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In The Mournes

The Mourne Mountains (pronounced/ˈmɔərn/MOHRN; Irish: na Beanna Boirche), also called the Mournes or Mountains of Mourne, are a granitemountain range in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland. It includes the highest mountains in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster. The highest of these is Slieve Donard at 850 m (2,790 ft). The Mournes is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been proposed as the first national park in Northern Ireland. The area is partly owned by the National Trust and sees a large number of visitors every year. The name Mourne (historically spelt Morne) is derived from the name of a Gaelicclann or sept called the Múghdhorna.[1][2]

Above is for those who don’t know what The Mournes are. It’s actually surprisingly close to Dublin (2 hours drive from where I live), and yet I almost never visit. This had to change, so yesterday we organized a small day trip. We’ve chosen to go to Lower Cove – a sector that on it’s own has enough climbs for weeks.

Dairmuid joined Monika and I, while Peter (whom I’ve climbed with in Fair Head few weeks ago) and Anne drove from The North.

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Lower Cove.

By the time we got to the base of the climbs (it’s 1h walk from the car park), Peter and Anne already finished 1 route (not sure which one though).

I started with:

Third Corner * 45m HS (4a, 4c, 3c)
P. Gribbon, C. Boyd, B. White. 2/1956.
The arete provides a fine finish but before that there is the notorious chimney. It will only feel the grade on a good day with the wind behind you. Otherwise its desperate! Start 5m left of the edge.
1) 21m Gain the edge by a delicate horizontal traverse right to reach white ledge. Continue up blocks to the foot of the chimney.
2) 9m Thrutch into vertical holdless chimney (beware of jammed helmet) and gain the large ledge.
3) 15m Finish delicately up the arete.

I did it in one long pitch. I gotta say, that it was very nice. The chimney indeed feels like VS, the last 15m offers no gear.

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Me ass jamming my way up in the chimney of Third Corner.

 

In the mean time Peter jumped on mega-classic:

Agag’s Wall ** 30m HS (4a) S. B. Moorehead, C. Stead. 18/6/67
A necky route which can feel handy or scary depending on mood and/or ability. Start 15m up the gully from Third Corner directly under overhang at the top. Climb just in from the left edge to a ledge and step right. Then up more or less directly to a horizontal break 2m below right-hand end of overhang. Either continue straight up and climb past the overhang at its right­hand edge (4b) or traverse right to finish up

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Anne half way up Agag’s Wall.

Since we had a mix of climbing abilities  and skills in our group of 5,  we mixed it a bit later on, so everyone one had a chance to enjoy climbing on the level they were comfortable with.

 

Next round of routes was Diarmuid’s lead:

Dark Side of the Moon ** 30m E1 (5b)E. Cooper, T. Craven. 8/4/83.(…). Takes the obvious weakness up the centre of the green wall. With a delicate move gain a large pocket. Moving slightly left, continue up past the overhangs to a ledge. Traverse left and climb the wall leftwards to an arete. Up ledges to a pocked crack. Climb this to a ledge. Mantelshelf with the aid of a good but hidden pock on the ledge. From the ledge at the top of the green wall there are two alternative finishes.

The start is very difficult to protect, but a small alien cam in a small pocket 2.5m off the ground provides ‘adequate’ peace of mind, however first ‘real’ piece goes a bit higher, once you are fully committed to the line.

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Diarmuid in the middle of a crux sequence on Dark Side of the Moon, E1, 5b. In the background Peter on Fox’s Tiers (VS).

I followed, while Peter lead Fox’s Tiers, just right of us:

Fox’s Tiers * 37m VS (5a, 4c)
R. Cole, A. Carden, M. Smith. 8/10/78.
Worth doing especially for the second pitch which is sustained and strenuous. This pitch can be easily reached along the large grass ledge which runs rightwards into Fourth Corner Gully. Start right of Dark Side of the Moon, at the base of the diedre which marks the change in direction of the wall.
1) 22m Climb the diedre to a slight overhang. Climb overhang by moving left (long reach) to a usually wet ledge. Continue up a right-slanting crack, to a huge vegetated ledge.
2) 18m Climb the wall 1 m left of the edge on good holds passing jutting block to heather ledge and large boulder. Up right arete moving right after 3m and continue right then up to finish.

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Monika cleaning 2nd pitch of Fox’s Tiers (VS)

For the final round I took the girls to an easier ground, while P&D went to attack:

Aristocrat ***35m E1 (5b)
A. McQuoid, A. Currans. 27/4/80.
Just merits the grade and takes an intimidating line up the edge of the buttress Start 4m in from the arete. Move up and begin a delicate traverse right across a line of small holds and undercut flakes to reach a groove line near the buttress edge which eases with height, stepping right to a good grassy ledge (possible belay). Climb the steep wall directly above the ledge with one difficult move leading to the easier but poorly protected ground above.

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Right: Peter leading Aristocrat *** (E1 5b). Left – unknown pair of climbers on Gynocrat*** (HVS 5a)

In the mean time I lead First Corner:

First Corner ** 27m HS (4b)
F. Devlin, J. McGrath. 30/6/65.
Start right-hand edge of First Corner Gully. Climb arete up to a ledge on left. Continue straight up (4c) or, more easily and more naturally, step left and up the gully wall 3m and back onto the arete to finish.

It’s was very enjoyable and adequately protected. The whole wall provides a lot of easy climbing, and should be considered as fantastic place to be for all beginner leaders.

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Monika cleaning First Corner** (HS).

It was getting late, so we’ve regrouped, had some quick snack (boiled eggs FTW!) and proceeded to walk back to the car park.

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Anne and Monika walking back.

To summarize I have to say the Mournes are different than anything I’ve ever climbed before. The rock offers some fantastic friction, but very often the routes are difficult to protect.  It’s definitely a premier location that deserves more visits and I’m sure I’ll be back there.

The full photo gallery here.

PS.

Shout out to Ambrose Flynn to whom we run into second week in a row! He’s doing great job introducing new generation of climbers to our fantastic sport!

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Ambrose leading Pillar Variant (S 4a)

PS2.

All route descriptions as per http://wiki.climbing.ie/index.php/Lower_Cove and the MCI guidebook.

Categories
climbing

Operation resole – results

They are back! There is nothing better than new soles on already broken is climbing shoes.  All new and rubbery rubber on all 7 pairs.

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The pictures of all the shoes before and after are here. Big kudos to friction.pl for taking the order and processing it efficiently. I definitely will be  using their services in the future.

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Glenda summer

It’ not often when temperatures in Ireland reach +25C. Yesterday was one of these days. When Diarmuid and I showed up at the upper carpark of the Glendalough Valley it was already very  hot.

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We started our  walk and discussed possible routes to climb. Someone warned us that the place might be a little crowded, since IMC had their meet there this weekend.

We opted in for:

SARCOPHAGUS *** 84m HVS (4b,5a,5a,5a)
An outstanding route. It takes the obvious line of corners right of Spillikin Ridge. Excellent protection. Start as for Fanfare and Spillikin Ridge
1. 24m Climb the quartzy groove and pull out right on top of a pillar. Step up right and surmount a bulge easily on large holds. Continue straight up to arrive just left of a pair of parallel cracks. Step right via the cracks and up to a good stance below a bulging corner.
2. 12m Climb the corner to a tree belay below the main corner groove.
3. 32m Climb the corner which is difficult to start but the pace relents at the top. Tradition dictates a sling on the spike at two-thirds height, a salute to the first ascent. Gain the arête on the right and climb the short crack before moving right to a small belay ledge in the corner.
4. 16m Climb the corner above with due respect to the tree.
E. Goulding, A. Ingram, 27/5/1961.

It’s a super classic that I’ve done before already few times, but this time the plan was to try to find the ‘secret’ E1 finish to P4.

3b. Left-hand Finish (5a) Follow the main corner to its end at the stance on the arête. Step left to join a thin crack with excellent finger locks. Finish up The Wake or traverse right to the Sarcophagus belay.
D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, September 1990.

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Sure enough, there was already couple of groups of climbers on the main face. We’ve also noticed a party of 3 around half way up ‘our’ route. We decided to do it in 3 pitches (1&2 together for Diarmuid, I’d do the ‘regular 3rd crux pitch’, and he’ll finish the ‘new’ P4).

Unfortunately, after D. did P1 it was clear that the part above was super slow, so we had to wait as well. We’ve changed the plan, and did each pitch individually. I claimed P2&3.

On top of that, there was another group approaching from below. Definitely a busy day!

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Anni H. approaching below. Mid P3.

When I topped out P3 it was Diarmuid’s turn to lead again. It turned out that’s not so easy to find that ‘variation’ route , and since we were under pressure not to stall, he just done the regular finish.

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Diarmuid mid P4.

Now, after talking to other climbers who’s done the route, we know that one is supposed to traverse right earlier (than D is see on the photo above). It seems sketchy though. Maybe next time!

We quickly topped out and used communal static abseil rope setup by the IMC.

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On the way down. IMC & Friends (Hello Derek!)

From there we moved left to Expectancy slab. Approach there is always super sketchy, but the route is always worth it. I did it few times already, but never in the HVS configuration.

CRACKS ON THE GARDEN OF EDEN *** 38m VS (4c,4a,4c)
Start at a clean right-facing corner just over 20m up left of Expectancy Slab. A crack leans right.
1. 12m Move up the corner which is difficult to start. Easier ground leads to a belay at a yew tree (treat it gently).
2. 12m Move left to the base of a steep, 3m off-width crack and climb it to a break; continue up the wider part of the crack above to a belay ledge. Alternatively, pitches 1 and 2 can be combined by taking the wall above the starting corner at 4m and following a thin finger crack which leads to the hand crack. This more direct approach upgrades the route to HVS (5a).
3. 14m. An exhilarating pitch up the steep, cracked groove above.
J. Morrison & party climbed the easier lower pitches, 1951.
R. Ohrtmann led Pitch 3 (without runners), 8/3/1953.
T. Ryan (led the hard direct start to Pitch 2), 1974.

Diarmuid claimed P1&2 running it in that nice, direct HVS approach.

I struggled a bit on P3. It was so hot that the super tight shoes I had hurt my feed more and more with every move. I was super tired, but also super happy when we topped out.

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We promptly went around to see if the abseil rope was still there, but that was also an idea that a lot of other climbers had, so the queue was rather big.

We met Vanessa and Andy there, just topping out Sarcophagus. I haven’t seen them in a while (they were rather busy lately) , so it was nice to exchange few word 🙂

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The newly wed V&A in the wilderness!

We quickly got back to the top of the Expectancy slab and abseiled from there.

With all the recent drama about anchors in Glendalough I twas nice to see a brand new & shiny abseil point there. Kudos to anyone who’s built it.

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By 8pm we were in the Glendalough hotel enjoying cold drinks with the IMC crew. They come back climbing today (spending the night in their hut). We got back home. I had enough climbing for this weekend 😉

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All the photos HERE.

 

 

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Fair Head Meet 2017

Fair Head is one my favorite places for climbing (even though I’ve only been there once before!). This place is an absolute must for anyone who is considering himself somewhat serious trad climber. I takes no prisoners, is very intimidating and absolutely unforgiving for the ego (albeit it takes all the gear you throw at it!)

There is no easy climbing at Fair Head. I think two thing are required to start enjoying this place 1. Know how to jam 2. Be comfortable leading grades  HVS/E1 (you really want to be minimum E2 climber to ‘truly’ appreciate the might of Fair Head though).

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Climbers enjoying good weather

The Fair Head Meet is an annual gathering of climbers taking place during June Bank Holiday weekend. Around 300 to 500 climbers from all over the Ireland, UK and beyond calls in to Sean’s Farm (the land owner) and for those few days totally overtakes the place.

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This was my first time attending,  mainly because in previous years I just wasn’t strong enough before to jump on anything above VS (and trust me, all the classics are always under siege, with people queuing to give them a shot).

This year was meant to be different, as I though I’d be strong enough to try myself. Unfortunately the poor weather forecast meant that a lot of my potential partners decided to stay behind (and save their weekend ‘passes’ for better occasion). Fair enough.

And here is where it got different for me – I normally don’t climb with random, just met people, but I took a chance and posted a mini add on the FB Irish climbers group ‘Looking for  Fair Head climbing buddy’. Sure enough a quickly got a response – and that’s how I met Peter.

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Turns out he was also solo for the weekend, and after some brief vetting (also known as internet stalking) we’ve decided to team up. Peter is a NI native who lives some 40mins drive of Fair Head.  He has passion for the great outdoors, been climbing for similar amount of time and grades as I do. Perfect match. Not even tinder could do it better!

I arrived to Sean’ Farm (that hosts the event) on Friday evening.  We sorted the gear, decided on early start (7am wake up) for the following day, got couple of beers and headed to the Barn for Calvin Torrans  and Clair Sheridan’s talk.

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These two are absolute legends and pioneers of Fair Head.  First ascensionist of many, many of the routes in Fair Head and beyond (over last 50 years!). Calvin, at a young age of 76, still climbs super hard, just recently (last 2 weeks)  establishing 3  new routes in E4/5 range ( example: Njold’s Saga,  E4/5, 6a/b. 2PA. 43m. C Torrans, C Sheridan. 25/5/17)

 

Saturday morning welcomed us with good weather forecast – it supposed to stay relatively dry until later afternoon (3.30pm or so).

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One of many sections of Fair Head (that itself over 2 miles long!)

We set of from the campsite as planned and were by the base of our first route by 8.30am:

Pangur Bán *** 36m HVS (5a)

C Sheridan, C Torrans. 14/10/1977.
A delightful pitch. Climb the corner and crack as for Crib Pad Crack and continue straight up past a short steep wall to finish via the sustained crack above.

I got the first lead, and with the double set of cams set out into the unknown. I got to say, Fair Head HVS is nothing like Dalkey (where average route length is 15 meters) or even Glendalough HVSs. It’s always long, sustained and just full on experience near my limit.

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Another team on Pangur Bán. Taken, just 20 mins after I lead that.

We quickly abbed off. It was Peter’s turn. He’s chosen:

Lazarus * 24m VS (4c)
T Ryan, K Higgs. 10/1977.
Climb the first crack in the gully to a jammed rocking block and continue up the groove above to an overhang. Pass the overhang on the left (crux). Continue more easily up the crack above.

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Peter getting up to the base of Lazarus.

We were flying up these routes, but more and more people started to show up. For my next route I’ve chosen:

Stone Mad 39m HVS (5a)
T. Hand, J McKenzie. 19/5/1979.
Start just right of Sabre Rattler. Climb the short slab to the start of a crack, continue up the crack past a bulge (crux) to a large platform. From here step right into a short corner with jammed blocks and continue to the top.

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Peter topped out Stone Mad.

I remember both of my leads to be very long. Longest single pitch HVS I’ve ever done. I also remember using all of the cams I had on me (and I had doubles of almost each size up to size 4 BD).

We knew the weather was closing in, so quickly picked a route for Peter:

The Offence 24m HVS (5a)
D Stelfox, R Lawson. 8/4/1980.
Runs up from the left side of the grassy ledge. Climb the arête just right of The Fence using blocky holds on the right to the base of the cracks. Climb the cracks to a ledge on the right. Continue up a crack to the top of the pillar on the left, follow the crack to the top.

Even though these last 2 routes didn’t have any “*” (meaning they’d be of high quality & recommended) they were super enjoyable, and if they were in any other place, they all would have at least one each.

As we were topping out our 4th route together, it started to rain, and we knew that was it for the day. It was still relatively early (around 3.30pm), but the forecast had ‘rain all afternoon’. It wasn’t wrong. We got back to the campsite, had some food, beer and rest, and set off to Tom Randal’s (of Wide Boyz fame) talk on his and his climbing partner’s exploits and adventures.

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Another great presentation by one of the world’s top climbers.

The Sunday plan was simple – do two quick climbs before the rain catches us (forecast for showers from 12).

8am departure with bags full of hardware got us plenty of time to accomplish that. It was definitely colder that day (tshirt climbing previous day vs 2 layers on Sun).

We got pack to The Prow sector and decided to jump on whatever was free at the time. Simple pick:

Curlew 28m VS (4c)
I Rea, E Cooper. 17/3/1985.
This takes the crack right of Revival. Climb the crack to the top of the pillar and finish up the right-hand crack.

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Peter seconding Curlew. Bit of poor rope management in the foreground. Courtesy of ‘it’s cold, I dont care!’

As I made first steps into that route, a lone American wolf from California, and aspiring crack climber, Connor, who recently moved to NI, bumped into us and asked if he could join us (we met him the previous night, so he wasn’t exactly a stranger). No problem at all, since we had extra time, and clear agenda of 2 routes for the day anyway.

For the final route of the trip Peter picked:

Good Morning Judge 24m HVS (5a, 4a)
S Billane, V McCartney. 19/3/1977.
Start in the corner beside a short chimney with an overhang.
1) 12m (5a). Climb the short chimney to the overhang. Pass this on the right and belay on the pulpit.
2) 12m (4a). Continue up the crack to the top.

I’m not sure why would someone do it in 2 pitches, we did it in one.

I actually don’t have any picks of the start of the route but chimney climbing is not something I’d have much experience with.

As I made my way up the chimney (ass jamming FTW!) two big blocks (water melon size) got loose from under my feet and hurled down with force, stopping some 200m below the crag (or so I’ve been told by people how narrowly missed them). Luckily I managed to shout and anyone at the base of other climbs managed to move aside. No injuries.

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Peter belaying, with Conor topping out ‘Good Morning Judge’

The climb was mighty, and hopefully the boys taken some shots of our struggles. Again – loads of hand jamming, probably the most of all the climb we did.

That was it for us for this weekend. Peter is travelling for work tomorrow, I was also happy to call it (mainly in light of poor weather that was supposed to hit the region).

We sorted the gear, had celebratory hard boiled egg each (cause why not!), and headed back.

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It was meant to be one egg each. Peter must have swallowed his in whole, as I swear i thought he still had it when i took that photo!

I have a feeling that’s not the last time I see him though 😉

 

Update:

I got rest of the photos here .

Also EpicTV’s coverage from this years meet is worth watching (to get a glimpse of the feel of this place ).