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Frustrating Dunseverick

Date: 27 Aug 2011
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
The iffy weather and the long trek put PJ and I off visiting the Mournes last weekend, so we headed for Dunseverick instead, reasoning that if we couldn't climb we could walk, and anyway there were plenty of establishments in the area where we could shelter from the rain. As it turned out the weather improved steadily all day so that by mid afternoon we were bathed in sunshine. Dunseverick castle (3 crumbling walls of an ancient small tower) was a huge disappointment, probably because I'd got it confused with nearby Dunluce, said confusion leading to some navigational bickering on the way there.

The Dunseverick situation though is impressive in the sunshine, cracking views to Rathlin, the Giants Causeway, White Park Bay and Scotland in the distance. The notes from the website describing how to get there are rather loquacious, it's just a pity that the route notes are rather less so. We set up a static rope on the first "battlement" abseil boss and were joined by a Cork fella who was obviously itching to climb something but his skirt-clad, handbag-clutching girlfriend had other ideas. He described the whole of Primrose Ridge on Carrantouhill to us, plus a whole series of new routes above Ballyryan wall in the Burren.

Having waved goodbye to our eloquent friend we descended to the slabby tidal shelf and then spent a good half hour trying to work out where the routes were. Our initial confusion stemmed from the fact that some of the route notes are described in relation to "the" abseil point, where in fact there are 2 abseil points. In addition, some of the "new" routes described seemed to go through or be almost identical to the older routes. Out of frustration more than anything else, we climbed Battlement Stance (VD) as it seemed to be the only line with a clear cut description. It felt a little tighter than VD but then it was put up by Al Millar!

We then thought we'd try and distinguish the mess of routes around the first abseil point but just ended up climbing either Craicslova (VD) or Abseil Route 1 (S). These routes seemed to follow the same line, the latter starting just one block lower. It was firmly in the VD range though, in my opinion. Thoroughly frustrated by this point (George had warned me) we tried to work out where Slithery Zawn was from the top of the crag and thus the routes on either side of it. PJ recognised Groover (HS 4b) as one that she and Sandra Kennedy had done before and it's features for once fit nicely with the route description.

This was a cracking wee route, with several bits of hand jamming required in the S-shaped curving crack and nice rest spots on the mini ledges out to the right. The crux at mid height requires you to leave the safety of the crack and pull up on good holds on the face, a very satisfying move. Since we hadn't arrived till mid afternoon and spent a long time searching out lines it was now 6pm and time to head for the pub.

George and friends had been cleaning routes up at the small crag on Fairhead and we met him for beers in the Anzac bar in Ballycastle, where we discussed a charge up Roaring Meg (VS 5a, 4b, 4a) on the morrow. We settled on meeting at the head around noon and parted company, George to tend to his new feline pets and us to banter the night away round a firelog on the Watertop Farm campsite.

Sunday arrived with a windy wetness however so we had to settle for a walk along the top of the crags, avoiding one stormy squall in the cars before we set off but getting caught in a bigger one on the return leg. George highlighted his clearance work and pointed out some vertigo inducing lines on the bigger walls. Crikey. We met a Snickers snacking Yorkshire pair who were madly getting ready to abseil in for a go on An Bealach Rúnda (I think), a 3 pitch E1 (5a, 5b, 5a). After that big squall I hope they just pulled their rope up and went home.

The rock at Dunseverick was in better shape that I'd feared (though both PJ and I pulled away a good sized stone each) and the location was both stunning and easy to get to. I'd love to go back with someone who knows the area to help sort out the route confusion, maybe with an eye to re-writing some of the notes, like "take the right hand feature". Right hand of what? What feature? Bleh!

01 Sep 2011

Perhaps we should bin this from the Donegal guidebook if it's incomprehensible (and not exactly Donegal anyway)? Or maybe Alfie could be given the go-ahead to re-write the guide for this crag? He seems like a sensible fellah, and turns out a fair standard of route description.

01 Sep 2011

Happy to do it BUT. With other crags eg Ramore Head already in the Fairhead guide, it think it makes geographical sense for Dunseverick to be included in future updates of that guide as well as widening the audience grade wise. I do feel that there are additional notes and changes/additions to route descriptions in the on line guide that would make it clearer For the preservation of what little street cred I have (or ever had), I'm not sure I like being described as sensible.

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