Rock Climbing In Ireland – Where to Start?

You have been climbing indoors in a bouldering gym or on ropes in a top rope scenarios but you would like to move outdoors? Or you have climbed on sports routes but have little experience placing traditional climbing protection and building safe anchor systems?

This blog will answer all the fundamental questions regarding getting started outdoors, the equipment required, the most suitable venues for beginners and the path to independence.

Glendalough Valley

Rock climbing, bouldering, sports climbing and indoor gym climbing has seen an explosion of interest over the last few years due to movies like Free Sole, the inclusion of climbing in the Olympics, Instagram posts and the proliferation of climbing gyms opening.

The question for most folks that are interested in climbing in Ireland is how to start, with whom, what equipment is required and where to climb?

The goal of this blog is to answer the many questions I have received over the years from those new to outdoor climbing and eager to progress. I will try to be as comprehensive as possible but if I miss anything please pop me an email and and I will be happy to help where possible.

Climbing in Wicklow

Where to Start?

The biggest entry point to rock climbing in Ireland is through the Universities, Colleges and third level education mountaineering clubs. Each year these clubs can see hundreds of people signing up for participation during the freshers week. The clubs generally consist of experienced climbers of all levels that are keen to share knowledge and time on rock with new participants.

Some of the mountaineering clubs are fortunate to have access to a climbing gym on campus but some will travel to their local indoor climbing venue. This enables beginners to learn the basics of climbing indoors before transitioning outside

If you are in a University, College or a similar education facility then the entry point to climbing can be quite obvious and easy to access.

But for those that do not have access to the above clubs then there are many different entry points to the activity.

The next most popular entry point to climbing outdoors is through a local climbing or mountaineering club.

You can find a list of your local climbing club via the Mountaineering Ireland Club Page.

The availability of a mountaineering club in your geographical area is largely dependent upon the population, availability of climbing and the historic strength of climbing in that area.

Most mountaineering clubs will have a training officer or members officer that you can reach out to regarding joining the club. Quite often these clubs will have introduction meets for new members at the start of the year indoor before transitioning outdoors. This enables the clubs to gauge the level of experience of new members and introduces them to the club mentors.

Mountaineering clubs in Ireland for adults and children have seen a significant surge of interest over the recent years with some reaching their capacity for taking new members reached in February!

Each organisation or club will have it’s own method of introducing new members to the skills and experience required to become a safe, competent and enthusiastic climber. Some will have an in-house training schedule, some will use independent instructors while others will choose to use a mentoring systems.

The next most popular entry point to climbing outdoors in Ireland is through an instructor that is experienced, certified and knows the local rock climbing venues.

Generally speaking it can be quite easy to find an instructor these days with a quick Google search, a post on Irish Climbers on Facebook or contact Mountaineering Ireland and ask for advice. Depending on your geographical area you may have one or several to choose from.

The broader question here is how to choose the right instructor for your specific requirements?

There are two main methods for deciding, one is receiving recommendation from other climbers and the other is to check what level of certification they hold. Ideally a combination of both will result in the beginner climber finding the best fit for their specific needs.

Some instructor will have an overflow of positive reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook or similar while others that are equally experienced may not engage with reviews or social media but rather rely on worth of mouth.

Regarding understanding the certifications held by an instructor and how to find out this information the easiest method is to visit their website ‘About’ page and seek what specific certification they hold and how it relates to what you want to achieve.

The below may be useful in understanding the myriad of certifications, what they mean and where they can be practiced. The reference to Single Pitch generally means a route of one rope length where there is easy access to the bottom and top of the climb (beginner friendly) and Multipitch or sea cliff climbing where the approach / retreat may be more complex.

  • Beginner Bottom Rope / Top Rope Session Outdoors – Rock Climbing Instructor is the most common certification held for those running Intro session at a single pitch crag and is the recommended minimum instructional certification to look for in Ireland and the UK.
  • Intro to Lead Climbing – the RCI instructional certification enables the holder to lead traditionally protected routes at a single pitch crag while the novice climber can follow them and gain experience from removing the protection, understanding it’s placement and looking at anchor building. A holder of the Rock Climbing Development Instructor is certified to teach all aspect of lead climbing at a single pitch crag including having a suitable client lead an appropriate route. The Mountain and Climbing Instructor is certified to teach lead climbing on single and multipitch venues covering all aspects of leading in urban areas, mountainous environments and sea cliffs.

All holders of the above mentioned certifications achieve them by attending rigorous training, consolidation and assessment by Mountaineering Ireland and Mountain Training UK approved senior instructors.

If after visiting the instructors website there is any ambiguity regarding their certification then simply ask them or contact Mountaineering Ireland to seek clarification.

Ropes and Equipment

The next most popular questions is regarding the ropes and equipment required for one to move from being dependent upon a mentor or instructor to becoming independent.

In Ireland the majority of the rock climbing routes require a broad knowledge base of how to select, understand, use and place traditional protection and building various anchor systems depending on the scenario.

The below is a recommended list of required ropes and equipment for various scenarios.

Setting up a bottom or top rope in a single pitch venue (urban venue that has gorse trunks, trees or concrete stanctions) where trad protection is not required.

  • 30m static rope 10mm – 11mm
  • 60m single dynamic climbing rope 9.8mm – 10.5mm (50m can be used but is limited for lead climbing in certain situations)
  • 120cm slings x 2
  • 240cm sling x 1
  • 3 D-shaped carabiners for the slings
  • 2 HMS / Pear shaped carabiners for the powerpoint
  • 6mm cord x 1200cm long tied into a dedicated prussic cord – 120cm aramid sling – one D-shaped carabiner (this will be your personal safety set up when close to the edge).
  • Rope protectors – make your own.

Setting up a bottom or top rope in a single pitch venue where trad protection is required (same as above) but include.

I have used the DMM website for ease of use but there are many quality brands on the market, therefore go and have a good look in your local store or online shop.

The above should provide the equipment to set up a bottom or top rope in any single pitch venue in Ireland.

If considering a first time lead climbing rack I would advise the above and possibly the following.

  • Quickdraws 18cm – 20cm long x 14 (do not use sports climbing draws)
  • An additional 2 x 120cm dyneema slings and 4 wire gates carabines (two one colour and two another colour) to make extendable draws
  • Nut ket and wire gate carabiner

Over time the beginner climber will visit more venues, obtain more equipment and gain more experience.

An important caveat regarding setting up rope systems at a climbing venue. 

It is not cool or advisable to set up one or multiple bottom rope systems in a busy climbing venue and leave them in place for an extended period of time while they are not being used. If you set them up and have to leave then pull the rope up and leave them neatly flaked thereby allowing a lead climber to lead the route.

If you do have a rope in place and a climber approaches from the bottom the general rule it to let the lead climber climb though. Most climbers are polite and understanding but it is simply not best practice to block off routes for extended periods of time. This applies to beginners and instructors alike.

What Venue?

A natural follow up question is what are the best venues to climb at as a beginner?

Ideally a single pitch venue with easy access to the base and a nice walk-off from the top is best. This enables the novice outdoor climber the options of setting up various rope systems without the need to abseil into the venue or from the top of the venue.

Once again the climbers geographical area will often dictate which venues are chosen.

You can find a list of all climbing venues in Ireland on the website.

Important Access Information.

Often times when a novice outdoor climber visits a climbing venue they may be unaware that in many cases access was hard won and can be quite tenuous.

Regardless of one’s political or ideological beliefs, in Ireland we have no legal right to access land without the landowners permission. This means that every time a climber visits a venue they are representing not only themselves but the entire community. It is advisable to adhere to a strict leave no trace policy (including fires), be polite as you never know who you are talking to (if might just be the landowner), park considerately (do not block gates or park in areas of possible conflict – Ardbrugh Rd in Dalkey for example – there is a massive car park available) and try to build good relationships where possible.

Access is always hard won and is always easy to loose for good!

If unsure regarding access or best practice then reach out to local climbers before visiting or contact Helen Lawless at Mountaineering Ireland.

Learn to Lead Climb

Resources for Climbing

Useful Resources include the following.

Regarding sourcing equipment (try to support Irish Owned Stores).

When purchasing climbing ropes and equipment try to speak to someone that is a climber and knows how to use the equipment. Avoid purchasing second hard climbing ropes or equipment unless you know the individual selling them and can verify the integrity of the equipment.

If I have left any questions unanswered please email me at and I will modify this blog to include your query, if possible.

I hope this answers some of the many questions I receive and you found it useful.

Climbing in Ireland is such a special experience and I hope you have many memorable experience on rock.

Happy Climbing.

Intro to Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing can be a dangerous activity resulting in personal injury or death. Anyone reading this blog should be aware of this and are responsible for their own actions and involvement.