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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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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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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

 

 

Winter Mountaineering at its Best: Carrauntoohil March 4, 2018

 

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John Laide and Andrew Kelliher, Tralee Mountaineering Club, at the summit of Carrauntoohil on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Andrew Kelliher, Tralee Mountaineering Club
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John Laide and Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, heading up Shea’s Gully on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, getting stuck into the windslab in Shea’s Gully on Sunday March 4, 2018
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Perfect winter mountaineering conditions, windslab at 45 degrees in Shea’s Gully.
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Andrew Kelliher and Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, reaching the top of Shea’s Gully on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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John Laide, Tralee Mountaineering Club
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John Laide, Ciarán Walsh, Bertie Hickey, Andrew Kelliher at the summit of Carrauntoohil on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Heading towards the Devils Ladder
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The Devil’s Ladder
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John Laide heading down the Devil’s Ladder
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Wet Snow in the Devil’s Ladder
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Bertie Hickey on the Devils Ladder.
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Bertie Hickey
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Bertie Hickey and John Laide making the best of bad snow in the Devil’s Ladder.
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Bottom of the Devil’s Ladder

 

Dedicated to Nuala Finn, the Snow Queen, who couldn’t

make it on the day due to an illness in her family

 

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CW

 

 

 

 

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!