Monday, January 8, 2018

Desperately Seeking Winter...Another Try For Some Climbing

Snow to 600mtrs on Thursday followed by decent frosts on Friday and Saturday nights and a decidedly chilly minus 5 last night 😎 meant I was quite hopeful that the north face of Carrauntoohil would offer some proper winter climbing. Unfortunately as is so often the case hereabouts by the time I was leaving the car at 9.15 at Lisliebane it was +1 degrees and cloud covered the mountains. The severe overnight frost had worked its magic on the turf which was hard and dry but it was obvious it was going to be a race against time to beat the thaw. Not that I was in much form for racing as I had come direct from work and for some reason I had decided that it was a good idea to bring a full winter bag including helmet, harness, some gear and two axes plus of course crampons.

Not much sign of winter

Looking down the start of Curve Gully. I sometimes find this area quite tricky

The exit out of the gully. Straight up just right of centre

It was steeper that I had initially thought..Bomber turf helped 😅
The cloud was down at 600mtrs and there wasn't a smidgen of the white stuff to be seen. It was also quite breezy and this confirmed as much as anything else that a change in the weather was well underway. I made my way up into the second level of Coumeenoughter and finally reached some snow here. I had thought "The Step" might have made a worthy outing but, what I could see of it through the mist showed that it was completely bare low down so I continued on to the base of Curve Gully. Some old snow remained here from the previous snowfall so I finally got the crampons on and got the axes in hand and set off up. A little ice umbrella at the first step made it an interesting start and the next higher step was  almost completely snow free so I went up the right wall and this offered nice Grade2 climbing for a few moves with nice frozen turf for the picks to bite into. Above that the conditions were rubbish all the way to the narrow upper half of the gully. Even here it wasn't great so after a short while I broke out left towards the Grey Area. An initial twenty metre section gave very nice climbing on crusty snow but some very nice frozen turf made things a bit more secure. This was top end Grade2 but it was over all too soon and after that it was a bit of a slog upwards and leftwards to reach more entertaining ground. This was a rocky ridge where a little rime ice and crusty snow. It was easy but fun and before I knew it I arrived at the turn back sign near the summit cross. The thaw hadn't reached here yet and the strong wind made it an easy decision to head down. I descended via the Heavenly Gates again and made my back to the car in the wind and light drizzle. Wintry it had been and I enjoyed the outing but it wasn't what I had hoped to find conditions wise. Still there is still hope and time to get more climbing done this winter...❆❆❆
Final ridge

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Paps of Danú from The City.

I hadn't intended to head to the hills today but with a nice overnight frost and clear blue skies promised for the day I had a change of heart and left home after 10am and headed west. I didn't have time to go as far as The Reeks so I went instead to The Paps of Danú near Rathmore. This being that bit nearer home meant I was leaving the car at "The City" at 10.40 and setting off across the frozen bog. The ground was mercifully frozen which made the long slog across the heathery boggy ground a little easier than it might have been but it was still long and a slog. Normally I climb The Paps as an out and back outing from Lough Glannafreaghaun but today I wanted to make the outing more of a horseshoe type so I headed diagonally towards Lough Nageeha from where I can the west top first. After three kilometres I reached the the spur that guards the northeast side of the lough and here I had to drop about 70mtrs to the lake. Now I was faced with a very steep350mtr climb to reach the west summit.
It would be horrid when not frozen..but it was :)

A bit of a drop down and a steep climb behind the lake

I actually like this type of climb as once you manage to keep a slow but steady pace you gain height quite quickly and this morning was no different. I did stop occasionally to admire the wonderful views towards The Reeks which were snow capped down to the 700mtr contour. A stiff chilly breeze swept the summit so after taking a few pictures I didn't delay before setting off down the gentle slopes to the col between the tops. Travel was easy in the frozen conditions and all that was left was to climb the remaining 100mtrs to the east top which soon passed. Again once I reached the summit I turned and dropped swiftly down the northern slopes and made as direct a line as I could toward my car. It wasn't exactly a mega outing, just shy of 9 kilometres and over 600 mtrs of climbing but it only too me 2hours 45mins and was thoroughly enjoyable. Four hours door to door meant I had time to relax at home. A win win 😀.
Wonderful views towards Lough Leane and The Reeks

Towards the East Summit

Friday, January 5, 2018

Purple Mountain and The Gap of Dunloe...Simple Joy

The East Reeks from Fossa
I went for a short outing on the hills today in the hope of getting some air into the lungs before a week of night-work. I wasn't expecting too much but it was a nice surprise to see a good dusting of snow covering the mountains down to around the 600mtr level as I drove back to Kerry. Things were looking promising weather wise as well so I found myself looking forward to the day immensely. I was pretty late leaving home so a big day wasn't really possible so I opted to climb Purple Mountain as this would offer great views (hopefully) and gives a reasonable workout. I parked my car at the bridge at the outlet of Black Lake and headed for the Chimneys. This gives a stiff 300mtr climb to start the day and soon cleared any cobwebs, but it also is the toughest part of the day and has the advantage of being done first and the expanding views are a good reason to stop and rest a while.
Once over the 400mtr contour the angle eases back and gentler slopes lead to Tomies North Top at 568mtrs. The views from here towards Tomies, Purple and across the chasm of the Gap towards The Reeks are always great but when the tops are capped in snow like today things looked pretty special indeed. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and the cold strong breeze only made things feel better.

 I reached the snow line as I started to climb the 200mtrs to the summit of Tomies and this made climbing the stony slopes a little tricky but it was soon past and I was being buffeted on the exposed summit. Now it was properly chilly so I put the head down and set off for Purple Mountain. It was exhilarating to be on the mountains today and all the more so as I seemed to have them all to myself. Once over the drag to Purple NE top all that remained was the final 140mtr climb to the long crest of Purple itself. Here the incomparable Black Valley came into view and seemed to beckon me on. I descended easily all the way to the Head of The Gap where I turned and walked the couple of miles back to my car. When the Gap is quiet like today it is always a joy to stroll through and it gave a gentle glorious end to the outing. Four wonderful hours spent in glorious surroundings. With a cold forecast for the next few days I hope to return real soon.