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Scotland Winter Trip 2020

 

The base was the Aite Cruinnidhich hostel at Roy Bridge, which the organiser George had booked some months before.  We were the first arrivals in the van, on Thursday night, then Jimmy from Inverness, closely followed by Damien and Finbarr. Attempts by the most recent arrivals to find anywhere open to eat and drink in either Roy Bridge or Spean Bridge were fruitless, so Damien rustled up a spagbol.

 

The forecast was for Friday to be the best day, and with a lower avalanche level in the east, we headed for the Cairngorms, about an hour away.  Jimmy and Margaret went to try and bag a couple of nearby Corbetts.  The carpark at Cairngorm was filling rapidly when Damien, Finbarr and I arrived, but we stopped for a coffee before tramping across to Coire An Sneachta, Damien twisting his ankle en route.  This became a problem for him, despite an ankle support and painkillers, so he turned back just as we started up the slope to the base of the Fiacaill Ridge.  The ridge was in wonderful condition, but there were a number of slow guided parties which we managed to get past.  Traversing from the top, towards Cairngorm, we met a bloke on a snow board getting towed by a pair of huskies, who  told us that he had met another Irish guy with a bad leg on the way up the mountain. Damien?

 

It was, because there he was on top, having pulled a Lazarus, and we all walked down together, well pleased with the day’s activities.

 

Back at the Hostel the Corbetteers were licking their egos having floundered in deep snow, and been forced to turn back, whilst the new arrivals, George, PJ and Anthony, were looking at the forecast for Saturday with rising dismay. The hostel was suddenly jammed full of another group (also the CCC according to the identifiers on the mountain of food that was stowed in the fridges).

 

Yet another walk into and out of Coire Ardair on Craig Meggy (how many times have I done that without ever climbing a route?) followed on Saturday, along with the abovementioned CCC.  Jimmy went home.  Meal out in Fort William.

 

Sunday saw The CCC take off for home (with George’s whisky) whilst George, Ant, Finbarr and I headed up the ski lift on Aonach Mor, en route to ‘Golden Oldie’ on the west face, and PJ, Margaret and Damien went in pursuit of another brace of Corbs above Lough Arkaig. 

 

The longest 2 km I have ever walked, up the Ailt Daim, found us wet and confused as to where the base of the ‘Oldie’ might be as we gazed up into the snow and mist. “Should be around here somewhere” said George, who had been before, and so we started up.   “Is this it?” said Finbarr as we climbed. “Might be” said George.  “Is this it?” said Finbarr, higher up, “Possibly”. said George.   “Is this it?” said Finbarr, even higher. “No” said George.  But we went up anyway. Silver Oldie perhaps, with at best a bronze medal for navigation, for finding our way down with 5 minutes to spare before the last Gondola.  Back at the hostel, herself was well pleased with 2 more Corbetts, Damien had turned back after Meall nah Eilde 838m and went to get the car, and PJ in a coma after trail breaking all day.  Anthony not well either, with a dose of the coronas, he thought

 

George was incandescent on discovering that the CCC had relocated his malt to Glasgow, making do with wine, as we ‘ate in’ that night.

 

The Feeneys took off for Cairngorm to ski, and the rest had a rest.  This was a nice walk up Glen Nevis to the Steall Bridge followed by an afternoon in the pub.  Due to rising concern over the fast moving Covid 19 situation, and a poor forecast, we all came home the next day (Tuesday, St Patrick’s day).

 

Disregarding Dennis

 

The faint hearted heeded the weather warning, the brave, (or foolish), didn’t let the impending storm put the wind up them, and proceeded with the plan, (more out of morbid curiosity than courage I imagine). Marty was there to meet us, clinging to his van, as was Martin Bonar (who had walked over Muckish from the gap) and Terry and his incredible electric car.  We were, Marjan and Alan, PJ and Anthony of the hangovers, and me and the line manager.

 

The plan, was to abseil into the great cave on Muckish, and then go for a pint. The wind should be from the SW so the north face should be sheltered.  When we parked, inability to open any of the doors on one side of the car, and alarming rocking of same, indicated that the wind was not as anticipated, but undeterred, we climbed out of the other side, and crabbed our way towards the mountain. The wind, which occasionally dropped to hurricane force 17 (+ hail), relented somewhat as we got to the base of the miner’s track.  We met a bloke with a dog coming down.  Martin pointed out that the wind wasn’t too bad earlier in the morning, but we had timed out arrival impeccably at the height of the storm.

 

 To climb out onto the western flank of the mountain, scramble to the edge of a cliff, and abseil seemed suicidal (especially as Alan had never abbed before) so we decided to go up the miners track and see how it went.

 

 A splinter group of Martin and Marty (the mad Martins) was seen to veer off and head for the cave.  We pretended not to notice.  It was ok up the track, which turned to snow higher up.  Another splinter group, they of the hangovers, choose to go up a snowy gully, and met us at the sand pit.  A quick scally up the lower reaches of Crowe’s Gully was all we were allowed, as herself had plans for the coffee shop in Glenveigh.

 

Down we went, but I could see the mad Martins at the top of the cave, and still had ambitions of a photograph. Madder Martin had disappeared, but could I get there in time to take a photo of the lesser mad Martin on the ab?  I raced across meeting Terry (who had changed his mind about staying in the car) en route. When I got to the base of the cave and gazed aloft, there was madder Martin dangling euphorically below the roof, and in no hurry to rejoin humanity, (possibly because there was a big knot below him).  To be fair the knot was almost at ground level, but nevertheless hard to unpick, and almost as hard as getting Marty out of his pre-war harness.  Lesser mad Martin untied the rope and walked down, and we all went our separate ways, some to Glenveigh where we met up with the North West, and some elsewhere.

 

Malin Head development plan submission

Malin Head Visitor Management consultation 10/12/2019  Feedback

1.       Bamba’s Tower. This could swallow a lot of funding.  There is already a viewpoint which is more than adequate.  It could be a future project, but at this time the money could be better spent, and appropriate repairs would suffice.

2.       Trails. Land Ownership is fundamental, as you cannot do anything until you have the agreement of the landowner, and this can be withdrawn at any time due to an incident, dispute, or change of ownership.   Visitors come to Malin Head particularly from inland Europe, for the clifftop walk experience, and currently some of the best bits of the Malin coastline are closed,  Skildren Bay to the Devils Bridge, Breasty Bay, Knockmany Bens, and the coastal walk from the Wee House to Glengad (one of the half dozen best such walks in Ireland, and one which used to be recommended in the Blue Planet guide).   Use the funding to purchase the land (by CPO if necessary).  A 10m wide strip of the clifftop would suffice, and this should not prove much of a loss to the landowner (in fact they would be less likely to lose animals off the cliff, if properly fenced).

3.       Path Building.  Consult Mountaineering Ireland, who have access to experts in this field.  They will provide advice on an environmentally sympathetic path which will not get washed away during the first flood.  Learn from the Slieve League experience, where the path had to be redone at great expense.   Spending large amounts of money on H&S infrastructure will not enhance the wilderness experience, and not every path has to be wheelchair accessible, or be wide enough for an excavator and tractor to get past each other.

4.       Car Parking.  The ideal place for the main carpark would be just off the Malin Head loop, which is walking distance from the crown for most people.  Traffic access to the Crown could be on a quota basis (counters and a barrier) so that on quiet winters days visitors can drive up, (but not on a busy day, when they will be stopped at the main car park).

5.       Dunaldragh.  This is a great idea, that is the bridge to the island, Ireland’s most northerly point.  It would be a great attraction, but visitors should be contained in one protected area, for safety reasons and the protection of nesting seabirds.

I am a walker, climber and past president of Mountaineering Ireland (the national representative body for Mountaineers, hillwalkers, ramblers and leisure walkers) resident in Culdaff, and I use the Malin Head area both for walking the headlands, and rock climbing on the cliffs.  This year the Donegal Climbfest was run at Malin head, which brought about 150 visitors to the area for the Mayday bank holiday.   The potential of an iconic place like Malin as an outdoor recreation hub is immense, walkers, climbers, kayakers, fishermen, Basking shark spotting, coasteering etc  but the main problem is that of access.   A couple of years ago, I researched a coastal ‘way’ from the ferry at Buncrana around the North Inishowen coast (linking existing paths) to the ferry at Greencastle (the Inishowen Wildway). The idea was a link with the North Antrim Coastal path, but I was obliged to leave out Malin Head completely, due to the number of intractable access problems.  Great opportunities for the local community are there, if they can convince some crucial landowners to buy into a more accommodating attitude to visitors, and that there is something in it for them.

Alan Tees

Bunagee, Culdaff, Co Donegal

alanwtees@gmail.com

Wintering in Connemara. Jan 20

A great weekend, with wonderful January weather.  On Friday we met up with Dennis, Damien, Gertrude, Brian and Martin at the bottom of Croaghmoyle 430m Just south of Nephin.  Brian had worked out a good route over this hill, which none of us had ever been on before. About 3 hours.

Saturday, we left the hostel in Letterfrack, and joined by Neil and Fergus, we drove around to the south side of Maumtrasna.  We walked up the beautiful Sruh Na Long Valley, scrambled onto the snowy summit, and then back down the ridge.  About 5 hours.  Blue skies all day, and meal out in the Bard’s Den.

Sunday. Fergus wanted to do Ben Choona, while some of them wanted a shorter day (something to do with a fitba match) so they went to Diamond Hill.  Our party of Gertrude Margaret, Fergus and I, boosted by two French girls from the hostel (eat your heart out Dennis), started up the hill from Lough Fee, hotly pursued by Westport Hillwalking Club.  They didn’t catch us, but on the top of  Garraun we met folk from Castlebar that we knew from MI, and we both descended the east ridge, and back along the lake to the cars.  Coffee in Kylemore Abbey.  Everybody else went home, but M and I stayed another night in the hostel, as I had part of the Irish Polar crossing to do.

Monday, biked from L.Inagh to Lenane, and on to Westport on the Western Way, then to Newport on the Greenway. Heavy going in a few places, but otherwise superb.  I would hate to walk it.  Margaret picked me up in Newport and then home.

Climbfest 2019 @ Malin Head

The 2019 Climbfest will take place at Malin Head on 3rd – 6th May

The 2019 Climbfest will be on the usual Mayday bank holiday weekend 3-6May at Malin Head.

Climbing will be centred on the sea cliffs east of Bamba’s Crown (the tower at Malin Head carpark). See map below.

Camping for tents, as well as parking for campers and caravans will be available in the field beside The Seaview Tavern at SlieveBawn (approx 4km from the climbing areas). Car parking at Malin Head is limited, so car sharing or cycling between the campsite and Malin Head is recommended.

The beginner’s climbing session will be on Saturday morning. Meet at 9.45 at the campsite, or 10am at Malin Head carpark. If you arrive late, just walk east from the carpark along the coast and listen out for the climbers.

The Malin Head topo guide can be downloaded here.

Additional topo guides, covering all of the routes on Inishowen, can be found here.

Crag Area:

Campsite Location:

Holiday on Ice

It was Jack’s idea from last year in Cogne, the ice would be easier, more variety of angle, and more Scottish Gully-like, so the same 4 signed up for Argentiere le Bessee 2019.

The first day was simply superb, a narrow two pitch 3 called ‘Easy Rider’, followed by the left branch of a Y gully called ‘Holiday on ice’, also 3, but about 7 pitches, albeit not all of them climbing.

The following morning it was snowing heavily, but stopped about 11.  We felt the routes would be a bit banked up, but decided to go up and have a look at ‘Holiday on ice’, right branch (only the first pitch is shared).  It was a bit harder due to having to clear the fresh snow as we climbed, but still good.

The classic 4 ‘Les Formes de Chaos’ was on for the next day, and half of France had turned up to climb it, and two Corsicans just back from Scotland. No, not climbing there, but watching the rugby. “The Scots, they taka outa Jonnee Sexton beeg time.” We queued for about an hour, and in the event, I didn’t even get off the ground as Jack was hit on the hand on the first pitch by a big lump of ice, and had to be lowered down.  Broken finger.  No question of further climbing for him.  George and Finbarr were at the top of the 60m first pitch at this stage so we retired to the coffee bar and sat with the skiers to watch them.  Due to the congestion, and a tricky boss third pitch, it took them all day to climb it.

The next day we decided to have a rest day and go snow shoeing.  Not much of a rest really, but nice to look at something other than ice,

Our Gite/Auberge at Celiac was great and the food even better, but we moved down to Argentiere, the target for Thursday being a grade 5 called Hiroshima in the Fournel Valley. Following a very discernible path down to the river, it disappeared completely on the other side, and approach to the base of the route involved uphill swimming in waist to chest deep snow.  I decided there must be a better way, and left George and Finbarr to it.  Re-crossing the river and following the track up the valley, no other options presented themselves, so I went back down and was battling my way upwards in George’s collapsing steps, when himself and Finbarr appeared with Jack back on the other side. The route was in dangerous condition, so they had exited on the very path that I had been seeking.  Plan B was a man-made ice wall just outside Argentiere (water pipes at the top) which provided us with 3 enjoyable routes of about 50m.

The next morning we were starting airport-ward, and seeking a route in the La Grave area which, being higher, should be in safer condition that Hiroshima. George (from Ballymena you understand) was too tight to buy a guide book, so all were left to my recollections of climbing there with Bill back in the last century.  “Le Pylon, that’s it over there”.  But it wasn’t, which became clear after the first pitch.  La Croupe de la Poufiasse 4+ 220m *** the classic of the area, was duly climbed by mistake, twa easy pitches by Finbarr and myself, then George leading the crux, followed by a busted Finbarr, with myself thumbing a lift back down with them.  And so, to Grenoble, and home.

Well, I would love to go back to this great area,  but have concerns at the numbers of people now ice climbing in these popular destinations. Grade 3s are a lot safer, as the pitches are shorter and the steep steps tend to be separated by flatter areas which catch the falling ice.  You can also wait until the party above clear the step, but pressure of numbers from behind, means that you tend to start below them with the danger of a piece of ice the size and weight of a Le Creuset frying pan smacking you on the head.  If you climb below someone on a rock route there is a chance of something coming off, but on an ice climb it is almost inevitable, and the more sustained the route and the more climbers above, the greater the risk.  No one’s fault really.

Lossar Sept 18

Lossar Valley Expedition 2018

And in the beginning, there were enough people interested to plan two expeditions, the first to Spiti with Raja for three weeks (the original objective being the unclimbed Lynam peak 4700m) and the second to Langtang, with a trekking option.   Those with the time and energy could travel from India and do both.    A variety of reasons let to many cry-offs, and the Nepal one was deferred until 2019, but we had 5 for Spiti, visas arranged, flights booked etc.

Alas, three days before take off, we were down to two, with Raja in a panic, having paid deposits, contracted porters etc.

Just Jack and I at Dublin airport then, and a couple of days later we were in Manali, sitting in Johnston’s Hotel drinking beer, and looking out at a thunder storm.  The crossing of the 4000m Rotang La, and 4500m Kussum La, were completed without too many problems, and we stopped at the Shambala Guest house, Lossar village, at the base of our valley.   The next day was a tough acclimatisation exercise, doing a carry up the steep sided valley to base camp, 4000m to 4500m.

Our 3 porters arrived after an 8 hours bus ride from Manali, to carry food and gear to BC, which they did the next day.  We had a rest day, and went to see Ki Monastry, climbing back up to BC the following morning.

The plan was to explore and climb in two subsidiaries of the main Lossar valley, doing a second ascent of peak 6015m in the first, and hopefully a first ascent of one of the 3 unclimbed summits at the back of the second valley.  Two days later, we were sitting on top of 6015m, having also bagged Larimo 5800m, en route. The plan was going perfectly.  Back to BC,  move house to ABC, at the entrance to the second subsidiary valley, and then up to our second high camp on a glacier. 

The problem was that we would have needed to establish a further camp to climb any of the peaks at the back of the valley, and we were short of porter power having only Lackpa and Pasang.  Mighty men they are, Pasang having summitted Everest 3 times (including escaping from camp 6 in 1996- see ‘Into Thin air’) Kanchenjunga, Cho oyu, etc etc, but due to the reduced numbers, Raja had not enough funds to hire more Sherpas without making the cost prohibitive for Jack and myself.

The two more accessible 6000m peaks had both been climbed, (Dom Rimo and Lossar Peak), but we decided to give one of them a go, and come down a day or two early, and perhaps enjoy a day and a half in Manali to shop and relax, before going home.   The plan was to climb to the col in between, the two peaks, and decide which to tackle when we got there.

 We barely did!  A huge steep hillside of sliding stones drained our legs, lungs and ultimately, willpower.  Lakpa and Raja went a bit further but turned back.  We returned to base camp and sunbathed, looking forward to another rest the following day, before the porters arrived from Manali. 

About 6.00AM it started to snow, and this continued all day, all night and the following day.  It became clear that things were serious, and this was not just a snow shower as we had originally thought.   We had to get out, and whilst we were fortunate to be back at BC, and not at a higher camp (that might easily have been the case), to traverse across the steep valley loaded with 3-4 feet of fresh snow on a bed of shale, with god knows how many thousands of feet of it above, was not for the faint hearted.  We left carrying what we could, the rest packed up into the last standing tent. I left with less than half my stuff, Jack travelled even lighter.

Also, we had no idea whether this weather was local, or whether the porters would have been able to get over the passes from Manali, or indeed our jeep would arrive at Lossar.

We got out safely, thanks mainly to the brilliant route finding of Lakpa, to find the village also under a couple of feet of snow and, (as it never rains in Spiti), the stick and mud flat roofs in the houses were no match for such weather, and were leaking copiously.  Still, we were safe! Safe and trapped, as both passes were closed towards Manali, and the connecting road to Shimla closed due to land slides.

We learned that we were fortunate, as about 50 tourists were trapped in vehicles at lake Chandra above 4000m, and many others caught between the two passes, including possibly our porters and our jeep driver.   There were local army in our village, but they appeared to be happy drinking tea and awaiting orders, rather than trying to rescue anybody.  And still it continued to snow!

Now the concern was whether we could get out to Delhi in time for our flight.  With no sign of the passes opening in the near future, Raja turned his attention to the long way out, and made use of his numerous contacts to learn that the landslides near Poh (the base for our last expedition) were being cleared.  We moved to the local capital Kaza, and waited for news.   We were there in the queue, when it opened at 6.30 on Wednesday night.  Got to Pio at 1.30AM, bus left at 6.15AM and 21 hours of continuous bus and taxi travel later, we were in bed in Delhi at 3.00Am.  Up at 5.30 for the flight home.

I have to say that, as usual, without the help of Lakpa and Pasang, and particularly the spectacularly resourceful and positive Raja, we would have little to show for this trip, other than a crash course in weight loss (Jack and I lost 8Kg between us in three weeks).  ,

 

Ostirol 2018

Ostirol and Bavaria.

There were just three of us who went in the end, me, the line manager, and Fergus (Aoife couldn’t get off work).  Flight to Munich, car hire, drive to Lienz and first day’s trek cut short due to weather and cows- we went to the Lienzer hut rather than the higher Wangenitzee. The next day was grand, and we managed a Klettersteg (via Ferrata) up the Glodispitze, one of the highlights. A second night at the Lienzer and we were off to the Elberfelder Hut (overnight), then over the Boses Weibl 3131m to the Glorer Hut.  Forecast looking dodgy for our planned Grosglockner day, so M suggested we descend, take a bus to Lienz, retrieve the car, have an overnight in Kals, and then go back up to the next hut, the Salmhutte.  Ludicrous I thought, (but maybe not, and definitely better than Aviemore, her other suggestion), and so, it came to pass, with a nice lunch in Lienz, the world cup final and some beer and yodelling in Kals ( Fergus unimpressed with the latter, the yodelling that is). 

 

Back up to the Salmhutte, pausing only to photograph some Edelweiss, overnight stay, and then M went down, while Fergus and I went up a very wet and cold Klettersteg to the Erz Johanne Hutte, which we literally walked into in the mist.  Conditions were horrible, the sort people in Glencoe or Glenmore Lodge would avoid, so we were absolutely amazed that guides were still taking hoardes of clients up the Glock.  We decided to sit it out, and it was a long day, but the forecast was better for tomorrow…..

Tomorrow it was worse, with serious Cairngorm winter conditions outside.  We sat in turmoil. Go down or up?  The guides were still going up, but they were getting paid, and knew the mountain.

 Go up! It got better, the visibility improved from zero to about 10m, and the wind dropped.  It is a great climb, despite the fact that we saw sweet FA.   It must be wonderful on the 25 out of 31 good days in the month of July.

Having bagged the Glock, we went to Bavaria and did the Corkscrew route on the ZugsPitze the highest peak in Germany, part via ferrata, part protected path, but a big climb of just less than 5500 feet, just getting the summit before a thunderstorm.  Restaurant on top for a pint and a big sausage and a cable car down- great!

Then 2 rest days, one at Garmisch for a fireman’s festival, much oompagh music and beer, and one at the castle modelled from the one at Disneyland.  (Valli might have something to say about this!!)

What to finish off with?   Perusal of the map revealed a peak called the Wankspitze, with a via ferrata called the Wank Klettersteg (much juvenile sniggering).  Well, you would HAVE to climb it wouldn’t you?  Margaret, having christened it the Wankhorn (more juvenile sniggering) would have nothing further to do with it, so it was just me’nfergus who set off.   It was a very ‘hands on’ affair, with the first section in particular, but I will make no further comment other than ………

Midsummer Island Trip 22-24 June

Midsummer camping and climbing on Gola Island 22nd- 24th June.

Sabba is the boatman (phone: 0872245881), whose ferry departs from Magheragallon Pier, Bunbeg.  According to his facebook page here boats leave 11.00 AM and 2.00PM daily, but he seems to post on the page regarding next day’s sailings. Best to ring him and check, as this may change due to tide and weather.

Camp site marked on the map below.

Image result for gola island map

Midsummer Gola Island Trip 22-24 June

Midsummer camping and climbing on Gola Island 22nd- 24th June.

Sabba is the boatman (phone: 0872245881), whose ferry departs from Magheragallon Pier, Bunbeg.  According to his facebook page here, boats leave 11.00 AM and 2.00PM daily, but he seems to post on the page regarding next day’s sailings. Best to ring him and check, as this may change due to tide and weather.

Anthony was planning to arrange a 7pm ferry crossing on the Friday night, check the CC Facebook page for info on that.

In additon to ropes and gear, bring food, plenty of drink and some firewood for the campfire, if you have any lying around.

Camp site marked on the map below.

Image result for gola island map