Monday, October 31, 2016

The East Ridge of Mangerton North..Trying For A New Rock Route

I went with Frank on Sunday 23rd October to have a look at the broken rocky ridge that drops down the eastern side of Mangerton North in Kerry. It isn't very impressive to look at, nor is it continuous but it promised to give perhaps four short pitches of climbing. After our wonderful day at An t'Sais the week before we were full of enthusiasm and hope for the day and what it might bring.

The rocky east ridge of Mangerton North
The walk into the Horses Glen is always spectacular but often a chore as you have to cross rough deep heather and bog but today it wasn't too bad as I somehow miraculously found a reasonably dry route. As we got deeper into the glen we could hear the bellow of a stag and it was lovely to see him when we entered the narrow section as he made his way up the slopes of Stoompa with his "harem" of three or four does. It was quite breezy today and decidedly chilly as well and the wind became quite strong as we rose up the steep ground to the base of the rock. The first thing that struck us was that it was steep..very steep but there seemed to be decent possibilities for protection so I decided to give it a go. Initially I looked at the right side that offered a vertical wall with decent holds but protection was poor so I turned to the left side that gave an awkward start onto a sloping block but it looked do-able so I gave it a go.

Starting across the bog towards Stoompa

Entering the Horses Glen

Not hugely impressive but this was the pitch we climbed
My my but the rock was cold and soon my fingers were feeling numb. The climbing was okay though and after getting onto the block I avoided an overhang by moving left and then back to the right. Again things were vertical but there was good protection and holds. I was now up perhaps seven meters and there was only another three or four to the end of the pitch and a deep ledge and hopefully a belay. A crack went straight up the wall and I made a couple of moves to a sloping edge about five feet before the top. Here there was a spike of rock coming horizontally out of the crack which I hoped would make for an easy exit...I was in error. The edge offered a decent foot placement and the spike a good handhold but the top of the rock was sloping upward and offered nothing in the way of a secure hold. The rock itself was blank either side of the crack and suddenly I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I wasn't unduly worried as the crack was well protected but I placed a couple of bits it it just to be sure. Lots of looking and searching didn't seem to offer a solution until I noticed a one inch lip of loping rock about waist height a couple of feet at the other side of the crack that was the only feature on the otherwise smooth rock. It necessitated a long (for me) stretch to get my left foot on it and then a push across on the spike to try and position myself so I could stand on my left leg and get high enough to wallow over the top. The first time I tried it I failed and half slid and lowered myself back to where I started. The second time I managed to get the required balance and I was up. I huffed and puffed a little while and I looked for a belay.
Looking up from below. Four pitches on offer

Unfortunately there wasn't anything directly above the crack but about four meters to the left there was good sling protection. It would have to do so I set it up and called Frank on. He quickly reached the exit point and its fair to say that he was in a quandary as well. I was also acutely aware (as was he) that if he fell here he would go for a nasty old swing as the belay position wasn't ideal but fair play to him he figured it out and he got over and joined me. We were both mightily relieved and agreed that the pitch went at around VS or maybe HVS. Above us was another wall of perhaps 12 or 13 meters and again was very steep. I had a quick look at directly above the belay but it was an overhanging start with everything sloping the wrong way and no protection (certainly graded well into the Es) so I gave it a miss and looked at the right side. Here looked more possible but the rock, while dry, was covered in black mosses and wasn't too inviting so common sense prevailed and we exited the rock via a sloping ledge to the left. We agreed that the climbing was a bit beyond us but at least now we would wonder no more. We continued up and over the mountain and returned to our cars where I said farewell and returned home to pack my stuff for my next outing..a week hiking in The Alps. Busy busy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Curve Gully Ridge Carrauntoohil..Again

Gerry Christie
I'm in danger of getting really familiar with Curve Gully Ridge on Carrauntoohil. It is my favourite technical way up the mountain and offers a challenging and interesting climb that has some tough steps and when the conditions are perfect (like a couple of weeks ago) it offers some exhilarating sections on good rock. Today I went with the doyen of Kerry Mountain Rescue Team...Gerry Christie who had never been to the summit via this route. The conditions weren't bad per say but after being spoiled the last time out today the rock didn't have that really grippy feel but it was okay and I didn't feel too jittery on it. It's always nice to bring someone new out on a route they haven't done before but it also something of a responsibility but we progressed well and safely. Gerry I think was surprised at how tricky some spots were but overall I think he enjoyed himself and I hope he got a sense of achievement after performing so well on the climb. The cloud stayed down to below the start of the route so no pictures were taken but it was a very atmospheric outing and I often think the exposure can seem all the greater when you can't see the bottom of some of the drops. We were two hours on the route and after a bite to eat on the summit we descended the Heavenly Gates and then The Ramp (which I hadn't been on for nearly 10 years). He is a lively auld bugger and I struggled to keep up to him on the way out but it was a good workout.

Ready for the off...
View from The Gates

Heading down the ramp.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rock-climbing at An t'Sáis near Mount Brandon

After having so much fun climbing on Carrauntoohil on Sunday and with nice weather being forecast, I persuaded Frank to take a day off work and we headed back to An t'Sáis (The Trap...I refuse to call it Sauce Creek like on the Ordnance Survey map) to have a look at a crag that has caught my eye every time I have walked around this most wonderful of places. It resembles a huge sunken coum and drops precipitously in a semi circle for 1200ft to the ocean below. To the best of my knowledge it is virgin rock and I can find no record of anyone climbing it and there isn't any mention of it in the database on so there was a good chance that anything we might climb would be a first ascent. I must confess to some nerves as we headed up across the boggy ground towards the rim of the coum and I was just hoping that I would find something to have a go at within my (very) limited climbing abilities and also hoping that I wouldn't climb myself into trouble. Basically it was something of an unknown.

Nice morning for it

Frank was keen

Getting ready

Going down for a look
Reaching the rim and looking across at the crag I was filled with doubt but resolved to at least go and have a look. Frank is great that way and would put no pressure on me to give anything a go that I didn't fancy. At the top a nice big block of rock made an ideal anchor and I set up a 50mtr rope for an abseil down into the gully so we could have a closer look. Reaching the end of the rope in the grassy gully I was delighted to see that although it was fairly steep there appeared to be at least a couple of lines that I could reasonably give a go. We were on. Frank joined me and I donned the rock shoes and geared up and soon I was ready for the off. Oh my goodness but what a joy the rock was. Soft super grippy sandstone with plenty of good holds and foot placements meant that it was immediately a pure pleasure to climb. It was quite easy and I was making rapid progress. I went up wide split in the face of the rock and after perhaps 10 mtrs I reached a ledge which gave an easy exit to the right. I traversed right for four or five meters and then took a bolder line directly up to a niche in the skyline. This was a little steeper but there was good protection and again that delightful rock made for safe progress. After the niche the angle eased back and I scrambled on for another 10 or 12 meters to a delightful belay where, once sorted, I sat and brought Frank up and enjoyed the sensational position. Across the coum Masatiompan rose at the end of the Brandon ridge and the spectacular tops went all the way to Brandon Peak. As if that wasn't enough, I was sitting at the edge of a sheer 80mtr rockface and then another 300mtrs of very steep ground dropped to the blue sea where Gannets looked very small as they fished for whatever swam in the deep.
Steep but looks like there are lots of options

Starting up Route 1


Well under way on Route 2

The big smile that Frank wore as he reached me said volumes about how much he was enjoying himself. The route was approx 35 meters and we reckoned it should be graded at Mod. We were able to easily cross to the abseil rope and we returned back down to do some more. This time I eyed a line to left of the split and I set off. It was also a delight and perhaps slightly more sustained in nature but equally supplied with good holds and protection. I continued up at an oblique angle to a corner in the skyline near the edge of the rock face. Once again when I climbed through the right edge of the corner the angle eased and I soon set up another belay and once again enjoyed my surroundings as I brought Frank up. This route was approx 30mtrs and again we reckoned that it went at Diff. We returned back down and this time I decided to try the crest of the arret that formed the edge of the face. It meant that we had to drop a further 10 mtrs down the gully to the base of arret. This time I stuck faithfully to the crest of the ridge and it provided a steep sustained climb for a full 40 mtrs and was an interesting delightful and exposed VDiff*** climb. It was thrilling throughout and in the few places that some smearing on the rock was needed there always seemed to follow beautiful juggy holds which allowed progress even when the last bit of gear was a few meters further below than I would have liked. Just when it was most needed good gear was to be found so the stress levels never got too high. Frank followed on and we decided that if I was to make my train in Tralee that we had better leave. We were delighted and thrilled with our day. Three new routes and the best saved for last.
The bottom of Route 3

The upper section of Route 3
Lovely interesting climbing on great rock

Route 1(Red) I called Playing it Safe and is 35mtrsMod
Route 2(Blue) I called Reach for the Sky and I reckon is Diff.
Route 3(Green) I called Edge of Heaven and is 40mtrs and is VDiff***.

 On the first couple of routes there was some loose rock and care had to be taken but the arret was better. It was such a thrill to find somewhere new to climb (at least for us) and hopefully I will get the opportunity to return in the future and perhaps find some more lines on this most wonderful bit of rock. I didn't even look around the corner but I'm sure there is more to be discovered. Two smashing days in less than a week. Thanks Frank.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Curve Gully Ridge Carrauntoohil Video

Curve Gully Ridge Carrauntoohil (Severe).

The route follows the red line

Today I went with Frank back to Carrauntoohil for a climb of Curve Gully Ridge (Severe) which is my favourite way up the mountain. A very foggy drive saw the dawn arrive clear over Killarney and by the time I was up at Lisliebane it was a beautiful morning. We set off into the Hags Glen yet again and climbed up the three levels of Coumeenaughter until we reached the base of the climb. Most of the time this shaded spot means that the rock can have a slippery slimy feel but not today. Right from the get go the rock felt super grippy and secure and I was immediately relishing it and enjoying the climb. The first seven or eight meters passed quickly and I scrambled up for another twenty or so to a nice belay...we were off.
A super morning

Frank looking fit and keen

Looking back from the second level

Pitch two has a tricky unbalancing step not far into it but once above that it is a scramble again for another twenty meters until you reach a steep wall. Now there follows a superb thirty meter plus pitch of excellent quality climbing. Sustained and varied and full of interest and all in an airy exposed setting. No wind and warm(ish) rock meant it was a pure pleasure to be out and about. Lots of people were to be seen down below as they made their way up O'Sheas Gully and no doubt we made an interesting sight on the rock high above. On previous outings up this route I have favoured a slightly meandering route on this pitch but today I took a pure direct line on the crest of the rock and it was just sublime. I was buzzing by the time I was at the belay and there was more to come. The almost 40mtrs that followed contained the "crux" of the route and again offered wonderful sport. Again a direct line up the steepest of the rock was taken and good gear and juggy holds on the overhanging exit meant once again I was buzzing at the belay.
Lovely rock

Frank half way up pitch 2

Pitch 4

Nice and narrow in places

So after four pitches we were past the difficulties and a lovely steep scramble allowed us to move together to the top. Another great thing about this climb is that it finishes practically at the summit which in such wonderful weather was quite crowded. A well deserved lunch and rest allowed us to enjoy the views and as we set off down I was delighted to run into Tim Long and Jimmy Laide. Tim and myself have a long history and we have had many a great day out in the past. Some things never change and our greeting went something like this.."tiz great to see you-you auld bollocks" (me) to which the reply was.."and you too you prick". Twas like putting on a comfortable old overcoat...I came over all warm inside. It was however a surprise to see him out and about as it is only five weeks since he had knee surgery. One tough cookie. We continued on our way down the Heavenly Gates and back to the car. New plans are afoot. Thanks Frank. Twas great.
Great day to be on the summit

A Few Days In Memmingen Germany

Last weekend I went with Margaret for a break to Germany. It was our first time to visit this country and I can safely say that we were delighted by the place. No climbing or walking in this trip but we did drive down and get the cable car up to the summit of the Zugspitze, which at 2962 mtrs is Germany's highest, is a serious lump of mountain and looks to offer some nice routes to the top. So no tales or stories to tell, just a few pictures to hopefully give a flavour of the place.

Lovely Architecture. Quite different

Who needs a map. A brilliant bronze model of the town

On a rainy day two we went to Lake Constance to see the lovely quaint island town of Landau. On the way back we called into Leutkirch which was also a delight.

And to top off the day we went to Ottobeuren a few miles away to see the abbey. It is situated in a small town and completely dominates it. It is huge, impressive and completely over the top opulent. Beautiful.

The doors are about 15 ft high

On Monday we drove down to see the Zugspitze which at 2996mtrs is the highest mountain in Germany. It was a beautiful morning in Memmingen but the mountains were making their own weather and cloud and indeed some rain was the main feature of the morning by the time we arrived. Driving for a while into Austria we crossed back into Germany and the weather showed signs of improving. We were hopeful of some views from the summit so we took the cablecar to the top but alas we were thwarted. It was  still a nice and impressive outing though and we came home a different route which was more through the Alpine landscape.

Even with the clout it is still an impressive ball of a mountain

Weather much better by the time we were coming down....typical

A superb looking ridge line. The summit is still in cloud on the left.

Home the following afternoon but definitely a place both of us would go back to. Cheap beer as well. Whats not to like.