Training Matters in Mountaineering

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Members of Tralee Mountaineering on a training run across Crib Goch, Snowdon, 2014.

 

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.

 

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Ann O’ Donoghue on Tryfan

 

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.

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An introduction to windslab, O’Shea’s Gully, March 4, 2018.

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.

 

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TMC on Tryfan 2014

 

 

Next A chance to develop new skills: theAlpine Summer Meet 2018

Mountain Log: Corran Tuathail, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks: March 4, 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

 

 

The Weather

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.

 

The Team

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.

 

summit 4

 

Conditions

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

 

The Route

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.

 

Route March 4

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

Stats

Stas March 4

 

 

Verdict

A quality Mountain Day.

 

Comments

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

 

 

What makes a QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY (QMD)?

 

 

ANDREW MAP  ANDREW WALK STATS

 

 

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?

or

   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 handis the cornerstone of the award for group leaders. More about that in a later post.

 

DEFINING A QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY:

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:

  • The candidate is involved in the planning and instigation.
  • The walk would last at least 5 hours and take place in an unfamiliar area.
  • The majority of time should be spent above 500m, distance should be over 16km with over 600m of height gain during the day, and cover a variety of terrain.
  • The use of a variety of hill walking techniques.
  • Adverse weather conditions may be encountered.
  • Experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the Irish and UK hills.

 

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Then there were six, approaching the top of the Heavenly Gates. Bertie is behind the camera. Connie and Billy headed for the summit.

 

Does Andrew’s walk qualify?

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.

 

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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.

For more on quality mountain days have a look at this forum or this blog.

 

Next: Far Away Hills Are White!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logging your walks and climbs

 

 

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:

 

 

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Route map/track by Bertie Hickey

 

 

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.

 

 

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Andrew Kelliher leading the group from Coomeenapeasta to the the Bone.

 

 

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.

 

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Then fill in the details.

 

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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.

 

That’s it.

 

Next post: what makes a Quality Mountain Day?

 

 

 

 

Píosa dramaíochta faoi chursaí sléibhteoireachta: in omós do Aodh Ó Domhnaill 1947-2018

 

From tuairisc.ie:

An scríbhneoir ildánach Aodh Ó Domhnaill ar shlí na fírinne

Choimeád éagsúlacht agus feabhas shaothar Aodha Uí Dhomhnaill spiorad agus nuálaíocht i ndrámaíocht na Gaeilge. Tá creathadh mór bainte as saol na Gaeilge agus saol na hamarclannaíochta tráthnóna ag an scéala go bhfuil an scríbhneoir ildánach Aodh Ó Domhnaill imithe ar shlí na fírinne.

Bhásaigh Aodh Ó Domhnaill go tobann Eanair 24, 2018 agus é i mbun na hoibre ab ansa leis ag a dheasc scríbhneoireachta.

Rugadh Aodh Ó Domhnaill i mBaile Átha Cliath sa bhliain 1947 ach, ag maireachtáil i mBaile an Fheirtéaraigh i gCorca Dhuibhne a bhí Aodh agus a bhean chéile Máiréad Ní Chinnéide, arb as Ciarraí di, le roinnt blianta anuas.

Le fiche bliain anuas is leis an drámaíocht is mó a bhíodh sé ag plé agus luaitear go háirithe é leis an gcompántas a raibh a chroí agus a anam ann, Aisteoirí Bulfin.

 


Taifeadadh  an píosa seo in Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, ar an mBuailtín, i Mí na Samhna seo chaite, tar éis do comórtas a bhuaigh le linn Oireacthtais na Samhna, i dteannta le Noel Ó Maoileoin.

 

 

Once upon a time in the mountains …

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Photo: Tom Finn TMC

 

I was going through Tom Finn’s (1927-2007) slide collection today and came across this photo, probably taken back west. We are not sure who the men are, let alone the nuns they seem to have rounded up. We think the men are Tom’s climbing buddies Brian Daly, Denis Switzer, and Bill Edwards. If anyone can confirm this, we would be delighted.

Tom was a founding member of the club, a pioneering mountaineer, and a keen photographer. He usually had his camera with him when he went mountaineering and illustrated details of all climbs were entered into a club logbook or a personal journal.  These provide a fascinating insight into the development of mountaineering as a sport in Kerry,  as well as the history of  Tralee Mountaineering Club.

If you have any ideas about what was going on in this photo, or a suitable caption, get in touch!

CW&NF

 

COMMENTS:


“You know the nun in the square wimple is wearing a habit like Auntie Pat’s but I don’t think it’s her. In the early days she had to stay in a convent – she used to stay at Pres but I don’t recognise any of the nuns. I think it’s definitely Denis, Bill and Brian.”

Clodagh Finn 


“I like the symbolism of the nuns on the mountains  on today  February 1st the feast day ‘Saint Bridget’ which traditionally marks  the beginning of spring  representing rebirth and renewal,  hope, youth and growth.”

Mags Twomey

Picking up on Mags’ point about Lá ‘Le Bríde or Bridget’s Day, just in case people think that it was a man only club “back in the day,” women were just as involved in the development of TMC from  the beginning, as this early photo of a climb on Brandon shows:

Brandon group