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Kashmir 2023

Himalayan Club report on Kashmir.

My good friend Raja, (who has facilitated mountaineering trips to various parts of the Indian  and Nepali Himalaya for Irish Mountaineers every two years or so), contacted me after Covid had done its worst, and said, “where would you like to go next”?

“Is Kashmir safe”?  “Yes, Kashmir is stable”, but reading between the lines, I felt he would rather we chose somewhere else.

Having read a couple of Salman Rushdie’s books, I had been captivated with the idea of a visit for some years. The UK foreign office is still advising against travel to Kashmir, but there are many on-line testaments as to how beautiful the country is, and how safe and friendly the people are.  No insurgent activity since 2019 apparently, (and being from Northern Ireland, we have certainly had terrorist incidents since that, and would never consider that our country was unsafe for visitors).

We would go, unless things went pear-shaped in the meantime.

September 2024 arrived in due course, and so to Srinigar.

The plan was put together following a recce by Raja.  Avoiding the most popular Lakes Trek, we would do a 14 plus day trek through the Pir Panjal, climbing 3 peaks, Shin Mahinu, Tatakooti and Sunset Peak, all between 4000 and 5000m.   It would be a first, and he had a contact who could provide everything we would need.A map of trekking route

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It started badly for Margaret and I, when British Airways cancelled our flight from Belfast to London, (and got much worse), but we caught up with the other 8, (whose travel went as planned), on day three, as they headed into the mountains.  The mountains of Kashmir are unlike the other parts of the Himalaya that I have visited, being not as high, and heavily grazed, with spacious and extensive open pastures. Undoubtedly very beautiful with lots of alpine flowers, particularly Edelweiss. More like a mixture of Alpine meadow and the Mongolian steppes, with the less spectacular mountains not unlike those we have in Ireland or Scotland, except 3000m higher!

We started from Tosamaidan and two days later, chose to climb Shupnag 4400m rather than Shin Mahinu, as it looked more attractive.  Despite a thunderstorm, the entire party summitted, and we trekked to Navkan Sar Lakes, Chaanz, and then to Dumail.  Dumail is a stunningly beautiful spot and the base camp for Tatakuti.  Our Baggage was carried by horses, who were well suited to most of the terrain, except the boulder fields, which were pretty much everywhere, and difficult to avoid.

Camp at Chaanz Meadow

Our headline peak, Tatakuti, didn’t go quite to plan,  due largely to unfortunate decision making.

In trying to avoid the notoriously loose rock, we opted to reach a lower part of the ridge via the glacier. Rather than explore the possibility of a traverse to where we needed to be, a hasty decision was made to descend to another glacier behind.  A difficult descent on loose shale, and exhausting re-ascent meant that most were timed- out, but two did make it to the summit, (and were disappointed to find graffiti on the rocks).  The descent of a loose and icy gully was tricky, but everyone made it down safely.

Walking out from Tatakooti

A rest was scheduled for the next day, but four made it to the top of Hundru 4200m, a neighboring peak, with a fine solid scramble up a ridge to the summit.

Another day’s trek took us to the equally picturesque Chaskinar camp, from where two other summits were bagged, the Cairngormesque Bodanglan 4248m, and the more dramatic point 4400m

Chaskinar Valley camp, the tents can be seen by the bottom river bend

Two more days trekking took us to  Bargah Maidan,  ?? and the end of the trek at Yousmarg .

The trek route seemed to me to be an unnatural line, skirting around the mountains over numerous low ridges, then following a valley up into a picturesque camp, then back out again.  A more direct route through the mountains would probably work, but the boulder fields would rule out the use of horses for the baggage.  

A couple of camps, from where we could access summits, might possibly have been a better option in retrospect. 

Still, we got 5 summits between us, more than we expected, the weather was lovely throughout, and we had a few days to recover, enjoying the fleshpots, and amazing houseboats at Srinigar. 

The Music House in April

We had just walked in, and George was leading Caruso VS4b whilst I had ab’ed down beside him to get a good shot of his lay-backing style, when it started to rain. Even worse, he refused point blank to layback! “Why not?”. ” Don’t want to”. Fair enough I suppose, so we sheltered in the cave until the rain went over.

There was a route beside the cave that I had cleaned, sort of, but I didn’t want to lead, (for reasons that will become apparent), so cunningly I pointed the hand jam crack at the bottom, knowing that George could never walk past a good hand jam, (or any hand jam). All went well until he came across the big loose rock, the mucky jammed blocks above, and the final vegetated fissure, into which you have to slide sideways. He took it well. ” Do you want to second this Alan?” “No thanks, you are alright, Ronan’s there already”.

I had climbed nothing at the stage, having been too taken up with management duties, so led a nice juggy severe over two bulges, seconded by Ronan, which I called Argony Piper. George then led The Dutchman, seconded by Ronan which he thought excellent, and then I led another crackline I had cleaned, Self Isolation Blues, seconded George and Ronan. Back out over the rocks to the beach and home.

Colmcille in Connemara


Great weekend was had by all, despite the weather not living up to the high pressure expectations.

On Friday morning we met at the Yeats Tavern, that is Neil, Dennis, Damien, Andrew, Sarah, Columba, Martin B, Gertrude, Brian, Margaret and self, and we were joined for the day by Ivan, Valli, Anneka and 2 girls- Pam and another Margaret (when I say ‘girls’ you must understand that when you are my age,’ girls’ refers to any female not currently in a residential home)*.  Martin Neil, Damien and Dennis took off for Pinnacle Gully, Brian, Gertrude and Margaret T for Lough Gill, whilst the rest of us made our way up Kings Gully to the opening of the fissure called Annach re Mor.  (We were joined by Keith, who had just arrived by motorbike). All went to plan for a change, and we had just finished Annach re Mor as the Pinnacle party were starting.  Some of our party then finished with the upper fissure at Altnasomething, a narrow passage with a step ladder exit.

*I forgot to mention that Eugene made a brief appearance in the car park.

The Connemara National Park hostel was as comfortable as ever, although part of the common area was closed.  On Saturday morning the weekenders set off for Bencorrbeg, dropping Andrew off just outside Letterfrack.  A long rocky climb up into the mist took us, after a number of drop outs and false summits, eventually to Ben Corr, where we had hoped to meet up with Andrew.  Unfortunately, he had passed through over an hour before, having run over Knockbrack, Benbrack, Muckanaght, Benbaun, and Bencolladuff. We followed him to the top of Derryclare, then down the rocky and slippery east ridge.  When I got back to the hostel I heard that Damien, Andrew and Neil were already in the pub watching the Ulster game.  After 7 hours on the hill, sprinting was not an option, but I was able to manage a fast hobble to join them, and Damien, ever the gentleman, put a pint of stout in front of me. Such Bliss.  Ulster were out of sight when I went out to buy a newspaper.  When I came back there were only 3 points in it!

Great meal across the road, with first class trad music.  Everyone celebrating the first lockdown free night out, and we finished off with a song or two in the hostel, thanks mainly to Sarah and Gertrude.  Damien, who rumour has it can sing, had snuck aff to bed.

Sunday is normally a short leisurely walk followed by a longer less leisurely drive home, and this was no exception.  The walk wasn’t that leisurely up Diamond hill, but the path is excellent, and something similar would be appropriate for Errigal, I think.

The Edge, the island, and the giraffe.

And so it came to pass that Margaret Q, Eugene and myself gathered at Bamba’s coffee van at the crown, the plan being to reacquaint ourselves with two of Malin Head’s classics, then paddle out to Glashedy island in the afternoon.  Dawson’s Diedre came first, and we used the corner on the left at the top as an exit, which is much better and safer.  Then we did The Cutting Lizard, (or Lizard Edge), at a gallop as Eugene had a date, and had to be away for one o’clock.  More coffee at the van, then off to Carrickabraghy where Derek was trying to squeeze into his wet suit and awaiting our arrival.  The paddle across was almost flat calm, and we continued around the island, through some reefs, and suddenly we could hear singing, quite harmonious, and my first thought was, “What are the Henry Girls doing out here?”  It was the Glashedy Seal Voice Choir, and they broke off rehearsals to come and have a look at us.  After circumnavigating the island, we beached on some stones, and this is where we met the giraffe.  Those of you that have read Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ will be aware that species survive and indeed evolve in remote places cut off from the rest of the world (like Glashedy) and such was the case with the Glashedy Giraffe.  Well suited to the geography, it can stand on the beach and graze the vegetation from the top off the cliffs.  The GG has evolved a distinctive eroded head due to continuous and voracious attack by nesting sea birds who disapprove of its activities.  In the interests of anthropology, I decided to bring a specimen home, tied a bit of fisherman’s rope around its neck, and towed it behind the kayak.  Not entirely sure whether it was swimming or just walking, but when it emerged from the sea it caused a bit of a stir with the tourists.  Getting it to stay on the roof rack was more of a problem, as every time I got two legs on, the other two were off.  Good thing there were no low bridges on the way back to Culdaff.  It seems to be settling in well here, clearing the moss off the roof, and I have plans to use it for crag cleaning at Glenagivne and elsewhere

Glenagivney Keeps On Giving

Glenagivney Keeps On Giving

A few bods had shown interest in the Music House Crag just along the coast from Glenagivney. So on a fine sunny Saturday morning Alastair and I set off from Omagh. The sun continued to shine until just past the turning at Moville where it disappeared behind a bank of thick sea mist, never to reappear. The lanes leading to the parking space didn’t look familiar in the thick mist.
We waited around at the and soon the mist began to lift enough for us to check the sea was in the right place. Liam and Lucia soon appeared although they had hidden themselves behind the black bales for a while – alternative parking.
We enjoyed the high water boulder hop approach to the Music House Crag. Type 2 enjoyment, only truly savoured after the event. Although the sea mist didn’t leave all day the rock was perfectly dry, the friction excellent and the crag kept its reputation as midge free. Liam and Lucia found the quality of the rock and protection on Bootleg both excellent and confirmed the grade at HS. Maybe worth a star perhaps. A lesson in what can sometimes be found under the veg, see the before pic of Alan on the first ascent of ginger Lady.

Alastair got the second ascent of Caruso, surely the classic of the crag but sadly missing from the topo. Maybe if it was more visible then the crag would get more visitors. Everyone agreed this is a fantastic line and a three star route. The grade is a solid VS – although Lee took a star off for the grassy finish. The route is a bit changed since Liam found and despatched a loose flake from mid way and he was helpful in not fully letting rip until we had cleared away gear we had carefully laid out in the ‘drop zone’.
All in all another great day at a crag that really should see more visits. All the lines are cracker.

Happy Valli Meet – July 2021

With the promise of fine weather and good company it was an easy decision to journey to Sligo on Saturday morning for the Happy Valli Meet. 


I was the first to arrive at Valli’s; it was a fine morning so we headed to the Happy Valli Crag to make a start.  

By the time I was finishing the first climb ‘Colmcille Corner’ HS Andrew had arrived having just run over a clatter of mountains that morning and the evening before.  

We went on to climb ‘Ox Stair’, ‘Part Man Part Biscuit’ and ‘Muck on Top’, all fine routes with the common theme of little protection at the start but just enough higher up when you really needed it. Geoff and Alan arrived a short time later and climbed ‘Snow White and Colmcille Corner’.  

We broke for lunch then headed to Scalp na gCapail Crag a short drive away where we were joined by Hugh. The crag is right beside a road so access couldn’t be easier. The first route I climbed was a VS ‘Polish Paddy’ which had really nice climbing if a bit runout in places and hard for the grade. I climbed another VS ‘Juliana’, a good line with a few more options for protection. By all accounts the HS ‘Garda Síochána’ was s good line and well worth doing. It was obvious that a lot of work had gone into cleaning and developing the crag by local climbers, fair play to those involved. 

That evening we enjoyed a BBQ and a few libations around an open fire.  


The following morning Geoff and I headed back to the Happy Valli Crag for a few more routes whilst the others pursued other activities. We climbed ‘Raven’ which was loose, dirty and a wee bit scary. We then climbed ‘Snow White’ S, which I thought was tricky for the grade. We also tried a VS ‘Elizabethan’ which had potential for good climbing but was to dirty too climb safely so a detour was made to the right with a fair bit of pulling on heather to get to the top.  


In the afternoon all were back on the rock for one or two more routes before heading home. 


Thanks to Valli, Gerry and Anika for the hospitality and hosting a great weekend. 

Owey June 21

Owey Island. 2021 Midsummer camping, Kayaking and climbing trip.

Blessed were we with the weather this year. On Friday morning, Dan collected our gear (and Margaret) and Valli, Ivan and I kayaked across to the island.  After a leisurely morning Ivan and I climbed in the Black Spink, I led Kobatron, a nice severe, then Bikini Bottom, a sandbag at HS, nearer 4c we thought, then Ivan led the route that I thought was a first ascent last year, which turned out to be a variation of An Finka Dink E1 5c.  This has a harder start (which we avoided, as we started a bit higher) but goes left of the crux crack of An Finka Dink to finish with Kobatron. I called it something beginning with Bh….

Andrew and Laura joined us in the evening, then Anthony, PJ, Nigel, and surprisingly Marty (in his electric kayak) in the morning.  We top roped Norkapp as a warm up, 400K, then did the usual paddle for those who hadn’t done it before.  After lunch, 6 of us had a grand tango* on ‘Taming the Dragon’, a spectacular Diff on an accessible sea stack (*or tangle perhaps more appropriate). 

Margaret took photos from the cliff top.

Back to the Black Spink for a final route or two sans PJ, Anthony and Nigel, (who had got lost on the 10 minute walk).  Marty led Bh seconded by Laura and Andrew dragged me and Ivan up Kobatron again.  Beer, barby, and bed before dawn.  The highlight being the mackerel donated by Charles and wonderfully cooked on the fire by Valli, and of course Marty’s singing, duly accompanied by me on bouzouki, usually in a different key.

In the morning there was talk of a big wind a comin, so a hasty departure was made to Cruit.

Thanks again to our great friend Dan, ever the gentleman, who did everything he could for us.

Fair Head Small crag. 24th April 2021

Fair Head, fair do’s George. The Nordies got their first outing post- lockdown to the Small Crag, Fair Head, hosted by our chair George Carleton. We just squeezed inside the 15 person limit, due to two going for a walk and 2 choosing to boulder, so there was a great turnout. The sun shone, but it was ‘freezin-as- usual’ in north Antrim in the shade, with an east wind. Hardy folk, they who live there, and the grades are on the hardy side too. George arranged different abs, so we were able to spread the number of climbers across the crag, (not that any virus would have a chance in the constant wind). Great to see so many folk I havent been able to see in ages.


Scotland September 2020

After 4 days camping in Knoydart, bagging Margaret’s last couple of Corbies in that area (we were joined by PJ, Anthonius and the ‘Bessie Boys’ – fresh from success on the Aonach Eagagh,- for a couple of nights) we headed up to Elphin, and kayaked into the base of Suilven from the east. The Bessie Boys walked in from the west, having been forced to abandon their mountain bikes early on. Beautiful spot to camp were it not for the midgies.

Beinn Bhuidhe, Knoydart

We were up early and climbed both peaks, the eastern top being more dramatic, and then paddled out, against both the flow and the wind. Never again. The fact that a rucksack was dragging in the water, and the boat appeared to be slowly sinking, didn’t help. PJ-ANT and the Bessie Boys headed even further north to climb Ben Hope, the most northern Munro, and we made our way south to meet up with Finbarr, who had been blown away by Blaven on 2 consecutive days. After knocking off another Corbie at Killilan with Margaret, we went to Skye to climb ‘The Spur’, a ** scramble up Sgurr An Fheadain, and the Forcan Ridge on the Saddle the following day (last time I did that was 1977 with Brendan Twomey and Freezie Lee).

Forcan Ridge

A rest day in Fort William, then Curved Ridge on the Buachaille with Finbarr and Ant, while Margaret and PJ got another Corbie in Glen Etive. Then we headed for Inverness, PJ and Ant homewards, and Finbarr to the Ring of Steall- the last of his objectives. He did it in fairly adverse conditions in 5.5 hours, then broke his leg on the way down, and drove home. He is now in plaster in Dungiven.

Paddling in to Suilven

Meanwhile, we did Wee Wyvis, another Corbie with Jimmy, then went to Braemar and got another 3, totalling 9 for the trip. Herself well pleased, me knackered.


Scotland Winter Trip 2020


The base was the Aite Cruinnidhich hostel at Roy Bridge, which the organiser George had booked some months before.  We were the first arrivals in the van, on Thursday night, then Jimmy from Inverness, closely followed by Damien and Finbarr. Attempts by the most recent arrivals to find anywhere open to eat and drink in either Roy Bridge or Spean Bridge were fruitless, so Damien rustled up a spagbol.


The forecast was for Friday to be the best day, and with a lower avalanche level in the east, we headed for the Cairngorms, about an hour away.  Jimmy and Margaret went to try and bag a couple of nearby Corbetts.  The carpark at Cairngorm was filling rapidly when Damien, Finbarr and I arrived, but we stopped for a coffee before tramping across to Coire An Sneachta, Damien twisting his ankle en route.  This became a problem for him, despite an ankle support and painkillers, so he turned back just as we started up the slope to the base of the Fiacaill Ridge.  The ridge was in wonderful condition, but there were a number of slow guided parties which we managed to get past.  Traversing from the top, towards Cairngorm, we met a bloke on a snow board getting towed by a pair of huskies, who  told us that he had met another Irish guy with a bad leg on the way up the mountain. Damien?


It was, because there he was on top, having pulled a Lazarus, and we all walked down together, well pleased with the day’s activities.


Back at the Hostel the Corbetteers were licking their egos having floundered in deep snow, and been forced to turn back, whilst the new arrivals, George, PJ and Anthony, were looking at the forecast for Saturday with rising dismay. The hostel was suddenly jammed full of another group (also the CCC according to the identifiers on the mountain of food that was stowed in the fridges).


Yet another walk into and out of Coire Ardair on Craig Meggy (how many times have I done that without ever climbing a route?) followed on Saturday, along with the abovementioned CCC.  Jimmy went home.  Meal out in Fort William.


Sunday saw The CCC take off for home (with George’s whisky) whilst George, Ant, Finbarr and I headed up the ski lift on Aonach Mor, en route to ‘Golden Oldie’ on the west face, and PJ, Margaret and Damien went in pursuit of another brace of Corbs above Lough Arkaig. 


The longest 2 km I have ever walked, up the Ailt Daim, found us wet and confused as to where the base of the ‘Oldie’ might be as we gazed up into the snow and mist. “Should be around here somewhere” said George, who had been before, and so we started up.   “Is this it?” said Finbarr as we climbed. “Might be” said George.  “Is this it?” said Finbarr, higher up, “Possibly”. said George.   “Is this it?” said Finbarr, even higher. “No” said George.  But we went up anyway. Silver Oldie perhaps, with at best a bronze medal for navigation, for finding our way down with 5 minutes to spare before the last Gondola.  Back at the hostel, herself was well pleased with 2 more Corbetts, Damien had turned back after Meall nah Eilde 838m and went to get the car, and PJ in a coma after trail breaking all day.  Anthony not well either, with a dose of the coronas, he thought


George was incandescent on discovering that the CCC had relocated his malt to Glasgow, making do with wine, as we ‘ate in’ that night.


The Feeneys took off for Cairngorm to ski, and the rest had a rest.  This was a nice walk up Glen Nevis to the Steall Bridge followed by an afternoon in the pub.  Due to rising concern over the fast moving Covid 19 situation, and a poor forecast, we all came home the next day (Tuesday, St Patrick’s day).