All posts by Geoff Thomas

Kyrgyzstan – Endless Summits

The Jetim Bel range is remote and little visited by outsiders, never mind climbers.  So remote are these areas that only the very highest peaks are named. Nomadic herders, tending horses, cattle and yaks are still the only people to be met. As we arrived in mid September the higher valleys had already been emptied and the lower yurts were being packed away.
We climbed four peaks in total with one probable first ascent and all First Irish Ascents.

The first base camp in the Naryn Valley at an altitude of about 2950m, was reached by the versatile Kamaz six wheel drive vehicles in about 6 hours from Bishkek. After an acclimatisation visit to the twin lakes at 3500m we were ready for our first ascent. During the night snow had fallen and the start felt like a Scottish winter. Soon the sun came out though and the climb to the romantically named Pt 4327 improved. This was a relatively simple peak, up snow to the col but the final shale slope was tiring after the 7km approach. By the time we returned to camp the sun had cleared most of the snow.
The next day we moved camp, driving some 50Km east to the confluence of Naryn and little Naryn rivers. In the afternoon we ascended Pt4069 to recce the next day. Pt 4343 was a slightly more technical Peak but easier to ascend (1300, F) once the snow was reached.

This area was visited by a French Party in 2004, but there were no records of them climbing this peak, nor was there a cairn.
Camp 3 was a further 10km east at a shade below 3000m. Again we ascended to a summit above camp (pt 4005) to spy the route opposite.

The final peak, Pt 4624, was almost entirely on snow but the recent fall made going a little difficult,  (900m PD-). The final summit ridge dropped away dramatically, making the summit rocks a challenge.

Summary: Within a few hours flight of Dublin is an extremely remote area with loads of potential for exploration. There is positively loads to do here without much technical difficulty or the need for extensive acclimatisation, meaning a trip can easily be fitted into annual leave.

Finding Climbfest

For those that haven’t visited Climbfest before here is a little guide of how to find the campsite and most of the top ropes.

Bunagee pier can be found by taking the R238 right through the village then turning right over the bridge towards the filling station. Carry on along this road for a mile or so then turn right at a sign for the pier. A further mile brings you to the pier. Please remember to park tidily as this is a still a working fishing pier.

The Saturday morning session is at the main crag at Dunmore Head. This can be found by following the shore road from the village.

Sunny Spain

After a winter indoors the flying four of Gerard, Seamus, Kevin and Geoff set off to enjoy the delights sunny Spain. Or at least that was the plan.  The weather had other ideas. An atrocious forecast for the Siurana area saw us heading south to Alicante. A last minute phone call from the Ryanair check-in queue and Gerard had found great accommodation in Finestrat. Our plan was to stay in that area for a few days then head for the hills but the weather changed our plans once again and so we stayed where we were.
The climbing was always great and we did sometimes see the sun. We visited a different crag every day with styles ranging from the steep pockets of Gandia to the slabbier Sella.

Spain 18

Other attractions were Alcalali, Guadalest, Reconco and Olta. Gerard and Kevin romped up loads of 6b+s and Seamus and I managed many 6a s. Altogether a great week -same time next year lads?

Blue Sky Thinking

So the wettest Climbfest has been and gone. Without the Foyle Arena we would have really been adrift. The Saturday ‘come and try it’ session was reasonably well attended and even better, dry. Then as they it was a game of two halves. Loads turned up at the wall and a big thanks goes out to Stuart and Bren who got the inductions done quickly and efficiently, thanks guys.
Sunday was as wet as forecasted so pretty much everyone headed to the wall and the craic was mighty. There are routes for all abilities and everyone was challenged by something.
Very few made it through to Monday but those that did were rewarded with a dry and sunny day [see photo] even if it did go off during the afternoon. Stars of the weekend were: Gerard O’Sullivan for completing the most routes indoors and out; George for giving the jamming masterclass and the superstar motivation award must go to Niamh Connolly for turning out every day including a dash to Belfast to buy shoes and a harness.
The best thing from the weekend though was that we managed to raise €1,000 to help the survivors of the Nepal earthquake. Thanks to all who donated gear and to those who bought items too.
Looking forward to next year already and I’ve booked warm weather – blue sky thinking.

Another Appointment with the Gods

The weather had smiled upon us once more so Marty, Alan and I headed back to Muckish, this time with an eye for Divided Loyalties. Having seen it on Sunday we thought the cold snap would have produced some build up, but sadly not.
After some manoeuvring with Marty’s van we arrived at the start of the miner’s path and decide to ditch the original plan. It just looked too lean. And so it was that we headed off once more for god’s own gully. It was still the only route in condition.
Once again it provided great entertainment all the way. This time it was much more relaxing without anyone ahead of us, particularly someone without axe or crampons! The snow again was in great condition and the icy step providing a bit of interest and the top snowslope a great sense of exposure.
Marty was keen to do more so we traversed along the escarpment and descended just to the right of the colossus pinnacle. This gave us a close view of the summer possibilities. The fresh snowfall over the Monday and Tuesday had added a good deal of unconsolidated snow into the descent so some wading was called for.
We traversed along the base of the crag to a line of Iain Millar’s just right of Divided Loyalties. Sadly this was not in as good condition as the first. Although it looked good it was full of powder. At this point Marty had enough of carrying his sack and threw it away down the slope. Luckily his camera was in his hand and a banana was rescued from the snow! A lot of cursing of the soft snow brought us up to the final snowfield but it really was a pale imitation of the first gully, but a good excursion. Not recommended just now. Maybe God’ Own gully does deserve the title.
We descended the miner’s path and were surprised at the amount of snow that had banked it out since Sunday. Alan and Marty traversed back to retrieve the sack and we all headed back to the van. A great day out.

New Wall Takes Shape

With over two years of construction, many false starts and goodness knows how many hours of planning, discussion and specifying, the new wall at St Columb’s Park is finally taking shape. With only the holds to be added, – about 1800 have been ordered, the ‘Foyle Arena’ as we must learn to call it, is very nearly ready to welcome the first climbers.
The climbing wall is the central part of the massive new complex that includes two swimming pools, a cafe and a (very) large hall. The wall has a monstrously overhanging competition wall on one side and a vertical wall on the other side. Under the large window that gives loads of natural light there’s a dedicated, mega steep bouldering area. Some of the wall can be seen from the car park but you really have to go inside to really get the feel of it.
The plan is to have two MI nights a week for members, but there will be open access at all times the centre is open, 7.00am to 10.00pm apparently. Alpine starts anyone! With only a few weeks left I for one can’t wait until it opens, probably first week of April, but I’ll just have too! The only thing we wait to know is how much entry will cost but I’m sure it’ll be reasonable.
I’m sure the way the wall is highly visible from the café and reception bay windows will attract lots of people to ‘come and try it’ sessions and so we can look forward to lots of new members. I’m certain this wall will transform climbing in the North West, Donegal and beyond.
Lastly, a big thanks to Rodney and Paul Who have put an extraordinary amount of time into getting this project built.
There are more photos in the gallery but they have gone to the second page somehow.

Owey September 5th – 7th

The weather continued to do as it was told so Marty, Valli and Alan paddled over on Friday evening while I caught the boat with young Dhonail at the helm. Also on board was Mauritz, a young German hitchhiking surfer that Valli found.
Saturday dawned windy and cloudy but dry so once Ivan arrived we all headed off. A bit reluctantly at first, thinking there may be a bit of shivering to be endured. By the time we reached the fluted wall area though the sun was shining. Marty and Alan picked Promethius, a great looking line. A real classic and a photographers’ dream, a three star route probably. If it was in Cornwall this would have climbers all over it. Ivan and I headed down to the seaward end of the opposite side of the zawn and put up a couple of new lines – steeper than they looked! Lovely and warm in the sun though and out of the wind. The day ended with a mass ascent of Darcy, which is again a real classic up a fine slab, worth at least 2 stars.
Sunday was another sunny day and we headed back to the same area. No new lines were climbed but Alan did explore a few lines. so still plenty to do on the Island. Ivan and I climbed Promethius, posed for photos and confirmed its classic status. A bit freaky going down to the hanging belay but ok once the solid cams in place!
Marty again paddled home with Ivan and Karen, while I guarded the luggage. We left Alan and Valli to enjoy another evening A great weekend and I can’t wait to get back, even if it may be next year now.