7 Reasons To Boulder In Doolin

If you’re looking for a climbing challenge, you could do worse than a spot of bouldering in Doolin.

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, it’s ace.

New Bouldering Routes in Doolin

There are 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 in Doolin, 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 carpool and always shut the farmer’s gate. An excellent relationship currently exists with the local farmer who thinks what we do is great craic, let’s make sure we never give cause to change that.

Bouldering in Doolin

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.

It’s not a given that you get it every time, which makes it both frustrating and special.

Bigfoot 6A+

One of the original classics of the crag that seems to stay untouched despite being relatively close to the water’s 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 it’s 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 to 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 seems like you’ll never get it, ’til you do.

Good handholds and footholds for the most part, but whatever beta you figure out, it’s 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 won’t 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 good condition.

Even 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 the small edge and…. off.

I’ve 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

Still to top out routes

Add Broken 6B (update: I topped out on this class problem in april 2021) 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+ is one of the great problems of the crag. (Topped out March 2021).

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 someday, in whatever orientation Neptune decides.

But bouldering in Doolin 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.

Here’s 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.

Doolin bouldering, new problems

Doolin Bouldering

Doolin Bouldering

Its been three months since I’ve climbed on dry rock. Three long months of incessant rain and washed away hopes. Too warm for ice, too wet for rock. The west coast of Ireland doesnt care. Its a harsh place in winter, sometimes as harsh in summer.

Climb It Change
 Climb It Change

Storm Imogen passed through last week and with it another week of training indoors and plastic. Fantastic. But Friday brought dry weather and a promising forecast for the weekend. Hopes rise again.

Sunday morning came and didnt disappoint. Driving down the gravel lane way at Lackglass, with the sun shining across the Atlantic, all was forgiven. The walk down to the coast from the car takes 10 minutes. 20 if you havent been here for a while and stop regularly to take in the view.

Down to the waters edge, where its immediately obvious. Imogen has rolled through and with her has come change. Natures routesetters have been in. The Here today…. boulder is gone. Not just moved, or tilted, but gone and nowhere to be seen. With it went one of the best 6A’s in Doolin. A mix of power and balance and never a given.

More change in the Base-camp area. Recent classics such as March sun and the never repeated Lazy Sunday (given 6B, but only accurate if youre a sadist and like doing monos with your fingernail) have been reclaimed by the sea. In their place remains a newly exposed face of rock, with a massive cap stone boulder above. Yellow and gritty to touch, I set about cleaning the loose and unwanted.

I throw down the pads and chalk up. The first three lines looked harder from the ground, but go a bit too easily. Some excellent climbs have been lost to make way for these new ones and I feel disappointed in the quality so far. They’ll make decent warm ups from here in.

Theres a prominent crack line running up the main face, but I ignore it for now. Tonys on the way and it’d be great to share working the problem with someone else.

The first worthwhile line goes at about 5+. Climb It Change. A sit start low on the left hand side of the left most boulder. Moving right, hands matching and crossing along the right trending diagonal lip, before topping out. Excellent. My style of problem, made all the better by Tony arriving to share the first ascent.

Tony warms up on some of the the new climbs before putting up a first ascent of his own. Scutter Butter (ss) 4+. Easily indentified by the buttery yellow streaks on its face. A fun climb with a hidden jug on the high top out.

Warmed up, attention turns to the prominent crack line in the face. Disappointedly it too goes too easy. In a flash im topping out for the first ascent and what should be excitement is quelled by it being just that bit too easy. Id wanted a battle. Its decided the line would be significantly harder without the jug down low.

We try it again and while it serves to be a more technical challenge, it still succumbs too easily. Prize, a solid 5.

We explore whats new throughout the rest of the day. Through the gap in the rocks and to where the Nose once was we find what is surely to become a hit. A newly exposed face, with barely enough to work with. We try it repeatedly, but cant unlock it and it becomes clear that I’ve found what I’ve been looking for. A collection of side pulls and crimps and no apparent way to top out. A challenge worthy of all the good friends lost. Its not going down today, maybe not even tomorrow. But it is dry tomorrow, so ill be back here with fresh skin and arms to get acquainted with Doolins best new project.

Doolin Bouldering

Doolin Bouldering

A. Climb It Change (ss) 5+            B. Tutorial 3            C. Arete 4       D. Scutter Butter (ss) 4+      E. Prize 5       F. Warm up  3

All new climbs listed on The Shortspan website

Doolin Bouldering

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