Will Gadd and climbing guide Iain Miller trained their focus on climbing Ireland’s last big unclimbed sea stack, Chaos Stack, in July of 2019. Gadd breaks down some of the dangers of climbing sea stacks and discusses the novelty of climbing in Ireland.
How do the risk variables in sea stack climbing compare those you have to manage while ice climbing?
I’d like to think that I’ve got a pretty good handle on the hazards of ice climbing, but this ocean thing, it just catches you out a little bit. I used to do a little bit of surfing and spend some time on the sea, but I’m definitely not an ancient mariner. Fortunately, Iain had a pretty good handle on it.
Even if you’re like one hundred meters in from the ocean and you’re on a flat shelf, but you get a big swell, it can run across that shelf and take you off. So you have to always be thinking defensively about where you are. Then climbing, the rock is incredibly high quality on the lower half of these sea stacks. It’s just been battered by massive North Atlantic waves. But as you get up higher, it kind of falls apart a lot at the time.
What was sumitting the sea stacks like?
To me, desert towers, and icebergs, and sea stacks all share these really cool summits where you’re just surrounded by air. And I dig that.
Was it discouraging to see how many new routes are possible still to do there?
Yeah. You could spend a lifetime doing a new every day in there — and if that. Because of that political history in the Republic of Ireland, it doesn’t have much of a climbing history. But if that were actually in Britain, it would be world-famous. People would go there and go climbing a lot. Because Ireland was so divided and so difficult to understand politically for most people, it kept it out of the mainstream.
Watch the video from Gadd and Miller’s first ascent of Chaos Stack here.