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Having an ice time in 2010

Date: 8th- 11th Jan
Submitted by: Alan Tees

Sitting out the new year’s mini ice age in Germany, subjected only to Iain Millar’s frequent texts about all the new winter routes going up in Donegal was not n-ice, and so it was, that as soon as I got back, I planned to get down there, and I couldn’t afford to wait until the weekend lest the dreaded thaw set in!

Columba and I went down on Thursday evening and stayed in the YH at Errigal, to be joined by Keith and Peter. In the morning Peter and Keith headed up to the gullies just right of the Castle, whilst Iain, Columba and myself found ourselves at the base of the thin stream that cascades down the RHS of Bearnas Buttress, a long time winter project of mine. There is another drainage line to the right of this (Possibly “Sluice”), eminating from the top of Australia Slab, which I had done before in poorish winter conditions, which we also looked at, but decided against. We scrambled up the first pitch and I decided to put on the crampons, while Columba decided to go down! Iain was up ahead, and I scrabbled up after him, in a shower of sparks and expletives, thinking this wasn’t such a good idea after all, as we were soloing steep ground, what ice their was, was too thin for the axes, turf was unfrozen due to the depth of the heather, and it was all just bloody awkward. Then we roped up and it got better, and better! Iain will probably write a full report of “Struahn na Bearna” (Photo Left), but suffice it to say, that I was well pleased when we got to the top, the final overhanging block and deep powder snow finally draining what little reserves of energy I had!

Peter and Keith had climbed the first gully right of the Castle (No1 Gully?) Grade 2, and were joined by Columba for the next one right (beside Rafiki) No2 Gully? Also Gr 2 apparently.

Saturday saw Columba, Valli, Marty, Emmet and I heading for Castle Gully, my favourite Gully in Donegal, which I had yet to get in full winter plumage. It was great. The chimney pitch was well iced up giving it its Gr 2 status, but the exit runnel was covered in deep snow, and not particularly identifiable. Marty made it all a bit more challenging by forgetting his crampons.

On the way down from Windy Gap/ Bearna’s Gap/Cro n Mhe (the gap between the Castle and Bearna’s Buttress), Marty led a short steep ice pitch on the LHS, about 100m below the gap. He calls all his routes after birds and was looking for appropriate suggestions for a winter route. Arctic Tern perhaps? I suggested “Blue tit”, and “Blue tit” it became! Grade 3 or 4 ish depending on the line taken. We were joined by Hugh Boyle who was a very early member of CCC, recently returned from Scotland, and who had just followed us up Castle Gully. Iain and Chris McDaid were apparently out too

I was due to go home that evening to have dinner with Margaret, PJ and Bonny, but they had either not shown, or left, and Margaret said it was alright with her that I stayed another day, (or at least I thought that’s what she said!) so I stayed, and went into Croloughan with Marty, Valli, & Columba and climbed a nice new route on the right hand wall of the gully at the back, which turned out to be “Brain Freeze”, a very good Gr 3. We were joined by Martin Bonar and his new SARDA dog on top, who made sure we got back to the road safely. Time for home!

On approaching the house, I noted that the windows were badly frozen, and closer examination revealed that the frost was very definitely in the inside! A couple of gin and tonics in McGrorys did the trick and soon I was back in favour, and reflecting on a very fine weekends activities indeed.

14 Jan 2010

Im so envious - it all looks brilliant!!

Photo of Route