Mirror Wall is a climbing area on the west coast of Ireland
in county Clare
. It is the most impressive part of a climbable sea cliff that stretches for about 3/4 of a kilometre
along the coast between Fanore
. On an
map of the country the name of the entire area is Alladie
. Mirror Wall is the jewel in the crown.
The rock is limestone and as it faces the Atlantic, every winter storms clean the rock and remove any loose parts from the cliff. The rock is dry, it is solid, it is very steep and it is close to perfect for climbing on.
Mirror Wall is in the centre of the cliff. It's name stems from the fact that the wall is plumb vertical and at first glance seems devoid of features. From a distance its smooth, its mirror-like!
The wall is split by a number of thin cracks, ranging in width from just less than finger width to just larger than
fist width. The climbs on the wall ascend these cracks.
The base of the wall has been undercut by the sea and to begin the climbs you usually have to abseil down to the base
of the wall and belay whilst hanging on the rope. In some places it is possible to climb from the sea boulders below, but the climbing is 6b (that's solid 5.12 in American lingo) and quite a lot harder than the rest of the climbing on the wall. Most people opt for abseiling in and climbing out. There is a certain essence of purity in this. By abseiling to the water and climbing back up to the top of the cliff you abandon any pretence that the climbing is about getting anywhere. Climbing may have evolved as practice for ascending mountains. In this distilled form it is clear that the sole goal, the sole purpose is the climb and nothing but the climb. It is almost (but corporally not) abstract in its purity.
On Sunday last I followed a friend up a route on Mirror Wall, it was the first climb that I have ever done there, after waiting for some 10 years to become good enough to get up one of these climbs. The climb is called Virtual Image E4 6a, a sustained and impressive line, you ascent the unrelentingly steep face, moving up using sequence after sequence of finger locks and jams. It's so steep,
it's amazing, one of the best climbs that I have ever been on. It doesn't seem possible, there are no big ledges for your feet and so for the entire 35 meters of climbing your weight is on your fingers as you feel your muscles straining against gravity. To succeed on this climb you need to keep pushing on, and forget that you have any human limitations, you have to step outside of yourself and become a climbing machine and think not about the absurdity
of the situation you find yourself in.
The delight of the day was added to by the weather, perfect, and the climbing partner, an old friend.