Saturday, 26 January 2013

Ice Climbing in Donegal, Ireland

 After 5 consecutive days and nights of sub zero temperatures in Co Donegal, the large snow dump from the previous week was showing signs of good consolidation and the high reaches of the counties north faces were beginning to show signs of the promise of ice. Alas the forecast for next few days was for a warm front to move in and for the rains to come in abundance.
 The obvious solution to the crisis was to get out and have a wee look for ice before the weekends rains arrive.
 And so, Kevin McGee, Patrick McDermott and myself went on a wee quest up the north face of Muckish Mountain in search of ice.

A film of Ice Climbing in Donegal, Ireland

Donegal Winter Mountains

 Kevin and myself arrived and set off up the last 500m of hard frozen iced road to the Muckish North face road end, things were indeed very wintery. We headed up towards The Hog's Back buttress where with it's North East aspect, minimal drainage and only partially frozen turf, it was not in a climbable winter condition.  

Muckish Mountain Ice

A winter walk in

A scoured snow scoop 

Donegal Winter Mountains

 We contoured around the coire staying as high as we could passing through many outstanding winterised mountain features inc 8 foot ice chandeliers, ice pillars, walls of drifted spindrift and a cave with an icicled roof. This was an outstanding full on winters journey and it took us to the base of Balor's Buttress, where Kevin had a very cunning plan and out of the cloud, winds and mist Patrick joined us for a wee play.

A winters day on Muckish Mountain

 Balor's Buttress has a much more northerly aspect and has many drainage lines running down it from the turf covered summit slopes above it. As we arrived at the base of the buttress, it was in outstanding winter condition thick iced drainage lines, deep hoar, plenty of windslab deposits and thousands of hoared icicles running the length of the buttress.  

Kevin and Patrick Rack up

 Kevin's plan was to climb a new route up the left hand side of the very steep and ice covered buttress. He led off and climbed a new 25 meter pitch of grade V winter mixed ground to an exposed ledge half way up the buttress. 
 The 2nd pitch above us looked a lot more involved and a tad trickier ie MUCH harder, thankfully Kevin led off up the overhanging groove above. For the next 45 minutes he inched his way up to within a move and a half of the summit and off he came in a find display unexpected airtime as he fell 12 or so foot to be caught by a shallow peg and good camalot. 
 As Kevin stripped the pitch and arrived back on the belay ledge in the growing early evening darkness a retreat to civilisation was called for and we abseiled off the buttress back to Terra Firma. HURRAH!   

Winter Climbing in Ireland

 A most outstanding day of winter climbing and mountaineering in the rare winterised Donegal mountains, alas as we arrived back at the car the temperature had already risen and the icy approach road was now bare tarmac, and then it rained. :-)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Donegal Winter Climbing

 Early January 2010 six hardy souls left the road end at the old church in Dunlewy and entered the the winter wonderland that was the Donegal mountains. After nearly six weeks of almost continual sub Zero temperatures and arctic tundra driving conditions the mountains of Derryveagh Donegal were in immaculate winter climbing condition.

Poison Glen in Winter 2010

 We split into three pairs of climbers and with each of us donning a full winter climbing kit each team picked a prime unclimbed route up three different faces in the Poison Glen. Alan Tees and myself climbed a 450m ice fall up the Bearna Buttress, with several grade IV ice pitches this route was an outstanding winter monster up one of Irelands highest mountain crags. 

Donegal winter climbing Guide

Pitch 5 Poison Glen climbing

Pitch 7ish 

Topping out in Poison Glen

 Anyways, three years later to the day, Jan 2013, four young (and not so young) men arrived on Cruit Island for a days winter climbing. This time there was no technical axes, no G14 crampons, no sub zero temperatures and no down jackets, there was outstanding summer sunshine.

Winter Climbing in Donegal

Traderg Wall, Cruit Island

Cruit Island Rock Climbing

Donegal Winter Sun

 And so, a day of warm Granite, lapping blue seas and sunny skies was the order of the day! The same day three years apart and at polar opposites of winter climbing conditions! :-)

Monday, 7 January 2013

Seasons in the Abyss

Just back from a very spring like Scotland and have a couple of talks lines up. 

Teachers Club in Parnell Square, Dublin for The Irish Mountaineering Club on 31st January 2013 at 9pm

Boole Theatre, University Campus Cork for on 7th February 2013 at 7:30pm

 Following on from last years talks in Belfast, Dublin and Cork, this years talks will focus on a continuing mid life crisis, a mild compulsion to being truly alone ideally in mildly terrifying situations and off course the continuing journey deeper and deeper into the Realm's of Chaos.

A wee look over the Edge

 A couple of wee adventures,

 First Ascent of The Sturrall Headland  in South West Donegal and at 750m long this outstanding sea ridge is Irelands longest recorded rock climb. 

Sturrall Ridge Film

 First Ascent of Tormore Island at 160m high this is Ireland's highest sea stack.

 The second ascent (41 years after the only other ascent) of Eagles Rock in Glenade, Leitrim at 330m high this is Ireland's highest free standing tower

Eagles Rock Ascent Film

 First Ascent of Testament to the Insane, a new route up the UK's highest vertical sea cliff, this 477m long route was climbed in a continual 26 hr long push. St Johns Head in Orkney 

 Making the first ascents of over 60 previously unclimbed sea stack off the coast of Donegal. Have a wee look at The Donegal Sea Stack Guide.

 These are just a few wee adventures, I have been involved in other moments of mild concern include swimming with bull seals, paddling alongside a killer whale in Donegal, being blown out to see in a wee inflatable dingy until I lost sight of Ireland, conversing with an angel after falling 20 m into the sea off an unclimbed sea stack and watching my climbing partner die at my feet. 

 But, what all these adventurous days out have in common is that they contained an enormous amount of fun whilst being mildy terrified whilst under the watchful eye of The Reaper. :-)