The bouldering area at Lackglass near Doolin is one of my favourite outdoor places in the country, to climb or to just chill out and enjoy the relative solitude.
It’s a relatively short walk in, through a couple of stony Burren fields and along a stone wall all the way to the coast. With the sun on your face and view cross the Atlantic ocean to the Aran Islands and beyond, on a good day its ace.
There’s times I’ve walked in during the winter storms, just to see what the full ferocity of the crashing waves can do. I’ve never been there on a day so big that the boulders have been jumbled around but, from a reasonable distance, Id imagine its an awesome sight to behold.
To see boulders weighing in the tens of tonnes moved about, flipped on their head, moved across the slab or even gone completely, it has to be seen to believed.
And that’s both the beauty and the shame of bouldering there, every couple of years the route-setters come in and leave us with a new bunch of challenges. Were it not for the fact that they strip away or alter old classics, this arrangement would be perfect.
The problems I’ve listed below are in the grades 5-7 range, because its what I climb and can recommend. There are some classic harder graded problems, but not lots of them.
Hopefully this blog will spark an idea to visit Doolin and try some of the quality problems, while they still exist. Do your best to car pool and always shut the farmers gate. An excellent relationship currently exists with the local farmer who thinks what we do is great craic, lets make sure we never give cause to change that.
Up The Alley, 6A
Revealed for the first time after a big storm circa 2014 and first climbed by Cian Kearns this was an immediate classic on the circuit at Doolin.
A reachy and dynamic first move off the ground to good holds, before a delicate traverse right on tiny footholds, maintain body tension moving up and slap to a small sloping edge for a delicate move to get a welcome top out hold. Its not a given that you get it every time, which makes it both frustrating and special.
One of the original classics of the crag that seems to stay untouched despite being relatively close to the waters edge.
Overhanging, with an encouraging start on big holds and a pleasing heel hook, it soon turns much tougher with a big move required off two smaller sharper crimps. The strong can static it, but the rest of us mortals have to suck it up and throw, not quite a full dyno, but certainly very dynamic. The top out hold is a mega jug though and with the opportunity to flail your legs loose and still stay on, it makes for a really enjoyable finish.
Standard Finger Crack 5+
The Reardon Memorial wall is one of the striking features of the crag. A highball wall where you would definitely need a few pads to be feeling it. Luckily the climbs are all mostly straight up.
Solid climbing at the grade, luckily the harder moves on Standard Finger Crack are all lower down when its more pleasant to fall. The holds get juggier as you ascend and top out, but keep your cool as a fall would be a big one. Even if highballs aren’t your thing, it’d be a shame to visit and not tick off at least one. Standard Corner, 4 would be safer tick if you want jugs all the way.
The Egg, 5+
Another of the newer revealed classics, it came on the scene a few years back, got blocked off again after a storm and only this year was revealed again when the “sitting stone” blocking it got moved 40 metres across the slab.
For such a short boulder it can cause awful frustration to figure out the beta. A hand slap followed quickly by a foot stab keeps you steady enough to rearrange feet and make another slap to a big hold before an easier top out. It might look straightforward, but it can be tricky.
Bobs Traverse 6B+
Perfect if you want a beta heavy long problem but without the big falls. You don’t even need multiple pads for the base as its so low to the ground at times. The guide book says do it in any direction, but for me its always going to be left to right. It took me so long to crack it, but like all great problems, it seem like you’ll never get it, til you do.
Good handholds and footholds for the most part, but whatever beta you figure out, its about keeping your concentration and body tension for that one thin move at the crux. At full spread and with blind feet, its about body tension and trusting a small sloping edge to match hands and move again.
Solid Works, 7A
One of the more skin friendly limestone 7As, where you wont get shut down working it after a few attempts. As its not tidal, quick drying and faces the sun, it can be worked all year round, which is a good incentive to stick with it.
Traverse along the lip to the middle of the boulder using a series of heel hooks and open handed holds before a nice mantle, rockover and easier slabby top out. For me, the process and time invested in this will always be special.
Black Corner, 6C
The exact opposite of Solid Works in that for the most of the winter its wet, smashed by swell and builds up a layer of algae on it. Only after a late spring/summer dry spell and some brushing does it come into condition and then you have to hope your free time coincides with low tide and dry weather. You would think that would serve to frustrate, but it only adds to the allure of all the climbs on the large Fireworks boulder even more.
An easy sit start on juggy holds sucks me in for “just one more try”, drop knee, reach behind and match hands on the rail, cut loose and chop kick the left foot to kill the swing, left hand sidepull, steady, right hand side pull, move left hand up to small edge and…. off. Ive never got beyond that move and it motivates me and grates me all at the one time, but does not topping out stop it from being one of my favourite problems? No chance, this is a must do
Add Broken 6B and Emerland 6C+ to the above to make a list of great climbs I love working but haven’t topped.
Add Gutbusters 6b+ to the list if you like problems where you cant see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ramp 6B+ was one of the great problems of the crag, but a storm took away a huge chunk of the bottom of it and changed its quality somehow. Im sure those working Body Hammer 7B are probably thinking the same.
And as for all those climbs that were of great quality and fun to climb, but are no longer there.. hopefully ye make a return visit some day, in whatever orientation Neptune decides.
But bouldering at Lackglass isn’t just about nature and climbing for me, it’s about friendship and social sends. It about the lifelong mates that I’ve made through climbing, many of them I met or climbed with the first time at Doolin.
Heres a short movie a friend made some years ago during a spell of hot weather, not the best temps for conditions but some really great memories.