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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).

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.