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If you get good winter conditions in Donegal you are privileged indeed, and either very lucky or very patient. Usually temperatures have to be below zero for 5 days consecutively, and down to -5 at night, and a dump of snow can spoil it all. You then have to drop everything, and brave the inevitably appalling road conditions to get there, for be assured, it wont last! The 2002 Donegal guide gives guidance on page 322/323 of where to go. The three main areas are Derryveigh (Poisoned Glen, Croloughan, Horseshoe Valley, Glenveigh, Sl Snaght) where the wetness will give the best chance of ice, the Bluestacks (again granite, with some big waterfalls), and the Donegal Highlands, which are dryer, but give routes with a more alpine feel. The first proper winter climbing I am aware of, was done in the Horsehoe Valley in the early seventies, with barely a couple of new routes logged anywhere in Donegal each decade since that! There again, many of the easier outings will probably not have been recorded, but anything above Gr II is unlikely to have been climbed previously, due to the dearth of winter climbers, inaccessibility, and lack of appropriate tools.
Scottish Winter Grades 1-VI
Grade 1. Climbs for which only one axe is required, either snow gullies around 45 degrees or easy ridges.
Grade II. Axe and hammer are required because of steep snow, a difficult cornice, or a short ice pitch. Difficulties are usually short. The ridges are more difficult, but usually still summer scrambles.
Grade III. Similarly technical, but usually more sustained than Gr II. Sometimes short and technical, particularly for mixed ascents of moderate rock climbs.
Grade IV. Steep ice requiring some arm strength, from short vertical steps, to long pitches of 60/70 degrees. The mixed climbs require more advanced techniques, such as torquing.
Grade V. Sustained steep ice at 70/80 degrees. Mixed climbs requiring linked hard moves.
Grade VI. Vertical Ice. Mixed routes either long and sustained, or if short, sufficiently technical to require careful calculation.
Grade VII and above. See Columba.
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