(by John Duignan, September 2012)
"Two years ago, halfway up Royal Arches, a climb in Yosemite that I wanted for years, I found myself daydreaming of Luggala! This beautiful crag is at its best now and in Spring. It dries quickly after a few good days and gives ample reward for the effort of visiting it. Just do it!"
Luggala in Autumn
Climbing this time of year is spectacular but two days I’ll treasure. Early September Christy Rice visits the crag with me. I try and keep silent and just listen to the flow of memories flood back for Christy. 40 years ago, he was amongst a climbing elite, although he is too modest to mention it. He recalls bivvying at the base of the crag and shows me the logbook he found there recently – still legible after all this time. We start on Taktix, a Dónal Ó Murchú / Jim Butler route that he enjoys. (Heresy here – but it is far more exciting than its three-star neighbour Pine Tree Buttress – especially with the final pitch added by Gerry Galligan last year.)
Christy Rice on Taktix
The third pitch, the ramp, is laced with abandoned gear that heads off into Pine Tree Buttress route …
The Ramp pitch – Pine Tree / Taktix
Christy changes to Pine Tree to get back the gear. The route veers right below a crack (see photo) and is a place where climbers can get lost. This is the second time in a year I have found gear where a party abbed abandoning the climb.
Christy at Pine Tree Buttress crux
It’s great to share time with Christy. He looks to the future and sees new lines everwhere. I am fascinated by his tales of the past. I tell him my favourite climb and ask him does he know it. He grins at me boyishly and recalls that he put it up. Pope John Paul, Reinhold Messner, make room on my mantelshelf for a new hero.
Back again this weekend with my niece Anne Marie. It’s been raining a lot this week and a bitter cold day at the car as we start the boggy tramp across the hill to the crag. The Luggala magic holds up as we descend to the crag, the wind drops and the sun warms us for the rest of the day.
Goats under the Roof at Luggala
Moving across Pine Tree Terrace, Anne Marie looks up at the roof – a breathtaking sight when first seen. I equally am in wonder at the billy goat with his mates at the start of the climb – I last saw him years ago at this exact place. He is ancient with magnificent horns and a fine goatee. The first pitch of Clingon / Claideamh Solais is easy and leads to a hanging belay with a stunning view of the pitch above and the manicured Guinness estate and Lough Tay below. The only sounds we will hear are the raven or peregrine. The pitch above is a mixture of rockovers, face climbing and laybacks on pristine granite.
Clingon / Claidheamh Solais – immaculate granite under the roof
The final pitch wends its way through a crack in the roof. To our right is Spearhead where Deacon and Richardson first found a way through the roof in the 1950s. This rock holds many personal memories of outstanding trips – great companions, near-epics; but never a bad ending.
Anne Marie coming through the roof at Luggala
To stay in the evening sunshine, we head over to H Buttress and enjoy a short multi-pitch route of the early explorers Perrott and Kenny, Boulder Wall. Chockstones and thread protection are beautiful reminders of the past. Nearby, Bearcats looks a fantastic line for our next visit.
Thread protection on Boulder Wall
I realised how smitten I was two years ago. Halfway up Royal Arches, a climb in Yosemite that I wanted for years, I found myself daydreaming of Luggala!
I am indebted to Gerry Moss, who has introduced so many climbers over the years to Luggala. The guidebook alone can be confusing, yet a few visits will quickly orientate you. This beautiful crag is at its best now and in Spring. It dries quickly after a few good days and gives ample reward for the effort of visiting it. Just do it!