Sunday, September 18, 2016

Howling Ridge. Nice to get my hands back on some rock.

I've been pretty busy of late trying to finish a 23' by 11' shed at the end of the garden and all my free time has been taken up with that so I haven't had any chance to visit the mountains since I came back from Norway. Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel and I took off to Kerry for a day on The Reeks. I have been almost exclusively hiking this summer and I must say I miss doing some technical stuff so I opted to climb the classic Howling Ridge on Carrauntoohil so I could get my hands on some rock.

Always a great sight
I set off from Lisliebane at 09.45 in a lovely autumn morning with little wind and nice sunshine. Although there was some cloud on the summit there was little chance of rain and it promised to be a good day. My right knee is still giving me bother and I fear that I have added to the injury that is already there while on my trip to Norway. The flexibility is okay but some (pain seems too strong a word) ache is felt side and back on almost every step now but it isn't that bad and I'm able to walk without too much restriction. I fear it will be some time before I run again. Anyway I was in good form entering the Hags Glen and that first sight of the shapely peak of Carrauntoohil is always a joy. As I walked in I was trying to compare these mountains to those of Jotunheimen in Norway and as you might expect they are very different but although the Reeks are smaller they are no less beautiful and indeed they appeared far from small as they rose over 3000ft above the glen. As I looked up to the various glacial coums I tried to imagine tongues of ice spilling over the edges and envisage what they must have looked like thousands of years ago. It was a nice little mental exercise that passed the time but in truth it was like comparing apples to pears. Both are really tasty.
Approaching "The Finger"

Big drops

Looking back from "The Pinnacles"

Another thing that was obvious today was that I certainly wouldn't be alone. Two very large groups could be seen ahead as they enter the glen and long before I reached them I could get the waft of cologne on the breeze. Definitely not mountaineers then. It was nice to meet Donie Mulcahy and Denis O'Sullivan when I passed one group as they helped with the guiding of the group who were on a charity walk. When I entered the first level of Coumeenaughter I turned left and enjoyed some short little scrambles on the rocks as I headed towards the Heavenly Gates. I was moving well and it wasn't too long before I reached this wonderful spot on the mountain where Howling starts. As I approached the gates I could hear the tinkle of climbing hardware and it was no surprise to find a couple of guys getting roped up as they prepared to climb Howling as well. I wonder what they thought of me as I started soloing up the route. It is graded as VDiff but I know it pretty intimately by now and the climbing is never difficult. That isn't to say that I take it lightly or casually. A little nervous tension is no bad thing in a place where a mistake would undoubtedly be very very serious and it helps to ensure good concentration and careful movement up the route.

Back down below the cloud

Until the next time.
The climbing was a joy and it felt so good to just become engrossed in the simple childlike pleasure of finding good hand and foot placements and gaining height with every step. The rock was dry and warm and the atmosphere was only helped by come cloud that roiled down below as it swept in from the Devils Ladder. Unfortunately the fun ends all too soon and I had to slog the remaining 140mtrs to the summit where I had a rest and a bite to eat. The could had obscured any views but it was still a very pleasant place to be. I had to have a word with a teenage young fella as he started scratching his initials on a rock beside the cross and told him to stop and leave the mountain as he found it. He wasn't amused. I decided that I would head across to The Bone and descend from there. I met a multitude of people coming against me as I went down towards the ladder but once I started climbing Cnoc na Toinne I was once again in solitude. At the top I came across two guys who were trying to find the Zig Zags and once I set them on the path I continued on to Cnoc an Cuillin and then Maolán Buí. Unfortunately there was nothing in the way of a view to be had as the cloud now covered the entire ridge so I headed down The Bone. My knee protested a bit at the long descent and I find that I am a little slower and more timid with my foot placements which makes them less sure and I seem to slip a little easier but I got down relatively unscathed. Once back out near the car the sun re appeared and I basked in its warmth and reflected on what was a very enjoyable outing. I reached the car five hours after setting out and I was well pleased.