Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Hags Tooth--Beenkeragh to The Bone

The ridge to Beenkeragh from the Hags Tooth
Yesterday I went with Denis O'Brien for a climb on The Reeks. The weather has been utter rubbish this winter with storm after storm bringing wind and rain with only the occasional short cold snap bringing any snow which quickly disappears in the face of the next sweep of mild weather. So it is proving to be again this week but the forecast for yesterday wasn't too bad and with chilly temperatures in the offing as well we took the chance to gulp in some mountain air.
Approaching the Hags Tooth

Denis "Hot Hands" O'Brien

Denis is heading to Scotland next weekend for a winter mountaineering course so he was anxious to get a top up to his fitness and I have been carrying a knee injury since before Christmas which has prevented me running so I was looking to get a good days hiking in as well. We left Cronins Yard and set off in the chill breeze and we were pleased to see the dusting of snow down to around the 350 meter mark. Not what you would call winter conditions but this year we would accept it gratefully. We decided to head up the back of the Hags Tooth (or Stumpa an sTiamh in Irish) and follow the entertaining ridge to Beenkeragh summit and take things from there. Amazingly I have only been up behind the tooth once before and it was nice to see a slightly different perspective as we followed the stream up. We crossed the stream and climbed steep ground and reached the tiny little summit of the tooth. The wind wasn't too bad and we were able to stand in safety and enjoy our surroundings. On the remainder of the ridge we climbed or turned (whichever felt right in the snowy conditions) the various pinnacles up towards Beenkeragh. Denis took the opportunity to get in some "dry tooling" practice with the ice axes prior to Scotland. As we rose we were sometimes assaulted by hailstones and at times soft snow drifted around us. It made for a lovely ascent.
Nice and airy to the summit

In better weather the direct route on the ridge gives a great scramble

Carrauntoohil

Getting in some practice

Some steep scrambling

Looking back towards the East Reeks

From the top of Beenkerach we crossed the ridge to Carrauntoohil where we enjoyed our lunch. Once again we marveled at the ability of the wind to "find you" once you have settled down to eat. Our calm oasis was suddenly blasted by wind and snow and it made for a chilly change of clothes for Denis. We were in good spirits and we decided to continue along the range as far as The Bone. The pull up to Cnoc na Toinne is always a bit of a pain but once on the flat ridge it makes for a joyous passage. Here we were blasted by spindrift  but the views more than made up for that. Down again and the long pull to the top of Cnoc na Cuillin was dispatched and most of the climbing for the day was now behind us. We could see another squall heading our was along the Brida Valley and it wasn't long in reaching us. We headed along the ridge to our final top Maolan Bui or The Bone and descended easily back to our car. It had been a fine outing and gave another little taste of winter. Hopefully we will get a decent spell of cold weather soon.
Looking out the Hags Glen

West towards the Brida Valley