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. :-)

1 comment:

  1. In the lexicon of sports, there is a niche known as extreme sports. Many of these supposed extreme sports simply are not. Ice climbing, however, definitely is.

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