Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sometimes Retreat Is Best. Whiteout on The Reeks

Wednesday January 21st;

I was back on "home " territory today and I headed back to The Reeks by Killarney. I decided that The Coumloughra Horseshoe would be  great outing, taking in the three highest peaks in the country in winter conditions. It was a bit cloudy and the forecast was for showers throughout the day. There hadn't been a frost overnight but it was reading just four degrees as I drove back so I hoped that things might have been frozen on high. I left the car at 10.30 and set off up the hydro road that leads into the spectacular coum. The showers were much in evidence and it wasn't long before I was getting the rain jacket out. There was some blue sky to be seen as well and I was reasonably hopeful that I might get some views. It was also obvious when Icould see into the coum that there was much more snow here than Connemara. The tops were covered in cloud but the cliffs of Caher looked great. I decided to do the circuit anticlockwise so Caher was the first objective.

Towards Caher

Towards Skregmore

The route up is an easy long spur that rises gently at first before steepening towards the west top. Almost straight away once I gained the spur I was on the snow which gradually got deeper. I had forgotten how much fun breaking trail through soft snow could be and today I was fully re-acquainted with it. As I got higher I was occasionally wading above my knees and it was pretty tiring. I had hoped that things would get firmer as I gained height but alas it wasn't to be and the wallowfest continues all the way to the first summit. Also as I arrived so did some nasty weather and I was getting a good old blasting by spindrift and snow. Visibility also reduced dramatically but there were some cliffs and rocks to be seen so I was able to navigate to the nearby col before the rise to the true summit. The slope up here was completely white which meant that at times I could see nothing. I pressed on and soon reached the top. Here the nature of the terrain changes and the ground narrows to (in dry conditions) a pleasingly narrow ridge. Big cliffs stretch ahead on the left hand side and a steep slope drops on the right. There was now copious amounts of snow and I was really concerned about the possibility of cornices etc. This couples with the face that I was in whiteout conditions meant I was no longer happy to proceed. I decided to have a bite to eat in the hope that a clearance might arrive and allow me to continue but it wasn't to be and I reluctantly made the decision to about face and return to my car. Descending the snow was much easier and the return was quite rapid. I was disappointed not to see the ridge under such heavy snow conditions but if I continued I wouldn't have seen much anyway. Hopefully the snow will last for a little while and I will get the chance to return again soon.
Looking west

One set of tracks up the slope

Hoping the clearance would come

The chilly west top shelter
Back down from the summit

Not a lot to see 

Good mixed climbing conditions on the west top

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