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Donegal to become a mecca for rock climbers

Owey 8

John McCune (top) scaling the infamous ‘Holy Jesus Wall’ on Owey Island. Pic: Craig Hiller/Hillerscapes.co.uk

By Cronan Scanlon

A YOUNG rock climbing instructor has blazed a trail for the adventure activity in Donegal after he became the first person ever to scale the little-known, but aptly named, ‘Holy Jesus Wall’ on Owey Island.

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Originally from Newry, County Down, John McCune (26) successfully climbed the difficult 80 metre (262 ft) overhanging granite cliff face three weeks ago.

Hidden away on the coast of the tiny island off Burtonport, this immaculate shield of red-golden granite has at long last been conqured.

And, as a result of an article about John’s conquest on www.ukclimbing.com, rock climbers from all over the world have now expressed an interest in following in his footsteps.

He says he has climbed big routes around the world, including the ‘north face’ of the Eiger in Switzerland, but the dramatic Irish coastline, and varying rock types, is always worth coming back for.

“Rock climbing in Donegal is incredible and very under rated,” said the mountaineering instructor and climbing guide who runs www.mccunemountaineering.co.uk

“Lots of climbers know about Owey Island, but no one had climbed the ‘Holy Jesus Wall’ before. I saw pictures of the cliff before, so I was curious to know why no one had climbed. It’s a overhanging cliff and very sheer, so I thought it would be a good hard objective.
“The Holy Jesus wall is a classic example of what climbing in Donegal offers – steep wild, exposed climbing in a stunning and remote setting.
“The great thing about it is that there are lots and lots of new routes to do and lots of unclimbed cliffs. There is a certain attraction to being the first.
“As a hard climber, its exciting to find a wall like it, that is so steep and sheer and barely looks possible. There’s a great challenge, both physical and mental in seeing if you can climb it without falling off.
“Its a beautiful bit of rock, that you could stare at for a long time. I saw it for the first time last summer, and thought about it for much of the year.”
John explains that rock climbing is “quite small” in Ireland but is becoming more popular, especially with international climbers.

“There’s definitely a lot of potential there in Ireland, and especially Donegal. I posted details of my Owey climb on www.ukclimbing.com and it got more than 13,000 views,” he said.

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See full report in today’s (Friday) print edition of the Donegal News

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