Friday, December 29, 2017

Curve Gully on Carrauntoohil. Winter Grade1 Climb

I went back to The Reeks this morning in the hope of getting a winter route done. There had been a lot more snow on the Kerry mountains over the past few days than on The Galtees so I was hopeful that something might have been in condition. As is so often the case the weather hadn't played ball and heavy overnight rain had stripped much of the snow cover away and the temps were well above freezing as I left the car. Nevertheless I took an axe and crampons but ultimately they weren't needed. As things looked so stripped I had resigned myself to going up O'Sheas Gully to the summit of Carrauntoohil and come down the Devils Ladder. I'm still struggling a little with a lingering flu and I was puffing away as I walked into the Hags Glen. It is of course possible that my overdose of sugar hasn't helped matters either but the new year will put paid to all those excesses. I climbed up into the first level of Coumeenoughter where I reached the first of the slushy snow and things stayed just as soft when I reached the second level. I toyed with the idea of climbing the bottom section of Curve which was still nicely banked out but I feared it would have been a desperate wallow so I climbed into the third level and decided to join the gully higher up.
Most of the snow gone but still very pretty

High in the gully and looking very good. I was tempted to put on the crampons here

Looking down

Final slopes..a bit steeper that it looks here..About 40 degrees on top

A party of four were up ahead and I was hoping that I would be able to enjoy using their steps in the soft snow and indeed I was until I reached the first rocky step before the gully narrows. Here the rocks were covered in snow-ice and the party decided to stop and put on crampons. The snow-ice was pretty soft and was taking a good step so I left the hardware in the bag and continued on up. Things weren't as bad as I had feared and while I had to wallow the odd time, I was able to make more pleasant progress for the most part. Once I reached the final 100mtrs or so of the gully things were actually quite nice and I was even tempted to put on crampons for the final semi-icy difficult step. I got over it easily enough though and enjoyed the final few metres to the summit. It had felt like a proper winter outing with occasional spindrift slides and rime ice still clinging onto the frozen ground. If there is a frost tonight then tomorrow the conditions would be very nice indeed. The summit remained clear of cloud throughout the day and it was nice to be able to enjoy wintry views as I ate my lunch. I returned to my car via the Heavenly Gates and even though I ached a bit and was tired it felt great to have had a proper winter climb. Hopefully there is much more to come this winter (either here of abroad 😊 ).

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