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In the house of Jack.

Date: December 2009
Submitted by: Iain Miller

And Sho, Jack Frost waves his magic wand over the Promised land that is Western Donegal, it would have been rude not to venture forth in the immaculate winter conditions provided.

Day 1:

A wee venture up the South Face of Muckish, through ever deepening and ever steepening pristine sun-crust snow, with thousands of icicles and ice curtains draped over all the wee outcrops and a huge cornice/pillow type affair guarding the entry to the summit plateau. Alas this was the lee side of the beast and the summit walk involved violent snow flurries and spindrift in the 70+MPH winds, near zero vis at times and a most definate "Scottish Winter" feel to the mountain. A bit of a baptism of fire for Noble Sister Gleeson who is currently sharpening her tools for a venture into the Scottish wilderness, as we speak! HURRA!

Day 2:

The North end of the mighty Errigal was in immaculate condition as I ventured up the rime frozen West ridge, 200m of unrelenting steepness broken nicely by even steeper bits which provided superb BIG tumble potential climbing. :-)

Day 3:

Returned to The North face of Errigal the folowing day, this time with tools and spikes, the hanging rib of rock high on the NW face was the object of my desires. A hard frozen walk in over foot deep snow and up the frozen solid scree, the mountain was in truly awesome winter condition, even the odd violent burst of frozen rain didn't peturb. :-) Arrived at the bottom of the rock half way up the NW face it looked very steep and brief moment of doubt was duely removed as the first axe swing landed into the reasuring sound of solid frozen turf. HURRA!

The first section was up excellent frozen sloping ledges and considerable atmosphere as I arrived at the base of a 15m vertical wall, a brief moment of super scary verticallity was had on superb frozen turf and jugs. Arrived on the horizontal medium above and collapsed onto my knees as the sight ahead was a 30m high, steep, hoar frosted knife edge ridge, which looked totaly fackin mind blowing and thus the skies lowered, the winds increased and I sat in near white-out chaos as the elements tore at the frabic of my current predicament.

Began to climb the ridge with UBER big air all around, as the winds remained but thankfully the very annoying flying ice pellets abated. The ridge was truly excellent climbing with considerable exposure and worry, and so to the crux. A steep high very, very exposed rockover on a single crampon point and a torqued axe and I was on the home straight, with a pleasant scramble up a much broader ridge to the North Summit of Errigal.


Day 4:

Met Noble Brother Steven Read at Lough Barra, after his epic 5 hour journey from Belfast he was keen for some vertical winter action. Hard frozen snow and minus temperatures were the order of the day as we left our cars and ventured up into Scuhancrolee Coire looking for mucho vertical ice. Alas the monster gully that I hoped would be frozen, was frosty but still liquid, so Brother Read led the way up a rib to it's left and up a subsiduary gully to take us to the hard frozen snow covered summit of Crockfadda. All in all an excellent 130m of grade II frosty shenanigans with some tricky worrysome bits thrown in for good measure!

It was only 1pm so we opted to plough through the thigh deep drifts towards the saddle to the south of Slieve Snaght and contoured around to the North face of the Beast, we followed the very fortunate deer tracks which broke trail through the deep snow all the way to the base of the North Ridge of Slieve Snaght. The single deer track being the only evidence of previous visitors to this pristine winter wonderland!

It was now 3pm and the sun was already beginning to dip as we began to ascend the steep North West face of the beast. We started up an excellent 30m open book corner which took us to a very fortuitous positioned ledge, above us lay a 100 or so metres of perfect ice smears and frozen turf, the summer drainage line was frozen solid and crying out for two giggling fools to climb it, and so we did! HURRA!

We arrived on the summit of Slieve Snaght as the sun was setting, the sun set over a frozen white, clear sky'd Donegal was simply beyond words, so we stood in silence.

Simply Excellent!

30 Dec 2009

Good to see more ice routes added to the guide. I'd better try to build in a grading system for winter now. It's shame we only get snow when the days are about 5 hours in length!

Photo of Route