The Adventures of Les & Des
|Date: 4th & 5th April
Submitted by: Des O'Connor
Having been on the phone several times since January trying to plan a winter trip we eventually settled on going to Scotland at the tail-end of Easter week. But alas, again family issues [having 3 kids each] stifled our plans. So with all the talk about the Mournes we decided to saddle up and head east.
After a later start on Thursday due to car problems and road issues we were finally trudging into Eagle mountain, Les had his eyes set on a classic known as "Rock n Roll Gully". With map and guidebook to hand we found the target route, and as we tramped up into it we were met with a vista of ice steps – “holy jazuz” I says – “look at that!” . Les was sporting a big cheesy grin :)
Racking up and getting anchored - Les took off in style and despite having limited protection (i.e. 1 ice screw) he put the first two pitches together in one run. With hardly time to compose myself I hear, "climb when ready"! So I grunted and kicked and heaved myself up over the ice steps in glorious middle-aged style :)
As I neared Les, arms at near max, looking fwd to the rest and changeover - I suddenly realised – crap! "what if Les - wants me to climb on and lead the next bit - the freaking crux!!". Guess what? - that is exactly what he said - it was my turn, I couldn't whimp out!
So looking up at this last 12ft pitch of ice, I stepped up, and with axe and a foot in place, I secured the shiny ice screw. But now I kinda climbed myself onto a shelf and I was running out of steam, both feet together, arms maxed – there was only going to be one outcome! - I backed off….Sorry - rephrase that - fell off :)
When the laughing finally stopped - Les took over and showed me how it was supposed to have been done! Needless to say armed with the proper approach/technique I managed to climb it "properly" the second time. Les topped out – again on thin gear and I gladly followed up to finish the route. Big smiles as we looked for the shortest descent route back to the car, the food and the beer.
Day 2 did not start well – a late feed in a dodgy Chinese left me with a pitiful sleep and multiple descents from the top bunk! I got the Imodium and Andrews in the local shop and we headed off towards Slieve Bearnagh. A handy walk in with great photos we ambled up to a few unnamed short gullies to look for a likely route(s). After a bit of scouting Les found a 20m ice fall and we racked up. Les headed off into what looked like 1 inch ice over unprotected rock - And sure enough after about 8metres and a close-up look at it, he realised why it was possibly an unnamed route!
Not to be deterred we scooted up a snow/turf slip route to the side and decided to stick a rope over the aforementioned 1inch ice slivers to finish off the day. The Imodium and Andrews was wearing off and I was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike - so Les duly abseiled down and climbed the route under his own steam – with both packs on his back! I was well and truly shown a lesson!. We basked in the sun and the surroundings as we trotted off home through the white hills.