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.
Does training matter? Do challenging days in the mountains enhance members’ experience and contribute to the development of the club? Should the club calendar have all of those elements built into to it?
I come from a tradition within the club that says yes to all of that. In 2014 I led a group of Level 2 Climbers across the Crib Goch in Wales and, with that experience under our boots, we climbed Tryfan on the following day. The Crib Goch is a challenging prospect at the best of times and most of the members involved on the day would never have been considered capable of climbing those routes. Conditions were perfect for a spot of training and everyone completed the routes safely. We repeated the exercise a year later.
Thats how we progress, that’s how the club works for the benefit of all members. All it takes is some leadership, training, a bit of teamwork and, of course, appropriate conditions. For the past three weeks there has been lots of snow in the mountains, conditions that would have provided many opportunities for similar skills development in the area of winter mountaineering.
To take advantage of those opportunities requires a culture of progression in sport, a commitment to training, and, of course, leadership. Leadership has been identified as one of the main challenges facing TMC and mountaineering clubs in general. To meet that challenge we need to look at the skills within the club and the quality of leadership that those skills make possible.
We also need to make an audit of mountains skills appropriate to leadership at each level, including associated skills in first aid and rope work. Any gaps that emerge need to be filled by access to training, either on courses or through participation in club activity that has an inbuilt element of training associated with it – rope days, navigation days, or the application of those skills as a routine part of club walks and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the current snowy conditions.
We also need to look at the way the calendar is put together, making sure that walks are pitched at an appropriate level and ensure that nominated leaders have the necessary skills to ensure an enjoyable, safe, and, where possible, challenging day in the mountains. Challenging is main word here.
Attendance on club walks is increasing – there were 25 people on a recent level 2 walk –and it may be that the same walk does not fit all members at a given level. We may need to look at a wider range of levels, intermediate levels with varying degrees of challenge for instance. We would need to train up even more leaders, encourage greater participation in mountain skills training programmes.
That represents a challenge in itself.
One way of getting around that might be the introduction of a Club Leader’s Award, as a first step for members engaging with the various Mountain Skills and Climbing awards schemes. The rewards are obvious.
Next A chance to develop new skills: theAlpine Summer Meet 2018
A Quality Mountain Day
Three weeks of snow promised unprecedented opportunities for winter mountaineering. The worst of the weather had passed and the way was open for a day spent practicing on snow and ice in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks
This walk was all about the weather, coming shortly after a red snow and ice alert had been lifted, and before a widespread thaw had set in.
The forecast was a for slight rise in temperature and, although temperatures would remain low, a thaw would set in, with rain moving in from the West in the afternoon. Winds would remain light. In the Reeks this would mean continued snow cover, though no consolidation, light falls of snow and uncertainty over visibility.
It was a day for ice axes and crampons.
There were four of us. Bertie Hickey, Andrew Kelliher, John Laide, and Ciarán Walsh. Nuala Finn had to pull out due to illness in her family. We had done a lot of training in snowy conditions over the past three weeks and were looking forward to a challenging and rewarding day in the mountains.
Conditions were perfect. Access roads were clear of snow, except for the final 500m or so up to the carpark in Lisleibane. A number of cars turned around but we reached the carpark without difficulty in a couple of 4X4s (one was a Honda!).
There was a lot of snow in the Glen. On the last club walk the snow started above Coomeenapeasta Lake. Today, however, there was 3 or 4 inches of snow in Lisleibane, with deeper drifts. It was very mild and there was no wind. As a consequence visibility was very poor and we opted for a straightforward run to the summit
We went straight for O’Shea’s Gully, across the rocky, southern edge of Beenkeragh Ridge, and on to the Summit, followed by a straight run (almost) to the Devils Ladder , and down.
Coimín Íochtarach (1st leve) and Coimín Láir (2nd level) were full of deep snow and visibility was very limited. Dave McBride, Sheila O’Connor, Richard Doody, and Richard Cussen were ahead of us and left a lovely trail of compacted snow. We met three Italian on Level 2, they didn’t have any gear with them and were retreating from O’Shea’s. We geared up at the step below Coimín Uachtarach (3rd level), left the trail and headed up O’Shea’s.
O’Shea’s was full of snow which had formed wide bands of solid windslab. It was perfect. In some places it felt like a 45° climb, perfect training conditions. A day spent in the Ice Factor in Kinlockleven last October paid off.
Beenkeragh Ridge had deep drifts on the Caher side so we stuck to the rocks. They were covered in hoar ice but going was good. There was some corniching but nothing major. We saw the marks of Dave and Co’s crampons at the top of Curve. They were still ahead of us. There was one other climber on the summit but he returned a short while later with a friend. That was it on the day.
Visibility was vey poor and deep snow covered the trail. We headed down and took a slight detour to the right, corrected and navigated to the Devil’s Ladder. The snow in the Ladder was deep and wet and the ice was thawing, but otherwise descent was straightforward
A quality Mountain Day.
We have had three weeks of snow in the Reeks, with a lot of opportunities for challenging winter mountaineering and training, skills development and progression. The sort of thing we used to go to Scotland for. Magic.
Next: Training matters. Taking advantage of snow
Dedicated to Nuala Finn, the Snow Queen, who couldn’t
make it on the day due to an illness in her family
These images record the TMC Level 3 Walk led by Andrew Kelliher on Feb 11, 2018. The route took us from Lisleibane, up a spur to Coomeenapeasta, across the Reeks to the Devil’s Ladder, out the Heavenly Gates and back to Lisleibane, a total distance of 13.39 Km, over 5 hours and 40 minutes, with a total height gain of 1184m.
The conditions were fantastic. The forecast (BBC) was for snow, which fell in bursts as pellets/graupel, and lay as powder snow. There was some pack on the ridges and a few patches of ice. The wind was light but gusting in snow bursts that reduced visibility on an otherwise bright and sunny day.
It was a fantastic day in the mountains and the question is this:
does it qualify as a QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY?
would it be classed as a Quality Hill Walking Day (QHWD)?
A QMD matters if you wish to progress in the sport. The ML or Mountain Leader award requires that you log at least 20 quality mountain days. A QHWD, on the other hand, is the cornerstone of the award for group leaders. More about that in a later post.
According to the Irish Mountain Training Board, a broad definition of a QMD is one which presents new experiences and challenges. Such a day would generally consist of the following:
Six of us were involved in doing a recce with Andrew under very similar conditions, which qualifies as being involved in the planning and instigation of the walk. The conditions were challenging, cancelling out familiarity with the terrain, although there was still no need to navigate. The snow meant we had to carry extra equipment, although the quality of the snow (pellet) meant that ice axes and crampons weren’t much use. That required other techniques. We were well over 500m for most of the day and our total ascent of 1184m was almost twice the minimum requirement of 600m. We covered 13.39Km, a good bit short of the 16Km recommended but we did have to use a variety of hillwalking techniques, especially going down the Heavenly Gates, which were full of powder snow.
Generally speaking – and the Irish Mountain Training Board has given a broad definition that generally includes the above – Andrew’s walk would have to qualify as a QMD. It certainly did present new experiences and challenges. That is why TMC has always climbed in snow, and there is no better place for a quality day in the mountains than the Reeks on a snowy day.
Next: Far Away Hills Are White!
I climbed with TMC for the first time in 2000, on a wild day in Derrymore, on a walk led by two marvellous women, the late, great, and badly-missed Phil O’Mahony and the woman I would later marry, the fantastic Nuala Finn.
Happy Valentines Day to you Nuala
And to all of you who share your love of the the mountains
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 next step is to keep a record of the walk, not just the route.
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.
Next post: what makes a Quality Mountain Day?
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.
This is the last posting on this subject.
Tom Finn, founding member of the club and a young boy (unidentified) working on a section of the Dingle way. Jimmy Laide and Nuala Finn are in the background.
TMC members vote tomorrow on a motion to remove the ban on membership for people under 18 years of age. No one is quite sure when or why the club introduced that rule but the club was built on participation by young people and family members, like Nuala Finn, who was introduced to mountaineering by her father when she was seven years old and now serves as club president.
There are members of the club who climb with their children, but these young climbers are barred from being members until they reach 18 years of age. We are seeking to make a small change in the wording of the constitution that would change this situation and create opportunities for the club to develop by giving other young people a chance to participate and progress in our sport.
That change is being put to the members at a special general meeting that has been called to decide on the issue.
An honourable tradition, four generations of mountaineers on the Dingle way. From left, Jimmy Laide, an unidentified girl (suggestions please), Tomás ‘An Gréasaí’ Breathnach, Sean Kelly, Nuala Finn, Noirín Carroll, and Tom Finn (front). The Dingle way was developed by members of TMC as a way of encouraging greater participation in mountaineering in Kerry.
This whole process started a few years ago when Ian Hassell, then Chairman, pointed to the aging profile of club membership and suggested that the club needed to be more attractive to younger members. This is a chance to make such a change.
The meeting will be preceded by an information session, in which Ruth Whelan of Mountaineering Ireland will bring people up to speed on the new child protection legislation and any implications it may have for the club as a whole. There has been a lot of talk about “law” but we have never regarded this as a legal issue. It is about fairness and the future development of the club.
There is opposition to the move, which is puzzling given that young people participate in the ‘Tuesday Night’ walks and in the very successful Park Run, and it doesn’t seem to a problem for other participants. It doesn’t seem to be a problem for most sports club in the country for that matter. Why is mountaineering so different?
Remember, turn up and vote … early and often! It’s your club after all.
Ian Hassell making a point about changing the club constitution at the club walk two weeks ago … though we’re not quite sure what it was. Any suggestions for a caption?