Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Winter Walking on the MacGillycuddy Reeks

After the delights of Mayo last weekend I couldn't pass up on the chance of a decent winter outing on The Reeks so I forwent some sleep on Friday morning and left direct from work and headed West. Snow was still lying to pretty low levels and with the temperature hovering at just 1 degree as I left the car at Lisliebane it promised to be quite chilly on top. A substantial snowfall had occurred yesterday and I reckoned that all gullies would be deep wallow fests so I opted to climb The Bone and see what I felt like doing from there. The cloud hung pretty low on the mountains but the forecast was decent with the promise of better later in the day. I had crampons and axe on the bag but I wasn't over hopeful that they would be needed. I walked into the Hags Glen until I crossed at the outflow of Lough Callee and then the climbing started.

Looking promising?

A steepish start and add in the soft snow made it a little tougher than usual but I plodded on and reached the crest of the spur. Here I reached the first drifts of the day and they made for some less than elegant progress. The rocky bits made things a tad spicier and the rocks were nicely coated in rime ice. The Bone is a long route and once you pass the second rock section the slog is long and tiring. As I got higher the wind strengthened and the temperature dropped. At the summit of Maoláu Buí things were very wintry indeed. The wind was a hoolie and it was  loaded with spindrift and being in the cloud the visibility was at times literally zero. My watch was reading minus 4 and it felt much lower in the was thrilling and invigorating and just great. The goggles were on straight away and I set off towards Cnoc an Cuillan. There was some cornices on the ridge and drifting of snow so progress wasn't straightforward but enough visibility remained to make safe progress. Cuillan duly arrived and passed and when I dropped down to the next col things eased off wind wise and I got some views down to the valley. I climbed to the top of Cnoc na Toinne and headed towards the devils Ladder. A full snow covering on the flat top meant that at times visibility was zero and I had to stop and wait for some features to emerge. On the descent to the ladder emerged from the cloud and the stunning snowy alpine like vistas were delightful to see. Lastly I had the 300 metre slog to the summit of Carrauntoohil. Never easy, it was even more of a plod today but thankfully a lot of the snow was firm enough to bear my weight. Alas some cloud arrived at the top just as I arrived so the views to Benkeeragh were denied me so I settled out of the breeze (yes it was easier here) and actually got to enjoy my lunch (almost) in solitude. I decided to return via the Devils Ladder and this was a swift and easy snow gully which was lovely to descend. Back out to the car in the sun and I finished in 6 hours and 20 minutes..slow and definitely more tired than normal..just not used to the snow I guess. Beautiful and invigorating day. More please before the winter ends.
Approaching The Ladder and things clear


The Brida Valley and Mullaghanattin

Slieve Mish

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