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Norman_Clyde

[TR] Ireland - South Peak of Skellig Michael 08/23/2017

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Trip: Ireland - South Peak of Skellig Michael

Trip Date: 08/23/2017

Trip Report:

Back in the summer I made a Hail Mary request for a partner to join me in Ireland to climb on the island of Skellig Michael.

This is the place that was featured in the climax of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and will receive considerably more screen time in the soon-to-be-released Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

That's right, I was seeking a partner to fly with me across the Atlantic to Ireland, in order to climb a two hundred foot crag of undistinguished Class 4 sandstone.

Not for the climb itself. Because high on the peak there is a secret hermitage, a series of ledges where an extremely badass monk (or more likely a succession of badass monks across several centuries) lived out his life alone on a crag, on a tiny sea island, full in the teeth of the Atlantic wind.

It would certainly be technically possible to do this climb solo, with an acceptable margin of risk, except that access to this peak is strictly regulated, and in order to get approved, you have to have a partner  - - although the agency in charge expects both of you to climb unroped. Strangely, no one at cc.com took me up on the offer. So 'I joined two mountaineering clubs across the Atlantic, one in Ireland and one in the UK, and posted on their partners forum.

I got a couple of responses and worked out logistics with one Peter O'Toole.

I had a three day weather window, and ended up needing all 3 days.

On the third day, conditions were iffy. Peter was short on funds. It costs 75 Euro for a boat ticket to and from the island. At the last minute he bailed. But this was OK, because by then I'd come to know the guides on Skellig Michael (not climbing guides, guides to the heritage site there) and I knew they'd probably let me climb it alone.

The head guide Claire said the rocks were still too wet. But before she could refuse me access, Brendan O'Connor from the lighthouse road crew stepped up and offered to join me as my guide. He had done plenty of high-angle rope work on South Peak and knew its routes by heart.

I made it to the summit and, more important, was able to see the dwelling place of a real-life, historic Last Jedi.

It's all here.

First image = Skellig islands from the mainland. Great Skellig is the larger of the two. South Peak is the high point.

Second image = view from the summit, looking eastward across Little Skellig toward the mainland. If you look closely you can see the drystone huts of the monastery on the right skyline across the gap.

 

Gear Notes:
Helmet Rope used in a few places, one person tied in by the waist and the other using natural pro, no anchors; mainly to ease the mind of the guide that granted us permission

Approach Notes:
Apply for permission to climb through Ireland's Office of Public Works Wait several months Fly to Ireland Drive several hours to village of Portmagee, County Kerry Take a boat to Skellig Michael -- tickets sell out in advance, but if you book at The Moorings, a B&B in town, they sometimes hold tickets in reserve for guests While you wait for the weather to clear, enjoy the freshest seafood you've ever eaten
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sure ole'laurence of arabia looked and acted the part of a jedi on occasion

the force appears to have been w/ you :)

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Thanks for reporting back!  I actually thought long and hard about responding to your request and if I didn't have an aging parent I was dealing with intensively in August I might have done it; I *love* Ireland.  Your partner request made me think of this story from a book by Jennifer Boylan, and in fact I had to go back and reread it to determine it wasn't actually the same island:

 

We took a ferry to the Aran Islands and were shown an ancient fort on Inishmore by a man we called Seamus O'Twotimes because he said things like "The population here is nine hundred. Nine hundred." He was like a Celtic-fried version of a character from Goodfellas.

The highlight of this tour was climbing a path to a mountain fort high above the sea, overlooking vast cliffs. Seamus O'Twotimes gleefully explained how several years earlier a Danish student had gone off the edge. "He just walked right out into space. Into space."

I said to him, "Excuse me, but I have a question. This is a remarkable fort. But I was wondering, who was it the people who lived here were defending themselves against? I mean, who'd want to take over—this place? Wouldn't most warriors look at this cliff a half mile in the air at the top of an island in the middle of nowhere and just say, 'Okay, you guys can have it!' Who was it they were being attacked by?"

Seamus O'Twotimes thought long and hard about this question. Then he said, "Persons such as themselves."

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I'm still not used to the new thread titles, I somehow assumed that the TR was by Jason and was really looking forward to the pictures. You can imagine my disappointment... ¬¬

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