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Bravehearts 2015

Bravehearts 2015
All a bit last minute due to the unavailability of the new Hobbit van, but we managed to get booked into the MI accommodation at Inchree Onich for 4 nights, fired the stuff into the car and drove over on Tuesday. Wednesday, Margaret and I did Buachaille Etive Beg with a guy called Russell, as a warm up,( a Munro I had not done before, so not bad for a warm up I suppose). Snow was good but nil visibility!
Met up with Keith and Sandra for Thursday, and Margaret prevailed upon us to do the Corbett on the South side of Lough Leven ( another Garbh Beinn 867m). Nice, and we stayed below the cloud which obscured the N side of the Aonach Eagagh, and the Mamores on either side of us. Alun Richardson did a slide show at night.
It was very sociable at the Inchree centre, and word had it that the Gr 2 at Sron a Lairig was in condition and a great outing, so Keith Sandra and I did it on Friday. No views again, but great fun with lots of variety, including a steep gully variation no one else had tackled. Dave and Sandra arrived.
Creise was one peak in Glencoe I had not done, so it was on the menu for Saturday, again with Keith, Sandra and Dave ( very nice of them as they had done it before). The snow had suddenly sugarified so gully plans were shelved in favour of some nice hollow ice ( Sandra loved it) and mixed rock and snow ( and cloud). The snow improved higher up and the last step to the top of Sron a Creise provided some excitement, before exiting up the crunchy neve on the top. Onwards to Creise, descent, and re-ascent to Meall a Bhuiridh. Took the ski lift back down, just in time to watch Ireland beat France on the telly in the Onich Hotel. All very satisfactory indeed! Topped it off by a St Valentines meal for 6 in the hotel with a happy wife who had just claimed her 72nd Corbett, with Sandra (Kennedy).
On Sunday we were starting to head back. The others had plans for the Aonach Eagagh, but Corbett duty called again so we went South to Glen Lochy to claim the scalp of Beinn Chuirn. The old knees were starting to feel the strain of 5 days solid toil, and the terrain was steep, but at least it was clear ( I always get a good day arriving in Scotland and good day leaving, it’s the bit in between that’s the problem).
Dave and Sandra had kindly offered us accommodation for the night in their new bothy, so we made our way there. They had wimped out of the AE Ridge on the somewhat spurious excuse of food poisoning, but treated us royally in their fabulous new residence ( no resemblance whatsoever to the bothy referred to above) with a superb meal cooked by Sandra ( joke, it was Dave). Thanks to both of them.
Home… A great trip!

Another Appointment with the Gods

The weather had smiled upon us once more so Marty, Alan and I headed back to Muckish, this time with an eye for Divided Loyalties. Having seen it on Sunday we thought the cold snap would have produced some build up, but sadly not.
After some manoeuvring with Marty’s van we arrived at the start of the miner’s path and decide to ditch the original plan. It just looked too lean. And so it was that we headed off once more for god’s own gully. It was still the only route in condition.
Once again it provided great entertainment all the way. This time it was much more relaxing without anyone ahead of us, particularly someone without axe or crampons! The snow again was in great condition and the icy step providing a bit of interest and the top snowslope a great sense of exposure.
Marty was keen to do more so we traversed along the escarpment and descended just to the right of the colossus pinnacle. This gave us a close view of the summer possibilities. The fresh snowfall over the Monday and Tuesday had added a good deal of unconsolidated snow into the descent so some wading was called for.
We traversed along the base of the crag to a line of Iain Millar’s just right of Divided Loyalties. Sadly this was not in as good condition as the first. Although it looked good it was full of powder. At this point Marty had enough of carrying his sack and threw it away down the slope. Luckily his camera was in his hand and a banana was rescued from the snow! A lot of cursing of the soft snow brought us up to the final snowfield but it really was a pale imitation of the first gully, but a good excursion. Not recommended just now. Maybe God’ Own gully does deserve the title.
We descended the miner’s path and were surprised at the amount of snow that had banked it out since Sunday. Alan and Marty traversed back to retrieve the sack and we all headed back to the van. A great day out.

God’s Own Gully

Geoff and I left NWMC to climb Muckish from the gap, and drove around to north side in the hope of some sport in the gullies. First impressions were not good, with the north face swept clean by recent gales, and snow thin on the ground! We followed three guys up the miners track, one of whom branched off to the right, in the direction we intended to go. The ‘Funnel’ had no snow in the chimney and looked more like a rock climb. So we continued past it, into the grandly named ‘Gully of the Gods’ following the lone figure ahead. The loose hail on the slopes became snow- ice in the gully, and as we donned crampons, we looked on in amazement as the ice axeless and cramponless figure above kicked his way up the gully. The hard snow/ice became icier, and still superman remained ahead kicking half inch toe holds into the neve, and avoiding the pure ice by stepping on protruding rocks. It was solid grade 2, with short vertical steps lacquered in thick green ice, and above a steep slope of hard packed snow to the rim. Our ice axes bit in beautifully, and calves groaned as we approached the top, watched from above by batman. Batman’s name was Andrew, from Derry, mightily relieved that he had survived this gully,( that he had done the previous week with no problem at all). Conditions were entirely different this Sunday!
We met up with the other two, and then North West MC at the cross. Lovely conditions (temporarily) on top, made lunch a pleasure, and then we headed down, meeting Kevin Magee plus dog en route. A *** day.

Achill Haggis

With everyone arrived the weekend started with a club meeting over a few pints of the black stuff. Starry skies over Achill promised a good day ahead.
An early morning round of golf was called off due to sheep on the course, so we headed to Lough Acorrymore reservoir, planning a days hike over Croaghaun and out to Achill Head.
After skirting the lough to the west and rising to the corrie above we split into 2 groups. One headed for the summit up the back slope of the corrie, passing the wreckage of a crashed airplane enroute. The other group enjoyed some good scrambling up the rocky flank of the buttress on the north side of the corrie. (Good call Alan.) Both groups came together to summit Croaghaun (688m) and enjoy the spectacular views afforded by the good weather (For January).
Pushing SW along the clifftop we summited the SW peak (664m) and after lunch descended the steep slope to the col between Croaghaun and Benmore. A short hike uphill to the NW brought us the the start of Achill Head. Although windy, the scrambling and views out & back along Achill Head ridge was well worth it. A hike along the top of Benmore cliffs and descent to Keem Bay finished off a great days walk.
In the evening the Haggis was toasted by Dennis and then drowned by one and all, accompanied by the musical talents of Gerry and Alan.
A wet Sunday morning prevented much else other than a short walk to see the 8th wonder of the world, Achill Henge.
Great weekend in a beautiful place and I’ll definitely be back.


New Wall Takes Shape

With over two years of construction, many false starts and goodness knows how many hours of planning, discussion and specifying, the new wall at St Columb’s Park is finally taking shape. With only the holds to be added, – about 1800 have been ordered, the ‘Foyle Arena’ as we must learn to call it, is very nearly ready to welcome the first climbers.
The climbing wall is the central part of the massive new complex that includes two swimming pools, a cafe and a (very) large hall. The wall has a monstrously overhanging competition wall on one side and a vertical wall on the other side. Under the large window that gives loads of natural light there’s a dedicated, mega steep bouldering area. Some of the wall can be seen from the car park but you really have to go inside to really get the feel of it.
The plan is to have two MI nights a week for members, but there will be open access at all times the centre is open, 7.00am to 10.00pm apparently. Alpine starts anyone! With only a few weeks left I for one can’t wait until it opens, probably first week of April, but I’ll just have too! The only thing we wait to know is how much entry will cost but I’m sure it’ll be reasonable.
I’m sure the way the wall is highly visible from the café and reception bay windows will attract lots of people to ‘come and try it’ sessions and so we can look forward to lots of new members. I’m certain this wall will transform climbing in the North West, Donegal and beyond.
Lastly, a big thanks to Rodney and Paul Who have put an extraordinary amount of time into getting this project built.
There are more photos in the gallery but they have gone to the second page somehow.

Siniolchu Rock Needles Exploratory Expedition 2014.

Having been collected by Jeep from Bagdogra Airport, we spent one night in Gangtok ( the capital of Sikkim), before driving to Mangan, to a homestay for two nights, while Raja bought supplies and hired porters. A rough and exposed track took us to Beh, and the end of the road. Three shortish day’s trek along the 1921 Everest expedition approach track, the same one that Younghusband’s invading army used to access Tibet, and also the route that Buddism came into India, brought us to Tolung, through magnificent primeval jungle, where we spent an uncomfortable night camped among a herd of wild yak.
The main path goes over the Kishong La, but we were bound for the Zumthul Phuk, and 2 exhausting days bushwhacking through a rhodedendron filled gorge, brought us to base camp. Our 15 porters were paid off at this point. They were a cheerful bunch, and how they got the loads through such difficult terrain was a miracle. The next morning was scheduled as a rest day, but we walked up above the camp to discover a beautiful lake, unmarked on any maps, with a glacier flowing from the base of Siniolchu calving icebergs into it.
To the left the Rock Needles towered up into the encroaching cloud. Back at camp, we killed a snowy afternoon by climbing a gully above base. Toothache at night.
The next morning was clear, so we carried loads up to ABC , around the lake, and up the glacier to a spot just below a big buttress at the base of the needles. A vast amphitheatre had opened up around us, festooned with Trango Tower type peaks, none of which looked possible for ordinary mortals. Probably the most amazing place I had ever seen, and such a privilege to be the first climbers ever to see it. Euphoric, we headed back to base camp. It clouded in and snowed again. Spent afternoon and night in bag with severe toothache. Will have to descend with Mindrup and Jack, and try and find a dentist. Shook piles of snow off the tent and packed up. Surprised that Keith also coming down.
Got out to Mangan in two very tough days. Abscess improved as we descended. Got course of 2 antibiotics as an alternative to extraction, and took a taxi to Darjeeling with Jack and Keith, as going back up not an option. Keith went home, while Jack and I kicked around Darjeeling for a week, before being joined by Jimmy, Kevin and Ursula. All except Kevin went off to trek the Singalila Ridge for 3 days, arriving back at the same time as Raja, Thendrup, and Martin. The weather had improved, and they had a few days very successful exploration of the area, reaching 2 new cols, discovering 3 hitherto unknown glaciers, and ascending one minor peak.
After a further day in Darjeeling, we took the overnight Darjeeling Mail Train to Kolkata, where I did the Sujat Mukherjee memorial lecture, had dinner, and flew home.

St Columb’s Wall Update

Building of the new facility at St Columb’s Park, which will house the climbing wall, is well under way (photo below).


The opening date is currently scheduled for March 2015, with the climbing wall installation planned for November/December this year. Depiction of what wall might possibly look like is below (note CCC classic practices of soloing, and abseiling on ropes that are too short).

View_6_Climbing_Hall share

Here are a couple of other photos of what the wall will look like, thanks to Paul Dunlop for passing them on.

wall1 wall2

Three PM

Three PM
On Friday 26th. In Fermanagh, assisting Bill to dredge the remnants of the Arney River ( after a month of drought) on his sponsored swim in aid of cancer research. He was aided by Anneke in a kayak, as Valli and I searched the river banks to see what had happened to them. Please give generously via My Donate………

On Saturday 27th. Probably still in a pub outside Croke Park with Finbarr, before the All Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipp. Very fast, skilful, game, but the winner, I think, was as usual Diageo.

On Sunday 28th. Coming off Crohane above L.Guitane in Kerry, to scramble over the spectacular wee peak of Binnaunmore and back to the car. The route we got lost on with Keith and Sandra- but fortunately I had no MLs navigating this time, just Finbarr ( who thought he was in Mayo).

On Monday 29th. Having done the Eastern Reeks in mist and drizzle ( the Cruach Mor/ Big Gun/Cnoc na Peasta section is great, even when viewless, wet and slippery) we met local guide Pearse Kelly with a client from Derry descending the zig zags.

On Tuesday 30th. On top of Torc mountain, with views clearing on all sides, after a wet morning.

On Wednesday 30th. On the Beenkeeragh Ridge in glorious sunshine, having soloed Howling Ridge with Finbarr and Jack Bergin in wet, but improving, conditions.

On Thursday 1st Oct. Having coffee with Valli in Collooney on the way home ( thats more sensible).