Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gap of Dunloe and Purple mountain Dec 23rd

Leaving Kate Kearneys

All frozen and An Tarbh looking great

As we were in the middle of an historic freeze with a thaw due on the 26th I headed for Kerry for a chance to experience some winter climbing. I had intended doing the Coomloughra horseshoe in the Reeks but mindful of reports of deep unconsolidated powder I opted instead for a more leisurely walk through the Gap of Dunloe and an accent of Purple mountain. I arrived at the car park at 9.35 and incredibly I was the only person there. The morning was sunny with little breeze and I set off from the car in a bracing -10 frosty wonderland. There was surprisingly little snow underfoot(barely 3inchs) so the walk along the deserted road was easy. On any given day the scenery here is wonderful, today it was sublime. Everywhere was a winter wonderland of frozen lakes and snowy rocky mountains.

View back from the head of the gap

Sparkling highway

Considerable ice on an Tarbh

Temperature inversion in the Black Valley

Glas lough with Purple beyond

Towards Molls Gap
The walk through the Gap was over all too quickly and I turned left and made my way up the side of Purple through the powdery snow towards Glas lough. Progress was easy and the occasional deepish drift of snow was easily avoided. I soon arrived at the lough and the views back into the black valley and the Reeks was superb. The lake was of course well frozen and there were even some possibilities for some ice climbing on the far side. Past the lake the route turns sharply to the right and climbs steeply to the shoulder before the the relentless slog to the summit. I allowed myself the occasional stop for breath and photo opportunities and the top soon arrived. At the summit there was a stiff wind into the face. This ensured that I didn't tarry and headed quickly for Tomies. The two kilometer ridge was a joy and despite the bitter cold I was enjoying myself immensely. The views to the north showed the beautiful Dingle peninsula. To the east lay Mangerton, Crohane and the Paps and Lough Leane a steely blue before a smokey Killarney. To the left the view down into the frozen Gap always drew the eye. Again when I arrived at Tomies the biting wind forced me onwards to Tomies Rock and I chose to descend the north spur and thus back to Kates. So ended fourteen kilometers of winter walking where the only thing I saw on the whole outing was a grumbling Grouse.
The view east
The Reeks

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ice climbing in Kerry

A fantastic view towards the eastern Reeks

Keith and Niall

Having to sit indoors at work and look out at the wintry weather extend it's grip over Ireland I was determined not to miss the opportunity to climb the Lick on Carrauntoohil on Saturday. I arranged to climb with a Dubliner called Niall Currid and a local guy called Keith Wharton. A thaw arrived on Thursday and was still ongoing when we left the car at 9am. Most of the little snow that we got in the southwest had disappeared and a low cloud base increased the the sense that we were too late for the route to still be in condition. As we progressed  towards the first level we rose above the the cloud and emerged into brilliant sunshine. There was evidence of plenty of ice still clinging to the north face. When we arrived at the second level there was some frozen snow about and the turf was well frozen so we continued with more hope. We rounded the rock buttress and got our first view of the route.   

The Lick rises steeply towards the summit.

Belay on second last pitch
We suited and booted and I led up the first pitch. The ice was a little thin and as is normal on this route, protection was scarce. One sling and an ice screw was all I had before a good spike belay presented itself after about 45mtrs. The two boys followed on and thereafter leads alternated  between Niall and myself. Long run outs were the order of the day and only seven pitches were required to complete the route. Due to having the extra man on the rope and trying to root out decent belays we were quite slow and we didn't summit until after sunset. Still the stunning sunset over the temperature inversion and the surrounding snow covered mountains gave the scene an alpine feel. The exit from the route onto the summit ridge was particularly beautiful. We enjoyed a relaxed bite to eat in the gathering dark and a night descent back to the car. All in all a memorable day out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Curve gully Nov 27th.

Well I had my first snowy experience in the Reeks this winter. As a cold spell is underway I headed back to Kerry more in hope than expectation. There was a liberal dusting of snow down to about 250mtrs and the place was looking great. I decided to have a look at Curve gully.


Cnoc na Peiste

Gradually as I gained height the temperature dropped and the wind became more intense. Soon enough when I gained the third level there were clouds of spindrift being blown straight into my face. Real winter had arrived. I climbed quickly up to the second half of the gully and was hopeful that at this height (800mtrs) there would be some quality ice appearing. So I donned crampons and brought out the axe and headed up. Unfortunately things alternated between drifting powder and cruddy ice. Still the biting wind and cold (complete with hot aches) made it a genuine winter experience.

Summit cross
Looking up Curve gully
A quick lunch on top and i decided to have a look at thr Beenkeerach ridge. Things were looking great but the wind was problematical so I decided to decend O'Shea's gully instead. Progress was rapid and I enjoyed the decent and the wonderful views. Work unfortunately is in the way to further outings in the next five days, here's hoping the artic weather lasts until next weekend.
The Hags Tooth overlooks the Hags Glen

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hags Glen Horseshoe.

The Cnoc na Peiste ridge

After my recent trip to Scotland I decided to re-accuaint myself with the Reeks near Killarney. I did the Hags Glen horseshoe and threw in Caher for good measure. There was a brisk wind and fairly frequent showers about but on the walk itself I was lucky and was only pelted by hail a few times. I had wonderful views almost the whole time and so when I was finished in the gloom I was well satisfied with a good day. Eighteen kilometers and 1900mtrs plus of climbing.

Towards the Black valley

Cnoc dubh and the Brida valley

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scotland November 2010

Ben Lui

On pretty much a whim I headed to Scotland on Friday afternoon November 5th. Not being one to do things the easy way and wanting to avail of the free travel passes I had for train and ferry I went to Belfast by train and caught the late ferry to Stranraer. I arrived at 01.30 and had to wait until 07.10 for a train to Glasgow. A further two hour wait ensued until i got the wonderful west highland train to Tyndrum. I arrived at 14.15 and checked into the By the Way hostel for a few nights. This is a fabulous hostel and I would highly recommend a visit. As it had been a long 24 hours of travel and doing nothing I immediately ditched my bags and set off on a short climb of the hill behind the village. This involved a steep pull onto the shoulder of Creag Bhan Eigheach and a gentle climb onto Meall Buidhe at 653mtrs. A steep drop back to the village followed in the gathering gloom and I was soon settled back in the hostel.

From Len Lui towards Ben Cruachan
Sunday promised to be a beautifull day but the forecast warned of bad weather arriving in the evening. I therefore decided to make an early start and was out on the trail before 7am. The plan today was to climb Ben Lui and if the weather looked good to do Beinn a Cleibh. Then if things were still ok to return over Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig. It was a beautiful crisp frosty morning and the long gentle walk to the base of Ben Lui on the good track was delightful. This approach shows Ben Lui and it's impressive corrie (Coire Goathach) at it's best. The first rays of sun lit it's flanks and gave the morning a distinct alpine flavour.
Arriving at the end of the track the climbing begins. A fairly steep pull brings you into the base of the corrie and you then climb right onto the broad ridge of Stob Garbh. The ever expanding views are great and to the north a dusting of snow can be seen on the summit of Ben Nevis. Ever upward and I was soon on the frozen summit. The views all around were superb with the eye favouring the Beautiful Ben Cruachan near Oban. As the weather was still playing ball I went onward to the uninspiring Beinn a Chleibh. I am really amazed that this has Munroe status as there is barely 150mtrs of accent involved in reaching it's broad summit. It seems to me that I have been on other "tops" elsewhere that are much more difficult to attain. Still a quick up and back bagged it and I made a long traverse of the southeastern slopes of Ben Lui to reach the saddle under Ben Oss. There followed a solid 350mtrs of a slog to the summit. By now the weather was showing signs of a change and cloud could be seen massing to the south. I headed quickly to Beinn Dubhchraig over undulating ground and climbed the 180mtrs to the top. A long descent followed along the Allt Coire Dubhchraig on a very boggy path to where I joined the West Highland Way back to the hostel. A good day with four Munro's, 1600mtrs of climbing and 24 kilometers long. It started to rain ten minutes after I arrived back.

Ben Oss
Beinn Dubhchraig

After a wet and windy night things hadn't improved by Monday morning. The wind blew horizontal sheets of rain up the valley from Crianlarich. Still I decided to get the first train to Bridge of Orchy and climb Ben Dorian. Snow was now lying to 400mtrs so I emerged from the train with every layer of clothes already on. The route starts from the station and follows the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into the corrie. While the weather was bad I was comfy in all the clothes and the further I got into the the corrie the more shelter was provided. The cloud was up at around 800mtrs. All was going well until I reached the bealach. Here I experienced the full fury of the wind and though I managed to get up to the 800mtr mark, by now further progress was proving impossible as I was being literally being blown backwards. I was also being blinded by spindrift which constantly covered my goggles. I therefore decided to turn back and retreated back to the train station. I then followed the West Highland Way back to Tyndrum and after a good shower and fresh clothes felt happy with the day and thoroughly invigorated.

Tuesday was a much more benign day. The snow from the previous couple of days was still lying to 600mtrs. As I was heading to Fort William that afternoon to join up with my friend Francis Jan Kluzniac I made an  early start and headed for Beinn Challuim. The route followed the West Highland Way until it enters Auchtertyre farm. From here access is gained to the open mountain. A broad gentle slope gradually rises and I soon entered the snowline. The saddle is broad until you reach a steepening under the south top and from here a  stiff 200mtrs sees one on this top. The views south towards Loch Lomond are superb and to the east the snowy vista continues.

The view east from Beinn Challuim

Beinn Challuim
A quick return to the valley floor and I got the 14.30 train into Fort William.

A very early start on Wednesday morning saw Frank and me leaving the North Face car park heading for Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. It was a frosty cloudless and wind free morning and the day promised much. We made steady progress and were above the CIC hut by dawn. A steep slog up around the Douglas Boulder and we headed right and our first steps onto the ridge proper. We had to don crampons straight away as although snow free the rocks were icy. We climbed steadily on good rock at an oblique angle and gained the ridge crest just before the first tower. the climbing was not difficult but was quite exposed.

Frank behind the CIC hut

The climbing before the first tower
Climbing the first tower

After the Great Tower

Well happy on Ben Nevis summit

Ever upward we made good progress and faithfully following the crest of the ridge we arrived under the great tower and the infamous eastern traverse. This was quite easy but we were not sure where to start the climb to the top of the great tower. We continued too far and climbed instead into the tower gap. This was seriously exposed and had some vertical steps. The rock and our axes were sticky from the cold.After the gap all the real difficulties were over and we continued easily to the summit. The day was glorious and Frank enjoyed his first time on top of Britain in sunshine with alpine views. After a well earned lunch we returned to the car and headed to town to quietly celebrate.

The long journey home began the following morning. The weather was once again wet and stormy and we were very happy to have done Tower Ridge in such perfect conditions the previous day.  All in all a good trip and I am already looking forward to the next time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Coomloughra Horseshoe October 14th

Slope up to Caher

I went to Kerry yesterday on a dull dreary but dry day to do the Coumloughra Horseshoe. This is one of the finest walks in the country and takes in the three highest peaks in Ireland. I started at midday. Though dry it was very dull. Still ,I was also using today to break in my new La Sportiva Nepal boots. The slog up the concrete road soon passed and I arrived at the lake. There were signs of improvement in the day by now and rays of sun could be seen breaking through the clouds. I chose to ascend Caher first. This is a long slog with little to recommend it but soon I found myself is brilliant sunshine. By the time I arrived at the east top the views across the coum towards Carrauntoohil were lovely.
From Caher towards Carrauntoohil

After a spot of lunch I headed along the airy ridge to Carrauntoohil. When I arrived on top I had the place to myself. The ridge across to Beenkearach was bristling up through the cloud. A fine scramble is to be had here by sticking to the skyline. The summit of Beenkearach was bathed in warm sun and I relaxed and took in the view for a full twenty minutes. The views across to Carrauntoohil and Caher constantly drew the eye. To the east the tops of An Garbh, Cnoc na Peiste, Maolan Bui and Cnoc na Cuillan poked through the sea of cloud.

Across the ridge towards Carrauntoohil

Eastern Reeks

Back to the gloom

Eventually I had to leave my eerie and I headed reluctantly down into the cloud. Upon entering the mist the temperature dropped a good six degrees. I continued along over the tops and came under the cloud and descended back to the lake. The contrast here between the brilliant sunshine of the summits and the gloom of my present surroundings couldn't have been greater. It made me appreciate what was on top all the more. I soon arrived back at the car, well satisfied with my day.Oh and the boots were excellent.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Thanks to the inclement weather causing delays to the start of the Ryder Cup I took the opportunity to head to Caherbarna. This provides a nice quick circuit of around 8kilometers and about 500mtrs of climbing. The morning was sunny and calm and I was starting from the car at 11am. A brisk pace saw me on top by 11.40 and enjoying the wonderful views back to Killarney.


The ground underfoot was quite wet after the recent heavy rain. I headed quickly across the plateau towards Gortavehy. The wind farm on the southern side of the expansive bog is an impressive sight. I'm not sure I like them but I suppose they are a necessary evil and more of them will be erected into the future. After a chat with a local farmer about the effects of last winter on his stock I continued on my way. I soon reached the descent ramp which leads easily down to the little lake under the the rugged cliffs of the northern slopes. A quick walk out the track and I was back at my car at 12.55. A short outing but it did clear the cobwebs and I was home for the resumption of action in the Ryder Cup.

View east towards home

Large windfarm

Rugged northern slopes

The view towards Killarney

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cloon horseshoe wildcamp

After a niggly chest infection and a month away from the mountains I decided to head for Kerry for a couple of days. The weather forecast was good so an overnight stay in the wild was called for. As I was still not fully recovered from a chest infection I decided to split the Cloon lake horseshoe into two days. A leisurely start to Saturday meant I didn't leave home until midday. I arrived at the lake outlet at 2pm on a glorious sunny afternoon which held a distinct nip in the air that hinted at the approaching winter. The walk starts along a good track that runs alongside the lake. All about the scenery was wonderful and wild. The bag was fairly heavy as I had brought the two man tent, self inflating mat and all the usual extras that are needed for two days on high. Progress was steady and I soon arrived at the end of the good track at an old farmstead ruin. Now I had to head onto the wild mountainside and and its difficult underfoot conditions. Wet rutted and rocky ground lay ahead until I gained a coll under Ballytrusk. From here some scrambling options presented themselves and I soon reached point 532mtrs. Easy ground and ever expanding views ensured that the top of the mountain soon arrived. This is unnamed on the map but I will call it Beast Hill as it has a height of 666mtrs. The view down into Coomura and across to Knockmoyle was spectacular. I took stock here and decided that south on the slopes of point 636 would make a good spot to set up camp.

So at five pm I set about getting my home for the night together. This was soon accomplished. I had a superb view over Lough Coomlougha and onto the Reeks. A short wander about to enjoy the superb cliffs on the east face of Knocknagantee and it was time for dinner. A culinary masterpiece of pasta and cheese sauce followed by coffee and biscuits went down a treat. By the time the wash up and other bits and bobs was done it was time to climb to point 636mtrs and enjoy a beautiful sunset. And so to bed.
A short spell of reading and I was ready for sleep. It is truly lovely to nod off to sleep and the only sound you can hear is the grumble of a grouse. A long and restful night followed and I rose, well rested at 7.30 the following morning. The clear skys of the night before had acquired a covering of cloud, but this was at 3000ft and didn't obscure the views and touched only the tops of the Reeks. A chilly breeze ensured that I didn't linger over breakfast and I was soon repacking everything up and ready for the day ahead.

Today's plan was to cross over Finnararagh and then on the wonderfully wild and rugged ridge and on to Mullaghanattin. The light was dull and the landscape had acquired a monochrome quality. I was feeling a little tight in the chest but a combination of walking and good old fashioned clear outs ensured that things improved. The rugged and wild nature of the terrain meant that time passed very quickly and I was soon climbing the steep slopes up to point 752mtrs above the Pocket. The top of Mullaghanattin soon followed and I then discovered that I had to retrace my steps to point 657mtrs and descended the broad spur, all the while enjoying the rugged scenery behind Lough Reagh and followed the Glasheengarriff stream back to the road and my car. All in all a lovely couple of days.