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The Day the Alamo (Big Stack) Was Taken

Date: 19 Aug 2006
Submitted by: Martin Mc Guigan

Friday evening and I land in Culdaff. Meet John Joe, the Grant and McAleer families surfing etc. and have some craic in McGrory's. Spent the night at the tower over at Malin Head in the my Busmobile.

Seven o' clock on Saturday morning I start what I came to do: climb the big stack and check out the climbs on the far side.

To reach the stack a seven metre channel of sea has to be crossed. This was achieved by laying a ladder across it and crawling over it. I was on my own so I started carrying ropes, gear and ladders over to the cliff at the edge of the mainland. My 100m abseil rope was used to form a zip line to a big rock at sea level which would be used to lower the ladder. Another rope was tied to the ladder to lower it down the zip line. The other abseil rope used to get me down was in three pieces (long story, some other time) so two knots had to be passed every time I went down.

Just when I had the ladder in place and was ready to go for this on my own, John Joe arrives . Perfect timing!

The stack was climbed by a route now called Gannett Quartz a very loose VD 120m. Climbing vertical for 15m past a Gannett's nest, then a rising traverse left over Quartz and finally a direct scramble to the top.

We set up a top rope and I lowered 30m down the seaward side of the stack. I guess I was still 20m of sea level and climbed a big crack passed a Fulmar's nest to the top. The top is stony with room to move about and even bivi.

On our way down we noticed that the tide was well in and that two canoeists were looking at our ladder and wondering how they could get past it and what the hell a ladder was doing there. They squeezed through a small passage next to the stack. We shouted hellos and they continued.

We could not descend the way we came up because the tide had covered the rocks next to the stack and was even washing over the ladder. We found an abseil point directly in line with the ladder. When close to the water I was able to lasso a rock beside the ladder and so with a combination of lowering and pulling we kept our feet dry. The ladder was raised just enough to clear the water and so we crossed to the mainland dry. After a lot of hauling with Z pulleys alpine clutches and a host of techniques I read about in text books and never got using till now we got everything back on top and back to the bus ,and back to McGrory's. The weather got better as the day went on and thanks to John Joe's help we had a fantastic day.

Photo of Route