Sunday, February 15, 2015

Curved Gully Carrauntoohil.

Yesterday I went back once again to The Reeks in the hope of having a winter climb. The wonderful winter conditions of the previous couple of weeks were gone and a thaw had no doubt done its worst by now. I reckoned that the gullies would still be holding a fair bit of snow so I hoped that I might get to experience a decent winter outing. I had hoped that there would have been a frost overnight but it was a balmy seven degrees as I drove back. A little cloud covered the tops as I left the car and there was no need to walk in anything other than a baselayer so I felt a bit foolish carrying two axes, some rope and crampons but I reckoned that the heavier bag would be good training for my upcoming trip to Scotland. It was pretty clear that there was still a fair bit of snow about but I didn't doubt that it would be sugary and soft. Ah well the perfect winter conditions couldn't last forever and at least I would get a day in the mountains. I decided to have a look at Curved Gully which gives a very nice atmospheric Grade 1 winter route right to the summit of Carrauntoohil.
The lower slopes of Curved,..totally full.

 By the time I reached the second level of Coumeenoughter it was plain to see that there was still copious amounts of snow in the gully and that it was still completely banked out. I could also see that there was a party in front of me so at least there would be some steps to follow. Upon reaching the gully my worst fears weren't realised and the snow wasn't as soft as I feared. There was no need for crampons but I did use one axe which plunged in and through the snow a bit too easily. The gully is initially narrow before swinging around to the left in open ground and once again becomes narrow all the way to the top. It lays back at about 35 degrees with occasional sections maybe five degrees steeper. In leaner conditions it can have some nice icy steps and the bottom section becomes much more tricky but today it was a homogeneous snow slope. Progress was easy and it was like climbing steps of a stairs but it was still nice to be in what looked rather than felt a winter environment.
Looking down from the narrow upper section.

Soft and warm it may be but its still great to be here. 

 Upon reaching the summit the cloud still hung about so there was no view to be enjoyed. I rested awhile and set off towards Maolan Bui or The Bone. This added a further 400 meters of ascent to the day as I had to go over Cnoc na Toinne and Cnoc na Cuillan before reaching the bone. It is fair to say that I was tired by the time I got there and the heavier boots and bag and perhaps my lack of good living etc were showing. I dropped easily down the long spur and back to my car. Perhaps the next mountain I will set foot on will be in Scotland.
Back down enjoying spring sunshine. Benkeeragh still looking a bit wintry