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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Hill-Run on The Comeragh Mountains

Yesterday myself and Kevin went for a run on the Monavellagh Mountains which abut the southwestern side of the Comeraghs. Us being us we decided to extend the run we had done earlier in the year so we parked at the start of a forestry road at Bleantasour and opted to head for Milk Hill. This allowed for a lengthy run over Tooreen Mountain before reaching the upper plateau and finally reaching Seefin at 726mtrs. The run up Milk Mountain was reasonable over rough surprisingly stony ground but with mercifully short heather. As we got higher the ground got worse so by the time we reached the plateau we had to walk the flat ground as it was a blanket of long tussocky grass and rutted ground. Wow, walking was even difficult and we were delighted to reach the summit and have a rest in the large shelter.

Initially when we started off there was a stiff chill breeze and the tops were blanketed in cloud. Just before we reached Seefin all the cloud disappeared and we were able to enjoy the expansive views that encompassed the entire southeast to the sea. After a few energy bars and a chat with a few walkers who took shelter from the wind as well we set off for Farbreaga. Now the fun began. We were familiar with this ground and we revelled in the good track that went along the broad spur. A sudden steepening ensured the interest was maintained and a few "almost falls" that turned to "sliding recoveries" ensured we had big grins on our faces when we rested briefly at the standing stone at the col before Coumaraglinmountain. This was what we had come for and was enjoyed all the more after the rough ground of the first section of the outing. The trail continued more wetly to the next summit and from there we went to the cairn at the slightly lower Farbreaga. We rested briefly again and studied our options on the map.

We set off in a westerly direction for a kilometer before turning south over Treenearla Commons to the road. This section was super fun over good ground with really closely cropped heather and later on on a good track until we reached the road. It was liberating and exhilarating. Because we could we had decided to extend the run to Crohaun. This added a few kilometers to the day and an extra 150mtrs but the lovely views and excellent sunken shelter allowed us the enjoy a brief rest and chat and hatch plans for a possible bivvy in the future. From here we ran easily back to the road. Now we had an unavoidable 10K return road run to the car. Neither of us was looking forward to this but we were delighted to discover that the first few kilometers was along a lovely road that went gently down through open bog which offered lovely views towards the Knockmealdown Mountains and to our right we were able to see the entire length of our day so far. This lovely road served to ease the difficulty of our return to the car and the warming sun made everything look great. Eventually all good things end and when we reached the low point of the run at Scart Bridge and I must say the last three kilometers up hill were a bit of a trudge. But the end was in sight and it kept us going.
We arrived back at the car in 3hours 51 having covered almost 28kilometers and 900mtrs of climbing.Kevin it must be said is super fit and left to his own devices would be much quicker to do the run. Still we were both well happy with our day out and we are both really looking forward to the next time. We must take a camera next time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The first taste of Winter

I went back to the Reeks today hoping to get some winter climbing done. It had been cold over the past number of days and there had been a fair dumping of snow over the week. Yesterday there had been a bit of a thaw and a lot of rain so it was more in hope than expectation that I travelled. I parked at Lisliebane on a gorgeous sunny morning with blue skies and no wind. The temperature was about eight degrees so freezing level would have been well above the summits. It had however froze during the night and I was sure that there wouldn't have been too much of a thaw on Carrauntoohil's north face. There wasn't much snow remaining so I left one axe in the car and set off. As I walked under the "Hags Tooth" I could hear the high ululating crying of some wild goats. It was easy to imagine how in centuries past folk were believers in the "Banshee".

I met a couple of guys who were pondering whether it was worth continuing on as they were hoping to do some proper winter climbing. It was fairly clear that none of the ice routes etc were going to be in so they headed for the Gap of Dunloe to do some rock climbing. I decided to head for the old stalwart Curve Gully.

Feeling good to be out in the snow

There was no evidence of snow until I reached the upper level of Coumeenaughter. I climbed the rocky ground to the base of the upper section of Curve and entered the gully. There was a nice line snow left and it had benefited from a few freeze thaws and was nice and firm. I didn't need crampons as I was able to kick nice steps but the axe was definitely useful. Further up there was some rime ice and there was a definite wintry atmosphere. I really enjoyed the climb and it felt great to be on nice snow. Last week there was a hint of Winter in the air and today I got my first taste of what will hopefully be a good winter of climbing both here and abroad. Curve is a quite straightforward Grade I climb that leads directly to the summit. I topped out in splendid isolation and enjoyed a nice lunch in the sunshine and drank in the wonderful views. I continued across to Benkeeragh and once again enjoyed the nice scramble. From the summit down carefully over the snowy rocks and for a change I descended alongside the Hags Tooth. It was a lovely day out and I didn't see a soul other than the two at the start of the day. Roll on the Winter.