers put back into the place? Is there money available for replacing fixed protection? If it was replaced would it spark interest in the great lines again? Who would be willing to put the time into doing it? I would and probably will once we move back home in the future. As it stands, climbing one of these hard lines in Dalkey requires a lot of time, effort and preparation… factors that actually add to the experience and make every hard ascent something special.