Italia 2018: TMC is taking part in Mountaineering Ireland’s Alpine Meet

 

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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.

 

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Pizzo Badile Camuno, Val Camonica.

 

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

 

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Alpine Guide Italo Menopace keeps an eye on Gerry O’Sullivan and Nuala Finn as they descend an ice wall during a training session in Italy in 2009. Photo Ciarán Walsh

 

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.

 

Val dI Mello map

 

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.   

 

WHAT HAPPENS?

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.

 

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Click here for PDF 

 

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)

 

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Learning about avalanches. Italo Menopace (Alpine Guide) leading a workshop for TMC members in risk assessment and rescue techniques.

 

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.  

 

GETTING THERE

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 Sundays and Thursdays

 Milan to San Martino

Car Rental and pooling is very straightforward.

There is also public transport from Milan (3 hours by train and bus)

 

 ACCOMMODATION

 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. 

 

CONTACTS

nualafinn@hotmail.com

gosullivan@gmail.com

 

 

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Navigation Made Easy: WEB RESOURCES

 

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Nuala Finn and Gerry O’Sullivan navigating during the Joey Glover Walk in 2017.

 

WHY LEARN TO NAVIGATE?

Navigation is an essential skill for mountaineers. Indeed, one could argue that it is the foundation of all mountaineering.

An ability to navigate fosters independence, guarantees safety, and is a very enjoyable aspect of our sport. The first mountaineering club that I joined – the Feale Ramblers in Listowel – insisted that every new member learn how to navigate and organised a series of workshops to facilitate that. When I joined TMC –a long time ago– it was expected  that every leader would have a proven ability to navigate, usually by way of completing  Mountains Skills 1 and 2 and applying that training in practice in the mountains.

 

MAPS

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Apps like View Ranger  have transformed navigation but the basic skill remains an ability to interpret a map and relate it to the terrain in which you are climbing.  The most important components of this skill are

  1. being able to recognise features.
  2. being able to apply that recognition to map reading.
  3. being able to plot a safe and enjoyable route on the map with reference to features.
  4. a good map memory, knowing what to expect without having to look at the map.
  5. good situational awareness, being able to relate map memory to the terrain around you.
  6. navigating from the moment you set foot on a mountain, rather than when you get lost.

The paper map, laminated of course, remains the most important instrument of navigation. View Ranger is a valuable navigational tool but a mountaineer should always carry a map as back up. The Ordnance Survey Discovery Series is a remarkably accurate guide and good map reading skills will enable you to confirm your position on the mountain and navigate safely from feature to feature.

 

THE COMPASS

A compass is not much use without a map, unless you are on a mountain ridge like Brandon, which has a definite North – South orientation. Most of the time you will need both map and compass to navigate.   There is only one compass if you are serious about navigation, the tried, tested, and trusted Silva Expedition.

 

Compass-names

1. Base plate. 2. Compass housing. 3. Compass needle. 4. Orienting lines. 5. Orienting arrow. 6. Index line. 7. Direction of travel arrow. 8. Compass scales. For more detail,  go to to the UK Ordnance Survey site:  Map reading skills: How o use a compass.

 

NAVIGATION MADE EASY

There is only one way to learn how to navigate and that is to navigate for real in the mountains. Before that you will need to learn the basics. The TMC navigation workshop scheduled for April 18  will introduce you to the basic elements of navigation but you will need to build on this by navigating in the mountains. There are a lot of resources online that will help you with this. The Mountaineering Ireland weblsite features a really useful set of training videos by Jane Carney. Have a look at the following videos:

 

USING A MAP

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING BEARINGS

 

 

 

DISTANCE, TIMING, AND PACING.

 

 

Next blog in the series:

 

Grid References made Easy

 

Other web resources include:

 

Hill Skill Series – Understanding grid references 

How to Use Map Scales and Grids / OSI 

How to Use a Map and Compass / OSI

 

 

Holy Moly, Mass on a Mountain

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Celebrating Mass on Mount Brandon in 2015. This mass was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, a Sherpa guide whose visit to Ireland’s “holy” mountain was filmed by Seán Mac An tSíthigh for TG4. Photo: Ciarán Walsh

 

Did you know that Tralee Mountaineering Club has its origins in the pilgrimage associated with Mount Brandon. The mountain was a major pilgrim site in medieval and early modern Ireland but the tradition of pilgrimage stretches back to pre-historic times; it is associated with Lugh, the Celtic god of light and his dark counterpart, Chrom Dubh.

The Christians exploited this but eventually abandoned the pilgrimage in the 19th century, mainly because of the chaos associated with the “moral holiday” that followed the arduous trek to the top.  Many attempts were made to revive the pilgrimage and organised ascents of the mountain in the 1950s indirectly led to the formation of  a mountaineering club in Tralee.

 

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CYMS Pilgrimmage to Mount Brandon, May 23, 1954. The photograph was taken in Faha, on the site of the grotto that marks the start of the traditional pilgrim route to the summit. Photo Tom Finn Collection.

 

The first item on the agenda of the new club was the split. Some members of the club argued that it should remain focused on the pilgrimage while other’s argued that the club should concentrate on mountaineering. The club mass became a compromise solution. It was organised by Seán Kelly every January and continued until 2017, when it was dropped from the calendar of club events.

The decision was taken by the outgoing committee (Chairperson Simon Quinn) and was only noticed when the calendar was published. Some members approached the club’s President (Nuala Finn) and asked to have the mass reinstated. The current committee (Chairperson Shane Mulligan) agreed and the mass was re-scheduled for April 16, 2018. It was a little ironic that the 2018 club mass, which traditionally remembers deceased members of the club, recorded the passing of Seán Kelly in 2017 and his brother Pat in 2018.

There is a wider issue here. The tops of mountains are regarded as spiritual places by many people within and without the mountaineering community.  There is extensive archaeology associated with summits, most notably Queen Maeve’s tomb on Knocknarea in Sligo. Many peaks are also marked by crosses, many of which were erected in 1954 to mark the first Marian Year, which was ordered by Pope Pius to promote the cult of the Virgin Mary.  Mount Brandon has both pagan and Christian associations.

 

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Cross on summit of Carrauntoohil after it was cut down in November 2014. Photo: Cronin’s Yard/Twitter  published in The Irish Times

 

The cross on Corrán Tuathail was erected in 1976 and was cut down in 2014. This generated a debate about the association between mountaineering and spirituality and whether it was appropriate to mark the tops of mountains with symbols associated with one religious denomination. The consensus seems to be that there is room in the mountains for all believers and none and that the process of marking theses places as sacred is, in the end, a personal choice.

 

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A bonfire lit by a Lithuanian mountaineer on the summit of Corrán Tuathail to mark St John’s Eve or Bonfire Night (June 23). The new cross can be seen in the background. Photo Ciarán Walsh.

 

The tension between pagans and Christians is now part and part and parcel of the pilgrimage to the top of Brandon. The Christians climb the mountain on Lá tSin Seáin Beag (June 29th) and the pagans, who revived the Lughnasa festival in 1995,  climb the mountain on the last Sunday in July, which is known locally as Domhnach Chrom Dubh.

In 2015 nine of us attended a mass that was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, who was visiting Ireland’s scared mountain. Nuala Finn and I became sherpas for the day, acting as mountain guides and carrying filming equipment for Seán Mac An tSí­thigh of TG4.  We approached the mountain from the west. A month later over 150 pagans climbed the mountain from the east. To each his/her own.

 

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Sacred Places: the mass that was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, Sherpa guide. Photo: Ciarán Walsh.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wettest Day … EVER: The Reeks, Sun 15 April 2018

 

 

AWASH in the Devils Ladder. Nuala Finn, Tralee Mountaineering (TMC) President taking a break in the waterfall that was the Devils Ladder last Sunday, April 15 2018.

 

The forecast was not good. A band of organised rain was moving across the Southwest on Saturday night and Sunday Morning but some sunny spells were promised and a run to Corran Tuathail was on the cards. It turned out to be the wettest day we had ever experienced in the Reeks.

There was one other car parked in Lisliebane. Nevertheless, we headed off at 13.00, in the rain. We met Martin Murphy in the Hags Glen and he had been in rain all day. We met a few other mountaineers on the track but by the time we reached the ford on the track we were all alone.

 

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The rain never stopped. The water was lapping over a few of the stepping stone and every stream in the valley was a roaring white torrent. The work done by the Reeks Forum on keeping water off the tracks has really paid off but the upper part of the  track leading to the Devil’s Ladder was completely flooded.

 

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Maintenance work being carried out on the track leading to the Devil’s Ladder. Photo by The Reeks Forum

The Devil’s Ladder was one big waterfall and we were soaked to the skin, the combination of  rain and floodwater  penetrated the best gear that we had, almost. We pulled out.  We didn’t miss anything. We met Joe Doran and Tim Long in Kate Kearneys. They had led a group up O’Sheas Gull and came out by the Devil’s Ladder. It was very wet and windy. Joe counted no less than ten (10) torrents in the valley.

When we got to back to the car my feet were dry even though I was wearing North Face runners and Salomon ankle gaiters rather than boots. The secret: Dexshell Waterproof socks from Landers. These worked far better than Sealskin socks, which tended to get waterlogged and leak.

Every wet day has a silver lining.

Postcards from Connemara

 

Members of Tralee Mountaineering Club (TMC) in Connemara
Tralee Mountaineering Club (TMC ) in Connemara, April 2018. Photo by Noel O’Connor.

 

TMC returned to Connemara in April for a weekend of mountaineering organised by Bertie Hickey.  Routes included the Clencoaghan Horseshoe, which includes six of the Twelve Bens mountain peaks of Derryclare (677m), Bencorr (711m), Bencollaghduff (696m), Benbreen (691m), Bengower (664m) and Benlettery (577m).

The Bens were featured in an early guide to Connemara. Rambles in Ireland: A Fortnight in Ireland; 0r, Pen and Pencil Sketches of a Tour in the Autumn of 1846 was compiled by the Gascoigne Sisters, Mary Isabella and Elizabeth (De Burca Rare Books Catalogue No 96, Spring 2011, pages 84-6).

The guide included illustrations from sketches made on the spot. The sisters promised that travellers would ‘be sure to meet with novelty, incident, and adventure,’ although the ‘accommodation at the inns would certainly admit of improvement; but there is excellent salmon to be had everywhere.’

 

A view of the Twelve Bens, Members of Tralee Mountaineering Club (TMC) in Connemara

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The Twelve Bens from Clifton. Photo by Sylvain Kerdreux

 

The sisters spent 15 days travelling through Galway, Mayo, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Derry, and Antrim in 1846, in the middle of the Height of the Great Famine. The sisters were very wealthy. Their family were landlords in County Limerick and owned collieries in Yorkshire. The sisters were noted for their charitable work in England and Ireland. Rambles in Ireland was published to raise funding for relief work in Limerick, which was targeted at Protestant orphans.

The Bens were featured again during the An Gorta Beag or the second famine of the 1890s. Robert John Welch, a naturalist and  photographer, climbed the Bens in 1894 and 1895 and recorded the main geomorphological features of the Glencoaghan Horseshoe. He published the photographs in an album that was presented to Arthur “Bloody” Balfour in recognition of his patronage of the Galway to Clifden railway line.

 

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The summit crags of Bengower from Benlettery by Robert John Welch (1859-1936). Twelve Bens, Connemara, Galway, Ireland. Grid Ref: 53.4915312619, – 9.8343614835.

 

Light railways were built in the west of Ireland to provide employment to the poorest section of the population, who otherwise, would probably have starved to death. Balfour’s brother described it as a political strategy for “killing Home Rule with Kindness.” Maud Gonne, quoting a priest from Mayo, described these relief works as ‘organised famine.’

 

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On the Summit of Ben Lettery  by Robert John Welch (1859-1936). Twelve Bens, Connemara, Galway, Ireland.

 

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A contemporary view of the Bens, looking towards Clifden. Photo by Noel O’Connor, 2018.

 

 

 

Sun sets on Winter in Loch A’duin: The Vernal Equinox on the Dingle Peninsula

 

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Spring has sprung. At 16.15.21 GMT today, Tuesday March 20,  the Sun passed the celestial equator (the imaginary line in the sky above the equator) and night and day were, on this date, the same length. This is the Vernal or Spring Equinox and it marks the end of Winter or the first day of Spring, depending on how you look at it.

 

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Space.com reckons that if you were standing on the equator at a point just to the west of the Itapará River in northern Brazil, the sun would appear directly overhead. On the Dingle Peninsula the Equinox is marked in a very different way.  Dáithí Ó Connaill of Tralee Mountaineering  Club discovered that the setting Winter sun shines into a megalithic tomb in Loch A’duin (The Lake of the Fort). Loch A’duin is located just below the Conor Pass on the the Dingle Peninsula. Dáithí is the best person to describe it.

 

The Vernal or Spring Equinox in in Loch A’duin, on the Dingle Peninsula

The following is a brief account of my curious “discovery” regarding the equinoctial sunsets at the megalithic tomb in Loch a’Duin:

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The “discovery” was made following a hunch that the bronze age tomb of approximate date of 2500 B.C., which has a westerly orientation, may have had some significance due to the fact that it is embellished internally with some prehistoric rock art, leading one to surmise that it may have had some ritualistic significance, similar, in a minor way, to the passage tomb of Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, which is oriented on the winter solstice sunrise.

It was visited at the winter solstice annually over fifteen years but, invariably, the sunset was not visible due to either cloud cover or rain.  There was a brilliant sunset on the winter solstice of 2014 but, alas, it did not have any unusual bearing on the tomb’s orientation.

 

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However, this led to a little thinking as to the possibility that it may have had some relevance vis-a-vis the vernal and autumnal equinoctial sunsets around March 21st and September 21st.  The reasoning behind this curiosity was that, when one looks at the orientation of the monument, it seems to face directly into an imaginary “v” formed by the spur of nearby “Sliabh Mhacha Reidh” and the distant spur of “An Gearan”.

It transpired that the equinoctial sunsets of September 2015 and March 2016 were visible and it was delightfully noticed that the sun on both occasions(and indeed over a few days preceding and subsequent to the equinoxes) bisected the “v” and spectacularly illuminated the tomb and the rock-art therein.

There are many theories abroad as to why our distant ancestors went to such careful planning and should lead to interesting discussions.

 

 Dáithí Ó Connaill

 

 

 

International Women’s Day + TMC

 

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TMC Club President Nuala Finn
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TMC Club Secretary Máire Ní Scannláin
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TMC Club Treasurer Monica Dillane (left) with Maura O’Sullivan
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TMC Committee Member Mags Twomey

 

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TMC Committee Member Anna Allen
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TMC Committee Member Mena Cahill

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Helen Lawless, Mountaineering Ireland, Anna Allen, TMC and Jane Carney, Mountaineering Ireland,