Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Winter Climb Of Coumeenmore Gully in The Reeks

Francis Jan

Yours truly
The chances to get any type of climbing in this winter have been few and far between due to work and the frankly awful weather that seems to have been the norm. Storm after storm has swept over the land, the latest just a few days ago that left a swathe of destruction in its wake, so it was a great relief to have something of a weather window available today and we were determined to make the most of it. Frank and I met in Killarney and drove through a nasty shower to the carpark at Lisliebane. We were a little late arriving due to problems with the train and my packing was terrible and I seemed to take an age to get ready but eventually I was sorted and we were off at 11.15. The weather was looking more promising as well and some blue sky was appearing and the wind had died down considerably. Into the Hags Glen we went and as we got in further my eye was drawn towards the broad gully at the back  of Coumeenmore. I had climbed it once before nearly four years ago and enjoyed it immensely.  It is a varied and interesting route that provides a nice grade 1 outing that can provide a stiffer test if the lower sections are in condition.  So wanting to do something other than Carrauntoohil we turned and headed in its direction.
Carrauntoohil looking moody

And this is how you dive from the high board

Route from bottom centre slanting up right

Frank had had his difficulties last week and had had to turn back early but today I was delighted to see that he was in fine form and we made steady progress and soon reached the little black lake in the heart of the Coum. This is a nice atmospheric spot and looked particularly resplendent this day while wearing its winter coat. It was also plainly obvious that conditions would be less than ideal as water ran on all faces and there was not a sliver of ice to be seen. The gully promised to be a wallow up soft snow but at least it would be somewhere different and in lovely surroundings. Rounding the bottom of the north spur of Cnoc an Chuillinn it was also clear that the bottom tricky section of the gully was just a waterfall and we had no option but to bypass this and join the route at a snowfield above.  This we did and as soon as we started up the slope our fears were confirmed, we found ourselves plunging deep into soft snow.  Ah well, there was nothing for it but to go on and we progresses slowly up to the next narrow section. This short section has steep rock walls and at its head was a short open cataract.  It was only a few feet and was banked up below so didn't appear to pose any problems.  Alas as I climbed up to the base of the water the snow kept collapsing and all of a sudden we were faced with  slimy rock with nothing useful to be found for purchase so we had to retreat and break out to the right about ten meters lower down and progress up a narrow snow groove that had a short steep exit to easier ground above. Oh how appearances can be deceptive.  Up we went to the steep bit and lo and behold the snow started to just collapse again and was backed by more slimy rock.  I managed to get up near the exit and gain a stance in a recess that had a rock protruding above it. Now it was a case of pee or get off the potty. I hadn't bargained for  finding myself in a situation like this today but there was nothing for it but to trust in providence and trust the axe in gravelly muck and make an awkward move out onto a not very solid foot placement.  While it wasn't exactly a huge drop the consequences of a fall from here wouldn't have been nice.  Anyway in just a couple of moves I was over and glad to be on easy ground.  I had nothing to use to try and belay Frank but he managed it as well.  Now that I was safe I became aware of my freezing fingers and an awful dose of the hot aches quickly followed.  The next ten or fifteen minutes were a blur of pain and nausea and Frank administering to me. I am fortunate indeed to be blessed with such great climbing partners. Eventually I felt well enough to continue and we resumed our upward progress. Soon I was enjoying myself again and reveling in the fine mountain scenery all about.  Snow conditions improved as well and indeed crampons wouldn't have gone amiss for the final sixty or seventy meters to the steep exit of the route.
Breaking trail

The tricky section with the snow groove right of center

Making it look easy

Now we found ourselves on the ridge and the views were wonderful.  The wind however was howling into our faces and we were being blown and buffeted as we climbed the final icy slopes to Cnoc an Chuillinn's 956 mtr summit.  Here we found a sheltered spot and enjoyed a nice lunch looking directly down into the verdant oasis of the Brida Valley. In their winter raiment The Reeks are especially beautiful and being in such a special place was almost enough to make me forget the hot aches, almost!. We donned our ski masks and headed easily down to the col below Cnoc na Toinne which we duly climbed and then traversed as far as the Devils Ladder where we returned to the valley floor. The trek from the base of the gully back to the car always surprises me with its length and I was pretty tired by the time we reached the car.  We were both very pleased with our day. Frank was back in form and looking forward to our trip later in the year (as am I). It felt great to change into fresh clothing and soon we were warm and whizzing our way back to Killarney.  Another great day out was past but I must see if I can do anything to prevent those pesky hot aches in the future.
The view from our lunch spot


Along the ridge towards Cnoc na Peiste

Towards Carrauntoohil

Its nice to see some colour down below

Cruach Mhor

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Reeks Today

Here are a few pictures from the Hags Glen in The MacGillycuddy Reeks today courtesy of Francis Jan Kluzniac. Wish I could have been there.
Carrauntoohil looking splendid

The East Reeks 

A bit of weather rolling in.