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.
Ant, And and At managed to do a couple of festive routes at Dunmore Head, before adjourning to the house beside the crag for some rehydration. Seriously rusty!
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.
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).
So PJ and I went to Culdaff for the Sat evening to join Margaret & Gertie for dinner, having forsaken the Owey weekend in favour of a 20 mile Dublin marathon training run.
Got up next day feeling thoroughly wrung out but thinking “A wee climb and then home. Black Perception it is. We’ll work out where it is once and for all, get the GPS coordinates, mark it on a map, climb the fecker and go home and tell the world.”
1 hour later and with PJ protesting about her sore knee from the running and me my sore arse from falling on the black rocks near the sea (a squeaky bum moment with the waves whooshing in below) we gave up the search.
We blundered our way back to the top of SRS Slabs to abseil down and found Alfie, Anise and Aaron, who said we couldn’t join their AAA team because they liked 3 letter acronyms and anyway PJ’s name was totally out of kilter.
A wee saunter up Belfast Blitz Boys passed 30 minutes while Alfie doled out lessons on abseiling, Z-pulleys, rope coiling and sandwich making to our erstwhile beginners. He was no help in finding Black perception though.
My own pet theory is that it’s hidden behind a fairy gate that only the good and pure of heart can pass through, in which case I can forget ever climbing it again, or that it’s made from the mythical element “noclimbium” that fades in and out of our planar existence as the whim takes it. Usually it’s more “out” than “in.
I’m sure I climbed it once during a bygone ClimbFest, but they tended to be heavily-alcohol-fuelled (with a side order of herbs) weekends back then before PJ tapered me down to a mere 2 crates and a bottle of whiskey, so maybe I imagined climbing it?
If anyone can provide a 10 figure grid reference (12 or 14 if you have it) for this most elusive of climbs I’d be very grateful.
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.
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.