Friday, October 21, 2016

Curved Gully Ridge Carrauntoohil..Again

Gerry Christie
I'm in danger of getting really familiar with Curved Gully Ridge on Carrauntoohil. It is my favourite technical way up the mountain and offers a challenging and interesting climb that has some tough steps and when the conditions are perfect (like a couple of weeks ago) it offers some exhilarating sections on good rock. Today I went with the doyen of Kerry Mountain Rescue Team...Gerry Christie who had never been to the summit via this route. The conditions weren't bad per say but after being spoiled the last time out today the rock didn't have that really grippy feel but it was okay and I didn't feel too jittery on it. It's always nice to bring someone new out on a route they haven't done before but it also something of a responsibility but we progressed well and safely. Gerry I think was surprised at how tricky some spots were but overall I think he enjoyed himself and I hope he got a sense of achievement after performing so well on the climb. The cloud stayed down to below the start of the route so no pictures were taken but it was a very atmospheric outing and I often think the exposure can seem all the greater when you can't see the bottom of some of the drops. We were two hours on the route and after a bite to eat on the summit we descended the Heavenly Gates and then The Ramp (which I hadn't been on for nearly 10 years). He is a lively auld bugger and I struggled to keep up to him on the way out but it was a good workout.

Ready for the off...
View from The Gates

Heading down the ramp.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rock-climbing at An t'Sáis near Mount Brandon

After having so much fun climbing on Carrauntoohil on Sunday and with nice weather being forecast, I persuaded Frank to take a day off work and we headed back to An t'Sáis (The Trap...I refuse to call it Sauce Creek like on the Ordnance Survey map) to have a look at a crag that has caught my eye every time I have walked around this most wonderful of places. It resembles a huge sunken coum and drops precipitously in a semi circle for 1200ft to the ocean below. To the best of my knowledge it is virgin rock and I can find no record of anyone climbing it and there isn't any mention of it in the database on so there was a good chance that anything we might climb would be a first ascent. I must confess to some nerves as we headed up across the boggy ground towards the rim of the coum and I was just hoping that I would find something to have a go at within my (very) limited climbing abilities and also hoping that I wouldn't climb myself into trouble. Basically it was something of an unknown.

Nice morning for it

Frank was keen

Getting ready

Going down for a look
Reaching the rim and looking across at the crag I was filled with doubt but resolved to at least go and have a look. Frank is great that way and would put no pressure on me to give anything a go that I didn't fancy. At the top a nice big block of rock made an ideal anchor and I set up a 50mtr rope for an abseil down into the gully so we could have a closer look. Reaching the end of the rope in the grassy gully I was delighted to see that although it was fairly steep there appeared to be at least a couple of lines that I could reasonably give a go. We were on. Frank joined me and I donned the rock shoes and geared up and soon I was ready for the off. Oh my goodness but what a joy the rock was. Soft super grippy sandstone with plenty of good holds and foot placements meant that it was immediately a pure pleasure to climb. It was quite easy and I was making rapid progress. I went up wide split in the face of the rock and after perhaps 10 mtrs I reached a ledge which gave an easy exit to the right. I traversed right for four or five meters and then took a bolder line directly up to a niche in the skyline. This was a little steeper but there was good protection and again that delightful rock made for safe progress. After the niche the angle eased back and I scrambled on for another 10 or 12 meters to a delightful belay where, once sorted, I sat and brought Frank up and enjoyed the sensational position. Across the coum Masatiompan rose at the end of the Brandon ridge and the spectacular tops went all the way to Brandon Peak. As if that wasn't enough, I was sitting at the edge of a sheer 80mtr rockface and then another 300mtrs of very steep ground dropped to the blue sea where Gannets looked very small as they fished for whatever swam in the deep.
Steep but looks like there are lots of options

Starting up Route 1


Well under way on Route 2

The big smile that Frank wore as he reached me said volumes about how much he was enjoying himself. The route was approx 35 meters and we reckoned it should be graded at VDiff. We were able to easily cross to the abseil rope and we returned back down to do some more. This time I eyed a line to left of the split and I set off. It was also a delight and perhaps slightly more sustained in nature but equally supplied with good holds and protection. I continued up at an oblique angle to a corner in the skyline near the edge of the rock face. Once again when I climbed through the right edge of the corner the angle eased and I soon set up another belay and once again enjoyed my surroundings as I brought Frank up. This route was approx 30mtrs and again we reckoned that it went at Hard VDiff. We returned back down and this time I decided to try the crest of the arret that formed the edge of the face. It meant that we had to drop a further 10 mtrs down the gully to the base of arret. This time I stuck faithfully to the crest of the ridge and it provided a steep sustained climb for a full 40 mtrs and was an interesting delightful and exposed Severe*** climb. It was thrilling throughout and in the few places that some smearing on the rock was needed there always seemed to follow beautiful juggy holds which allowed progress even when the last bit of gear was a few meters further below than I would have liked. Just when it was most needed good gear was to be found so the stress levels never got too high. Frank followed on and we decided that if I was to make my train in Tralee that we had better leave. We were delighted and thrilled with our day. Three new routes and the best saved for last.
The bottom of Route 3

The upper section of Route 3
Lovely interesting climbing on great rock

Route 1(Red) I called Playing it Safe and is 35mtrs VDiff.
Route 2(Blue) I called Reach for the Sky and I reckon is Hard VDiff.
Route 3(Green) I called Edge of Heaven and is 40mtrs and is Severe***.

 On the first couple of routes there was some loose rock and care had to be taken but the arret was better. It was such a thrill to find somewhere new to climb (at least for us) and hopefully I will get the opportunity to return in the future and perhaps find some more lines on this most wonderful bit of rock. I didn't even look around the corner but I'm sure there is more to be discovered. Two smashing days in less than a week. Thanks Frank.