Monday, January 20, 2014

A Very Wintery Carrauntoohil

Yesterday I went back once again to Kerry for a day out with Frank. After a stellar weather day on Saturday it was something of a disappointment to be awoken by heavy rain. Driving to the train station it was only reading four degrees so it promised to be decidedly chilly on top and it didn't disappoint. Arriving in Killarney it was a relief to see that the rain had stopped (briefly) and after our usual coffees we decided to climb Carrauntoohil.
Arriving in Lisliebane we could see that there was snow lying to about six hundred meter. There had been precious little snow this winter and I was a bit shocked to realize that this would be my first time on snow since I was on the Pyrenees in June. Rain had started again by the time we set off so we were fully suited up from the start. As usual every day with Frank is a pleasure and soon the chat was flowing as we made our way easily into the "Hags Glen". Down here there was very little breeze and we were a tad warm in all the gear. Eventually we reached the snow line on the first level but there was no need for crampons or anything like that as everywhere was unfrozen and running with water. Still it was nice to once again be in a snowy landscape and the mountain scenery hereabouts is great. By the time we reached the third level there was a decent covering and the little lake was starting to freeze over. The long slog up "Brother O'Sheas Gully" is never nice but it eventually passed and when finally we emerged onto the ridge we were treated to the full blast of a strong wind which whipped horizontal spindrift like needles straight into our faces. We weren't complaining about being over dressed now. The 400 feet to the summit was a stinging buffeting freezing onslaught to the senses and I loved it. Now proper ice was starting to coat the rocks and occasional white out patches were experienced.
What . We have to go up there??

A wintery Carrauntoohil

Entering the third level Coumeenaughter

There was no question of us stopping for a bite to eat on the summit and we turned immediately down and headed for the "Heavenly Gates". On this side of the mountain there was a more comprehensive covering and the trail was hard to follow but I was just able to make out steps in the snow as I peered through the biting spindrift. Goggles would have been useful. One nice thing was that the snow made for more cushioned going and we made easy progress, that is until we lost the trail and found ourselves facing down towards steeper ground than we should have expected. We reasoned that we had gone too far to the left and that a rising traverse to our right should see us reach the broader slopes by the "Devils Ladder". We climbed up for a while but the easier ground wasn't materialising so I checked our altitude and I saw we were up at over 850 meters so were well above the level of where we should be. Out came the GPS and map and we realised that we were in fact on a rising traverse of Caher,oh dear. Nothing for it but to take a bearing due east and soon we were once again back on track, literally. The descent was uneventful thereafter, except for the fact that when we eventually did stop in a nice sheltered spot lower down to enjoy a bit to eat we were immediately treated to a resurgent wind in our faces and sleety snow. Unsurprisingly by the time I was down I was soaked through and through and therefore feeling the cold. I fear a new waterproof is called for. Still it was great to get a proper blast of the winter mountain experience and it was proof once again that familiarity is no guarantee of successful navigation in the mountains. I'm looking forward to further challenges ahead.
Always willing to pose for that photae