Friday, January 13, 2012

Old article - Nine of the best unclimbed problems in Wicklow

This is an article I wrote in early 2004 that was never published. I have added updated information in red.

Nine of the best unclimbed problems in Wicklow

This is a list of some of the best unclimbed boulder problems in Wicklow. All are hard most are very hard. That the majority are in Glenmacnass will be no surprise to those who have been there. Only one problem listed is in Glendalough the reason is that this list about the unknown rather than the known and Glendalough is very much the known. All styles of problem are represented long, short, safe, slappy, crimpy and fingery. This list used to be a top ten but John Gaskins climbed the tenth problem (see the news item Darkness before the Dawn) just before Christmas.

 1. Glendalough – The Hidden groove project

About a hundred meters above the Fin is a large boulder on the uphill side of which is the groove.
It’s about 16 foot high, the landing is a mixture of rock and grass which will require many pads to make it safe. The start is easy but the top out will be the crux with very technical insecure stemming on marginal holds. One to headpoint maybe?

I believe Dave Ayton did the first ascent of this shortly afterwards. He gave it around 6b I think. It's more scary than hard. A good few pads and a bit of patioing would make it quite safe. I saw Harry Fogg do it quite causually one day. 

2. Glenmacnass - Wow Prow 

Photo by Dom Green
Maybe not quite as strong a line as the original wow prow in Bishop, California (now named the Mandala by Chris Sharma the first ascentist) but nice none the less. About three fingery deadpoints should see the top in hand. If you prefer steeper more powerful problems there is a very overhanging rib with only the vaguest sidepulls to the right. 

Wow Prow was probably over stating it slightly. I'ts a nice line and looks great from a distance but the holds are small and sharp. I think John Gaskins did all the moves ones day but never linked it video on youtube. Other wads have looked at it but weren't captivated. Still someone should get it done. Now the line to its right is a different story, very hard and in the modern style of compression on slopey holds. 

3. Glenmacnass - groove left of the Wow Prow

Not that hard as the rest of the problems in the list but a great line. The top section needs a good clean probably from a rope. The first move is a hard fingery slap from sharp crystals to a good hold, a bold upper section leads to a very good jug to on the lip. The landing is quite good though there is a few holes worth avoiding.

Andy Robinson did this a few years after. Called it the Shroud, it's around 6b. Bit highball and the crux is a long reach.

4. Glenmacnass - No Dice
Photo by Dom Green
Not an obvious feature as the most obvious feature is the lack of features. There is one small crimp for the left hand and a vague slopey rib for the right hand and foot. The difficulty lies not in discovering what to do but doing it.

John Gaskins put a bit of work into this one to no avail. I heard a rumour that Barry O'Dwyer hit the top. Very elegant minimalist line but with quite defined holds.Video of John trying it on youtube.

 5. Glenmacnass – Andre’s arete

In a bend of Glenmacnass river about five kilometers above the waterfall is a large granite boulder, the Riverside boulder. This large rectangular block with a heather hat has a perfect vertical arete. It’s oft admired as it is prominent from everywhere in the upper valley. Apparently this arete was climbed in the early fifties by a Polish climber who was living in Ireland at that time called Andre Kopczinski. Apparently he didn't even use climbing shoes (this was a long time before sticky rubber or anything similar) just a thick pair of woollen socks. If so this would have been one of the hardest ascents in the world at that time. For the moment though lets consider it unclimbed until we are sure of otherwise.

World famous now as Solidarity. Andy Robinson picked this plum and then fecked off to Canada. You can see the extent of the pool under it before Andy came along with his shovel. Andy was rightly worried that the line would be robbed at the boulder meet and get it done just in time. As for Andre, well it's a nice idea.

6. Glenmacnass - Nemesis

High, hard, long and complicated. The landing is good but boulder is high (20 feet). It will take a particular type of person to get excited about this project as it will take a lot of figuring out the moves, cleaning holds etc. The first move is a tricky slap to a relatively good hold after that there not a huge amount to aim for just the slopey lip and the odd crystal for the feet.

Stupid problem really, don't think it had seen any attention. The arete to the right is the excellent Smokey and Bandit.

7. Glenmacnass – Dice slap

It’s just one hard slap off a reasonable edge to a small crimp with no footholds worth mentioning. Easy if you’re strong enough, impossible otherwise. Not as impressive a line to look at as the others but a cool move.

Visted Welsh was Chris Davies did this at the 2005 meet. Called it Monkey Burger which is one of the worst names I could imagine. There is now a similar problem to the left also.

8. Glenmacnass – The Full Rasher Traverse

This will be a fine endurance outing without any particularly hard moves but lots of them. The Rasher is the traverse of the lip facing the river that looks vaguely like a rasher on its side. The complete traverse starts right on the other side of the boulder going up (and across) one arete down another (a fine problem in itself) and finally across the Rasher itself. The holds are always slopey and never good enough to get a good shake out. One to try after a holiday clipping bolts.

Probably been done by now. Compelling line if you like stamina stuff I suppose. You can see in this video Gaskins causually traverses it before dropping off at the mantle.

9. Glendasan - prow of the Tank

The prow of the Tank boulder above the mining village in Glendasan is formed where the two overhanging faces meet. To the right is 'Darkness before dawn' John Gaskins 8a+ and the hardest problem in Ireland. John used a camming device placed under the boulder to hold his mat in place on Darkness this would be worth doing on the prow as the landing below the sitstart is rocky. A very steep sitstart on some slopey holds leads to the lip after which there is still a good bit of work to do. There are also another two unclimbed problems on this boulder (the face to the left and the crack just to the right).

John did this one at 7c. Great line.

So of the 9 6 are done. The two really worthwhile ones left are the prow right of Wow Prow and the Dice Rib.


  1. Excellent retrospective. You should set yourself up for another one in 4-5 years time.

  2. Good idea. Will have a think about that.