Sunday, 20 March 2016

Ireland's Highest Tyrolean Traverse

Tyrolean Traverse

   "A Tyrolean Traverse is a method of crossing through free space between two high points on a rope without a hanging cart. This is used in a wide range of mountaineering activities: rock climbing, technical tree climbing, caving, water crossings and mountain rescue." Wikipedia

   Over the years I've rigged a number of these traverses and have ensured the safety of approx 500 happy troopers at the step of the edge of a cliff moment to haul themselves along the thin semi-static above the void to the other side of many chasms.

   The most public of these traverses was a couple of years ago on Berg Stack in south west Donegal, when a team of 12 international bloggers and journalists took a step off the edge. This was the first of the "wonder what is possible" traverses and opened the possibility some very scary locations.

Berg Stack Traverse

   And Sho, to the present day in an ever present quest I've been on the constant lookout for suitably outrageous traverse locations. The higher, longer and the more remote the better the location. There are currently 11 on a list in a descending order of foolishness. The first on the list is the highest location I have found in Donegal and required a day of uber sun and a willing team of gear carrying sherpas. :-)

   Derryveagh Mountains

   Alas by their geological make up, the mountains of Donegal have very few suitable traverse locations as there are very few deep and steep sided gullies. An exception to this general rule is The Rocky Gap which sits at 590 metres above sea level on the west facing slopes of Drumnaliffernin Mountain at Grid Reference B933155. This huge and spectacular is home to outstanding grade 1 winter climbing, when off course winter visits Ireland. 

Tyrolean Traverse Film

   And so, with the continued tropical sunshine a team of four set off on 16th March 2016 to rig a traverse across this high and lonely gully. In the house were Conall Ó Fiannachta, Conor Ó Braonáin, David Lee and off course my good self.
   We parked as close as we possibly could on the Doocharry to Churchill road which reduced the walkin to a 2 km uphill pathless amble up the granite slabs and heather. For a traverse of this span (70 meters) we were carrying a 200 meter semi-static rope, 32 HMS lockable carabiners, a full multi pitch rack and each of our personal climbing gear. The youngest two in our merry band of uphill plodders took it in turns to carry the 200m static rope which quickly became known as "the pig."

Summers day walk in

 An hour or so later, we arrived a bit redder in the face at our intended launch point and began rigging the doubled 200 meter static across the void. This part of the rigging process takes by far the most amount of time. Rigging the static involved finding and placing 6 anchors at each side of the gully and equalising them to two independent points. 

Rigging the Traverse

Rigging complete

 A couple of hours later and with the rigging, tensioning, checking and re-checking completed all that was left to do was to step off the edge. Alas as this was my idea for a day out, I was first up to test the rig.
 There is nothing quite like stepping off a cliff with nothing but a couple of very thin strands of rope spanning a huge void in front of you. Once you are air borne and all the dynamic and static parts of the system are loaded it is simply a case of lowering your heart rate and hauling across the open air with massive amounts of exposure all round you.  

Leaving the exit point

From Below

Gully View

 To date this was the highest and longest tyrolean traverse rigged in Ireland and it has opened the door to the next potential traverse across a much longer span above the ocean. 

Air Time

Head of the Gully

Walking Home

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. That pig was a beast alright! Great day and experience. I might just have found an interesting location for a tyrolean traverse high up on Ben Bulben!