‘Everest calling Rongbuk. Come in please, over . . . Dermot. The altimeter is reading 8,848 metres and I’m sitting on the summit of the world.”
This was the moment Dawson Stelfox radioed Dermot Somers to let him know that he had reached the summit of Mount Everest. Stelfox was the leader of the 1993 IRISH EVEREST EXPEDITION, which included Frank Nugent (deputy leader); Dermot Somers; Robbie Fenlon; Mike Barry; Richard O’Neill Dean; Mick Murphy and Tony Burke.
27 years on, Dawson Stelfox relives the experience in an interview with Sarah McInerney on RTE Radio 1. Tune in to Today with Sarah McInerney.
It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Ger Hogan, one of the pioneers of mountaineering in Kerry. Tom Finn’s journals record some hair raising adventures in the company of Ger and his friends as they set about establishing the sport of mountaineering in Kerry in the 1950’s. In later years, Ger took a keen interest in the adventures of others – always eager to share his love of the mountains with a new generation of mountaineers.
Ger, as a Director of Hogan’s Funeral Parlour, accompanied many of his mountaineering friends on their last journey. A quiet man of immense humanity, Ger famously promised that he would not retire until he had fulfilled a promise he made to Úna Finn, which was to take care of her on her final journey. Ger presented the above photo to the Finn family when Úna died aged 93 in October 2018. It was with some shock that we learned of his death last Wednesday.
Climbing the highest mountain in Ireland on the morning of the Winter Solstice is a longstanding tradition in Kerry, which was started by Mike Ward, Bronagh Tarrant and Nuala Finn years ago. It was a regular fixture of the Tuesday Night mountaineers, which Tomás Crowley memorably called the “Dawn Raid.” The aim has always been to reach the summit in time to see the sun rise on the shortest day of the year – weather permitting.
In recent years, persistent bad weather has meant that the Winter Solstice climb was more or less abandoned. This year was different. Conditions looked very good on Friday 20, December and Mike Slattery put out a call on Whats App, giving the rendezvous as the Lidl carpark in Tralee @ 4.50 or Lisleibane carpark @ 5.45.
14 mountaineers turned up in Lisleibane, from 11 years of age to 60+. Patricia McGuirk was leading another group of five and there was one solo climber. Conditions were perfect. It was mild, there was some cloud cover on the mountains and a peek-a-boo quarter moon gave some light, but not enough to put the torches in the bag. At 6am we headed for the summit.
the log | weather forecast
06.45 am: the Hags Glen.
07.07 am: Bottom of the Devil’s Ladder.
There was a lot of surface water from melting snow.
07.51 am: Daybreak at the top of the Devil’s Ladder.
08.10 am: heading for the summit.Photo: Ian
08.30 am+: Summit
09.03am Cloud breaks on the summit.
09.12 am: leaving the summit.
09.23 am: heading for the Heavenly Gates.
09.44 am: Crossing Collin’s Gully, above the Heavenly Gates.
10.42 am: crossing the outflow at Loch Gouragh, Hags Glen.
11.32 am: Lisleibane Carpark.
Log | Stats
the mountaineering collective | the Winter Solstice 2019
At the Water’s Edge: Two Boats – Around Ireland by Kayak
At the Water’s Edge
is based on a log that Timmy Flavin kept during a 942-mile paddle around the coast of Ireland with Donal Dowd, a kayaker and mountaineer. They left Courtown harbour in Co Wexford on May 11, 1991 and returned just four weeks later, paddling an average of 50 kilometres (31 miles) a day.
Timmy Flavin died of cancer four years ago and his wife Bríd Farrell has published an illustrated book based on his log. It includes tributes from Dowd, other paddlers, and friends. Cathal Cudden and Bernard Forde, well known in the mountaineering community, were involved in the design and publishing of the book.
To Order a copy:
At the Water’s Edge: Two Boats sells at €15 a copy.
The book is also available in Polymath Bookshop in Tralee (+353667125035) and Woulfe’s Bookshop in Listowel (+35366821021).
The Irish Uplands Forum (Fórum Cnoch na hÉireann) commissioned Dr Brendan O’Keeffe and Dr Caroline Crowley to write this study of the Irish uplands. The Heritage Council published it in October 2019. Michael Viney had an interesting review of the study in The Irish Times over the weekend, under a headline that says it all: These hills are made for walking. Viney, however, highlights access as a key issue for the 13,000 plus mountaineers and hillwalkers who make up the membership of 186 clubs in Ireland.
He identifies two factors that will have influence on access in the future. The first is a shift from sheep farming to off-farm employment and a parallel rise in (a) the number of “large sheep ranches” and (b) hillside houses occupied by “commuters, retirees and holiday homeowners.” We have seen the problems this has created in places like Glanteenassig in County Kerry.
The second is that government action on the roll out of access programmes stalled since 2009, when voluntary agreement between mountaineering interests and landowners created pilot projects in two areas, Mount Gable near Clonbur, Co Galway and Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Co Kerry; just two of the 57 mountain ranges identified in the report. However, O’Keeffe and Crowley note that “key stakeholder groups remain committed to its vision.”
As Viney points out, most of Ireland’s uplands are farmlands but adds that “sheep, significantly, get a mention on only four of the study’s 140-odd pages.” That is worrying, given the traditional partnership between mountaineers and sheep farmers, people like Martin (RIP) and Nóirín Griffin in Derrymore Glen (Slieve Mish), Mick Murphy in Knocknagantee (Iveragh) and, of course, John and Esther Cronin of Cronin’s Yard in the Reeks. That partnership is captured by mountaineer and photographer Valerie O’Sullivan in The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks: People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range , which Frank Miller, former Picture Editor of The Irish Times, described as ‘An intimate and beautiful portrait of the people and landscape of Ireland’s loftiest place.’
This aspect of the Irish uplands deserved more attention in the study. Nevertheless, A Profile of Ireland’s Uplandsis essential reading for mountaineers and hillwalkers. To obtain an Executive Summary click HERE. To obtain the full report click HERE.
Links / Resources
For more information, have a look at the current edition of the Mountain Log