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.