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.
TMC members met in the carpark at Lisleibane and headed in the Hags Glen, crossing the Gaddagh just south of the bridge and headed south to the start of the spur called the Bone. As soon as we gained height it became clear that the wind was too strong to stick to the planned along the spine of the spur.
The route was changed and we went up the side of the spur to a small coum. We contoured across to the spur on the southern side of Cumeenapeasta Lake, on ground that we would’t normally be on, so we did a bit of exploring and identified some interesting routes for future outings. We descended along the stream running from the lake to the Gaddagh and headed to Cronin’s Yard for a cup of tea. Thomas treated us to apple tart.
An interesting thing happened on the way to the Bone. A Kestrel hovered above for about 5 Minutes.
The above photo shows members of Tralee Mountaineering Club (TMC) examining a megalithic tomb in Loch a’Duin on the Dingle Peninsula. The tomb was placed in the valley using an ancient navigational system that was, apparently, centred on the Spring Equinox.
It is located on a small plateau east of An Scoraid river, about 900 metres southeast of the Kilmore junction on the Conor Pass road. The location is marked by a red dot on the 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map; red dots signify the location of archaeological features in the landscape.
There is a more precise way of describing the location of the tomb. View Ranger gives its position as Q 52763 08134. This is called a grid reference, which is an alpha-numerical set of geographic co-ordinates that is used to locate a feature on a map. Grid references are the basic unit of a navigational system that divides the country into twenty 100 X 100 kilometre zones. This is called the National Grid
Loch a’Duin is located in Q, one of two squares in the National Grid that cover the Southwest. This is the first element of every grid reference. It is followed by two set of numbers. The first is called the Easting (52763). The second is called the Northing (08134). These allow the navigator to zoom in on each zone, pinpoint the location of a feature on the map, and navigate towards it with confidence.
This diagram shows the national grids of Ireland and Great Britain superimposed on a global grid, which is known as theUniversal Transverse Mercator or UTM for short. It is named after Gerardus Mercator, a Flemish map maker who invented a system of world wide navigation in 1569. The UTM was adapted to provide an agreed system of geographical co-ordinates that could be used in global positioning systems ( GPS) like View Ranger.
The Ordnance Survey offices of Ireland and Northern Ireland adopted a modified version of the UTM in 2001. This was done to increase the accuracy of GPS measurements by minimising distortions in mapping across the island as a whole. This is called the Irish Transverse Mercator(ITM) or, simply, the Irish Grid.
The Irish Grid provides the organisational and geographical basis for navigation in Ireland but mountaineers usually use 1:50,000 maps. The ground covered by these maps is not the same as the area in each zone of the grid; each zone contains more than one map and many maps extend beyond the boundaries of individual zones.
Loch A’duin is positioned on Map 70 in zone Qof the national grid. Iveragh is located in zone V, the dividing line running along the southern shore of the Dingle Peninsula. Grid references for Iveragh – maps 78 and 83 – begin with the letter V. The zone is clearly identified on each map and the boundary between zones is clearly shown.
Each map in the 1:50,000 series uses a grid made up of 30 by 40 squares measuring 2cm and representing one kilometer on the ground. Each square is defined by a vertical and horizontal blue line. The vertical lines are called Eastings and the horizontal lines are called Northings.
Eastings measure distance from west to east. The line dividing East and West is called the prime meridian. This was agreed in 1884 as the line of longitude running through the Greenwich Observatory, near London. Anyone who has visited the Observatory will recall a metal strip in the ground that marks 0º Longitude; the line dividing East and West and the first of the Eastings. The prime meridian used in GPS is approximately 102 metres East of this line. This will read as 0º on satellite based systems.
Northings measure travel northwards from the equator.
Every Easting and Northingon a 1;50,000 map has a value between 00 and 99. On Map 70 the Eastings run from 20 to 60 while the Northings run from 88 to 99 and 00 to 18. Grid references contain two sets of numbers (co-ordinates) that define the position of a feature on a map in relation to Eastings and Northings, the Easting are always given first.
Q 5276308134 is given as the grid reference for the tomb in Loch a’Duin. 52 refers to the Easting and 08 refers to the Northing. These define a one kilometre square, which is read from the right (East) of the Easting and above (North) of the Northing. The point where these lines intersect –the bottom, left-hand corner – is called the origin and all travel eastwards and northwards within the square is measured from this point.
There is a problem with a grid reference that merely identifies a square on the map. It presents you with a square kilometre of ground to search for a feature that may only be three or four metres in size. The solution is simple. Each square is divided into a grid made up of 100m units. These are numbered 0-9 and are represented by the third number in the Easting and Northing component of a grid reference – Q 52763 08134. This grid reference puts the position of the tomb in a 100m square that is 700m east of line 52 and 100 metres north of line 08 on the map.
This still leaves us with a large area of featureless terrain to search but the last two digits of grid reference Q52763 08134 tell us that we have to walk 63m eastwards and 34m northwards from the origin of this square to locate the tomb. This coincides with the red dot that marks the location of an archaeological feature that is identified as a Tuama Meigiliteach.
Grid references are an essential part of your navigational skillset. They enable you to locate your position on a map, pinpoint features in the landscape, and navigate safely from feature to feature.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Use this system to generate grid references for the following features:
The Gallán (Standing Stone) north of the tomb.
The point at the edge of the forestry where a stream enters An Scoraid.
Spot height 73.
The start of the track leading into Loch a’Duin, from the Conor Pass road.
The point where the track crosses the 100m contour.
The point where the track meets An Scoraid.
The point where An Scoraid crosses the 100m contour.
You can use the 1:50,000 scale an your compass (Silva Expedition) to quickly and accurately establish a grid reference. Here’s how:
There is another way of navigating to the location of the tomb. Open View Ranger, place the red dot marking the position of the tomb at the centre of the crosshairs and mark with a Point of Interest (POI). Then activate the Navigate To function. View rangerwill present you with an onscreen, point-to-point route to your objective and will guide you along it in real time. Simple!
Here is the problem.
An Scoraid river lies between the track into the valley and the tomb. To reach the tomb by this route you will have to cross the river. River crossings are one of the most dangerous aspects of mountaineering.
Find the spot where the track is closest to the tomb and read the course of the river in relation to the contour lines. The river is flowing through a fairly narrow re-entrant. Would you consider crossing the river at this point?
Have a look at the flat area north of this, where the river drops from the 100m contour to the 90m contour over a distance of approximately 200m. Does this look like a better option? Remember a 10m drop is equivalent to the combined height of 5 very tall people.
The river is a very dangerous feature between you and your objective, the tomb. You need to navigate to a safe river crossing first, then from the river to the tomb. If you can’t identify a potentially safe crossing, don’t go to the tomb by this route.
The point is this; grid references allow you to pinpoint the position of a feature but you still need to (1) understand the nature of the terrain in which that feature is located and (2) be capable of assessing the risks and the opportunities presented by it. That is where skilled map reading contributes to safe navigation.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 Sundaysand Thursdays
Milan to San Martino
Car Rental and pooling is very straightforward.
There is alsopublic transport from Milan (3 hours by train and bus)
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.
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.’
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.