Sunday, January 29, 2017

Coumeengeragh to Carrauntoohil

Yesterday I went once again with Frank for a climb on the Kerry Mountains. An early start saw us meet in Killarney at 07.40 and after a brief chat we settled on a visit to Coumeengeragh gully on the northwestern flanks of Beenkeragh. The weather promised to be pretty good so we were looking forward to having a good day. It was quite a surprise to see, once sufficient daylight arrived, that there had been some snowfall down to around the 600mtr mark. I was already regretting bringing my cheap Karrimor boots that are as waterproof as a cheese grater and I was resigned to the fact that chilly feet would be guaranteed in the snow. A swift drive around to Lisliebane followed and after a short wait for a passing shower to depart we set off on the long rising traverse across the boggy ground. At around the 500mtr contour you finally crest the shoulder of Knockbrinnea and enter the deep recess and the gully rises at its end. The scenery is quite spectacular with steep rocky ground on either side but especially on the left where black cliffs guard another steeper short gully which was complete with waterfalls. At the base of this gully there was something orange to be seen and I went across to investigate and to ensure that it wasn't some unfortunate climber after coming to grief. It was with some relief that I saw that it was a storm shelter that had probably blown away in the wind. I gathered it up and brought it with me as I didn't want anyone else to think that there had been an accident and it would have been an eyesore anyway.

Nice day for it

Looking keen

Finally in view

The tricky step at the start

Exiting the gully
The fun starts straight away when you enter the gully when you are faced with a wet slimy step with a big old stone jutting out at the top which forces you to climb the left side. It is only perhaps eight feet but it is tricky and I was glad when it was behind me. This is the crux of the route and we sailed up the remaining 200 or so meters of Grade 1 scrambly ground. It was quite lovely at times when the snow started to fall in silent windless slow motion all around and it made for a nice atmospheric scene at times. Windless it certainly wasn't when we crested onto the ridge below Beenkeragh and it certainly felt like proper winter conditions as we were pelted with horizontal snow and a little hail. It eased as we gained height and soon enough we reached the deserted summit. We didn't delay and dropped down and crossed the ridge towards Carrauntoohil and it wasn't until we were almost at the top before we saw anybody else out. A nice spot of lunch on a windswept summit and we descended back to the Hags Glen via the Heavenly Gates. The weather improved as we got lower and at times it felt positively balmy in the sun down below. It had been a nice outing and gave an unexpected glimmer of winter conditions. Alas back to the rain and wind again this week.

Posing at the Heavenly Gates
Looking into the Hags Glen

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Alohart and Cruach Mh贸r

Being a glutton for punishment I set off first thing this morning back to Killarney where I hooked up with Frank for another outing. After a brief discussion we settled on a visit to The Reeks and after chatting with Kevin yesterday about Alohart I suggested that this would make for a nice outing and Frank, never having been there, readily agreed.
Most of the snow gone馃槩

Still...reasons to be cheerful

Alohart comes into view

Possible rock routes to explore??

The thaw of yesterday was still in full swing and the snow levels were substantially depleted but the landscape still had nice wintry look about it. We set off from Lisliebane and after crossing the bridge over the Black Stream we set off up and across the bog that sweeps down from the slopes of Cruach Mh贸r. The weather was a bit of a mixture of cloud mist and drizzle but thankfully we avoided the worst of it and we actually didn't need to put on our hard shells until we reached the col between Cnoc an Br谩cha and Cruach Mh贸r and it was so mild we only used a base-layer until then. The slog across the bog is fairly tedious but suddenly you reach a crest and the beautiful area of Alohart is revealed with its pair of lochlans and the broad gully that rises to the col between wild and rugged rocky bluffs. Frank was in good form today and we made short work of the near 300mtr pull to the col. Misty glimpses of the Black valley came into view now but the stiffish breeze and hint of a chill meant we didn't tarry and set off to climb the remaining 300mtrs to the summit. By staying on the south side we stayed out of the wind and after the tumble of yesterday I was extra cautious on the snow covered rocky sections but we arrived at the top without incident. Now all that remained was the drop back down to the lake and once there we made short work of the return to the car. It had been a very nice stress free day and as usual the company was great. Thanks Frank.
In cruise control

Cnoc na P茅iste ridge

Trying to get all arty farty with the new camera馃榿

The Hag Tooth Ridge...A Different Proposition Under Slushy Snow

Saturday Jan 14th;
We have had a quick cold snap during the week and quite a bit of snow fell down to low levels. The mountains were white and while there hadn't been a lot of frost I was hopeful that if there had been a frost up high myself and Kevin might have gotten a decent route in (ie. Howling Ridge). Alas a thaw had set in overnight and it was obvious when we exited the car in Cronins Yard that the snow was being stripped back rapidly and any chance of a winter route was gone. Such are the joys of trying to get some winter climbing done in the southwest of Ireland. We left all the gear bar one axe and crampons (we are nothing if not optimists 馃榿) and we set off into the Hags Glen.
Plenty snow but a thaw was well underway

Still lovely to look at though.

You'll never guess馃槈

It is always a bit of a shock to the system when you start out with Kevin and I had to almost trot at times to keep up but things soon smoothed out. We decided that the Hags Tooth Ridge would make a fun outing and so it proved. Both of us had done the route recently but it was a very different proposition today with the rock running with water and slushy snow covering the steps and grassy places. We climbed carefully up to the overhanging section, picking a winding way up through the steep sections. The going was at times delicate and some care was required for safe progress. We arrived at the narrow section near the crest, where a small hole in the rock allowed us to creep through to the other side where we were able to use good holds to join the crest and climb the remaining steps to the top of the tooth. A little down-climb and we continued up the remaining steps towards the summit of Benkeeragh.
Concentration required

Obligatory bum shot

Squeezed through...phew

Oh what we wouldn't give for some frosty weather now.

 Shortly after the tooth I managed to take a nasty tumble backwards after stumbling on snow covers stones but other than a sore wrist and some bruising I was okay. We continued up the ridge, enjoying some nice scrambly sections until we came to a difficult step which neither of us fancied in these conditions so we opted to drop down to the right and traverse below it. We didn't go down quite far enough and we ended up making a rising traverse of some interesting ground that again required care to get past. After this we finished the drag to the top of and descended down the far side where a welcome bite of lunch was had. Here at over 900 mtrs it was windy and cold but the temperature was still above freezing and the snow, while plentiful, was soft and sugary. We traversed the ridge as far as O'Sheas Gully which was banked out but this made for swift easy progress all the way down to the lake. Lots of people were going up and I didn't envy them the job of wading up through the deep snow. We continued down and back to the car and I was back in Killarney in good time to catch the 15.45 train home. Again we had had a smashing day and we made the most of it despite the less than ideal conditions.Thanks Kevin馃槉

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Boughil in the Dunkerron Mountains

On Sunday I went back to Killarney on the train and met up with Frank for what would be his first outing of 2017. The weather forecast was reasonable but it was something of a disappointment to see low cloud and drizzle being the order of the day. Frank had put forward the Eagles Nest as an option for our outing but I wasn't sure of the return route so I suggested a return to Boughil (631mtrs) as an alternative and he readily agreed. The drive through the winding road to Moll's Gap is not too bad this time of year when the tourist traffic is quiet but it can be horrendous in high summer but today we had it to ourselves and we were able to relax and enjoy the rugged landscape (well what was visible under the mist). Soon enough we arrived at Barfinnihy Lough where we parked our car and suited up for the trek.

Frank looking trim after the Christmas

A new camera makes selfies so easy馃樀
We were now in the mist and it was a bit strange not to be able to see any of the route right from the start. We walked around to the southern side of the lake and crossed the very wet ground until we reached the shallow gully that splits the east face of Boughil. This normally gives a nice grade 1 scramble directly to the summit some 350mtrs above but today there was a lot of water coming down so we stuck to the ground on either side of it. It is always amazing just how deceptively steep such ground can be. We would come to a steep bit and I would pick what I would think was an easy line up through it and almost invariably it would turn out much steeper and trickier than expected and time and again we found ourselves pulling up on heather and bog to get over some slimy black rocky bits. It was actually great fun. The slope just went on and on but eventually we reached the summit. The wind wasn't too bad and there was no cold about but in the absence of views we got out the map and compass and set off for the next top Cnoc na gCapall 639mtrs. We dropped easily to the col and climbed the 100 or so meters to the top and then set off for the final top of the day Bascadh 595mtrs. After a bite of lunch we turned initially north and then northeast and dropped down to Gearhasallagh where we traversed above a lone farmstead and joined the road that climbs back to the lake and the car. We hot footed it up and after a very fast change of clothes we drove back to town where I arrived at the station with about a minute to spare to catch a nice early train home.

Finally emerging under the clouds

We contoured around just above the farm

All in all we covered about 9kilometers and climbed perhaps 700mtrs and we had taken a bit with four hours. It had been a lovely relaxing day out and it proved yet again that the views are really only a small part of the reason why we get out on the mountains. Thanks Frank. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Crohane Benaunmore and The Cappagh Glen. A great way to start the New Year

On New Years Day I went for a hike in one of my favourite places...The Cappagh Glen. A late start (celebrations and late to bed) meant it wasn't until 11.30 when I left the car. I wasn't worried as this is an area that offers outings that are not long but can be as short as you like. The mild weather of yesterday had been replaced by a strong bitingly cold wind but it was dry so I opted to turn and climb Crohane (650mtrs) first. After just a couple of hundred meters from the car you turn left and leave the sheep pastures behind and climb up through a narrow band of gnarly native trees before then up some steep rough bracken covered ground and then finally entering the open mountain. Now all that remains is a long slog to the rather shapely summit which had some icy grass on the final slopes. A brief rest to take in the views before dropping south and then west to finally reach Crohane West Top 477mtrs. I was then faced with a steep section down to the outlet of Lough Nabroda which proved treacherous with my smooth soled boots but with considerable care I arrived intact. Next comes a steep 200mtr climb to the volcanic peak of Benaunmore which is a truly wild a rugged hill even if it is only just over 450 mtrs high. It is a fairly simple job to then drop into the wooded wonderland that is the southern end of the Cappagh Glen which is without doubt one of the most special places in Kerry. Once back on relatively flat ground I was able to relax and walk easier but of course that is where I went arse over tit almost immediately 馃槶. Thankfully new boots are on the way 馃榿. I enjoyed the walk back out of the glen and I was soon back at the car and feeling very glad I had taken the effort to get out today. A great start to 2017馃憤
Quite lovely approaching the summit

Looking south towards the south top Benaunmore and Mangerton beyond

The Cappagh Glen