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Winter Skills, Wicked ticks and Wild First Ascents…

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                January 20th : Left wall of  “Curve Gully” – Corrán Tuathail.

Today I headed back up to an extremely Wintery and snowy Curve Gully high on Corrán Tuathail with my good mate Nigel from Alpine Sports for a bit of exploring and “going with the flow”…Deep deep soft snow made the climb up to Coimín Uachtarach and Curve gully totally exhausting but still well worth the tough slog. Climbed up the main gully of Curve for approx. 30mtrs before exiting out left onto the face. Pitched this from here straight up to the summit cross with pitches of mixed II-IV. Some super bulgy ice on the lower pitches and decent mixed climbing on the top half. Turf is well frozen higher up by now and this along with the well rimed rock provided us with great sport and a great day for sure throwing plenty of shapes!!!

A wild windy cold day and real Winter mountain feel for sure as we topped out just as the skies momentarily broke.
A definite first for me today as I belayed Nigel up the final pitch using a sling around the cross.

Descended easily down the Ladder and could even glissade a large portion of this :-)
Another brilliant day Winter Mountaineering in the magnificent Reeks…


January 22nd : “An Cumar Clé” – “The Step” II – Corrán Tuathail NE Face from Coimín Láir.

Headed back out on Corrán Tuathail today with Sean and Noel for a bit of sport. Had plans to climb “The Lick” but after beginning the climb we decided the snow was just too soft with no visible ice and mushy turf and so we retreated from t…his and instead climbed the enjoyable Grade II snow line called The Step or “An Cumar Clé”.

From the summit we headed across a spectacular Binn Chaorach Ridge as far as the its end and then had a SUPERB glissade the whole way down to Loch Coimín Uachtarach – so much fun!
Another truly phenomenal and hugely satisfying day on spent on the Reeks and a real Alpine feel with the virgin snow and sun shining.

A top day with great company.


 February 1st : Winter Skills Course – “Curve Gully” I/II – Corrán Tuathail

Well Winter’s well and truly returned in force and we’re back again running our popular Winter Skills courses in Curve Gully on Corrán Tuathail. Today we had Kevin and Denis from Kinsale in Cork enjoying a hugely informative and spectacular… days climbing on the most pristine of Winter days and both “Experienced the Adventure” BIG TIME!!! Congrats and well done boys!
Lots of new skills learned by the duo from Crampon and Axe techniques to Avalanche assessment and awareness, to self arrest, equipment, movement and finished off with a super glissade down to the Eagles nest from just below the Heavenly Gates.

Plenty of others out and about climbing all manner of routes and no better day for it I tell ya!!!
Still a few people venturing into the hills without the necessary equipment or experience despite all the warnings and even witnessed one individual climbing to the summit in runners and SHORTS….. I kid you not!!!!

Remaining cold for the week so looking forward to a mad week of Winter fun and perhaps a new route or two!


                        February 3rd : “An Streapa” – III – North Face of Caher.

Today was a nice break from guiding and time to get out and play and so I headed to the massive steep North Face of Caher with Sean, Alan and Tony to climb the sensational Ice/Snow gully route called “An Streapa”.
I had climbed this with t
wo other mates about a year ago and back then we had climbed a new variant as the last pitch and this time it was nice to do the established finish instead. 

A big walk in for sure but more than worth the effort as this face has a really remote and serious feel about it and a pleasant welcome change from Corrán Tuathail. The bottom grovel step was totally banked out with waist deep powder which didn’t make this section any the easier and generally the turf is still surprisingly soft due to it being insulated from the cold with its snowy jacket but where exposed it is good and solid with some decent enough ice now beginning to form.
A tetchy final pitch on the more open face with a 12inch top slab layer about to slide and glad to reach the summit…

A marvellous day with great company climbing a fantastic route…


         February 4th : “Aibíocht” – IV 5  – East Ridge of Binn Chaorach, Coimín Láir.   
                                          F.A – P. Kelly & J. Hussey  

A truly phenomenal day today climbing a super New grade IV ice route on the East Ridge of  Binn Chaorach in the Reeks.

Spotted this line last Sunday and looked like it would be mint after a few more days of col…d so after making enquiries and hearing it had never been done, myself and a mate headed in this morning to give it a go…
As it was South facing and hence in the morning sun and at the relatively low elevation of approx 750 metres we were a bit apprehensive regards the thickness and quality of its ice especially on its 90degree crux 2nd pitch. We decided we would give it a go…nothing ventured nothing gained and all that!!!

As we started to climb the route was back in shade and at least that might turn the tap off!!

Glad we did…what a cracker. New route now called “Aibíocht”
First pitch 40mtr grade III and 2nd pitch steep and committing 60mtrs going at grade IV 5 ***
Initially we graded it as a V but think the slight downgrading is more a true reflection due to the relative short length of the crux section..

Topped out into the sun in Alpine like conditions and continued on to the summit of Binn Chaorach with simply mind-blowing views. Dropped down onto the ridge to Corrán and enjoyed a super bum slide from here the whole down to Loch Coimín Iachtarach.

As good a day as it gets for sure!


                February 5th : “Luigi’s Gully” – IV – Corrán Tuathail North Face 

Today it was a route I’d been wanting to tick for a long long time and boy was it worth the wait!!!

The ice route up – Luigi’s Gully – grade IV- nestled high up on Corrán Tuathails North Face was a pure joy and without doubt one of the very best Winter routes I’ve ever climbed in the Reeks!!! 

The first pitch was banked out totally and was more of just a snow romp but the 2nd pitch was truly fabulous with up to 60mtrs of sublime ice climbing with every whack of the axe as positive as could be and ate up every ice screw I had ….
Absolutely sensational days climbing yet again with great company and on another stunning day…
Descended via the Heavenly Gates and glissaded from here almost the whole way down to the emergency hut


              February 6th : “Nick of Time” – IV 4 – Fhaill Dubh – Coimín Uachtarach,   

F.A : Piaras Kelly, Howard Hebblethwaite & Peter Keane

Today I was out with two true gents from over East – Howard Hebblethwaite and his good mate – Peter Keane showing them some of the superb Winter lines and fun to be had in these all too rare recent conditions in the South West.

We strolled in the Glen at a relaxed hour this morning to find a noticeable overnight thaw and changed things somewhat and our put a spanner in our initial plans at perhaps having a crack off the super grade V – “Death and Destruction” on Corrán Tuathail .
We arrived at its base to find the unexpected warming had not done any favours to it’s lower pitches and so we changed plans and instead decided to head to higher elevations and up to the 3rd level, Coimín Uachtarach. Even the high mountain Loch had now lost much of its frozen crust but still very Wintery up here compared to lower down.
A few iced lines snaked their way up this impressive back wall and one in particular not only caught our eye but looked the best nic of the lot. It was the one on the left hand side of this steep cliff and we agreed to give it a go….

What a cracker!!!

Howard led the first pitch which was a gnarly and scratchy affair but after the first 30mtrs or so the turf began to freeze up nicely and the ice just got better and better. Pitch 2 was mine and was a hugely enjoyable one too with the first of our screws now beginning to be confidently placed and the route steepening all the time.
Peter was happy to leave the leading to myself and Howard and so we swung leads for the remaining 3 pitches and topped out on a cloudy but wildly atmospheric Binn Chaorach ridge at approx 4:30.

A satisfying and truly great route and a phenomenal face to climb on with the now frozen lake far far below our feet.
Just coiling up the ropes and shaking hands on our ascent and I happened to get a quick call from Con Moriarty asking if I was out and about and what was I up to. He confirmed what I’d already suspected, that it was definitely a first ascent and after a trio of congratulations we traversed East along the icy ridge and descended down O’Sheas Gully and finally made our way out the Glen by torch light…

What a day and what a week. Two first ascents, loads more super Winter lines ticked and some truly stunning days spent in the magnificent of mountains with the very best of company. 


February 7th : More Winter Skills in “Curve Gully” – I/II – Corrán Tuathail.

Back to work today after my great week of Climbing in the Reeks and back giving another of our successful Winter Skills courses to 4. What a truly spectacular day with wonderful welcome sunshine above the low lying cloud base.

Followed …up our hugely informative skills module with a cracking ascent of one of Corrán Tuathails Classic grade I/II Winter routes – Curve Gully.

Descended slowly and carefully via the slippy snow filled Devil’s Ladder out of the sunshine and reluctantly back into the cloud and leisurely made our way back to Cronins Yard where we topped off a most marvelous day with coffee and cake!

Back out playing again tomorrow and just can’t believe how good it’s been and it ain’t over yet for sure!


February 8th : “Looking Glass Full” – IV 5 – Coimín Uachtarach,  F.A : P. Kelly & N. Dixon

What an end to a truly sensational weeks Winter Climbing in the mighty MacGillycuddy’s Reeks!!!

Headed in this morning with my mate Nigel with the high hopes of ticking off the Classic Ice line – “Death and Destruction” on Corrán Tuathail… but a rapid onset of a major thaw had totally wiped out its bottom steep pitch and so to our dismay it wasn’t too be.
Decided to head up a bit further to our plan B up in the upper next level of Coimín Uachtarach to another Ice line I’d been watching during the last few days, – the superb grade IV single pitch Ice climb called “Looking Glass Falls” located at the back left wall above the high frozen Loch . I’d spotted a continuation Ice line leading from the top of this existing 55mtr route and normal traverse off bench and winding its way up from here for another 4 pitches up to finish on the Binn Chaorach ridge. I’d mentioned this to Con who’d assured me it had never been done so it was there for the taking!!! 

Nigel lead off on the 1st pitch an already established line, a super grade IV of pure ice. Quality wasn’t too bad, initially tenuious but improving by the metre. From the top of this we had the choice to skirt off left and end it at that but my mind was on finishing off a brilliant week of climbing with another first ascent and going for the hat-trick!!!

After a rising traverse across a sketchy snow slope I got a decent belay at the base of the next Ice pitch and after being joined by Nigel and getting all the gear I was quickly off…
Over the next few hours we scrapped and scraped, scratched and swore our way up the next 200mtrs swapping leads until finally topping out exhausted but euphoric on the snowy and Alpine-esque Binn Chaorach ridge. Yahoooooooo….First ascent of the continuation line of “Looking Glass Falls” – IV calling the top 4 pitches “Looking Glass Full” -IV,5 !!!

Traversed along this taking in simply mind blowing sensational views and descended O’Sheas gully to witness one of the most phenomenal and exquisite views I’ve ever seen in my entire life with the orange sunset illuminated summit of Cruach Mhór relected in the perfectly still waters of Loch Caillí far below in the Hags Glen…A truly special moment and a perfect end to a magnificent week. 

In world wide terms these mountains aren’t that big, they are mere hills compared to what many countries posses but they don’t need to be high for you to have BIG Adventures I tell ya…What a week!


            February 9th : Winter Skills – “Curve Gully” – I/II – Corrán Tuathail.

Back to Curve Gully today giving another of our popular Winter Skills courses to three.
Yet another truly spectacular day with wonderful blistering sunshine shining above the low lying cloud and freezing fog .
Followed up our hugely informative skills module with another cracking ascent of one of Corrán Tuathails Classic grade I/II Winter routes – Curve Gully.

Lots of subjects covered as per usual such as :
* Selection and organisation of personal kit appropriate to Winter hill walking
* Personal movement skills on snow, including kicking steps and using the ice axe for walking, self-belay, cutting steps, and self-arrest & movement skills using axe and crampons in ascent and descent.
* Use of crampons in ascent/descent
* Avalanche awareness and safe route choice
* Movement over grade I/II winter snow and ‘scrambling’ type terrain.
* Basic rope work and belaying using the rope alone as well as with a sling and krab,

* Constructing and using snow anchors (such as buried axe and Deadman)

Descended slowly and very carefully down the slippery compacted snow filled Zig-Zags track out of the sunshine and reluctantly back into the cloud and leisurely made our way out the Hags Glen as the evening light began to fade…

Off for a few days and plan on taking a break from the hills as the body is beginning to ache a bit to be honest!!!