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Climbfest 2018 Info

Climbfest 2018 May 4th -7th

The venue is Malinbeg, and there is camping down by the harbour, near the crags GR 494 798 ( OS Sheet 10). A limited number of campervans could park there, but there is lots of room at the nearby
carpark for Silver Strand (Trabane), if you don’t mind a slight slope. (Also a new coffee shop there).

There is a hostel at Malinbeg which sleeps 29 in a variety of rooms from single room with double bed and ensuite, to rooms with up to six bunks, and prices vary from €15 upwards. Ring Frank at 0749730006 or email malinbeghostel@oceanfree.net. We have spoken to him and he knows about the event.

Malinmore is not far away and there is a bigger hostel there, Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Tel 02035644853. We had our AGM there a couple of years ago.

A short drive away are Skelpoonagh Bay, An Port, Sail Rock and Muckross Head, see CCC online guide book for details, if you don’t have Iain Miller’s rock climbing guide to Donegal.

There will be a registration fee of some sort, depending on whether or not we are able to rent the house down at Malinbeg as a wet weather base for campers.

Escape from the Beast

It’s usual for the club to arrange a sport climbing trip to Spain in march or February but this year was a little different, for me at least. An old friend had returned from India after ten years and suggested a trip to the Costa Blanca even though he hadn’t climbed for 12 or more years.

Straight off the plane we walked from our Altea apartment up to Toix Oueste and managed 3 routes before the sun went down. The next day we went to Guadalest where the weather was considerably warmer than last time I visited. Rob astounded with a lead of the very pumpy Margallo 6a+. We bumped into another friend that I hadn’t seen since the 80s here who recommended Montesa so that’s where we headed next and it did not dissappoint. The very best crag we visited with an amazingly rough, pockety limestone which we liked so much we came back a day or so later. Two of the best 5+ ever were the rockfax guide was a litel difficult to read here as they had opted for a very wide angle photo for the topo, making it difficult to read.

The following day it rained lightly most of the dsay so we declared a recovery day.

The next crag on the list was Sector New Year’s Day in Sella, which Gerard O’Sullivan had suggested [thanks!]. This was another great crag with plenty of good holds although quite busy. Trying to avoid the crowds we were thoroughly sandbagged on Perlita.

Alacalali was the next stop. Here the sun was shining but the wind was approaching gale force when we arrived. As it dropped we were able to head up to the left hand end of the crag for some shelter. An excellent couple of 6as and some very steep 5s were our reward.

The final trip was a return to Montesa. There was no sun this time, but we met a German couple at the end of their year long road trip and we discovered they had a wicked sense of humour. We grabbed a couple of lines before the rain came and we retreated to the Cafe Aurora. Once more the Costa Blanca welcomed us as we avoided the beastly weather at home. Adios until next year.

The thing about ice climbing..

George, Finbarr and self set off to Cogne via Ryanair and Sicily Car hire, and it all went quite smoothly, meeting Jack Bergin, (who had driven out), within an hour of our arrival.

George, a veteran of previous Cogne campaigns, rightly felt that we should start off with something not too difficult, particularly due to the age profile of his comrades.  The handiest best known route of this type being Cascade Lillaz, we headed there, only to find that there was a substantial queue at the bottom.  This came as a surprise as there was little sign of any other ice warriors in the village of Cogne.  Undeterred, we headed off through the woods to come upon a much more daunting affair which George identified as Tutto Relativo, a 4, which looked like a Rjukan 5+.   Not having ice climbed for about 10 years ( Finbarr has only done one route in Ponte Di Legno) we left Jack to belay George, and warmed up on a much smaller piece of ice to the right, placing and removing screws, and practising technique.  This proved worthwhile, as when it came out turn to climb the first pitch of the route (which George had ably led following his ‘Point 5’ practise route), we managed better than a ‘ring rusty’ Jack.  The second pitch was overhanging icicles, so we abbed off and went back down to Lillaz.  Quiter, but now beginning to melt in the late afternoon, I led the first 60m pitch, Finbarr the second, and me again the third and forth.

George had taken the steepest possible line on the first pitch, burning out Jack, so when we finished, we joined them in the café bar at Lillaz village.  Great first day.

Day 2 took us up a different valley and to the bottom of a grade 3 (looked like a Rjukan 4) called Thule.  I had a notion to lead the first pitch but cowardice set in, and when I watched George struggle, I thanked the craven gods.  Actually it wasn’t too bad on a top rope, and I began to feel comfortable on ice again.  George was belayed far back, about 20m below an ice curtain. Jack and Finbarr took a look at it and abbed off, while I belayed George.  When he reached the icicles, he was concerned lest he hadn’t enough screws, and decided to belay in a cave underneath and bring me up.  Cold water ran down his neck and the curtain looked frail, so he decided to abb off, but the screws were way off to his left, so he belayed me as I climbed up and took them out, before he lowered me back to the belay.  Some French climbers arrived at the belay and explained that it had been very dry, so what normally would have been a solid block of ice was now just a curtain of icicles, and thus harder.  We bailed!

Day 3.  Poor forecast, and heavy snow. Rest  and rugby.

Day 4.  Low cloud.  A long walk into the ‘Money’ area in poor visibility (after our initial objective was considered very avalanche prone)  sounds of many climbers led us up to the bottom of one of the most attractive routes called Cascade Di Patri 3 ( more like Picadilli Di Circuso).  What did we expect on a Sunday?  They disappeared quite quickly, and Jack and George led the first lovely pitch.  I seconded Jack and led the short second and third pitches, catching up with the hoardes on the big fourth.  Casting caution to the wind, I decided to lead, beginning a catalogue of incompetence, which I shall describe.

 A. First screw, handle gets entangled in my wrist loop- delay. B. Second screw won’t go in, as blocked with ice. C. Drop replacement screw. D. Next attempt cracks a piece of melting ice, and it has to be relocated. E. Finally get second screw in, but Elvis leg now in evidence, right glove soaking, and hand numb. F. Just as wondering if this was a good idea, Finbarr points out that he thinks my crampon has come loose.  Get lowered off. Follow George up.

Day 4.  Every day starts off with a quandary, but seems to work out.  This is no different.  Clear but brutally  cold, but at least we can see everything, everything that is buried in new snow, or has a queue.  Across the valley there is a big route, Cool Couloir, still in shadow and with only 2 climbers on it.  On reaching the bottom, we realise that it is big and steep and graded 4+, and the guys onit are not finding it easy.  George, (he of Point 5), is keen, not having climbed it before, so Finbarr belays him while I decide to take photos.  Camera drained by the -20 temperatures.  George gets up it, and I learn that I will have greatness thrust upon me as Finbarr has cold feet ( and cold everything else).   A sustained 60m pitch has me up with George.   The second looks shorter and easier so we decide to give it a go.  It is neither. The first two thirds of this 60m pitch is fine , but the top George described as Knarly.  It was that, and a few other things, but worse, I got soft snow on my glasses, couldn’t see me feet, and couldn’t let go my axes to clear them.  Somehow I got up.  2 abbs and we were down.

Day 5. Injured knee, and Achilles tendon.  Cleared up the room while the others went back to retrieve a screw dropped the day before.  Drove to Bergamo, while Jack tried to unfreeze his diesel.  Overnight in Bergamo, and home to meet the Beast from the East!!

 

 

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.

Irish Sikkim Expedition, a personal perspective.

 

Why did I go?  I knew the terrain was tough, the weather patterns unhelpful, and there would be long periods in the sleeping bags between short periods of euphoria.  Maybe I had to get the monkey off my back after leaving the previous expedition almost as soon as I got to base camp. Maybe I thought it would be different this time, maybe I thought that with a fit young team of cutting edge climbers we would achieve something special?  Maybe I wanted another great adventure, or maybe I just needed to lose weight.

 

No time wasted on the approach. Into Kolkata, and the next evening we were back in Joe Wongden’s homestay in Mangan (he who has a sister in Antrim).  Never thought I would be back there again. A day for Raja to buy food, and the next day we were on the road again, but only half way to Beh, as a land slip in August had dammed the river and created a lake (and 18 submerged houses).  We unloaded, crossed by dinghy, and got 2 more jeeps on the other side.  The approach by foot started the next morning.  Another landslide had swept away the path necessitating a very difficult exposed traverse across the cliff, during which one of our 16 porters fell.  Fortunately he wasn’t badly hurt, but our supply of vegetables landed in the river, and was last seen making good progress down the Ganges towards Kolkata (resulting in a restricted menu of rice and Dhal).  We made the Tolung Gompa about 2.00 PM (never thought I would be back there again) despite the attentions of leeches, killer bees, giant ticks and a cobra.  Next evening to Tolung Yak camp (without the yaks) and then river camp, then the ascent from hell to base camp (never thought……..).  The weather was good to base camp, but as soon as we arrived it clagged in and rained and snowed for a couple of days.  After that it settled to a pattern where it was clear from 5.00AM to about 11.00, and after that rain, snow, mist etc

 

We crossed the river up at the lake (at the cost of one broken and mangled finger to Piaras) and set up ABC at 4300m in the valley above and to the right, with dramatic views of the Singel chu Needles. In the next four days we climbed 3 unclimbed peaks near the camp, Diwali Lho 4960 Scottish Gr 111 apparently, and two others either side of a saddle, the second a VS rock climb.  Another peak was attempted from a high camp, but abandoned due to danger of frostbite.  The photos of this area do not even come close to doing it justice.  These guys are good climbers who, having studied pictures taken by the 2014 expedition, had big ideas about routes on the most challenging Zumthul Phuk peaks and needles.  They were unprepared for the scale, technicality, and level of commitment required when they saw them in the flesh, and wisely settled for coming home alive.  Up in the valley of ABC there are numerous more amenable unclimbed peaks, but with long moraine approaches.  Back at base camp, 3 had had enough hardship, and descended with Raja, who was going down to arrange porters and a visa extension.  Five stayed a further 3 days.  We did a bit of exploration towards the German pass, but I developed a sore ankle after that, and decided to rest it before the descent from hell.  Painkillers and determination got me down to Tolung Gompa in 9 hours, and the following day something similar to Mangan.  This was the best couple of days weather we had!

 

A day in Mangan, two in Darjeeling, and overnight on the train to Kolkata, with Raja entertaining us to dinner and a Bollywood Band on the last night.  Didn’t climb to the summit of anything, but it was a great full on mountaineering experience, pure exploration, despite the hardships.  Good bunch of lads from Ireland and girl from Finland, with never a harsh word spoken, and Raja’s team of Lackpa, Irun, Rakesh and Phurba were cheerful and tireless.

 

 Oh aye, and Raja found some footprints……..

 

Chamonix fun in the sun

 

Chamonix: a mecca for skiers, mountain bikers, trail runners and above all climbers. PJ and I had missed out on climbing there with the MI meet there a few years ago and again last year when the weather was just awful, but we were determined to get the little T@B caravan there this year and have our turn. Initially sworn to secrecy, we thought we’d have a sneaky attempt at Mont Blanc and maybe pip Keith to the post, after his multiple past attempts but we soon couldn’t help telling people excitedly “We’re going to Chamonix!!”

 

PJ’s mountain rescue team were planning a trip too, so we arranged to hook up with them, though we were taking the leisurely Rosslare-Cherbourg ferry route and driving down to Chamonix and having a 2.5 week holiday. The lads had 7 days and were hitting the hills fast and hard.

 

We arrived at Iles de Barrat campsite on Sat 28th August and were treated to a marvellous thunderstorm that night. Main street Chamonix outside The Pub was literally a river.

 

Sunday was climbing on hot rock (it literally burned your hand in the afternoon sun) at Les Gaillands, a very handy crag less than a mile from the campsite.

 

The team arrived that afternoon and routes were discussed for the next day. Billy had been there a few days doing the Dome de Miages and a solo run over the Trois Monts, ending with a bivvy at the Nid d’Aigle train station having missed the last train down. Hardcore in that thunderstorm! He and Roy K were off to the Conscrits hut next day which left 8 of us deciding what to do.

 

PJ and I had thought a leisurely acclimatisation on Petite Aiguille Verte but Robbie had other plans: a straight climb from the valley floor at Le Tour up to Aiguille de Tour (2000m of ascent), back to Albert Premier hut for the night, then Tete Blance and Petit Fourche the next day. No messing and you can forget the gondola too!

 

Our enthusiam wilted a little next morning as we struggled to find the path to the ridge up to the Albert Premier (there’s a clearer but more circuitous route round the back, using the gondola). Then it became clear that Robbie’s guesstimate of a “2 hours no bother” climb up the steep ridge was, for us mere mortals, a tad eager.

 

Anyway we reached the hut and previous residents exclaimed how new and refurbished it all looked, the previous hut having been a bit of a “shithole”. A 30 minute break and we were off to the Aiguille de Tour but we hadn’t yet reached the Col de Tour before there was much dragging of feet and gasping breath. We struggled over the col, and made it to about 150m below the summit at 3.15pm before making the decision to turn around. Dale, our enthusiastic first time alpinist, wanted to push on, “It’s just there!” but the rest of us were too busted and more concerned about making it back in time for dinner at 6:30!

 

A 6:30am start next morning and we were back over the same Col de Tour, this time on fresh legs we covered the samedistance in half the time. The guidebook we’d read suggested an AD route 150m up the north face of Tete Blanche but one look at the overhanging bergschrund was enough to tell us that the beginners in the group were never getting up it, so we settled for the scrambly north east ridge instead. From the summit it’s a short hoof across the col to the steep snowy north slope of the Petit Fourche, which finally involved a little ice axe fun as you zig-zag up it.

 

The descent all the way back to Le Tour was initially exciting as we negotiated the steep glacier with several crevasses but then the trudging began. The knees weren’t up to the steep ridge so we descended by the longer route, aiming for the gondola. The feet were in quite a bit of pain by the time we gratefully reached it and paid our €13. I’d have paid €50 to be honest!

 

Wednesday was a day off and I spent the morning scanning the Gouter hut website for free beds that weekend, eventually securing 2 beds for me and PJ and informing the lads that there were 4 other beds. Using Rab’s phone to book these 4 places however I must have entered his email address wrong because, although we saw a “successful booking” page, we didn’t get the confirmation email. Several trips to the Mountain Guides office couldn’t clarify if we definitely had the beds and it wasn’t until we arrived there on the Friday night that we could breathe a sigh of relief as the guardian looked us up and said “Row-bare??” (French for Robert).

 

Roy M’s knees had had enough and he was flying home, Billy and Roy K had rock climbing plans, the newly arrived Pete along with Mike and Robbie were off to the Conscrits hut, so that left PJ, myself, Rab, Nigel and Dale to do Mont Blanc. Rab’s 4th bed would have to go begging. So what to do on the Thursday? As usual time was of the essence for the guys, so if we wanted to do the Cosmiques Arete it was now or never.

 

We were up for the first lift to the Aiguille de Midi but so was half of Chamonix, still we were up there by 9am and raring to go… sort of. Problem number 1: several of us had just seen climbers pick their way down the NE snow ridge with that awful drop to the left and there were a few nervous trips to the loo to be had first. Problem number 2: Nigel had left his crampons behind. Luckily Mike was able to get them to a friendly elderly Scottish couple on the bottom lift and, with a little bit of texting, arranged to handover at the top. Meanwhile PJ and I geared up in the ice tunnel, getting relentlessly photographed by Japanese tourists, then it was time to swing open the little gate and teeter out.

 

“Oh Mummy!” I had flashbacks of the top of Matterhorn as we picked our way down, short gasping breaths, heart racing a million miles an hour, do NOT trip up, do NOT trip up… Phew, we’re down!

 

The bowl of the Vallee Blance is a magnificent place to be, the Rochefort Arete, Dent de Geant, Point Helbronner, Tacul, Maudit and Mont Blanc all surrounding you. As we trundled over to the start of the ridge we were stunned to see climbers high on the blank looking face of Éperon des Cosmiques. Seriously tough looking grade 6 climbing at least.

 

When Rab, Nigel and Dale caught us up we set off up the ridge and from the start you realise “this is gonna be a bit testy”. Solid severe grade climbing that never lets up. Route finding was initially straight forward but at the first gendarme we had to work it out, then at the abseils it wasn’t entirely clear where to abseil to, but a best guess got us there. At this point several parties (both Éperon and Arete ascenders) had caught up with us so we cleverly allowed them through and watched where they went. This worked for the next few chimney and slab sections until they were so far ahead we were back to best guessing. The crux pitch was a highly polished affair and tough in big boots but I laced the crack with gear and thrust up, leaving the gear for Rab’s team. By the time we reached the exit chimneys I was glad for the day to be nearly over. I think the longer I’m on a route like that the more my head goes “You’ve made it this far, don’t balls it up now!”, whereas the rest of the guys, especially PJ, seemed to have become inured to the big drops.

 

The final clamber up the rickety ladder to the platform is hilarious, dozens of clapping tourists eager to take your picture and ask stupid questions like “How far could you fall???” After a team photot we lunched in the restaurant, anything for a few more hours at altitude, then it was back to camp to pack for the big one.

 

The Bellevue cable car and Mont Blanc tramway to Nid D’Aigle are a very pleasant way to get to 2300m below the Aiguille be Bionnassay but then it’s 1500m of climbing to the Gouter hut. An initial hoof becomes steeper as you turn for the short Tete Rousse glacier crosssing, then it’s the notorious Grand Couloir. The weather had been gloriously sunny all week and we’d heard previous horror stories when the weather had been too warm, bur we had no problems on it, bar the effort of running with a full pack at 3200m, no stonefall at all. The final ridge is a long 700m climb with several steep scrambly sections in the middle and more to finish, this time with the aid of wire ropes though.

 

The Gouter hut is a magnificent edifice, visible from way below the Tete Rousses, inside it’s all pale wood and warmth with airplane-style views out the windows. The airplane effect is continued with the vacuum toilets. The comfy quilted beds were made use of for an afternoon doze before dinner and we were all tired enough to go straight back there after dinner, none of the usual beer and card game shenanigans.

 

Up at 2am and out by torch light at 2:15am to join the conga line. The hut had only felt 3/4 full and several of those were guided clients who’d ascended the day before from Tete Rousses and were headed down, so the route didn’t feel too congested. In fact PJ and I were probably the 3rd or 4th party on the line. The climb up to the Dome De Gouter felt interminable, the party in front of us were frustratingly just a little slower, enough to constantly break up our rhythm but not slow enough that we could accelerate past them. Things started to break up a little once we reached the plateau and parties rested and again at the Vallot hut where we 5 had a quick snack, so that we basically had the Bosses ridge to ourselves. By now daylight was arriving and the narrowness of the ridge was quickly becoming evident. Our initial “100 steps and pause” method was now reduced to “50 steps and pause” and again the mantra of “Do NOT trip up!” echoed in my brain.

 

Off the ridge there is a small rise and then you reach a crevasse with a steep wall behind, which thankfully had steps cut it into it and a fixed rope. So a leap over the crevasse, grab the rope with one hand, ice axe buried with the other and haul yourself up. Then it’s up the final narrow summit ridge, over a false summit, then suddenly there is nothing else above you. We’d made good enough time that only one party was heading back down the summit ridge but I for one was glad when they stepped aside rather than us. The breath was really short now, 50 steps had maybe become 40, I was leaning on my ice axe when we stopped and my trembling calves were making me sway a little which unnerved me. “Do NOT trip up!”

 

At 6:59am we were on the top and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but I hugged PJ and we took several pictures as we waited for Rab, Nigel and Dale. The forecast had said clear weather but it was quite overcast and extremely cold in the biting wind, so there wasn’t much celebration. I tried looking out for the Matterhorn but couldn’t see it and eventually the pain in my hands prompted us to leave.

 

Strangely I felt more confident descending the narrow ridges, I suppose when every step isn’t a monumental effort you can actually enjoy yourself, and I enjoyed the views more on the (long) way down. We were back at the Gouter hut by 9:30am and took a well deserved 2nd breakfast of pizza and Orangina. An hour later the horrible final descent began. We had to make the train at Nid d’Aigle for 2:45pm, they’d cancelled half the trams and the 5pm one wouldn’t let us catch the finalBellvue cable car, sothe race was on. That 700m initial steep ridge took longer to go down than up, some 2.5 hours and we feared missing the tram but we eventually made it with time to spare despite lots of aching, numb toes.

 

Billy was retiring, his official last day of work was Sunday so, with a big hill to celebrate too, we all headed out in Chamonix, lumbering from one blaringly loud bar to another and imbibing several expensive whiskies. There was even a bit of dancing too, despite the tired legs. I think PJ and I struggled back at 3am and awoke next day with missing memories and a missing watch, that was later found inside the Portaloo, but that’s another story.

 

The guys were headed home and PJ and I had had enough of the big peaks so we packed up and headed over to Lake Annecy. We spent a pleasant few days on the municipal campsite, whose only drawback was the fact it was at the top of a steep winding hill. My legs protested every time we returned from quaffing beer blanche and rose wine in the late afternoon sunshine in old town.

 

We found time, amid the quaffing, to do the via ferrata at La Clusaz, an achingly beautiful alpine village just below the Col de Aravis. 100m of ascent through the woods from the car park to the start of the climb, then 300m of D grade ferrata, then descend round the back to the car again. Great fun, especially the overhanging difficult exit (there’s an easier exit too).

 

So one of the most memorable alpine trips in years, we really lucked out with the weather, it only ever could have been called “dull” on that Wednesday rest day. Still, there remains lots of stuff to do in Chamonix and this won’t be our last trip there.

In Praise of Offwidths and Chimneys

 

Adrspach

 

Five of us flew Ryanair Dublin to Wroclau, in Poland, to be met by Ivan and Matty, and escorted the 100km drive to a cottage he had rented in the middle of the village of Adrapach, just across the Czech border.  Karen had supper prepared for us and Ivan supplied the beer.

 

In the morning the wonder of our surroundings became apparent, as the edge of this remarkable massif of pinnacles and towers could be seen across the field.  Leisurely coffee and cake in the café was followed by an exploration of the nearest section of this city of rock.   It is a tourist destination with well trodden walk ways threading their way between the most remarkable features, but the side alleys are the domain of the rock climber. 

 

The last guide book was 15 years ago and there were over 10,000 routes then.  It is an intimidating place if you are a climber, and many a visiting rock star has left with his tail firmly between his legs.  The rock is steep, holds rounded, and the ethics ramp the risk factor up by a multiple of at least 2.  Chimneys and off widths abound, hand jamming cracks (the local climbers wear gloves), and normal gear and chalk are banned.   Protection are knots tied in the rope, jammed in with a paint brush handle.   There are ring bolts, but they are 20m apart,  the first one is at least that off the ground, and I have no idea how the first climbers placed them, as you have to climb the tower first before you can abb it.  AND, they all go a have a few pints in the morning BEFORE they go climbing.  Awesome.  But I suppose at 70 cents a pint Dutch courage comes cheap.  10 pints and change out of 10 euro!

 

Ivan wisely decided to start us off on an easy grade 3. Ivan’s son Gerry (he who was lusted after by all the ladies) led and we took turns to get jammed in an off width.  Very funny once you had done it, not so funny when you were clamped helpless and hopeless in its sandstone clutches.  We abbed off somewhat humbled and traumatised.  Something easier Ivan?  Ivan scratched his head, too diplomatic to say that there was nothing easier.  He picked a nearby short grade 5 without offwidth or chimney, and dignity was restored somewhat, with Sandra climbing it in trainers and a couple of us managing a harder variation nextdoor.  Pub and Pizza and all was well.

 

On Friday, Gerry was keen for us to try one of the classics, the normal route on the King, but as a warm up we did another pinnacle involving a chimney, an awkward traverse, and a short climb on pockets to the top, led again by Gerry.  The King could not be put off any longer.  The highest in the area, this tower is split by a 27m chimney, to the top of the lower of the two parts , step across, and climb a crack/groove onto the crown. Gerry led, followed by Martin.  Then Sandra, and we watched as she taught herself the craft of upward momentum in the bowels of a chimney.  Tension rose as she reached the top of the chimney, bridged, and looked up at the final section. “Aw fir fecks sake”, (said with such feeling), reached our shocked ears.  Finbarr next.  There was a lot of wriggling with no apparent result, before he cracked it, and away he went.  Me next (less said the better) and Matti, whose 6 foot long legs must have struggled it the confined space, then Ivan, then down to the pub.  The house began to fill up as friends of the Krella family arrived and we had a guitar music session around the fire with Czech and Irish songs sung with great enthusiasm.

 

Egos were better, but now backs were bruised, so we decided to go walking next day, after a swim in the lake (‘No swimming’ the notice said, but Czechs do not appear to be able to read this type of sign).

 

This walk took us around to a different side of the rock city, and we did a loop around terrain much like Petra, very popular with tourists, and busy as it was now the weekend. Ivan pointed out various epic climbs, some almost 100 years old.  We watched young climbers, mostly top roping hard routes.  This can obviously be done if it is not a detached tower.  Lunch and pints at the far end, and a walk back through the pinnacles.

 

Our final day, we went climbing again to a grade 4 tower called Noon.  Gerry had gone to do hard things, so Ivan led, followed by Martin and the rest of us, including Margaret, who showed she had lost none of her old skills to Munroing and Corbiteering. 

 

In the morning,  Martin left for Chamonix and Ivan put the rest of us on the right road to the airport.

 

A great trip and thanks to Ivan, Matti, Gerry, Karen and all their many friends for a level of craic and hospitality that will be hard to follow.

 

Banba’s Buttress Visit

Beam me up, Luke 02

 You just couldn’t plan for sunshine at Malin Head. However, luck would have it and the sun (unexpectently) came out for a wee while on Friday evening so I thought a good chance to try out a high level traverse of ‘Banba’s Buttress’ that I had in my mind for some time. I had traversed from the ‘Malin Head Shuffle’ to ‘Yoda’s Staircase’ and back again on several occasions but not past that. So after an entertaining descent down the ‘Malin Head Shuffle’ to a point below the ‘Millennium Ramp’  and then commenced a 40m meandering traverse right across to ‘Vader’s Corner’. Great friction, big air and  awesome views. ‘Skywalker’ (V.Diff).

 Whilst there I abseiled down ‘Falcon’ and ended up disposing of loose rock and giving a basic clean to a new climb. There was a good ledge above the narrow zawn and about 3m right of ‘Falcon’, so I climbed a broken line just left of ‘Vader’s Corner’. A very pleasant, somewhat airy ascent and steep in the final 10m – ‘Beam me up, Luke’ 22m V.Diff . 

 All in all, an unplanned but brilliant evening.

Columba