Saturday, December 29, 2012

A walk to clear the Christmas Cobwebs

The glorious Horses Glen
Today I went to Kerry for a hike on Mangerton. I was only looking for a short day as I was meeting Margaret in Killarney so Mangerton fit the bill. I set off on a pleasant crisp, blustery morning and opted to go into the Horses Glen and climb Mangerton North and take things from there. It had been a while since I had been here and it is one of the wildest and beautiful places in the country. Initially you have to cross some rough heathery boggy ground before the delights of the glen are revealed. Before I got to the turn into the glen I had a nasty fall while crossing a stream. I was sure I had done some damage to the fingers of my left hand but I was lucky and a couple of painful digits are my only problem, oh and the sizable swelling and cut on my shin, ouch. I suppose it serves me right for chuckling at Kevin when he had a slip on the Galtees a couple of days ago. Anyway I considered turning around for a few seconds and then continued on.

The cliffs starting to look a little wintry

Approaching Mangerton North

Always nice to see a little colour
My arrival into the glen was heralded by a few resounding claps of thunder and the weather took a turn for the worse. This is officially the wettest spot in this wet country and once again it lived up to its reputation. It didn't matter too much as I was pretty wet already from my close encounter with the stream and if anything it only added to the atmosphere. I was threading quite carefully as every rock was super slippy and seemed to want to sent me tumbling at the first opportunity. After a while I arrived at the point where the ground rises steeply up towards Mangerton North and here the rain turned to wet snow. This was an unexpected bonus and I was getting a proper taste of a winters day out. This was just what I needed to clear the head of any residual effect of the previous days excesses. Eventually the summit was reached after an interminable steep slog. Now the wind was quite vicious and coming at me from 10 o clock and it carried snow that hit like needles and ensured that my head stayed bowed as I progressed up. I realised that I didn't have sufficient time to get to the summit of Mangerton but I was a little relieved to turn my back to the wind and make my way down to the car. A little over three ours in total and a proper lungful of winter ensured I was well happy with the day. More to come hopefully if the winter ever truly arrives.

Rainbow over Lough Leane

I think some more weather on the way.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Hike On The Galtee Mountains

Always with the Munchies
After the horrendous weather of yesterday myself and Kevin postponed our hike until today. It proved a good decision as the weather was much better today. There was still a breeze blowing and the ground was saturated after all the rain but it felt great to be out and clearing the body and lungs after the usual excess of the Christmas. Indeed such was Kevin's excess that he left what he described as a one footer in the woods. He's a bear of a man. Well as you gathered our outings aren't exactly highbrow but it was much fun. It felt good to allow ourselves the luxury of walking instead of running the hills and it allowed the conversation to flow uninterrupted throughout.

Stay serious now

To much sugar

What a man

Who me!
We did the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe which goes over Galtymor, Galtybeg and Cush and gives a very satisfying 14K hike and 1200mtrs of ascent. We reverted to type a couple of times and ran down most of the way from Galtybeg towards Cush and enjoyed another run down some of Cush, because we could!. Much chat was done about future plans and aspirations. As of now we are aiming for a trip to the Alps in the summer but I have no doubt that we will have other adventures little and otherwise before then. I will keep you posted.
Summit pose

Typical Galtees

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Eastern Knockmealdowns Mountain Run

Last Saturday I met Kevin for a run on the Knockmealdown Mountains.  Kevin had a nice route picked out that was a good length and had lots of height gain, in other words very challenging but we wouldn't have it any other way.
As I had to work the afternoon shift it meant an early start to the day and I left home just after seven am and met Kevin in Tallow from where we headed to The Vee in the heart of the range. This meant that we would have a nice gentle run downhill to start  the day before we would join the East Munster Way trail after a few kilometers on the road. The plan was  to run the trail as far as the Liam Lynch Monument and then get onto the open mountain and climb over all the subsequent tops before descending to the car. This would be about 22K and involve around 1200mtrs of climbing. Not too bad for a winter Saturday morning. The weather was quite good as well. It was chilly and there was a fair breeze blowing as we left the car. The tops of the mountains had a blanket of cloud but it was dry so we had no excuse to grumble. We both  revelled in being out and the lovely views across the valley towards Slievenamon and the Comeraghs inspired and added to the great start to the day. The banter was good as we eased into the run.
Elvis or Travolta, you decide.

Soon we departed the tarmac and started down a good track that we hoped would connect with the trail. I was in front and once again the legendary McAuliffe route finding ability came to the fore and we took a wrong turn. I followed what seemed like a feasible trail uphill until it petered out and we had to enter a glen, cross a stream and up a short pull to join a forest road that we hoped would join the trail. Alas no, it contoured around the hill before turning once again uphill and in the wrong direction but eventually we took a rough track downhill and this thankfully at last saw us join the proper route. It added another four or five kilometers and a couple of hundred meters  ascent to our day but it added to the adventure as well. We ran along the delightful trail that wound its way through the forest for the next few kilometers before it joined the forest road that zig zagged its way uphill to the Liam Lynch Monument. This is a quite imposing structure in the style of a round tower "guarded by four hounds that commemorates a hero or villain of the struggle for Irish Independence, I guess it depends on which side you were on. It is unfortunately quite crudely built but its inspection allowed us a pleasant respite before we headed on to the open mountainside.

We struggled through a short section of forest and emerged on the heathery northern slopes of Crohan West. We were delighted to find a decent trail to the summit. It was fairly steep and there was no question of us running it but when we topped out at 521mtrs we were able to enjoy a nice gambol towards Knockmeal. We were now in the cloud so there was no point dallying so we turned and followed an old wall to Knocknafallia. The large cairn gave welcome shelter as we enjoyed a bite to eat before we continued over Knocknagnauv and down to the base of the pull up Knockmealdown. This is a steep 270mtrs and with more than 20kilometers already done we felt every step. Still we pushed hard and set a good pace the whole way. We were delighted to reach the top as this signalled the end of most of the difficulties and it promised to be mostly downhill from here. We ran wearily down to the col before the final easy push to the top of Sugarloaf Hill. A brief stop for fuel here and we set off down the steep stony track that made running almost impossible. Still it is quite short and we were soon back at the car. We were delighted with our morning and after a quick change of clothes we were off. All in all we had done about 27 kilometers and 1400mtrs of climbing in just over four hours. We hadn't pushed ourselves too hard but it had been a tough substantial outing. Here's to the next time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wet and windy Carrauntoohil

A week ago I had high hopes of getting a proper winter day in Kerry where the rust could be blown off my sadly neglected ice axes. Ah well I hoped in vain and instead I found myself leaving the car in a gentle breeze kissed by soft drizzle. Still on the upside I was in the company of Frank so a good day was assured. I had gone for a 13+ mile run over Bweeng Mountain the day before so a nice hike was just the thing my auld pins needed. Waterfalls everywhere and a low cloud base ensured a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere but we didn't care as we reminisced on our trip to Wales and chatted away. Time passed and height was gained and we found ourselves atop Brother O'Sheas Gully. The breeze now became a stiff wind that carried a bracing chill. We were soon at the summit where we sheltered from the wind and enjoyed a quick bite to eat. Descent was via the Heavenly Gates which always shows the mountain off to it best advantage and with the rain getting ever heavier we sploshed our way back to the car. A different day to what I had hoped but fun nonetheless. Coffee and cake in Killarney after was mighty fine.
A recent landslip

Happy despite the weather
Wee bitty wet

No card

Rugged beauty

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter Wildcamp on The Reeks

The light was almost gone by the time I had my tent up
On the spur of the moment I decided to head to the Reeks and spend a night high up in the hope of enjoying a spectacular sunset and sunrise as well as watching the full moon rise over the mountains. The weather is cold just now with polar air streaming down from the north. I was also hopeful of seeing some ice starting to form on Carrauntoohil with the prospect of using my ice axes towards the weekend. It was therefore with some disappointment that I saw a cap of cloud atop the mountains. There was also a stiff breeze blowing so it seemed that the crisp frosty night I had hoped for wouldn't materialize. Ah well I was there now so I headed up anyway. I left the car at two pm and set off in the Hags Glen. I decided to head for the col between Knockbrennia and Benkeeragh. This is at 830mtrs and has the advantage of a water source nearby. I arrived in good at around 15.45. I dropped my rucksack and set off looking for a good site on which to make my home for the night. I wandered about for a bit and finally found a spot. I then set off to retrieve my bag and spent an increasingly frantic twenty minutes looking for it among the rocks. What a silly pillock. Anyway I eventually found it in the gathering gloom and pitched my tent. By the time I was set up the light was almost gone so any possibility of pictures was also gone. I settled down for the night, cozy in my tent and well sheltered from the strong biting wind.

 I was hopeful that the promised frosty weather would arrive before the morning and a nice sunrise could be enjoyed. Alas that too failed to arrive and I woke to the same conditions as when I went to bed. I was above the freezing level and the tent had a coating of ice when I emerged. After a quick breakfast I decided to head over Benkeeragh and go to the top of Carrauntoohil  even though there wasn't a view to be had. So, after carefully crossing the icy ridge, I arrived at a wintry summit. The sun was trying vainly to break through and I opted to descend via the Heavenly Gates. This gives one the best views of the great ridges that soar up the east side of the mountain. When I reached the valley floor the sun was winning the battle and the tops were occasionally in view. I was a little disappointed but at least it was a mountain experience and it gives me the excuse to return another time for another try.

A clearing on the way

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Killarney to Kenmare Run

The Shy and Retiring Kevin
Yesterday I went to Killarney and met up with Kevin Ring for a run to Kenmare. We started right in the centre of town and so had to run the first few kilometers along pavements and with traffic for company. However we were soon enough able to turn right into Muckross park and enjoy the delightful trail that runs along the lake. The day was glorious. There had been a hard frost during the night and now the skies were clear and the air coldly crisp. All of that along with no wind made it ideal for running. After we passed the boathouse we turned right into the "Yew Wood". This is a magical place where everything is suddenly green from the canopy above to stony forest floor which is completely carpeted with moss, lovely. By now we were well into our day and while I have felt in better form physically and I was a bit daunted by how far we still had to go the banter was great and we were enjoying ourselves immensely. It would be hard not to with so much to enjoy and inspire all around us. The heavy rains of the previous few days had risen the level of Lough Leine a fair bit which meant that there were several sections of the track which were flooded. We found ourselves trying to run through knee deep water which stretched out to maybe 100mtrs in places and it was cold. Trust me when I say that there was no question of a plunge today.

I actually put a lot of thought into that ensemble

We emerged from the Muckross Estate and crossed the road and went up the steep trail that leads up the side of Torc mountain. It was the first time here for both of us and we were surprised by hoe steep it was and also how far up the mountain it went before it turned left and downhill and eventually emerged at the upper car park above Torc Waterfall. Now we were back on the Kerry Way and we turned right and made our way out from the woods into the wild Kerry countryside. I must confess to struggling a fair bit but we walked the steeper bits and took the occasional rest to have a bite to eat and chat etc. At the junction for Galways Bridge we again turned and headed for the Windy Gap. Another long pull saw us reach the gap and shortly thereafter we left the wilds and ran along country lanes mostly downhill to Kenmare. We arrived in the centre of town after 32K and over 500mtrs of climbing, mucky, tired but really happy with our effort. The first order of business was to check out the bus times for our return to Killarney and when we were satisfied that there was a bus at four pm we set about the serious business of re-hydration with two of the most tasty pints imaginable in the Landsdown Arms just across the road from the bus stop. A very tasty bite to eat with really good coffee and we were off to get the bus.

It was with considerable disappointment we discovered that there was no service on Saturday so we were stuck. It was getting quite chilly so we walked to the outskirts of the town and tried our hand at thumbing. I suppose it was no surprise that we didn't entice anybody to give us a lift as Kevin was still in his shorts and covered in mud. I of course had the good sense to take a change of clothes, Ha. We were getting quite cold as there was another frost on the way so we rang for a taxi. This was fairly expensive at 45€ but at least we had a drive. The return to Killarney was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on. The dying sun set the landscape on fire and we were agog at the beauty of it all. No words of mine or indeed any picture I could take would do the scenery justice. Even the driver agreed that it was indeed special this evening. A near miss with a straying Hind only added to the drama. So back in town Kevin set off home and I caught the train. So ended another adventure and I have to say it was special. The run goes through some of the best scenery in Ireland and the company was a match for that as well. A convivial sojourn in the pub and that spectacular drive, well lets just say I look forward to more to come.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Snowdonia with Frank

Wednesday 14th;

I set off from home for the long trip to Snowdonia at 10am from Mallow and arrived in Betws y Coed at 8pm after two train trips divided by a pleasant ferry crossing from Dublin. I stepped out from the station into a calm dry Betws dimly aglow with festive lighting festooning some shops. I stayed in the bijou bunkhouse attached to the Glen Aber hotel and a good nights sleep ensued. I was meeting Frank the following morning for a few days climbing and the weather forecast was set fair.

Thursday 15th;

Starting Up Grooved Arete

Typical Steep Climbing

Lyn Ogwen

An early rise and a short stroll around a waking Betws and I was ready for a good breakfast in the hotel. I was meeting Frank at 9am and despite a long foggy drive from Gloustershire he was bang on time. The weather was glorious so the decision was made to head for the east face of Tryfan with the First Pinnacle Rib the route of choice. It is always a delight to be with Frank and we had often talked about having a trip to Wales so we were in great spirits as we left the village in the direction of Capel Curig. As we left the wooded valley and the views became more expansive the sight of Moel Siabod's sharp profile glowing in the morning sunshine was a joy to behold. Onwards into the Ogwen Valley and the vistas only got better. The first sighting of Tryfan really whet the appetite so as soon as we arrived at the parking area at the base of the mountain we were keen to get started. We both had already sorted out our bags so there was no delay in getting underway. I was surprised to see that there was only a minibus of Cornish youths and ourselves setting out to the mountain. Usually this area is full of people heading to one of the most iconic mountains in the UK.

 The guide who was with the youths asked where we were headed and confirmed that we had chosen well but said that Grooved Arete was in his opinion one of the best VDiff climbs in the country and would also make a great outing. As they were both graded the same we decided to take his advice and do that route instead.
Super quality climbing
It’s a steep pull up to the “Heather Terrace” which leads diagonally to the base of the route. We passed a guide with two clients and asked him where the start of the route was and he said that the rock at the start had a big GA inscribed on it. A few minutes later we had arrived. We quickly got geared up and I set off up the route. Pretty soon I arrived at a difficulty. A vertical section with a wide groove on the left side proved insurmountable to me as the rock ran with water and I could get no purchase on the smooth rock with my boots. So an ignominious retreat was my only option. Wow that was a great start. I looked for an alternative and a few meters to the left easier options presented themselves. Soon I was above my previous difficulties and I continued up the rock. I arrived at a good belay and Frank came up to join me. We were on our way. I led another couple of pitches and then Frank took over and led up the next one. This involved a greasy unprotectable traverse from the belay around the edge of the rock and up a steep wet groove to a narrow stance above. I followed on and my respect for Frank’s climbing ability increased further as even seconding I found the groove desperately difficult and struggled to join him. As the stance was narrow I went onto easy ground just above and we moved together for the next fifty meters or so. Here I think I left the route and opted instead for easier looking ground on the left side of the vertical rock face. I went up a nice line for about twenty meters only to find myself stumped again, this time by an overhang on the right which left the only possible exit across a wet slab with no foot or hand holds so once again I had to abseil back down. I wasn’t exactly shining here. Anyway I went further left again and was now on the North Buttress route and enjoyed a really nice forty meter pitch to a good stance. Frank followed up and I went up the short ten meters or so to the end of the route.
It keeps going on

View to the last pitch from the summit

View from Tryfan summit

Jumping across Adam and Eve

Very dynamic

More summit views

 It had been a really interesting climb and was at the maximum of our abilities. We were chuffed with ourselves and when we reached the summit of the mountain we jumped the gap between the two rocks nicknamed Adam and Eve. We had the place to ourselves and we enjoyed a leisurely bite to eat and savoured the lovely weather and views on the clouds spilling over the Glyderri and Carneddau. We descended to Bwlch Tryfan and went down easily to Cwm Bochlwyd and then to the car. We were buzzing and delighted with our day. A quality climb that was always challenging and entertaining was a wonderful start to our trip and we both felt that whatever the weather would bring it was now a successful holiday. We went to find our accommodation for the next few nights, “The Eagles” luxury bunkhouse in Penmachno and were delighted with what we found. A charming bedroom with good self-catering facilities and Wi-Fi throughout meant we were well set up. A quick easy dinner and we relaxed and were early to sleep. 

Friday November 16th;

Ready for action

Another glorious day

Picking the best bits on Crib Goch

Inviting view along Crib Goch

Enjoying the pinnacles

Stretchy pants

A bit of weather on the way

Looking across at Snowdon on the way down

Moel Siabod 


Enjoying great scrambling

Well done old boy

Planning the next outing
The morning was glorious. Blue skies and no wind is such a bonus at this time of year. The forecast however was for heavy rain to arrive early in the afternoon so we opted to avoid the long rock routes and head instead for the Snowdon Horseshoe. This is always a delightful day out and even the cringe inducing £10 parking fee at the Pen Y Pass didn’t spoil things. We set off up the PYG Track and headed for Crib Goch. The morning was holding up great and we were soon looking across the lakes under the horseshoe at the fog banks filling some of the valleys. There weren’t many people about and we were able to maintain a nice steady unharried pace all day. The knife edge that is Crib Goch is always a delight and the pinnacles which mark its end provide some interest as well. We were all the while in the clear weather but the fog was slowly giving way to some cloud which meant that by the time we were on the summit of Snowdon itself we were enveloped in the mist. Still we were dry and having fun. The descent to Bwlch Ciliau soon passed and we made short work of the climb to the twin summits of Y Lliwedd. When we emerged under the cloud again we could see that bad weather was approaching from the North West so we didn’t delay and the first drops of rain only reached us as we neared the car. Still we were hardly damp and a quick change of clothes and we were once again on our way home well happy with our day. Another peaceful night followed and we didn’t mind the rain as the forecast was for it to clear overnight with the promise of another good weather day to follow.

Saturday November 17th,

The Cneifion Arret
As promised the weather was once again playing ball and the stunning landscape that in Snowdonia was once again looking resplendent in the morning sun. The plan for today was to do the Cneifion Arete in the Glyderri and while on the way to have a look at the sub Cneifion Rib. We drove again into the wonderful Ogwen Valley and found parking at the western end of Lyn Ogwen. We weren’t too hopeful of being able to do the sub rib as it was early and chilly and all the rock looked damp and unappealing after the previous night’s rain. Still we resolved to have a look anyway. There is a steep pull to the base of the rock from the well-engineered path that enters Cwm Idwall. Upon arrival I got all suited and booted and gave it a go but it was almost immediately obvious the rock was once again too greasy so I came back down and we headed up into the Nameless Cwm that hangs above. Soon we were at the base of the route and there were already a couple of parties on it. The route is a Moderate rock climb and is 140meters long. The party in front were only half way through the first pitch so we had ample time to get kitted out again.

On the first pitch

Airy scrambling

Steep but easy

View down

Still some to go

Having fun
Glyderri plateau

Nice rock formations

 Soon I was off up the first section. Nice big holds and steps were counterbalanced by the slightly unbalancing nature of the route. Still it was easy and I was soon at the first belay. The second pitch is only about 10mtrs long and goes up a narrow chimney to easier ground. After this we opted to move together for the rest of the route. It was a delight. Steep and sustained but with lots of super holds with easier options available if one so wished. All I wished for was that it could have gone on for twice as long. All too soon we were at the top but we were grinning from ear to ear after another top class scramble. A short climb and we had another scramble along Y Gribin to the summit plateau. Here we enjoyed a bite to eat and headed for Glyder Fach. We followed the plentiful cairns through the mist and soon realised that we had somehow gone astray. A quick check of the map and compass and we actually arrived at the summit of Glyder Fawr. The plateau of the Glyderri is an otherworldly place in the mist and Frank really enjoyed his first visit there. We descended back to the valley via the “Devils Kitchen” and were soon back at the car, well satisfied with our day and so pleased to have gotten another rock route done on the trip.  

Sunday November 18th;

After a lovely morning run
All good things must end and today was our day to head home. We were getting the 14.10 ferry from Holyhead which was about an hour’s drive away. I rose early on a beautiful frosty morning and went for a run from the village. I have no idea how long it was but I was gone for nearly eighty minutes and it involved starting along really small leafy lanes up into a wood before emerging again into the valley floor. A long pull up forest roads allowed me make a detour across open bog to a hill summit where I paused to admire the views. The landscape was a fiery red in the dawn sun and I was delighted and privileged to be here in this peaceful place on such a morning. Now came the reward for all the climbing and a long loping gambol passed easily and I re-emerged in the valley floor again near the village. Here I got a really look at a Buzzard which left the fencepost it was perched on and floated effortlessly over the grass to another eerie. I arrived back to find Frank finishing his packing. I enjoyed a nice shower and breakfast and soon finished my packing as well. We left the bunkhouse at about 09.30. We had a little time to spare before it was necessary to head for the ferry so we opted for a stroll up to the abandoned slate quarry on the north-western flanks of Moel Siabod.

Yet another lovely morning

Quite the plunge pool ?

This proved a delightful diversion which we were able to do in trainers on a good trail. It was only about five kilometres there and back and involved 350mtrs of height gain but it served to loosen the legs. There were lots of people on the route this morning and we stopped to chat with a few on our way back. All in all a very pleasant time was had and it meant we were back at the car for 11.30 which allowed plenty of time to get to the ferry. So ended my first trip to Snowdonia with Frank and I sincerely hope not the last. Maybe next year we will get the chance to return again. There is much more to do.

Deserted Miners House