You may have noticed that TMC Members’ Blog has been offline for a couple of months. In the good old days of terrestrial television in Ireland, whenever service was interrupted, the following words were put up on screen: is donagh linn an briseadh seo. We are taking our cue from this. We regret the break but we have spent the past few months accompanying a family member on their way to the big summit in the sky.
The resumption of blogging is marked with a tribute to Una Finn (nee Sullivan), a pioneering mountaineer and a lifelong member of Tralee Mountaineering Club.
Una left us on 7 August 2007. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
Gerry O’Sullivan taking part in Mountaineering Ireland’s Summer Alpine Meet in 2017. Gerry and Nuala Finn will be leading the TMC team taking place in the 2018 meet.
TMC IN ITALY
TMC members have been climbing in Italy for years. The Dolomites was a favourite spot for some members while Edolo was the base for four expeditions to the Adamello-Presanella Alps and adjacent areas like Val Camonica. One of the highlights was an ascent of the Pizzo Badile by a combined group (Level 2 and Level 3) of club members.
Another highlight was the ice-climbing workshop in Valbione in 2009, in which all sections of the club were represented. This is a short video made on the day (apologies for the quality but it was made long before HD was available on YOUTUBE).
The snow in the Reeks in February and March got us thinking seriously about a return to Alpine mountaineering and Gerry suggested that we take part in the Mountaineering Ireland Summer Alpine Meet in Val Di Mello, which is very close to where the club had been previously.
The decision was made. TMC is going back to Italy and will be participating in the Mountaineering Ireland Alpine, which runs from July 7 to 21. The trip will be led by Nuala Finn and Gerry O’Sullivan – Gerry has participated in four previous meets.
Anyone who is interested in taking part should contact Nuala or Gerry by email before April 27.
ITALIA 2018: AN OUTINE
The Summer Alpine Meet, as the title suggests, is for members who are interested in Alpine mountaineering. It takes place in the Val di Mello in Northern Italy, about two hours East North East of Milan, not far from Edolo.
The Val di Mello offers lots of hiking opportunities, some via ferrata, snow and glacier routes, and is very good for rock climbing.Basic rope skills will be an advantage and we will be organising workshops and training climbs in preparation for the trip. There will also be opportunities to learn these skills on courses organised by Mountaineering Ireland during the meet.
The meet tends to be very informal and the emphasis is on peer led mountaineering and socialising with mountaineers from other clubs. The food is very good in this part of Italy and will be a big part of the experience.
THE ALPINE MEET
The meets are organised by Mountaineering Ireland and, according to Gerry, they are good fun and cover a wide range of mountaineering activity; everything from walks along valley floors,hut-to-hut ridge walks, snow and ice routes that require crampons and ice axes, and rock climbing.They are usually attended by anything between 20 and 50 mountaineers. Some stay for a few days and others for the full two 2 weeks.
This depends on the weather and on the area but, generally speaking, the meet involves a mix of peer led mountaineering, organised climbs, and courses in a wide range of mountaineering skills. Have a look at the information booklet produced by Mountaineering Ireland for the 2018 meet.
Most of what happens during an Alpine meet is organised informally. People get together and plan daily routes or more extended trips.Flexibility and improvisation are the key elements in planning each day.
TMC members will be organising some activities but there will also be plenty of opportunities to link up with other mountaineers and get involved in alternative activities.
Mountaineering Ireland will also offer a hut-to-hut trek (see the above brochure).
TRAINING (BEFORE THE MEET)
TMC and Mountaineering Ireland will be organising pre-meet training. TMC Members will be informed of training events once we know who is taking part. It will cover scrambling, rope work, teamwork, and will involve climbing the Hags Tooth and Howling Ridge.
Mountaineering Ireland will be organising a pre-Alpine prep and training day on May 25, 2018. The workshop takes place in Wicklow and costs €50. For info/booking contact Jane Carney at Mountaineering Ireland, tel 016251112.
COURSES (DURING THE MEET)
There are a range of subsidised courses that will be provided by Mountaineering Ireland during the meet. These will cover a range of activities to suit walkers and climbers who want to learn new skills or improve existing skills. They will also cater for people who want to climb or walk independently (see the information booklet).
The multi-day courses must be booked in advance. They are good value and places are limited so early booking is advised.
The half-day courses can be book during the meet.
Val di Mello is a two hour drive East North East of Milan.
The meet will be based in a campsite (camping jack) about a mile outside the village of San Martino, Sondrio (link to Google Maps).
Flights to Milan
Dublin: Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Milan
Cork: Ryanair flies to Milan on Sundaysand Thursdays
Milan to San Martino
Car Rental and pooling is very straightforward.
There is alsopublic transport from Milan (3 hours by train and bus)
Hotel and guesthouse accommodation is available in San Martino.
Air B&B is very limited.
There is a campsite about 2km from the village, it’s basic but has hot showers, a small shop, and wifi.
The club has reserved an 8 bed dorm (3+5 beds in two rooms) in a rifugio in the Val Di Mello and spaces will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.
To clear up any confusion about the status of this blog, this a member’s blog. It is determined to be an independent forum for debate about matters relating to our membership of Tralee Mountaineering Club and mountaineering in general. The logo was causing a bit of confusion, people were concerned that the use of a graphic of the logo suggested an official blog.
Point taken. I have substituted a photo of the original badge of the club from which the logo is derived, a small piece of design work that I did for club in the Year of The Mountain, way back in 2002.
The badge was designed by Mick Kellett, and the idea behind it was set out by Tom Finn in a club log book, the inspiration in a way for this blog. Here is a copy of the original log entry.
This short video records the ascent of Curved Ridge in the Scottish Highlands by members of TMC on September 28, 2017. It’s a good idea to log all your walks (lowland and mountain) or climbs (rock climbing outdoors and the wall indoors), especially if you are considering submitting for an award like the Lowland Leader Award or the Mountain Leader Award (better known as the M.L.), the Single Pitch Award (in rock climbing), and the Climbing Wall Award etc.
Recording a walk
It has never been easier to record your walks and climbs. Back in the day all walks were written up in the club’s log book, but, surprise surprise, things have moved on. Mike Slattery’s watch, yes watch, gives a good impression of the approach, climb, and walk out on the day we climbed Curved Ridge. View Ranger is a great way of recording actual routes on the OSI 1:50.000 maps that we use. Most members will be familiar with the maps Bertie Hickey puts up on Facebook:
This is the route of Andrew Kelliher’s recce for the Level 1 walk tomorrow, Sun 11 Feb, 2017, the long awaited return to the Reeks. Interactive maps like this are taking over from the traditional route card, but two points need to be made on this.
The first point is that you still need to be able to navigate from a map and interpret the terrain that you are walking in. We recommend that you have a ‘paper’ map (laminated) and compass with you and that you apply the navigation skills that you learned in Mountain Skills 1 & 2.
The second is that you will need to carry your phone, or whatever device you are using to access View Ranger, in a weather proof pouch and have a backup power source in case the battery fails. These are widely available but remember, they need to be weather proof as well. Water and electric circuits don’t mix.
The next step is to keep a record of the walk, not just the route.
You will need to decide on the type of walk, whether it was a walk amongst equals, a group walk with a leader, or a walk that you led.
You will also need to decide if it qualifies for a Quality Mountain Day (QMD).
You will need to describe the weather, including wind speed, direction, precipitation, and temperature.
Finally you will need to include all details of your route, including map sheet number, start and end points, peaks summited, total height gain, and notable events.
You should have a screen grab of the route, if you are using View Ranger, and photos that show the conditions and/or challenges encountered during the walk.
It is also recommended that leaders record the name of everyone on the walk.
Writing up the log
Then you need to write up the log. This can be done online on the Mountaineering Ireland website. Every member of Mountaineering Ireland has access to an online digital log. Simply log on and access the Digital Log menu on your Homepage.
Then fill in the details.
It’s as easy as that!
We recommend that you collect the information as you go, getting a weather forecast, making a route card and/or tracking your actual route, taking photographs of conditions etc. It is handy to write up each section in Text Edit, Notepad or something similar and cut and paste the information into the online log.
TMC “went to the polls” last night in what may well turn out to be a referendum on the furure development of the club. Around 25 members voted for a measure that would have paved the way for greater participation by young people in the club. The measure was vehemently rejected by a large majority of members present. However if one counts the active members present at the meeting, the vote was much closer to an even split.
The vote was preceded by an information session, during which Ruth Whelan, Membership Development Officer with Mountaineering Ireland, did a good job of showing that removing the ban on membership for people under the age of 18 would have little or no affect on routine club activity. The motion was then put to a very well attended special general meeting and was rejected by a well organised and determined opposition.
TMC has said NO, emphatically, to a small measure of equality that sought to address the badly skewed age profile of the club, a factor that is acknowledged to be a problem by all sides.
From a club development point of view, it was an extraordinary event. The information provided by Ruth fell on deaf ears, mostly. That was hardly surprising under the circumstances but the hostility towards a small measure of equality was quite shocking, as was the underlying attitude to young people and their involvement in our sport. As one member put it, this can easily be achieved but the members simply don’t want it.
There was a lot of talk about selfishness afterwards; a recurring theme of the night was that the presence of young mountaineers would impact negatively on an adult day out in the hills. It’s never as simple as that. I’ve been in the club for almost 20 years and I would always have regarded it as a fairly relaxed, egalitarian organisation that valued access to and participation in mountaineering, underpinned by skills development and progression in the sport.
That does not appear to be the case any more. The vote last night was about making a choice between the long term development of the club and, what one memeber called ‘keeping things simple.’ Keeping things simple has meant, in my experience, a resistance to club supported training, a laissez faire attitude to gender equality, and the dismantling of simple procedures that ensured that the club walks were representative of the membership as a whole and responsive to member choice. This last point is causing a lot of disquiet among members.
The impact is all too apparent to anyone who has participated in Level 2 walks recently. Bog trots in the Slieve Mish are the new standard, and, across the board, there seems to be a policy of avoiding winter walks in the Reeks, despite this being rejected by a previous committee. The leadership of walks has also been “simpliified.” For years it was expected that leaders would have Mountains Skills 1 or 2 and first aid training. The ability to navigate seems to have become entirely optional and navigation has been a serious issue on at least three Level 2 walks since November. The most recent walk was a shambles. It has got to the point where one has to question whether TMC can even meet it’s duty of care to its members at this level.
Those are the negatives.
The positives are equally striking.
Training is now subsidised for any member who wants to progress within the club, an essential element in ensuring equality across all levels within the club. The current committee has achieved full gender balance, one of a small number of clubs in Ireland to do so. Around 25 members voted, in very difficult circumstances, in favour of a small measure of equality in our club. That is 25 reasons to be optimistic about the future of the club and those of us who sponsored the motion thank those members for their support.
In the last blog I put up two images that represented very different ideas of what TMC might stand for: four generations of mountaineers working on the development of the Dingle Way or a protestor in a nappy apparently opposing a vote that would allow participation by young people in the club.
The stark differences in our vision of the club were cruelly revealed by the vote last night but we have to recognise the fact that a sizeable proportion of the members present at the meeting opted for an inclusive and progressive club. This is a club issue and it cannot be dismissed as an individual grievance. This is, as Ronnie Reagan said, a vision thing.
A postscript: publish and be damned!
The genie is out of the bottle and keeping things simple is no longer an option. We develop or we die. Publishing this post was not easy. I’m fairly sure that it is going to piss a lot of people off, and some people are going to try and have it taken down. So be it. The blog itself was started in response to the secrecry surrounding the publication of the club booklet, possibly another example of “simplifying things.” Members need a forum for things that need to be said, and this is one such forum.
The situation last night was so extraordinary that some response is necessary and the consequences of publishing can’t be any worse than the fallout from the meeting itself. Indeed, the consequences of staying quiet and letting things slide could be far worse. The debate needs to happen, not here, but among the members.