Saturday, November 16, 2019

Carrauntoohil...Easy Winter Climbing...Curve Gully and the Grey Area

A cold snap and a reasonable snow fall on the mountains was enough to tempt me to rise early and head back to The Reeks in the hope of getting some winter climbing done. I shook the dust off the ice axes and shoved the crampons into the bag and headed west. It was a lovely morning. Perhaps not as cold as I had hoped as the temperature hovering just above zero while I drove in the dark towards Killarney. Still as long as there wasn't a huge thaw wintry conditions should be found on high. It was a beautiful dawn. First the sky turned red and once I was beyond the town the first rays of sun hit the snow clad mountain tops and it was indescribably beautiful. The early start was worth the effort just to witness this sight. As I drove in towards Cronin's Yard the view into the Hags Glen over the woods and then across the plain towards the Dingle Peninsula, which glowed pink in the morning sun, was also very special.
The Slieve Mish looking rosy

I parked my car and I was on the move at 08.20. It was calm and in the still air it wasn't too long before the gloves and hat came off. It is always a joy to regard the shapely peak of Carrauntoohil as you walk into the glen but today it was especially lovely with its dusting of snow down to below 700 metres. Indeed the full horseshoe was lovely and each route offered different adventures. Today I hoped to head up The Step which would offer a nice Grade2 outing so I headed up into Coumeenoughter. As I got nearer the mountain it became clear that the amount of snow down below 750 metres was pretty sparse and nothing in the way of ice was in evidence. When I reached the second level it was clear that The Step was not in condition and neither was the bottom section of Curve Gully so I continued on to the third level. Here thankfully things felt and looked more wintry and I headed up towards the upper section of Curve. The Grey Area looked properly snowed and rimed up so I decided to include that in my day as well. Before I entered the gully I put on the crampons and got the axes out and I must say it felt great to be getting a proper taste of winter.
Inviting or what?
Not exactly plastered

The second level

The upper part of Curve
The gully was nicely snow covered but not banked out and a little ice and firm snow coupled with turf that held the axe nicely made it a delight to climb. It was pretty straightforward though so I decided after rising sixty or seventy metres to break out and up to the left and climb the remainder of the way to the summit in the Grey Area. Exiting the gully provided perhaps thirty or so metres of wonderful interesting fun Grade 2 climbing. Nice firm turf made for secure axe placements and plenty of rime and frozen snow made it a joy to climb. Once above this the going averages about 45 degrees and some nice rocky spurs gave some nice mixed climbing. All too soon the summit arrived and I relaxed awhile in the calm weather and enjoyed the wonderful views in the odd light that winter can sometimes provide. Once I stopped climbing I realized that I was actually quite tired so I decided to descend via the Devils Ladder. It must be a couple of years since I last went down this way and I enjoyed it. It was ice and snow free so the going was easy. I sat at the bottom and enjoyed my lunch and savoured the magnificence of my surroundings. Back to the car about five hours after I set off and I was well satisfied with my morning. Here's hoping for more chances to get the hardware out this winter.. 
Quite steep in the Grey Area

Amazing views in all directions

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Hags Glen Horseshoe..One of Kerry's Finest

On Friday November 8th I went back to the Reeks to enjoy a big mountain day. There was a frost early doors and the forecast was set fair for the rest of the day so I was really looking forward to my hike as I left the carpark at Lisliebane at 09.20. It was a stunning morning with no wind and blue skies framing the beautiful ridge-line. I decided to do the horseshoe in an anti-clockwise direction so the first job was to get to the top of the spur that curves down from Knockbrinnea. There is no easy way up and I decided to bite the bullet and take a direct line up the steep heathery slope. The 400 metre height gain certainly got the blood flowing and the presence of some midges ensured that I stayed moving until I gained the crest of the shoulder. Once there the angle eases and a puff of breeze got rid of the midges and I relaxed into the climb. The views got better and better as the autumn colours of rust and reds blanketing the lower lands gave stiff competition to the beautiful East Reeks and much much more. Once I reached the summit of Knockbrinnea the 854 metre summit afforded wonderful views in all directions but Carrauntoohil looked especially gnarly and wonderful. In places from here to the summit of Beenkeragh some care was required as the occasional rock was still covered in verglas. I descended on the Coumeenoughter side to the ridge and it was pretty straightforward after that. I was surprised to see that there were still plenty of people heading to Carrauntoohil even though it was a Friday morning in the middle of November. The climb to the roof of Ireland passed quickly and it was a delight to pause for some chocolate and enjoy the wonderful views in the crisp windless day. As I still had a fair way to go I wasted no time in heading for Cnoc na Tionne.
Towards Caherconree and Bartregaum

Knockbrinnea views


This is one of my favorite spots in the range as it affords super views to both the Black Valley and Brida Valley and the 3000 footers look large and exciting and promise more adventure. I continued to Cnoc an Cuillan where I enjoyed lunch and watched some showers creep in from the west. The Bone and Cnoc na Peiste came next before the exhilarating crossing of the ridge all the way to Cruach Mhor. By now some wet snow had arrived but it only added to the mountain feel of the day. The descent was long yet swift all the way to the bridge over the Gaddagh and the ensueing 40 metre climb to the Lisliebane trail felt hard on my tired legs. I arrived at the car at 15.40 so it had taken me 6 hours 20 minutes to cover the 15 kilometres and 1650 meters ascent. It was a superb day out in an inspiring and beautiful place.

A bit of weather on the way
Towards Mangerton
The Big Gun and Cruach Mhor

Finally a shout out to the guy who was getting ready to enter the glen when I came back to the car. He was going to camp up high until Sunday and planned to climb some seriously steep gullies and ridges. I hope he got something done as the weather was at times very wet and a little wild. I have the feeling that being wet and cold in those long dark evenings and nights would have been a bit grim. Hard core.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Crohane and the Cappagh Glen..The Quieter Side of Killarney

Bank holiday Monday and good weather made the decision to head to the mountains but I wasn't keen to brave the hosts that converge on The Reeks on such days. I had thought to head instead to the Horses Glen and Mangerton but as I drove towards Glenflesk the bulk of Crohane loomed behind and it looked wonderful in its autumn hues. It was just too nice to pass up so I turned and drove on the excellent private road that runs alongside Lough Guitane and at its end I parked up and headed into the wild.

After walking in through a couple of grass paddocks I headed into the band of woodland and climbed due east up the slopes to the shoulder of Crohane. Not that Crohane is the only show in town. The diminutive but wonderful Bennaunmore with its deep glens on either side is a joy to behold and nearby the rugged steep slopes that rise towards Stoompa also attracts the eye. The last time I was in this neck of the woods was when I went on the multi day hike from Millstreet to Knocklomena in mid September. Then I traversed  from Glenflesk over Crohane and Bennaunmore before enjoying a delightful wild camp in the Cappagh Glen. It was nice to reminisce on that trip and it took my mind off the rigours of the near 600 metre pull to the summit. Once I reached the shoulder I could see down to Glenflesk and the long pull towards The Paps and more memories returned. Crohane is one of my favourite summits. It is hard to give a really solid reason for this but despite the fact that it barely reaches 650 metres, perhaps it is the combination of how good it looks from afar, its compact and airy summit and of course the wonderful views all around. Whatever the reason the fact remains that I have always enjoyed every visit and I hope to for a long time yet.
Towards Glenflesk and The Paps

I reached the top which was being buffeted by a stiff very chill breeze which yelled that winter was just around the corner and told me not to linger. I was feeling great and made short work of the descent and the rather boggy traverse to the top of the subsidiary SW Top. A steep drop to the narrow valley that holds Loughs Nabroda and Crohane before I tackled the steep 200 metre climb to the airy top of Bennaunmore (454 mtrs). Despite its modest height this is a wonderful mountain guarded by steep rocky ground and even though you are not that far from Killarney you feel really removed from it all. I dropped down the boggy ground and entered the magical Cappagh Glen where some lunch went down a treat before the short journey back to the car. Even though I had only cover 10 kilometres and climbed 850 metres I really felt that I had had a proper mountain day out. To top it all I hadn't seen another soul all day but then again it would have been a surprise if I shussshhh..don't tell anyone.