Dalkey Quarry – a rock climbing guide for the first time visitor

Dalkey Quarry is a superb, convenient urban rock climbing venue situated on the outskirts of South Dublin with good access via private and public transport. It boasts over 300 trad routes on quarried granite from Diff to E8 6c ranging from a few meters in length to multipitch routes on Tower Ridge. Combine this with the incredible views of the Dublin City from a unique perspective and Dalkey Quarry is a must visit location for any visiting climber.

Grades: Vdiff  – HS

The first port of call for most climbers trying Dalkey for the first time is to try Yorkshire Pudding (HS 4b) and Paradise Lost (VD). Yorkshire Pudding is a linear slab crack with great gear and soft at the grade with the crux at the top. This is a justifiably popular route and introduces one to the East Quarry.

The anchor selection at the top of Yorkshire Pudding is a good example of what is generally available in Dalkey Quarry. The anchors are generally comprised of solid gorse bush trunks. This means that a good understanding of how to set up in-reach and out-of-reach belays is essential. There are no bolts anchors as it’s strictly trad ethics but there are several metal stakes in the quarry that are regularly used for anchors. As always it is best to use your own judgement and test/inspect all anchors before committing to them.

During a dry spell the route Honey Pot Crack (S 4a) is worthy of interest as its 2 meters to the right of Yorkshire Pudding and has ample protection.

Paradise Lost (VD) provides an nice introduction to the West Quarry. The base of the route is known as ‘Base Camp’ and a popular meeting point for climbers. Paradise Lost follows several large crack systems up a slab. The protection is quite good but not as ample as Yorkshire Pudding. The belay anchors are comprised of the standard gorse bush trunks but are quite a ways back.

Staying in the West Quarry if one ventures to Winder Slab it provides a more secluded area with a quality short slab crack ‘Winders Crack’ at VD. This takes ample protection and the belay anchors at the top are excellently placed (gorse bush tunks). Winders Crack suffers bad seepage therefore a period of dry weather is required.

If comfortable with multipitch climbing and using nuts/cams to build belay anchors why not take a trip up to the Upper Cliffs and hop on Tower Ridge (VD) 2 or 3 pitch route (there is no rush on this fantastic outing). Pitch one is poorly protected with a tricky move onto the slab where a brilliant belay can be created with nuts/cams.

The next pitch is an absolute gem and more reminiscent of an alpine ridge with easy climbing but wild exposure. The protection is good and it’s best to hand-rail on the left side of the ridge or you can do the ‘Cowboy’ but you loose points for style!

The third pitch (if you want to practice setting up belays) is good. One of the best outings in the quarry especially late during a Summer evening.

Grades: VS

Moving through the grades if VS is your bag there are lots of routes to put on your list. Why not start in the East Quarry with Street Fighter (VS 4c) a short route with good gear before committing to a ramp and crack which takes brilliant nuts. A good belay is available using gear.
If looking for something more involved and esoteric then try Joas (VS 4c). Starting on a slab, arrange  protection (large Cam v.useful) swing around and get involved in the off-width crack. This can seem easy or strenuous depending on attitude.

Moving into the West Quarry it is worth starting on Jameson 10 (VS 4b) as there are a few routes in this are worthy of attention. Jameson 10 starts up a series of broken ledges until one gains the ledge. From here there is good gear to be arranged before heading left up the crack. The belay is good. Getting back down from the top involves either a scramble to the North of the top-out, an abseil or a walk out South toward the main path from the car park. As always good judgement is required.
About 20m North will give good sport on Tramp (VS 4c) and Dirty Dick (VS 4b). Both are short and involved from the start requiring strength, determination and good gear placement skills. Big cam/s will provide peace of mind before topping out on The Tramp.

Winders Slab (VS 4b) is worthy of attention but poorly protected.
E-Route (VS 4b) is an interesting route with good protection but beware of rope-drag, possibly a good time to learn how and when to use extenders.
Mahjongg (VS 4c) receives lots of attention and rightly so but good and efficient gear placement is required.
Charleston Direct (VS 4c) is a variation on the excellent Charleston (HS 4b). Both routes are worth doing but don’t hang around in the corner for too long or the pump is nigh.
Pilaster (VS 4c) provides super climbing on the first few meters but there is zero protection till you reach the ledge, therefore if considering this treat it like a solo as this route has seen it’s fair share of ground falls.

There are a selection of VS routes on the Upper Cliffs the best being Helios (VS 4c) and Hyperion (VS 4c). Both routes are excellent but a cool head is required and a good eye for gear placement.

Grades: HVS

Staying on the Upper Cliffs provides a good intro to (possibly the best) HVS routes in the quarry. Beside the VS’s mentioned above resides In Absentia (HVS 5a), a brilliant and involved outing. Move up a series of sloping ledges and place protection before traversing out to the left and stepping onto a nose! Then arrange small wires and move up the headwall cautiously. A great belay awaits and the option to abseil or (easier) walk off is available.
Move around Tower Ridge and seek out Graham Crackers (HVS 5a), quite possibly the best HVS in the quarry. Move up a series of sloping ledges (sound familiar) and arrange protection before traversing out onto a nose (wild situation) and place protection before moving with grace up the wall placing pro as you go. A good belay is available using gear. This outing is made even better if you finish off via Tower Ridge second pitch (spectacular). Graham Crackers is an outstanding route but not to be underestimated.

Moving about 70m along the wall and you’ll find the start of Thrust (HVS 5a). This route can be done as a single pitch (good rope management essential using half ropes) or as a multipitch. Thrust provides a unique climbing experience in Dalkey and is highly recommended. The belay at the top is excellent.

Moving back to the Jameson 10 area, the route Superette (HVS 5a) is a cracking route providing yet another exciting traverse that requires a cool head and good gear placement.
Paul’s Edge (HVS 5a) on the Winder Slab is a serious route that is best regarded as a solo.
Gargoyle Groove (HVS 5b) is a brilliant and delicate route that runs up a shallow corner with difficulty before gaining a ledge, then move into the corner and prepare for the final mantle. The E1 (5b) finish to this route is brilliant. Instead of moving up into the corner towards the mantle, place protection in the roof and start traversing out left on a wild journey.
Further North you will find Blood Crack (HVS 5b). A difficult start (belayer position is important –  I’ll come back to this later) gains a massive ledge. Arrange protection here and levitate your way up the crack to a tricky finish.

Stereo – tentacles (HVS 5a) is a classic route in the East Quarry. It requires good placement of protection and sure-footedness. Due to the attention it receives it’s quite polished and possibly 5b rather than 5a!

Grades: E1 – E2

Transitioning onto  E1 – E2 routes gives some of the best climbing in the quarry, and as compared to some of the popular VS routes there are well protected.
Starting in the East Quarry and with The Shield (E2 5c). This is a belter of a route that receives lots of attention as the gear is brilliant. Start as for Streetfighter and arrange protection before questing right using a series of layback moves and jams. Superb protection is available but strength and a cool head is required to place it. The tricky sequence at the top (crux) is often escaped by climbing to the left using the cracks, a poor mans choice. The sequence that unlocks the crux is a mixture of fantastic and cunning jams. An outstanding route.
Further South at the base of Joas awaits two excellent yet different routes.
Blazing Saddles (E2 5c) is brilliant and the only drawback is that is doesn’t last for another 50m. Same start as for Joas and then trend out left and get involved in the crack. Athletic climbing with brilliant protection, but don’t count it over till you top out as the final moves can sap the remaining power reserves.
Right next door is the strenuous Smouldering Stirrups (E2 6a). This route has good protection but boy, it packs a punch and grunting is a prerequisite while attempting to top out.

The Ghost (E2 5b) is an outstanding route consisting of delicate bold slab climbing with a ‘do-not-fall’ final few meters.
The route has two options for getting into the niche. Option one is to move with ease to the ledge and traverse left placing good protection till you are forced to step up onto the slab and enter the niche. The more aesthetic approach (my opinion) is to traverse left and place good gear and then traverse back to where you gained the ledge. From here take a breath and step up onto the slab and start a magnificent traverse left towards the niche using tiny smears and edges.
On gaining the niche arrange protection and move up the niche and out right onto the slab (crux for most). Continue to traverse and pick out the small nut placements then levitate upwards and don’t fall. Cracking route.

There are a selection of superb slab lines here but the are bold with a capital B. The climbing is delicate, brilliant and technical.

To the right of Honeypot Crack there lies the Masochist (E3 6a), a brilliant finger-nail crack that is super delicate and well protected with small wires. Definitely worthy of attention. A word of note – excessive bottom roping of these delicate routes will affect them adversely; be mindful and considerate.

Over to the West Quarry starting from the Jameson 10 area, provides one with the temptation of Tom Tit (E2 6a). A route with good gear where required; a problem solving mind is useful and a gymnastic propensity. Did someone mention height…. not me!
The Gnasher (E2 6a) has a short strenuous few meters that require strength and non-faff. The top out is not great but the route is worth attempting for the first few meters of potential pump fest.
Bushmills (E1 5b) is quite possibly the first E1 most dedicated Dalkey climbers will climb. Starting in a corner, arrange good protection and move up strenuously with a positive attitude. Place protection before the crux (small bulge) and go get it. Another route where the lead climbers safety is occasionally compromised by poor belaying positioning!

The Upper Cliffs offer a good selection of routes in this grade bracket.
Frenzy (E1 5b) is situated at the very front of Tower Ridge. The protection is good but a can-do attitude is required for the crux moves to the big jug.
Tower Ridge Direct (E2 5c) is just left and comprises of the usual slopey ledges leading to a single finger crack with a horizontal break at half height. The protection is good (small cams and nuts) and while the climbing is short lived it’s a brilliant little route.
Central Buttress is the towering crag dominating the upper cliffs. It is host to numerous quality routes from E1 – E7. The route after the same name, Central Buttress (E1 5b) is a brilliant route winding it’s way through some improbable territory. The crux is the first few unprotected meters and there lies a large flake at mid height that is a tad worrying for both lead and belayer. Half ropes a prerequisite unless you have a masochist sensibility.

Practical Tips

Park at the Killiney Car Park rather than Ardbrugh road. There is ample parking at the car park. Parking on the Ardbrugh road antagonizes local residents unnecessarily.

If on foot you can get the Dart (train) to Dalkey and walk (15mins) to the quarry.

Equipment:
Single 50-60m rope will see you right for most routes. But half 50-60 is useful and necessary on some of the routes.
The majority of the protection is comprised of nuts/the odd hex/cams and the Dalkey tri-cam (size 3 Navy) for the boreholes.

Anchors:
Most routes have excellent anchors, using the large stable trunks of gorse bushes. Occasional belays will have to be built using protection or stakes. Use good judgement.

Dalkey in general has quite a high ‘ground-fall’ potential on quarried granite for those not used to the style or medium. Choose your routes wisely.

Several ground falls in Dalkey have been attributed to the belayer standing too far from the base of the crag (especially when nuts are used as the first and primary placement) and due to the angle of the rope the belayer ‘zip-lines’ the gear from bottom to top! Be aware of this.