Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Kayak Trip On The River Blackwater

Today I went with Andrew Ring a friend and colleague from work to join with eleven others on a kayak trip on the beautiful river Blackwater. The day didn't have the most auspicious start as over an hour after we left Mallow I realised that I had left my wallet behind in a shop where we had stopped to get some coffee and food. Thankfully I when I telephoned I discovered that it had been found and was safe and there to be collected when I returned. I blamb Andrew :o).  The trip was put together my James and he couldn't have done a better job. The weather was absolutely glorious and liberal lathering of sunscreen was the order of the day prior to us setting off in the shadow of the spectacular Lismore castle ( the Irish bolthole of the Duke of Devonshire). We were off before ten am and we entered a different world. Things take on a completely different perspective from the water and I was loving it. For the first few miles we were being helped along by the current and afterwards the river becomes tidal and the ebb tide was our friend. Everyone was in great spirits and the banter and good humour heightened the enjoyment of the day. We were accompanied by two guides from the kayak company and Denis in particular was a mine of information on the various sights and features on the route. At around noon we left the water and visited the lovely Tourin House and gardens where we were served excellent sandwiches and apple tart. It felt great to stretch the legs and loosen out my numb bum and our excellent, informative and welcoming hostess ensured we had a good time. After over an hour we swapped modes of transport and myself and James took a canoe. We re-entered the water and went down river for a further hour or so until we reached Villierstown where a bus was waiting to whisk us back to Lismore and our cars. It had been a wonderful experience which everyone vowed to soon repeat. Thanks James for organising such a great day.
Looking up to Lismore Castle

Getting ready

Looking back towards the Knockmealdowns

A 15th century castle at Tourin House

The crew

Tourin House

James in the Hat

Big river

Journeys end

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lough Googh Horseshoe Kerry

Tuesday May 13th;

After receiving my replacement pair of La Sportiva Trango Alp boots yesterday (the last ones were letting in water), I decided to head to the Reeks again this morning after my night shift to try and break them in. Clear skies and little breeze greeted me when I emerged this morning but there was more cloud the further west I went. Still I was confident things wouldn't be too bad and as I was so early I decided to drive through the Gap of Dunloe and do the Lough Googh Horseshoe. During the tourist season the gap is used by Jarveys who ferry people by horse and cart through this most scenic of places. They are an obnoxious breed and they regularly intimidate and stop people driving this public road so that they can preserve their business. They also regularly obstruct anybody driving through by not giving way etc, so I seldom venture through this way in summer as it is generally not worth the hassle.
Looking into the Black Valley

The East Reeks beckon

I had been trying to remember the last time I did this route and I reckon it must be three years or more so it seemed beyond time to revisit it as it was always one of my favorites. I parked down by the church in the Black Valley and I was on the move by 09.20. The weather was showing sign of clearing up and the cloud was now above the tops. The views into the furthest reaches of the valley towards Knockduff and ahead to the lofty peaks of the east Reeks are great and straight away I was shrugging off the fatigue of the night and looking forward to the trip ahead. After about a kilometer on the road you break onto the open mountain at the hairpin bend and slog up the wet ground to the first top of the day Drishana, at a mere 464 mtrs but I was struggling a little and I had about 400 meters of ascent done by now. It is however a lovely spot and the views across towards Purple mountain and particularly up towards the Reeks and great. From here the broad ridge rises to the summit of Cnoc an Tarbh at 655 mtrs before dropping a bit and then rising again to Cnoc na Bracha at 731 mtrs. Here now you are on the Reeks ridge proper and this is the first significant peak in the Reeks walk. Head now southwest to the col above Alohart and from here the ridge narrows a bit and you rise in a series of steps to the wonderful eerie of Cruach Mor 932 meters.
The Reeks from the summit of Cruach Mor

 Here the real fun starts and today I was determined to enjoy the wonderful scrambling that is to be had from here all the way to top of Cnoc na Peiste around a kilometer away. I stuck faithfully to the crest of the ridge and went over every rock outcrop of the crenellated ridge until I reached An Garbh or the Big Gun 939 mtrs. Down steeply and then the excellent knife edge ridge rises exhilaratingly upwards. By sticking as faithfully as possible to the absolute crest an exciting airy time is to be had and all too soon you find yourself just below the summit at 988 mtrs. Here is a great spot to relax and savour the whole experience. Now descend southeasterly towards Feabrahy and drop down to the wonderfully situated Lough Googh which nestles 500 meters below the ridge. From here head as best you can towards the hairpin bend far below and then back to the car. Although it isn't a long route, there is around 1200 meters of climbing and it has one of the best scrambles that can be enjoyed in these parts. I think I won't leave it so long before my next visit.
Excellent Scrambling

The "Crux"

Long way down

Some impressive rock behind Lough Googh

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Bone With James

On Thursday morning I went with James to visit The Reeks in Kerry. James has been having a rough old time of it lately with injuries and he hasn't been able to have a run or a good day on the hills since Christmas because of an Achilles injury. Our schedules have been out of sync as well and even though I had only arrived back from Wales the previous day and had been working overnight this was our only chance to get oot n aboot so I wasn't going to pass it up. We arrived good and early and we were on the move into the Hags Glen by 08.30. The weather was a bit iffy and the cloud was down and it was windy and rainy. Despite this we were in great spirits and from the off the banter and chat flowed.
James looks after himself very well and takes his diet and exercise seriously and last Autumn he has trained intensively with Midleton AC to reduce his time for five miles to 30 minutes. He almost achieved it too but the hard training five nights a week had unfortunately led to his Achilles giving trouble. An original misdiagnosis delayed his recovery but now finally he was getting back to his old self and we had been able to have a hill day. We intend to get out running soon as well but I hope he will have the patience to wait for me as I would need motorized help to get within an asses roar of six minute miles. Anyway we were fully suited up for the weather so we didn't mind the conditions. We wanted to give ourselves a decent workout without overextending James' recovery so we opted for The Bone which gives a long ridge to the top of Maolan Bui on the east Reeks. This allowed us further options to extend or not our day. James was quite strong despite his recent inactivity and we made good progress. We were delighted when we got higher to be greeted by some breaks in the mist which allowed sunlight through which turned to landscape into a glittering wonderland.
James ready for the off.

Pastoral Landscape

Enjoying a respite in the weather.

James fancied that he could see a rock formation that resembled my head here,,,,hhmmph

 Cliffs and ridges looked amazing and it was great to enjoy the beauty of my own mountains so soon after the delights of Snowdonia. James was evidently enjoying himself as well and it was great to see his almost re-discovery of the beauty of the mountains. By the time we reached the top his Achilles was letting it be known that it required further time to fully heal so we went as far as the summit of Cnoc na Toinne and descended the Zig Zags back into the Hags Glen. The weather was getting better and better and soon we were enjoying sunshine and great views. It is however distressing to see how quickly this way off the mountains has become so eroded. A trail that was barely visible just a few short years ago in now several feet wide in places and deepening by the month. When will the right thing be done and some proper tracks be constructed?. Anyway we reached the valley floor and enjoyed our walk out. James' heel stayed the pace and we are both looking forward to further outings soon.
The weather getting better and better

Down to Lough Gouragh

Terrible erosion in a short time

The East Reeks

The Bone

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Four Very Different Days In Snowdonia

Day 1;
Saturday May 3rd;

Last Friday night I took the overnight ferry from Dublin to Holyhead which marries nicely with a train connection to Betws y Coed and I therefore found myself ready to meet Paul Harvey for a days rock climbing at 08.15 on Saturday morning. The weather was chilly but dry and promised to stay that way for most of the weekend. I had climbed with Paul the previous September when we had a great day and did two great VDiff routes, Flying Buttress and the Sub Cneifion Rib. Paul had let me lead both routes and I mistakenly had surmised that he hadn't done much lead climbing before but he was just being generous in allowing me the lead. I discovered today that he is a fine lead climber and showed good form on all the pitches he led.  I had left it to him to choose somewhere to go and he opted for Clogwyn y Tarw-The Gribben Facet in Cwm Idwal. This proved a great option as, despite it being a bank holiday weekend, we had the place to ourselves bar one couple of climbers who did one route and moved on. There are a limited number of "easy routes" here but three Diff to VDiff options were available and these we did.
Paul, ready for action

The direct start for Slab Intermediate

Beautiful climbing on clean rock

The first was "Slab Climb" which was graded at Diff and promised to give a good start to the day. It didn't disappoint and provided a great warm up. Perhaps a little too great as Paul started the route about five meters to the left of the correct line and this gave about five meters of smooth fingery unprotectable rock that definitely went a grade or two above Diff but up and over he went and an easy finish to the end of the first pitch followed at around fifteen meters. The guide suggests the route be done in four short pitches so I went up the next at just twelve meters. There remained about thirty meters or so of beautiful exposed clean rock which Paul did in one delightful pitch. If we were doing it again I would suggest doing it in two pitches instead. The day was still quite chilly so we didn't tarry and after negotiating the tricky descent we turned our attention to the next route "Slab Direct Route", VDiff. This time I started from the correct spot which proved considerably easier and I continued up to half height-around thirty meters up. Paul finished the route and it was a delightful atmospheric climb as it passed up beside the imposing wall on the right and exited up a recess to the top. Interest was continued throughout and its a route I would highly recommend. We enjoyed a nice lunch after and then opted to do "Slab Intermediate". I led up the start which climbs directly onto the slab and I found it quite difficult. When they give a VDiff grading hereabouts they mean it. Anyway Paul led up the next section and after thinking he had gone off route he retreated a little but went up a steep grassy groove that was nasty and slimy but we were finally on the base of the middle slab that rose diagonally to the right. Paul led this as well and it was a great pitch, full of variety and interest the whole way. It finished off the climbing nicely. All in all it had been a great climbing day, full of variety on some great routes. It had been a pleasure to meet Paul once again and I look forward to our next chance to climb some more. After getting very little sleep the night before it was no surprise that a long sleep followed that night.
The three routes. On left Slab climb, on right Slab route direct and Slab intermediate.          
Day 2;
Sunday May 4th;
After a much needed sleep I ate a light bite for breakfast and I decided to go for a good hill run directly from the campsite (Bryn Tyrch Farm) and head straight up the hill at the rear (Clogwyn Mawr) and make my way as far as Carnedd Llewelyn. To say I ran is perhaps a bit of an overstatement but I set off at a gallop for a couple of hundred meters until I reached the steep trail that rose directly to the top over 150 meters above. Once on top I continued as best I could on the rough ground and ran where possible and wound my way up and over each top that presented itself and gained more height on each one that passed. Some of the tops are quite rugged and would actually allow for some great scrambling but today I stuck to the easier trails (such as they were) and concentrated more on trying to keep up a reasonable pace. This area has a lovely remote feel to it and is much less frequented than the higher "honey pots" and it wasn't until I reached the top of Craig Wen 548 mtrs that I saw another person. I continued on to the summit above Llethr Gwyn at 678 meters where great views of Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir can be enjoyed. A big drop down followed to the 400 mtr contour before a bigger climb to the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach really tested the legs. Any hope of running up the hills was a dim and distant memory but the broad easy summit dome and the easy track to the col below Pen yr Hegli Du allowed for a lovely gamboling trot that stretched the legs a bit. The promise of a lunchbreak made the 200 meters to the top more bearable and indeed I continued on across Bwlch Eyrl Farchog to the top of Amphitheater Buttress before stopping.
Lyn Coryn

Towards Tryfan

Towards Moel Siabod

The Ogwen Valley

By the reservoir

Looking down at Amphitheater Buttress
The highest point of the day and Wales second highest mountain Carnedd Llewelyn was now well within reach and I managed to jog a lot of the remaining kilometer and a bit to the top. I didn't stop and set off on the three kilometer trip to the next peak Carnedd Dafyd and then to Pen yr Ole Wen. Solitude had long since been left behind but my spirits were buoyed by the knowledge that the hardest was now behind me and it was downhill for the remaining 10 kilometers or so. The descent is easy at first and then becomes steep in places but soon all difficulties are past and the route easily follows the Afon Lloer down to the busy A5 road. Mercifully the noise of traffic is quickly left behind and the remainder of the run is along a delightful green road to Capel Curig. I was pretty tired by the time I reached the entrance to the campsite and lets just say I didn't even try to run up the hill to the pitches but I was also delighted with the day. A total of five and a half hours was needed to cover the 25 or 26 kilometers and I reckon there was around 1600 meters of ascent. I didn't have long to relax though as I was booked into the excellent Tyddyn Bach bunk huts in Betws y Coed for the next couple of nights so I quickly decamped and my trusty thumb worked its magic yet again and it wasn't long before I was relaxing in my new surroundings.
Heading for Carnedd Dafydd

Across the Ogwen Valley towards Tryfan and the Glyderi

Looking back at Carnedd Llewelyn

Looking back to the start.


The route back beyond the road
Day 3;
Monday May 5th;
Oh dear, I had a few aches and pains after my efforts the previous day but nonetheless I was really looking forward to today as I had agreed to meet with Tom Hutton. He lives in the area and is a well known writer on all things outdoors and we had tentatively considered a trip to the Alps together last year which didn't come about but we had stayed in touch and today was to be our first outing. We met in the excellent Moel Siabod cafe in Capel Curig and it was immediately obvious that I was in for a good day. He is an interesting, informed and informative guy that has an obvious and deep knowledge and love for the environment and we has a long series of good conversations throughout the day. We opted for the stress free but entertaining scramble of the north ridge of Tryfan followed my the delightful Bristly Ridge on Glyder Fach. After enjoying a good coffee we set off for Ogwen and we were pleasantly surprised to find some available parking right at the start of the route. We were in no rush and often stopped to enjoy the views and chat and generally make the most of yet another good weather day. Time passed easily as we chatted about his extensive knowledge of the mountains in Ireland and indeed about some mutual acquaintances of ours. You are never short of company on this route and we has occasional words with other groups. It was nice to share the obvious excitement of some new visitors to the "fearsome" delights of this lovely mountain. As we neared the summit the wind became quite ferocious and we found a sheltered spot to enjoy a bite to eat before descending Bwlch Tryfan and enjoying the undoubted delights of Bristly Ridge. Strangely the wind once we reached the summit of Glyder Fach was nothing near as strong as Tryfan so we were able to enjoy the exceptional landscape of the summit and beyond. We descended pleasantly via Y Gribin to Llyn Bochlwyd and back to the car. I don't think there was a lull in conversation and were in agreement on the problems with access and the need for balance and protection of the environment. After a well deserved treat in the same cafe we said farewell and I hope we get to enjoy other days in the future.
Pick your own best route up tryfan

At Bwlch Tryfan


The well named Bristly Ridge

Summit views from Glyder Fach

Fine mountain scenery
Day 4;
Tuesday May 6th;
It had rained from late evening into the night, so I was delighted to wake this morning to another great weather day. I had decided to do the Snowdon Horseshoe today as hopefully the enormous throngs that undoubtedly covered the mountain over the bank holiday weekend would be gone today. I was returning home on the overnight ferry that night so I was in no great rush to get started but thanks to the excellent Sherpa Bus service I was in Pen y Pass at 09.30 an ready for the off. I decided to ascend the ridge between the Pyg Track and the Miners Track via "The Horns" and I was immediately all alone and able to enjoy the stunning views down the Llanberis Pass and up to the inviting first target for today the wonderful Crib Goch. Although starting up this way adds maybe fifty or sixty meters to the days climbing it is worth it for the quiet and slightly different perspective it affords. Soon though I arrived at Bwlch y Moch and the scramble up to the summit could begin. It is a delight and never fails to be a joy despite its familiarity. The cloud was up about 3000 feet but it lowered slightly  when I reached the ridge on top but this only added to the atmosphere. There was once again a stiff breeze on the top and discretion was definitely the better part of valour as I took as I took care on the knife edge crossing. The fun just gets even better once you reach the excellent pinnacles section. After this some more scrambling can be enjoyed on climb to the second top of the day Garnedd Ugain 1065 meters. The cloud was stubborn in its persistence now and the strong wind also ensured I didn't delay as I continued easily to the summit of Snowdon Yr Wyddfa 1085 meters. Here there were throngs of people and I has my first surreal experience of going into the large well appointed summit cafe. Going from the biting wind into the heated environs of the cafe seemed to set my face on fire but looking about I could see I wasn't the only one. Despite not being a great fan of such paraphernalia being build on mountaintops I nevertheless enjoyed the rather unique experience. I wasn't however too disappointed to leave the summit behind and the madness disappeared as I descended steeply to Bwlch Ciliau. Once again I was below the cloud and the views are tremendous. The twin topped mountain of Y Lliwedd with its hugely impressive cliffs never fail to inspire and I still harbor hopes of one day climbing a route on them. I was feeling strong and I wasn't long reaching the top where I rested a while and just basked in the glory of my surroundings. On down to the Llyn Llydaw reservoir and the miners track made up the rest of the route. another hitchhike and I was in Betws y Coed a mere twenty minutes later when I finally had time to explore the many gear shops. All in all it had been a most enjoyable trip when the weather had been great and I was able to sample some of the best that the area has to offer. Many thanks to Paul and Tom for their great company ad I look forward to making my re-acquaintance with both them and the area in the not too distant future.
Dinas y Gromlech

Crib Goch

Llyn Llydaw

Approaching the pinnacles

Heading for Y Lliwedd