Category Archives: Logbook

An entry in the CC logbook

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……..


Remembrance Sunday

  • 8Jeremy and I met at 9am  by Leenan beach. I had a map, a compass and a GPS. I also had a fit guide who knew where we were going. Jeremy was less well equipped; he had me.

After a short walk along a nearly level road we encountered our first nearly impassable obstable.  Luckily Jeremy had dealt with it before and opened the gate. Despite my attempts to slow him down it didn’t seem long until we were near the top.  Jeremy stopped to look at the view. I tried to pick up my lungs which I had coughed into the heather. 

It was a brief trot to the site of the wellington’s 1941 crash. There is a geocache here, some debris, a wheel strut and a small memorial cross. Although it was only 10.30, I left a poppy and we left.

Despite my best efforts to go downhill, my guide said we should go up. I have to admit he was right but I remembered why I prefer climbing to walking.

We were soon back at the cars with my reputation, for finishing early, intact. 

Thank you for the directions Jeremy and thank you to 5 airmen for me not being on a wanderweg. 


Malin – a walk on the wild side

Sunday 2nd Oct 2016

 While the CCC were having their AGM and meet in West Donegal (Apologies sent), the sun shone on Malin Head and there was wall to wall blue sky. I had a couple of hours to spend so off I went.

 I headed for Banba’s Buttress and descended ‘Malin Head Shuffle’ and went out towards the water’s edge to get a closeup of the waves and the western entrance to ‘The Chasm’. Then it was up the start of ‘Malin Android’ to commence ‘Skywalker’ traverse. To escape I climbed ‘Yoda’s Staircase’ 

 Then it was on to the 1st Headland. I don’t know the name for it but it is the one with a Cross on Top. I down climbed one of Bren Whelan’s climbs on the southern corner and then crossed the narrow 1st Zawn and climbed ‘Freebird’. It was drier today unlike yesterday (Saturday). 

Then it was on to the Knobble Amphitheatre. Descent on the slabs on the northern wall to a point at the end of the large rock pool. From here the slightly rising ‘Amphitheatre Traverse’ always entertains me until I am forced up by (Alphie’s) triangular slab and then on to the very obvious fault line and to escape the amphitheatre I climbed up ‘Land  Ahoy’.  

  On the way back to the  car park I descended ‘Grainne’s Ledge’ crossed the floor of the 1st Zawn and  scrambled up  ‘The Edge’  on the northern side of the cross (1st Headland). Then it was back home  in time for dinner. What a way to whet one’s appetite.

Chamonix fun in the sun


Chamonix: a mecca for skiers, mountain bikers, trail runners and above all climbers. PJ and I had missed out on climbing there with the MI meet there a few years ago and again last year when the weather was just awful, but we were determined to get the little T@B caravan there this year and have our turn. Initially sworn to secrecy, we thought we’d have a sneaky attempt at Mont Blanc and maybe pip Keith to the post, after his multiple past attempts but we soon couldn’t help telling people excitedly “We’re going to Chamonix!!”


PJ’s mountain rescue team were planning a trip too, so we arranged to hook up with them, though we were taking the leisurely Rosslare-Cherbourg ferry route and driving down to Chamonix and having a 2.5 week holiday. The lads had 7 days and were hitting the hills fast and hard.


We arrived at Iles de Barrat campsite on Sat 28th August and were treated to a marvellous thunderstorm that night. Main street Chamonix outside The Pub was literally a river.


Sunday was climbing on hot rock (it literally burned your hand in the afternoon sun) at Les Gaillands, a very handy crag less than a mile from the campsite.


The team arrived that afternoon and routes were discussed for the next day. Billy had been there a few days doing the Dome de Miages and a solo run over the Trois Monts, ending with a bivvy at the Nid d’Aigle train station having missed the last train down. Hardcore in that thunderstorm! He and Roy K were off to the Conscrits hut next day which left 8 of us deciding what to do.


PJ and I had thought a leisurely acclimatisation on Petite Aiguille Verte but Robbie had other plans: a straight climb from the valley floor at Le Tour up to Aiguille de Tour (2000m of ascent), back to Albert Premier hut for the night, then Tete Blance and Petit Fourche the next day. No messing and you can forget the gondola too!


Our enthusiam wilted a little next morning as we struggled to find the path to the ridge up to the Albert Premier (there’s a clearer but more circuitous route round the back, using the gondola). Then it became clear that Robbie’s guesstimate of a “2 hours no bother” climb up the steep ridge was, for us mere mortals, a tad eager.


Anyway we reached the hut and previous residents exclaimed how new and refurbished it all looked, the previous hut having been a bit of a “shithole”. A 30 minute break and we were off to the Aiguille de Tour but we hadn’t yet reached the Col de Tour before there was much dragging of feet and gasping breath. We struggled over the col, and made it to about 150m below the summit at 3.15pm before making the decision to turn around. Dale, our enthusiastic first time alpinist, wanted to push on, “It’s just there!” but the rest of us were too busted and more concerned about making it back in time for dinner at 6:30!


A 6:30am start next morning and we were back over the same Col de Tour, this time on fresh legs we covered the samedistance in half the time. The guidebook we’d read suggested an AD route 150m up the north face of Tete Blanche but one look at the overhanging bergschrund was enough to tell us that the beginners in the group were never getting up it, so we settled for the scrambly north east ridge instead. From the summit it’s a short hoof across the col to the steep snowy north slope of the Petit Fourche, which finally involved a little ice axe fun as you zig-zag up it.


The descent all the way back to Le Tour was initially exciting as we negotiated the steep glacier with several crevasses but then the trudging began. The knees weren’t up to the steep ridge so we descended by the longer route, aiming for the gondola. The feet were in quite a bit of pain by the time we gratefully reached it and paid our €13. I’d have paid €50 to be honest!


Wednesday was a day off and I spent the morning scanning the Gouter hut website for free beds that weekend, eventually securing 2 beds for me and PJ and informing the lads that there were 4 other beds. Using Rab’s phone to book these 4 places however I must have entered his email address wrong because, although we saw a “successful booking” page, we didn’t get the confirmation email. Several trips to the Mountain Guides office couldn’t clarify if we definitely had the beds and it wasn’t until we arrived there on the Friday night that we could breathe a sigh of relief as the guardian looked us up and said “Row-bare??” (French for Robert).


Roy M’s knees had had enough and he was flying home, Billy and Roy K had rock climbing plans, the newly arrived Pete along with Mike and Robbie were off to the Conscrits hut, so that left PJ, myself, Rab, Nigel and Dale to do Mont Blanc. Rab’s 4th bed would have to go begging. So what to do on the Thursday? As usual time was of the essence for the guys, so if we wanted to do the Cosmiques Arete it was now or never.


We were up for the first lift to the Aiguille de Midi but so was half of Chamonix, still we were up there by 9am and raring to go… sort of. Problem number 1: several of us had just seen climbers pick their way down the NE snow ridge with that awful drop to the left and there were a few nervous trips to the loo to be had first. Problem number 2: Nigel had left his crampons behind. Luckily Mike was able to get them to a friendly elderly Scottish couple on the bottom lift and, with a little bit of texting, arranged to handover at the top. Meanwhile PJ and I geared up in the ice tunnel, getting relentlessly photographed by Japanese tourists, then it was time to swing open the little gate and teeter out.


“Oh Mummy!” I had flashbacks of the top of Matterhorn as we picked our way down, short gasping breaths, heart racing a million miles an hour, do NOT trip up, do NOT trip up… Phew, we’re down!


The bowl of the Vallee Blance is a magnificent place to be, the Rochefort Arete, Dent de Geant, Point Helbronner, Tacul, Maudit and Mont Blanc all surrounding you. As we trundled over to the start of the ridge we were stunned to see climbers high on the blank looking face of Éperon des Cosmiques. Seriously tough looking grade 6 climbing at least.


When Rab, Nigel and Dale caught us up we set off up the ridge and from the start you realise “this is gonna be a bit testy”. Solid severe grade climbing that never lets up. Route finding was initially straight forward but at the first gendarme we had to work it out, then at the abseils it wasn’t entirely clear where to abseil to, but a best guess got us there. At this point several parties (both Éperon and Arete ascenders) had caught up with us so we cleverly allowed them through and watched where they went. This worked for the next few chimney and slab sections until they were so far ahead we were back to best guessing. The crux pitch was a highly polished affair and tough in big boots but I laced the crack with gear and thrust up, leaving the gear for Rab’s team. By the time we reached the exit chimneys I was glad for the day to be nearly over. I think the longer I’m on a route like that the more my head goes “You’ve made it this far, don’t balls it up now!”, whereas the rest of the guys, especially PJ, seemed to have become inured to the big drops.


The final clamber up the rickety ladder to the platform is hilarious, dozens of clapping tourists eager to take your picture and ask stupid questions like “How far could you fall???” After a team photot we lunched in the restaurant, anything for a few more hours at altitude, then it was back to camp to pack for the big one.


The Bellevue cable car and Mont Blanc tramway to Nid D’Aigle are a very pleasant way to get to 2300m below the Aiguille be Bionnassay but then it’s 1500m of climbing to the Gouter hut. An initial hoof becomes steeper as you turn for the short Tete Rousse glacier crosssing, then it’s the notorious Grand Couloir. The weather had been gloriously sunny all week and we’d heard previous horror stories when the weather had been too warm, bur we had no problems on it, bar the effort of running with a full pack at 3200m, no stonefall at all. The final ridge is a long 700m climb with several steep scrambly sections in the middle and more to finish, this time with the aid of wire ropes though.


The Gouter hut is a magnificent edifice, visible from way below the Tete Rousses, inside it’s all pale wood and warmth with airplane-style views out the windows. The airplane effect is continued with the vacuum toilets. The comfy quilted beds were made use of for an afternoon doze before dinner and we were all tired enough to go straight back there after dinner, none of the usual beer and card game shenanigans.


Up at 2am and out by torch light at 2:15am to join the conga line. The hut had only felt 3/4 full and several of those were guided clients who’d ascended the day before from Tete Rousses and were headed down, so the route didn’t feel too congested. In fact PJ and I were probably the 3rd or 4th party on the line. The climb up to the Dome De Gouter felt interminable, the party in front of us were frustratingly just a little slower, enough to constantly break up our rhythm but not slow enough that we could accelerate past them. Things started to break up a little once we reached the plateau and parties rested and again at the Vallot hut where we 5 had a quick snack, so that we basically had the Bosses ridge to ourselves. By now daylight was arriving and the narrowness of the ridge was quickly becoming evident. Our initial “100 steps and pause” method was now reduced to “50 steps and pause” and again the mantra of “Do NOT trip up!” echoed in my brain.


Off the ridge there is a small rise and then you reach a crevasse with a steep wall behind, which thankfully had steps cut it into it and a fixed rope. So a leap over the crevasse, grab the rope with one hand, ice axe buried with the other and haul yourself up. Then it’s up the final narrow summit ridge, over a false summit, then suddenly there is nothing else above you. We’d made good enough time that only one party was heading back down the summit ridge but I for one was glad when they stepped aside rather than us. The breath was really short now, 50 steps had maybe become 40, I was leaning on my ice axe when we stopped and my trembling calves were making me sway a little which unnerved me. “Do NOT trip up!”


At 6:59am we were on the top and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but I hugged PJ and we took several pictures as we waited for Rab, Nigel and Dale. The forecast had said clear weather but it was quite overcast and extremely cold in the biting wind, so there wasn’t much celebration. I tried looking out for the Matterhorn but couldn’t see it and eventually the pain in my hands prompted us to leave.


Strangely I felt more confident descending the narrow ridges, I suppose when every step isn’t a monumental effort you can actually enjoy yourself, and I enjoyed the views more on the (long) way down. We were back at the Gouter hut by 9:30am and took a well deserved 2nd breakfast of pizza and Orangina. An hour later the horrible final descent began. We had to make the train at Nid d’Aigle for 2:45pm, they’d cancelled half the trams and the 5pm one wouldn’t let us catch the finalBellvue cable car, sothe race was on. That 700m initial steep ridge took longer to go down than up, some 2.5 hours and we feared missing the tram but we eventually made it with time to spare despite lots of aching, numb toes.


Billy was retiring, his official last day of work was Sunday so, with a big hill to celebrate too, we all headed out in Chamonix, lumbering from one blaringly loud bar to another and imbibing several expensive whiskies. There was even a bit of dancing too, despite the tired legs. I think PJ and I struggled back at 3am and awoke next day with missing memories and a missing watch, that was later found inside the Portaloo, but that’s another story.


The guys were headed home and PJ and I had had enough of the big peaks so we packed up and headed over to Lake Annecy. We spent a pleasant few days on the municipal campsite, whose only drawback was the fact it was at the top of a steep winding hill. My legs protested every time we returned from quaffing beer blanche and rose wine in the late afternoon sunshine in old town.


We found time, amid the quaffing, to do the via ferrata at La Clusaz, an achingly beautiful alpine village just below the Col de Aravis. 100m of ascent through the woods from the car park to the start of the climb, then 300m of D grade ferrata, then descend round the back to the car again. Great fun, especially the overhanging difficult exit (there’s an easier exit too).


So one of the most memorable alpine trips in years, we really lucked out with the weather, it only ever could have been called “dull” on that Wednesday rest day. Still, there remains lots of stuff to do in Chamonix and this won’t be our last trip there.

In Praise of Offwidths and Chimneys




Five of us flew Ryanair Dublin to Wroclau, in Poland, to be met by Ivan and Matty, and escorted the 100km drive to a cottage he had rented in the middle of the village of Adrapach, just across the Czech border.  Karen had supper prepared for us and Ivan supplied the beer.


In the morning the wonder of our surroundings became apparent, as the edge of this remarkable massif of pinnacles and towers could be seen across the field.  Leisurely coffee and cake in the café was followed by an exploration of the nearest section of this city of rock.   It is a tourist destination with well trodden walk ways threading their way between the most remarkable features, but the side alleys are the domain of the rock climber. 


The last guide book was 15 years ago and there were over 10,000 routes then.  It is an intimidating place if you are a climber, and many a visiting rock star has left with his tail firmly between his legs.  The rock is steep, holds rounded, and the ethics ramp the risk factor up by a multiple of at least 2.  Chimneys and off widths abound, hand jamming cracks (the local climbers wear gloves), and normal gear and chalk are banned.   Protection are knots tied in the rope, jammed in with a paint brush handle.   There are ring bolts, but they are 20m apart,  the first one is at least that off the ground, and I have no idea how the first climbers placed them, as you have to climb the tower first before you can abb it.  AND, they all go a have a few pints in the morning BEFORE they go climbing.  Awesome.  But I suppose at 70 cents a pint Dutch courage comes cheap.  10 pints and change out of 10 euro!


Ivan wisely decided to start us off on an easy grade 3. Ivan’s son Gerry (he who was lusted after by all the ladies) led and we took turns to get jammed in an off width.  Very funny once you had done it, not so funny when you were clamped helpless and hopeless in its sandstone clutches.  We abbed off somewhat humbled and traumatised.  Something easier Ivan?  Ivan scratched his head, too diplomatic to say that there was nothing easier.  He picked a nearby short grade 5 without offwidth or chimney, and dignity was restored somewhat, with Sandra climbing it in trainers and a couple of us managing a harder variation nextdoor.  Pub and Pizza and all was well.


On Friday, Gerry was keen for us to try one of the classics, the normal route on the King, but as a warm up we did another pinnacle involving a chimney, an awkward traverse, and a short climb on pockets to the top, led again by Gerry.  The King could not be put off any longer.  The highest in the area, this tower is split by a 27m chimney, to the top of the lower of the two parts , step across, and climb a crack/groove onto the crown. Gerry led, followed by Martin.  Then Sandra, and we watched as she taught herself the craft of upward momentum in the bowels of a chimney.  Tension rose as she reached the top of the chimney, bridged, and looked up at the final section. “Aw fir fecks sake”, (said with such feeling), reached our shocked ears.  Finbarr next.  There was a lot of wriggling with no apparent result, before he cracked it, and away he went.  Me next (less said the better) and Matti, whose 6 foot long legs must have struggled it the confined space, then Ivan, then down to the pub.  The house began to fill up as friends of the Krella family arrived and we had a guitar music session around the fire with Czech and Irish songs sung with great enthusiasm.


Egos were better, but now backs were bruised, so we decided to go walking next day, after a swim in the lake (‘No swimming’ the notice said, but Czechs do not appear to be able to read this type of sign).


This walk took us around to a different side of the rock city, and we did a loop around terrain much like Petra, very popular with tourists, and busy as it was now the weekend. Ivan pointed out various epic climbs, some almost 100 years old.  We watched young climbers, mostly top roping hard routes.  This can obviously be done if it is not a detached tower.  Lunch and pints at the far end, and a walk back through the pinnacles.


Our final day, we went climbing again to a grade 4 tower called Noon.  Gerry had gone to do hard things, so Ivan led, followed by Martin and the rest of us, including Margaret, who showed she had lost none of her old skills to Munroing and Corbiteering. 


In the morning,  Martin left for Chamonix and Ivan put the rest of us on the right road to the airport.


A great trip and thanks to Ivan, Matti, Gerry, Karen and all their many friends for a level of craic and hospitality that will be hard to follow.


Banba’s Buttress Visit

Beam me up, Luke 02

 You just couldn’t plan for sunshine at Malin Head. However, luck would have it and the sun (unexpectently) came out for a wee while on Friday evening so I thought a good chance to try out a high level traverse of ‘Banba’s Buttress’ that I had in my mind for some time. I had traversed from the ‘Malin Head Shuffle’ to ‘Yoda’s Staircase’ and back again on several occasions but not past that. So after an entertaining descent down the ‘Malin Head Shuffle’ to a point below the ‘Millennium Ramp’  and then commenced a 40m meandering traverse right across to ‘Vader’s Corner’. Great friction, big air and  awesome views. ‘Skywalker’ (V.Diff).

 Whilst there I abseiled down ‘Falcon’ and ended up disposing of loose rock and giving a basic clean to a new climb. There was a good ledge above the narrow zawn and about 3m right of ‘Falcon’, so I climbed a broken line just left of ‘Vader’s Corner’. A very pleasant, somewhat airy ascent and steep in the final 10m – ‘Beam me up, Luke’ 22m V.Diff . 

 All in all, an unplanned but brilliant evening.


Fair Head Meet 2016


The Fairhead Meet for me started on Friday afternoon. I met Geoff Thomas at Sean’s car park before heading over to Farrangandoo, which turned out to be a good choice, not being anywhere near as busy as the Prow.


Gerard joined us later, just in time to see me being humbled by ‘Slittery Slat’ which was a bit more committing and run out than I bargained for.


On Saturday morning I met Kevin McGee, we headed over to the Ballycastle decent gully to meet Gerard and Geoff who had just climbed ‘The Brat’. The popular routes were very busy so I suggested ‘Odyssey’ a multi pitch VS which to me is every bit as good as ‘Gerona’, ‘Taoiseach’ or ‘Chieftain’.


Kevin and I considered ‘Blockbuster’ and other multipitch options but the queues waiting in line kept us walking to beyond the Gray Mans Path. A route called ‘The Vital Spark’ which Kevin was keen to lead was free so we jumped on that. After which we joined the line for ‘Toby Jug’ which was a good route to finish the day.


Back at the campsite we bumped into Marty McGuigan, Patrick and Adam Tinney, Ivan and Karen, not a bad showing of CCC types and I know there where others around over the course of the weekend.


The Alex Honnold talk was excellent; he even tailored his presentation to mildly pock fun at Irish climbing ethics, suggesting the occasional bolt might not be a bad idea in place of sketchy gear or sky hooks held in place with Blu tack. He came across as a nice guy as well as being a wildly talented climber.


The next morning seen Kevin and I heading back to ‘Blockbuster’ this time we managed to be ahead of the crowds and where the first on the route. It is a full on adventure giving sustained and interesting climbing for most of the route. We then headed to the Prow to meet up with Gerard, Marty and Ivan who had done a few climbs and were packing up to try for a route in the Ballycastle decent gully hoping it may still be in the shade as the Prow was becoming way too hot for comfort.


Kevin, Patrick, Adam and I headed to the Small Crag for a relaxed late afternoons climbing in the shade.


I headed home on the Sunday evening but I believe Patrick and Adam were keen to do ‘Blockbuster’ so Kevin was back on it again on Monday morning, a true glutton for punishment.


I didn’t think I would ever see so many climbers at an Irish crag, apparently the numbers where somewhere in excess 450. The exceptional weather, the world renowned guest speaker and the excellent hosting by Paul Swail backed by MI all went to making this years meet such a success. Not forgetting Sean McBride and family for opening their land and farm to hordes of climbers, making everyone feel welcome and putting so much into making it such an excellent event


Admin Note: Photo credit is Martin McKenna, borrowed from UKClimbing story here:

Great Gully Ridge

Whilst in Dublin for the weekend, Sarah and myself headed to Wicklow in search of some warm rock. We decided to avoid Glendalough due to inevitable bank holiday madness that would come with the great weather. Dave Flanaghan’s Ireland guidebook only lists a single route in Glenmalure, but it sounded like a good one, so we were all set.

Despite a treacherous approach through near vertical heather, the route is a great day out. Great Gully Ridge is 5 enjoyable pitches (could be done in 3 probably) on great rock, in a great situation above Glenmalure. Pitches 2 and 4 are more of a scramble, but the other pitches provide nice climbing, no harder than HS. An adventurous route with great views, highly recommended!



Peregrinations and a Goshawk


Back to Muckish again, for the umpteenth look at the Colossus, the big pillar off to the right of the miners track- but this time we had a plan…


So much for the first bit of the plan, (that the evening sun would come around and bathe the north face in benign warmth).  The cloud was down.


Part 2 was the erection of a bomb-proof belay on the short side of the pillar.  We would attempt it on the long side, and when/if the leader (Marty) got to the top, he would untie and drop the end of the rope down the short side to the belayer ( me) who had scuttled back around.  The rope was secured ( no need for a desperate search for an ab point on top), and we would ab back down the long side.


Part 3 was a fixed line across the exposed ledge to protect my peregrinations* back and forth.


This went to plan and soon we were across the ledge, me belayed, and Marty climbing up into the mist. From the belay climb into an unattractive corner, and swing out left and continue up on sloping spikes etc to a big ledge.  He had been to the upper ledge before, and made short work of the first bit.  Sounds of hammering echoed from the cliffs as he placed two pegs up on the ledge ( there was nothing else) something he learned from his last visit.   I craned my neck to catch glimpses of my noble leader as he went this way, then that, then this way again, managing to place a good cam high on an overhanging crack before retreating.  Then he traversed left around the corner.  “Slack, Slack”, I was giving him slack as best I could,  but the rope was going through the high cam, then back down, under an overhang and around the corner.  I kept playing out and gradually it became taut.  Suddenly he was on top.  The rope was flicked over, no more drag, and he went up the final step to the top, untied and dropped the rope down the short side- to which I had peregrinated*.  I tied it to the belay and peregrinated back across the ledge.


My turn.  The first bit was a bit awkward and exposed, and my hands were cold, but ok, about 4b, to the upper ledge.  Then I had to recover Marty’s cam in the high crack, and back down. The traverse left was easy and there was this lovely wall with good holds, but then there were no more.  How Marty got up that with drag is beyond me, because although it was only a couple of moves and the friction was good, it was quite ballancy, and  totally devoid of protection.  I found it unnerving enough on a top rope.


We abbed off ( a free abb) stripped everything and were back in the pub for 7.30.


A great day and a great climb, Goshawk HVS 4c ( or 5a)  see what anyone else thinks.  I had been looking at this for almost 40 years. 


Poisoned Glen

Kevin McGee, Geoff, George and myself met at the car park at the upper end of Glenveigh for some climbing at Ballaghageeha Buttress on Sunday.

With three of us having never climbed there before, Kevin assumed the role of local guide and crag expert.

Although the sun was making a good attempt to stay out, the crag was in the shade and the wind was blowing, making things pretty chilly…

Fittingly, George started with Patagonian Summer (HVS 5a), cruising it despite the frozen fingers. Meanwhile Kevin led The Mistress (currently HVS 5a), seconded by Geoff.

Myself and Geoff then both led Pebbles (HS), a decent route but without much gear and some serious run-outs… As someone later said ‘the gear is only there to stop your corpse from rolling down the face’.

The sun finally made it around to the front of the crag as George reached the top of The Mistress, followed with difficulty by myself. A cracking route, the difficult sections are interspersed with only marginally less difficult sections. In my opinion the route should be upgraded to E1 5b, as the difficulty is a step up from any HVS 5a I have climbed recently.

Kevin was on Tooth Fairy at this point, which appeared harder than anything else climbed that day, but still graded HVS(?). While the rest of us stood around in the sun taking pictures, Patrick and Adam Tinney arrived, fresh from attempting some other hard routes in a nearby gully. When Kevin reached the belay, we realised that someone needed to second him… Geoff wasn’t feeling keen, so George took up the challenge.

The Tinneys were starting on Patagonian Summer and George was making Tooth Fairy look easy as I left for the trip back to Belfast.

A good day’s climbing on a great crag that doesn’t see much traffic.