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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

Everest 25th Anniversary Expedition

Phuletate and Pulele

Kathmandu is still a great place.  A lot of work is still be done to restore the damage caused by the earthquake, but the tourists are back, and some of the shopping area of Thamel have even been pedestrianised.  The Pilgrim book shop, destroyed in a fire is now back up and running too, gear shops abound, with cheap versions of all the expensive labels.

Domestic departures at Tribuvan was full of excited trekkers, and large groups of commercial expeditioners, towering over their sherpa guides, easily identified by their brand new expedition boots, and united only by their group tee shirts.

 Then there was us.  Worn men with worn gear.  This was the 25th anniversary of the successful first Irish Everest expedition, and the deputy leader of that group in 1993, Irish adventurer and mountaineer par excellance, Frank Nugent was our leader this trip.  Paddy O’Brien, his partner in manys an Alpine and Arctic venture, Gerry Galligan the IMC’s most prolific expeditioner, and myself, made up the party.

The Lukla flight is great, (if you can ignore the fact that it is supposed to be the most dangerous on the planet), and soon you have landed and reclaimed all your gear.  Most of ours had gone on the previous days flight.  There followed two days uphill struggle through the crowds of trekkers to Namche, which is now sporting numerous cafes, expensive gear shops and even an Irish Bar (god help us).  The amazing load carriers are still there, still gobsmacking the visitors, but now they are on mobile phones.

We had to visit the national park office to sign documents to agree to take out everything we took in.  Over tea, the official told us that there were 25 expeditions on Everest, two on Lohtse and one on Nupse.  Our rubbish would be weighed back in Namche, and it would cost us 400 Rupees per Kilo to recycle.  Good for them.

Two days later we were camped at the back of a house in the, almost deserted, high village of Mende, preparing ourselves for an 850m climb to Kyajo Ri  base camp, while our Sirdar Dhana ( also from 1993) got directions from the lady of the house, as to where the path went.

It was tough, (and a lot harder for our porters), but we got there, with Paddy first and then me, to find a couple of tents belonging to a Russian Kyajo Ri expedition.  The three porters had been there a few days, and were cold and miserable in the low cloud.  Our 9 porters romped in and soon we had base camp up and running. The Russians returned that evening and dismantled their camp, disappointed that they had not reached the summit due to deep snow.  The leader was Yuri Somethinchenko, winner of the Piolet d’Or, and summitteer of many 8000m peaks.

BC Day 1.The next day was sunny and beautiful, and although it was supposed to be for rest and acclimatisation, three of us decided to carry loads up to the bottom of the gully above.  When we got there, we could see the Russian fixed ropes up the cliffs above, so we went up for a look, eventually going up them and continuing to the snowy valley above, the proposed site of ABC at 5000m.  I was up first , then Gerry then Paddy, who was suddenly struggling with the altitude.  Frank had stayed below to rest.  

BC Day 2. In the morning Paddy was ill, and Gerry and I did another load carry to ABC with the porters, we put my tent up and came down.

BC Day 3. The next day was a rest day to try and give Paddy a chance, but his health continued to deteriorate

BC Day 4. Paddy went down to Namche to seek medical help, while Frank, Gerry and myself moved to ABC.  I was up first and put the kettle on for the others, but only Gerry arrived, telling me that Frank didnt feel he had the strength to make it. Now there were 2.  That evening I broke trail up the hill above ABC in soft snow to see if I could see a feasible route.  Higher up, I ran into very deep snow, but could see a possible route to a col, from where the ridge looked do-able.  The summit ‘Crown’ was another matter.  We needed to start early while the snow was frozen, that was it!

ABC Day 1. Early start was 5.00 AM. It was brutally cold and my hands were numb from trying to boil the kettle from lumps of ice. The tracks from the previous evening were much easier being frozen, but the deeper snow above had only the crust frozen, so we stood up on it, only for it to collapse, and then we had to climb out, pulling our feet out through the crust,only for it to collapse again.  My estimated time to the col of about an hour and a half was eaten up in a couple of hundred metres.  Exhausted, we had to come up with a plan B.

A traverse to the right would take us to a short climb to the top of the big rock tower which dominated our base camp.  We felt that we could have a rethink, and try again tomorrow, but lets get something in the bag.  Floundering our way across a boulderfield (‘ a la Fairhead’ only covered in deep powder) we got to the base of the West Pillar, where upward progress was mindset V gravity, but we made it to the bright side where the snow had melted, and it was easy to the top of this huge rock monolith. “Oh look, there’s Frank leaving base camp”!  The views were immense, but Phuletate still looked like, well anything but a foregone conclusion.

Care was required on the descent, but on reaching ABC we met Frank who was delighted (and relieved) to see us. He advised us that the porters were anxious to leave, but we had another day at ABC.  He descended to BC, and we spent the snowy/cloudy  afternoon in the tent.

ABC Day 2. Sunshine and euphoria as usual, but let’s pack up before it snows (and it did) about 10.00 AM.  we decided to take a walk up through the misty Kyajo Ri valley for a few hours.  On the way down we came across Yeti Tracks, which Gerry wanted to follow across a frozen lake (to rule out a snow leopard you understand).  The thought of following a snow leopard or yeti, in fog, across thin ice did not particularly appeal to me, and fortunately I was able to remind Gerry  of his redunancy package, so we went back to ABC.

 Plain sailing to BC one might have thought, but not so, alas. as thick, driving snow made finding the top of the Russian fixed ropes problematic.  We made it ‘heroically’ to base camp early afternoon with big packs, but to our amazement, and awe, the porters decided to go up that evening and retreive the rest of the stuff ( ABC having been equipped for 4 for three days), which they did fairly effortlessly as the weather had cleared, and being very keen to be back in the comforts of Namche, I  would imagine.

BC Day 5. Exodus.  We left with all we could carry, wondering how on earth the small group of porters would manage to divide the mountain of stuff we had left.  They overtook us, with much good humour and laughter before the monastry above Mende.

The remainder is about a days rest and overindulgence in Namche. and 3 days descent and ascent to Pulele for a function ( the second day was 8 hours of the ‘path from hell’ ( this drizzly’  La ‘was 30% rock. 30% slime, 30% horseshit, and 10%  horsepiss). 

We were received royally at the Irish Nepal Education Trust school in Pulele, in time for the school prizegiving (a type of event in which I had never been previously involved for some reason)which went on for some hours.  Largely compared by Dhana (who had left our expedition early), and involved our chief guest Dawson Stelfox, with Margaret Stelfox , Chris Avison and Mary Solan.  Even I was asked to present one of  the school prizes. My grasp of Nepali is rudimentary, but I think it was for truancy.  The euphoric evening of culture dancing and music, ended on a downer when our porters gave our tips back, which they must have considered derisory.  Red faces and a futher donation may have helped, but expectations are different, especially in the Khumbu, where a recent group of Hong Kong businessmen tipped our porters $300 each.

The short trek to the road head was wonderful,  unspoiled Himalaya, but the 4 + hour jeep trip to ?? as tough a test to vehicle and driver as I have ever experienced, and our accommodation by the airport was probably also the most unsavoury, but the flight back to Katmandhu a delight, as ever.

As I write this report I am listening to a CD of Nepali music.  After a fine indian meal in the Third Eye Restaurant in Thamel, where I informed the head waiter that my last meal here was in 1994 (the year before his birth apparently) we went to a bar where there was a live Nepali loyalist band ( 5 drummers and one musician).  We applauded wildly, -perhaps too enthusiastically, thus the CD.

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……..