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Late summer trip to the Alps

John Holterman and I headed to the Chamonix area for a weeks climbing at the end of August. Given the poor weather which had plagued the Alps this summer I was not holding out much hope for getting a lot done; but as it turned out our luck was in and we had a week of good weather and climbing.
Over the first two days we climbed the Cosmiques arête on the Aig du Midi and Petite Aig Verte, both short routes by alpine standards but good climbs and perfect for acclimatization.
Our confidence was building so next we opted for a longer more committing climb; the Forbes arête on the Aig du Chardonnet. We left the Albert Premier Hut at about 2.30am and with a bit of night navigation we managed to cross the glacier and find the start of the route. We were the only climbers heading to the Forbes; most of the other parties were going to the Migot spur which seemed to be a very popular climb.
All went well on the Forbes, it is a magnificent route and was in great condition. The steep snow slopes and the knife edged snow arêtes offered lots of excitement and exposure. We were back at the hut by 12pm were we checked in with the guardian before a walk on tired legs to the ski lifts and back down to the Valley.
The following day was to be a rest day but the weather was good so we took the cable car to L’Index and climbed the SE ridge, taking our time and enjoying the views across the mountains.
We were both tired from our exploits of the previous days but wanted to make the most of the two remaining days.
After considering our options we settled for the Frendo Spur on the Aig du Midi. We started from the Midi Plan station at about 12.30pm. The plan was to get as high on the route as possible before dark and bivy; then get an early start the next day which would give us plenty of time to finish the route before the last cable car left the Midi station for Chamonix at about 5.30pm.
All started well, the forecast had shown rain for the morning but this did not appear. Route finding was reasonably straight forward and we were moving at a steady pace. Unfortunately the rain came later in the afternoon in the form of a thunder storm, which pelted us with rain and hail for a few hours, slowing our progress in the difficult conditions. After debating our options we decided it was better to go on as retreat was going to be difficult. As the afternoon progressed the conditions improved and we found as comfortable a spot as possible to spend the night.
We started at first light, glad to be leaving out cold bivy and be moving again. Due to the conditions the day before we were not as high on the route as we had hoped, but we had plenty of time so we were not concerned at this stage. As the route progressed, the technical difficulty of the climbing increased and some fast moving parties, mostly guides with clients began to catch us. As we entered the early afternoon we still had a long way to go but were keeping pace with the other climbers on the route. We eventually put the last of the rock behind us and moved up the steep snow arête and slopes as quickly as we could. It was now 4.30 or later and we had a steep ice pitch in front of us before we would reach the snow crest below the Midi station. There was a palpable sense of urgency in all the groups pushing as hard as they could to get back to the Midi.
As I pulled over the crest and pushed on up the final arête I could see the cable car pulling into the station, my legs and lungs were burning but we had to keep moving. It was 5.15pm when we entered the tunnel of the station; we crammed all the gear into our bags and ran for the cable car to join the queue along with other harried climbers and a few remaining tourists. We had made it, just.
On the cable car ride back to Chamonix we could finally relax and enjoy the sense of reward from completing such an epic route with some of the other climbers we had met along the way.
Once down we headed back to our accommodation, washed, ate and packed our bags in readiness for heading home early the following morning.

Classical Revival

Classical Revival
Geoff and I climbed this *** route yesterday as a photoshoot for a new book on the mountains of Ireland by Gareth McCormick. We dropped a 100m rope from the top for Gareth, and climbed the route in two pitches. It was more vegetated than I remember, but still a classic HVS. Geoff was more ecstatic than I have seen him for a while. The 2 hour each way trudge into Belshade did little to dampen our spirits in Biddies afterwards.

Guidebook link to Classical Revival here.

Well Done Rodders!

Congrats to Rodney for winning Coach of the Year award for coaching the North West Youth Climbing team.

Derry Journal article here

From the MI website:

Rodney Moore has been awarded Coach of the Year at the 2014 Derry People of the Year Awards. Rodney coaching efforts have helped many young Derry climbers to get involved in climbing and to push their personal standards.

Rodney who himself is a very active climber runs the North West Youth Climbing Team with the help of a great group of equally able and enthusiastic climbing coaches. Michael Cooke of the North West Talent Project has been instrumental in supporting Rodney and his team over the past number of years.

Malin Headcase and Brasil nuts.

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Still somewhat euphoric after Owey, Geoff and I planned to take advantage of the good weather and lack of employment to get out climbing somewhere/ anywhere. We were joined by apprentice layabout Anis, still struggling to reconcile his training with Glenmore Lodge, with a day or two out with Alfie. I dont think we helped the situation any!
A glorious day at Malin Head soon turned sour when we found all the rock oily, and in the shade, with no immediate prospect of improving. Carbolic Crack was apt, and Malin Headcase’s lower section best avoided , though the upper half was alright, well no worse than usual. We gave up and went to Dominic’s Bamba cafe for coffee and solice.
Should have gone to Dunmore as it doesn’t face north, so we did. Anis had been there, so we diverted to Brasil Rock at the last minute, and were rewarded with sunshine and dry rock. Alhambra ( Geoff says 3***) Hustler( Geoff says technical for a HS), and Broadbinns Emporium ( better than it looks apparently) finished off the day nicely, and suddenly it was all worth while.

Owey September 5th – 7th

The weather continued to do as it was told so Marty, Valli and Alan paddled over on Friday evening while I caught the boat with young Dhonail at the helm. Also on board was Mauritz, a young German hitchhiking surfer that Valli found.
Saturday dawned windy and cloudy but dry so once Ivan arrived we all headed off. A bit reluctantly at first, thinking there may be a bit of shivering to be endured. By the time we reached the fluted wall area though the sun was shining. Marty and Alan picked Promethius, a great looking line. A real classic and a photographers’ dream, a three star route probably. If it was in Cornwall this would have climbers all over it. Ivan and I headed down to the seaward end of the opposite side of the zawn and put up a couple of new lines – steeper than they looked! Lovely and warm in the sun though and out of the wind. The day ended with a mass ascent of Darcy, which is again a real classic up a fine slab, worth at least 2 stars.
Sunday was another sunny day and we headed back to the same area. No new lines were climbed but Alan did explore a few lines. so still plenty to do on the Island. Ivan and I climbed Promethius, posed for photos and confirmed its classic status. A bit freaky going down to the hanging belay but ok once the solid cams in place!
Marty again paddled home with Ivan and Karen, while I guarded the luggage. We left Alan and Valli to enjoy another evening A great weekend and I can’t wait to get back, even if it may be next year now.

Highland Fling

Martin Boner and I met up in Glasgow airport and off we went to Fortwillian (Bill’s Fort). It was a nice journey up but that all changed when we woke next morning to persistent drizzle. Nonetheless, being the foolhardy souls that we were we headed off to see if anything was possibility on Ben Nevis. By the time we got to the CIC hut – we were soaked through. So we opted for a reconnaissance of Observatory Gully. A challenging struggle up the scree slope but were rewarded with close up views of all the major lines. (It didn’t rain all the time – just most times). What made it worthwhile was that the small glacier in the upper region of Observatory Gully had melted underneath and it was possible to walk under it. We came across submerged waterfalls that came directly from 0.5 Gully and other main climbing (drainage) lines. We had a close up inspection of Dave McLeod’s climb on Echo Wall – hey major respect.

Saturday wasn’t that much better so off we went to Glencoe. Martin had it in his mind to climb the South Face of A’Ceallaigh. There was much vertical heather to cling to but there were short rock obstacles as well. The dry one’s were good fun but the wet faces were avoided by the line of least resistance. When we got to the upper cliff tier, the rock provided very enjoyable scrambling with a nice finish. Neither of us fancied downclimbing the almost vertical heather so we opted for a ridge walk to Am Bodach (Start of the Aonach Eagach ridge) and a descent from here. At least I we can say that we have now completed the Aonach Eagach Ridge from start to finish.

Sunday was home day but the sun shone and we thought we had enough time to climb North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mór in Glencoe. We started out at 9.30am and were on the summit by 1.00pm. A highly recommended must do climb. Most books describe it as a scramble. However, it’s steepness and exposure is very sustained right from the start. There are 4 identifiable pitches but really the entire route is one very long and sustained pitch. In my opinion, it is more serious than Curved Ridge and would certainly challenge the difficulty sections on Agag’s Groove. Others will have their own opinion but sure that’s OK too. For us, it was a fantastic outing on an iconic mountain. Total time from A82 Carpark to summit and back to carpark was 5 hours. We even had time for dinner in Tyndrum on the way to the airport. Youtube video in 2 parts

North Buttress – Part 1: http://youtu.be/v8TZBSDF2Q0

North Buttress – Part 2 : http://youtu.be/gQcGN87yzgY

The Anointed One

PJ, Thomas , Margaret and self went to Scotland to prepare the way for the great one, one whose destiny was about to be fulfilled. To pass the time before the coming, Margaret led me astray, to pay homage to the unworthy, a mere Corbett of such nonentity and remoteness, as to not justify the last trudge through the mist and drizzle to its miserable highpoint. ( PJ and Thomas wisely did Sgurr Donail on the Ballachulish horseshoe).

So demoralised was I, that I could venture no further than the retail wilderness of Fort William Main street the following day.

Spirits recovered on Thursday and we had a fine walk over the Grey Corries range, bagging a number of summits including a couple of new Munros for me.

On Thursday evening, the great one and his disciples arrived, to set up operational headquarters in Witherspoons.

As fortold in the scriptures, the day arrived, with the multitude gathering in Glen Nevis in anticipation of the great event.

Heavenward, they rose in unison ( except the old and decrepid, who took the cablecar round the back) up the flanks of the Lochaber giant to the summit, where the great one gained enlightenment, and joined the ranks of the celestials- (Margaret and Jimmy). Nectar was in great supply ( and Dungiven paintstripper), before the multitude floated back to earth on a airborne chariot, sort of.

Celebrations went on into the night, but in the morning there was light, and it was good.

They sought the celestial tower, and after much labour, privation, (and dehydration) the faithful came to the gateway.

But there came amongst them, a false prophet, Finbarr, who leadeth them ashtray, and they forsook the anointed one, so it came to pass that the first became last and the last became first. And the lord sent a cloud to separate and confuse the pilgrims, and it worked fairly well, but the faithful prevailed and reached the promised land, some eventually, and indeed they came upon great multitudes milling about looking for salvation, or the way down.

But gettin down was another story. ( Revelations 2, V17).

Margaret did another Corbett.

Trials and Tragedy in the Alps

Trials and Tragedy in the Alps.

The only things of note I did in a month in the Alps this year, were the traverse of the Pelvoux with Fergus, and the Gran Paradiso. The former was great, but make sure to bring enough rope to make 40m+ abseils on descent, as the glaciers have retreated substantially. The second week of the MI meet at Ailefroide wasnt actually that bad, but Courmayeur was more unsettled ( although the campsite was excellent).

I didnt actually see the Gran Paradiso at any stage, thick cloud and light rain/snow prevented any level of visibility, but we got to the top thanks largely to Anthony’s GPS and the new GPS compatible map ( does this mean my alpine map collection will have to be replaced?). Needless to say, as soon as Fergus, Ant, PJ and self got back to the hut, it cleared up. This was the story in 2014, the weather was unsettled, capricious, and the forecasts entirely unreliable.

Still, we came back safely. Sadly others didn’t!

Alan

Owey

Great trip, many new climbs (some destined, perhaps, to become classics). See guide book later for details. Also kayaking and kite flying (don’t ask). Good to see Valli, Ivan and Martin Boner. Great help and hospitality from Dan Betty Gallagher et al. No trip to Owey now complete without a visit to The Donkey’s Pelvis (provided you have the head, stomach, liver and stamina).

Bill

Gola Sunshine

PJ and I got word that Ivan Krella, Dave Millar and Kevin McGee were heading to Gola for the weekend and arranged to meet up for the 11 o’clock boat. Jimmy’s ship seemed to have shrunk a bit as he was driving (sailing?) a 5 man rib that took 2 trips to get the 5 of us and our gear across. Turns out he still has the big boat but some churlish bugger got him in trouble with the law, taking a picture of his overloaded boat and ended up with him having a €1750 fine, so he uses the small one as and when.

It pissed down all the way from Derry but, as is the way with Gola, once on the island things were merely a bit cloudy while the mainland got drenched. We set up camp and, after a bit of difficulty with Ivan’s one-man conundrum of a tent that took four of us to sort out, were off to the walls.

PJ and I settled for Mhachaire na nGall wall and did Bootleg , Wendy Raindrops and Alan’s line (all Severes) before joining the boys on the main wall for something a bit harder. While Ivan and Kevin had a go on Ship Wrecked (E2) we abseiled down Kept Woman with the plan to do Metric Tonn or The Plagiarist (both HS). We didn’t account for the tides though, couldn’t access the climbs and ended up back on the main wall for Lunch Money (HS). A cracking wee short route, very technical move in the middle as the corner leans out, exactly what you don’t want it to do!

So it was teatime and back to the camp for the usual cooking and fireside shenanigans, involving large quantities of beer, Guinness, wine and Czech poteen. There were a bunch of Queen’s students there too, on the tail end of a 10 day trip but they kept themselves to themselves and left the rowdiness to the older generation. Maybe they’d run out of supplies by that point? We took full advantage of the beachside fire ring they’d built though, a lovely spot to spend the evening.

Hangovers intact we headed to the walls again next day, the boys doing Asgard, Ceol na Maire and probably other E2s while PJ and I tried to decipher the descriptions for the routes on the east wall of the Narrow Zawn. We finally gave up and headed to the old staple Gripple Wall and a run up Pride Of Gola (S).

The blue skies finally arrived though I’d been pretty well toasted the day before because of the light cloud cover. So we rounded up the day with a rattle on Gripple Wall, a supposed VDiff that had a testy bit on the middle more reminiscent of HS routes.

We retired to the harbour to soak up the sunshine as we waited on the boat and got chatting to the Strabane Ramblers, many of whom were having a swim, and who’d enjoyed a day out touring the island. They knew PJ somehow, name-dropped Marty McGuigan and were well aware of Climbfest.

Once again Gola didn’t let us down, it’s always worth the trashed hands from the granite to sample such fine climbing and scenery. Unbeatable.

Anthony