Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley (Read 454 times)


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Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 25, 2021, 12:07:36 pm
Visited Tralee last weekend for an event, whilst there explored some of the bouldering in Gap of Dunloe and adjacent Black Valley. Wow what an amazing place! I'm amazed this place isn't talked about more on here among the bouldering cognoscenti. So I just thought I'd give it a shout out for anyone wondering about ideas for a trip in the spring.

The Gap and Black Valley are two linked glacial valleys littered with endless blocks of the most perfect rock you'll find, a hard sandstone which feels like the very best fine-grained grit, with no scrittle. Buttery-smooth weathered shapes and grippy texture that makes you just want to climb everything. Blocks, walls and craglets (and crags, the routes look great). Felt to me like two Llanberis Passes back-to-back, on steroids, with a large part of it not yet developed or at least recorded...(I think tons has been done under the radar by the i-wads). I've done bits and bobs of bouldering around Wicklow and Fairhead, Dunloe seems at least on a par with both but with even better rock and at an earlier stage of development. Maybe it could develop into the best bouldering in Ireland..? i.e. which would mean one of the best areas in the UK & Ireland. I'm guessing the slower pace of development is due to a quieter scene down in the south-west - we saw one other team in both valleys and chatting they said it was unusual to ever see more than a couple of teams out.

very narrow lane through the valley with few parking spots, gets busy in summer with tourists. Potential for car-nage if it got busy with vans (but was totally fine this time of year).
midges in summer.
local farmer who owns a small part of one of the valleys apparently occasionally shouts at people. 
too far for a weekend from the UK, 3.5hrs drive from Dublin.

it's amazing!
the most perfect rock.
a developer's dream venue, quality new stuff to do everywhere within a few minutes of the road, 30mins and a pair of wellies would likely give a lifetime of new developing.
beautiful glacial mountain valley, remote-feeling like Scottish highlands, but actually v.accessible from local towns and nationally.
dries quickly from what I could tell.
fast empty motorway from Dublin to Limerick (slower road for the last 1hr).
not too far to go for a long weekend from the UK and affordable for a team sharing a car.
large quiet area, should be easy to keep a low profile if sensible.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2021, 12:13:39 pm by petejh »


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#1 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 25, 2021, 12:39:10 pm
You take any pics? Sounds interesting. Geologically it looks to be Devonian Sandstone, so similar to the County I think?

What’s the climate like in that part of Ireland? Seems like it could be a risky holiday venue, particularly for sandstone.


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#2 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 25, 2021, 01:06:21 pm
I'm not one for taking many pics when I'm out but there are plenty around the web. We climbed on turnpike boulders and then had a look around Black Valley. A search of ukb throws up some good stuff from Dave Flanagan and Ricky Bell's blog.
Having climbed quite a lot around Ireland the past 5 years I'd say the climate is the same as the western side of the UK. With some places occupying rain-shadows or sun-traps (Inismore), and some places a bit wetter (Fermanagh). In my experience the climbing overall is not as prone to being rained-out as the Lakes - the least reliable area of the UK in my opinion although 'the lakes' obvs is large and has its drier and wetter areas too.
Rock is bomber, not what you might imagine as sandstone, haven't climbed in the county so can't compare. It's just like the grippiest most bomber dolerite on the Meadow boulders in the Pass. Basically as good as the best grit, seemingly minus any scrittle.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2021, 01:13:17 pm by petejh »


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#3 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 25, 2021, 01:29:46 pm
I did some bouldering in the gap of dunloe a few years ago and I can confirm the rock is awesome! Like Pete said the road is very narrow with very few parking spots however we were there in May and had no issue parking. I did a little vid of of the climbing I did if this is of any use to anyone!


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#4 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 25, 2021, 01:44:06 pm
Good beta Pete, thanks! Funnily enough I was just perusing the guide and musing how All Along The Watchtower looks very much like Malc's Arete!

Dave Flanagan

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#5 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 26, 2021, 09:56:20 am
Good summary of the place. Rock is really good. The rest of that corner of Ireland has a huge amount of rock but unfortunately, most of it is choss, the Gap has the best of it. Huge potential, it's just a matter of walking a little further to find new stuff.
There are some access issues and as you said parking and traffic can be a problem.
The guide only really skims the surface, a decent bit more has been done but it's still only the tip of the icebery. It can be frustrating documenting some of these areas when you know there is so much more to be done.


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#6 Re: Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley
October 26, 2021, 11:35:38 am
Been down this way a few times visiting family, at least once a year for the last few. Always taken pads, unfortunately only been able to actually climb's just never worked out.

The one time I did manage to climb, it was in July and we ended up walking from the parking at the bottom of the Gap because of various signage which suggested cars weren't welcome at all during the busy season. This was a good hour's walk or something so didn't take pads and therefore didn't get much done.

That said, I did do one of the best 6Bs I think I've ever done; Edge of the Onion. Pic here -

As it happens as we were walking up a few cars did come past, so maybe it's not that strict. There are also the local jarvies who run horse and carriage rides up the Gap during summer. I imagine you could get them to take pads up too!

Completely agree with Pete's comments on the rock quality and scenery; both really are stunning. I'd say you'd have to be pretty psyched on developing new stuff, have loads of free time, be lucky with weather, or have another reason for being in the area to make it really worth sinking holiday into a trip. Maybe I've just gone at the wrong times / been really unlucky.

I've also spotted lots of boulders from the road driving up through Molls Gap from Kenmare to Killarney. Some of it clearly choss but also some incredibly steep rock with small edges on, which may also have been choss but if it isn't....only actually checked out one of them and it looked okay.


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