Good Times Keep on Rollin' at Luggala

(by John Duignan, April 2010)
A Luggala climbing diary.

18 April

It was crowded at Luggala – I could see below Gerry G and Sé starting Temptation; Terry was about; Naomi & crew were on H Buttress climbing something sheer; Rob and Alan McD were gliding up Left Climb Direct.

Earlier as we approached over Fancy Hill, Nature was making way for these revellers. Herds of deer peered curiously at us and then bounded away, silhouetted against the morning sun. On the descent path a screeching Peregrine circled H Buttress, drawing us from its nest, well hidden on the far side of the Main Face. A billy goat with a young kid nimbly ambled along Conifer Terrace as we teetered with care on the dewy grass.

We start with Pentax, one of the climbs Steve Young put up and still remembers favourably. Barry Denton was on his second visit to Luggala and danced up its slabs and corner-climbing. The traverse under the large roof with the view down over crag and the Guinness Estate’s manicured gardens by the lake and across to the Spearhead steparound was the finest part of the climb. The climb is an easy touch at Luggala, VS 4b compared to its neighbour Clingon / Claidheamh Solais (VS 4c full-on along most of its crux pitch), but shares many of its joys – clean slab climbing in a stunning situation.

Crevasse Route (VS 4c crux pitch) on South Buttress was our second choice. The first two pitches were a nightmare of dying vegetation – avoid them by taking the Muskrat Ramble start – but the final pitch made it worthwhile; Luggala VS climbing at its best with 32 metres of constant interest and great fun imagining some of the possible gear placements. If Heineken did climbs …

Going home across the now silent hills, the deer drifted back to reclaim their own.

This picture was taken by Steve Young on the first ascent of Pisces in 1973.
The final pitch of Pentax is in the same territory.

25 April

Back at the crag this weekend with Gerry Galligan aka Captain Heelhook. We are met with a cold wind across the lake and silence other than the warning screech of the Peregrine on our approach. Is it nesting over beyond H Buttress or trying to distract us from its nest?

Twenty feet up the first pitch of Muskrat Ramble my head just isn’t right. The next thirty feet seem equally bare of gear and the moves on the lichenous slab delicate. I’m cold and the voices in my head start up …

Moving across to another climb we pass Left Side Climb Direct. Warmed up from Muskrat, the grunty start goes easily but is followed by a lot of thrashing about on the first ramp. Rob Madden, kind soul, has generously left a Cam in place at 15 feet – perfect! The upper section of the pitch lies back and the gear is great. This 5b well-protected pitch seems much easier than the run-out 4b Muskrat start. A stunning traverse follows, past the remnants of a seriously large Raven’s nest to a hanging belay with great views of the Face. Gerry bridges and laybacks up next pitch beautifully. If this climb was at Glendalough, it would be polished and much visited.

Captain Heelhook on Raven’s Nest traverse pitch of Left Side Climb

Gerry Galligan bridging the start of the third pitch of Left Side Climb

Lunch in style at Conifer Terrace; Gerry cleverly left a bag here for a midday break. We admire his newly-cleaned final pitch of Taktix and I listen to his tales of Indian adventures. The wind is picking up and I wonder what difference it will make on the exposed route to the top of the crag.

Squawk looks an unlikely Hard Severe with its overhanging corner finish. First pitch is an easy slab moving onto a vegetated ledge with a poorly-protected belay site. The final corner – even with cold hands – is a gem with stunning holds and unlikely foot placements coming into play. Misty rain rolls in as we make our way off the climb. We laugh at our good fortune. A longer-than-usual walk out after losing the path in the mist can’t dampen our spirts at another great Luggala day. It feels more like an alpine day than cragging. Enjoy it before the midsummer midgies take over!