Teacht an Earraigh (Coming of the Spring)

Jane ag dreapadh suas an cloch. (Jane climbing up the rock)

Spring time in the Northwest of Ireland. Where one can be subjected to snow, hail, rain, wind, blue sky and sunshine all in the same hour. The weather has been so changable it's hard to tell what season it is from day to day. I have also discovered that you can have snow in Sligo town and drive 10 minutes and have sunshine and dry weather elsewhere. That's the Northwest of Ireland and one of the things I love most about it. It's unpredictability and many characteristics can surprise you at any time.

Ben Bulben agus Co ó Streedagh. Tógtha 12 Feabhra. (Ben Bulben and Co taken 12th February)

One of my personal goals for this season was to continue and devote more time with mountain training. I don't like to stand still for too long and I have goals for further qualifications and experience. Three busy years returning to college diverted my attention from what I really want to do. That's climb rock and mountains and share my adventures with others. I had completed Mountain Skills training (Mountaineering Ireland) over 3 years ago but only got to do my assessment recently. After a successful assessment in which we had 4 seasons in a day.

Snow in the Bluestacks, Donegal

I booked myself in for the next available Mountain Leader training course I could find which as it turns out started the following week in the Doire Bheatha (Derryveagh) mountains in Donegal. It seemed Spring had arrived early in Sligo, how silly of me to think so!

Loch leac oighir suas go hard sna cruacha gorma, (frozen lake high up in the bluestacks). 24 Feabhra (24th February)

The Mountain Leader scheme is developed for any hill walker who takes responsibility for others in the hills and mountains. The training is a high intensity 6 day affair in which you are tested in many circumstances. To become a mountain leader you need to show the following -

  • The ability and skills needed to safeguard others on steep ground
  • Navigate in the Irish mountains in any weather day and night
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of incident and accident procedures
  • Demonstrate an ability to use weather knowledge and forecasts
  • River crossing methods
  • Knowledge of flora, fauna and geology of the landscapes
  • An ability to demonstrate knowledge of access and conservation issues
  • An ability to camp light and efficiently in the mountains with minimum impact on the natural environment

Cúrsaí rópaí sna Glean Nimh, Errigal sa chúlra 5/5 Márta. (rope work in the Poison Glen, Errigal in the background5/6th March)

We spent one of our days hiking and micro navigating around the poison glen in north Donegal. I learned some new roping techniques which I am now practicing regularly to perfect. Repetition is the nature of the game. We did some exposed steep ground work with some airy traverses and steep scrambling. I know when I'm proper mountaineering because my heart starts beating faster and adrenalin spreads through my system. It's challenging and exciting. I have always been addicted to both! I mean who doesn't like a challenge and excitement?! 

Obair talamh géar sa Gleann Nimh, Dún Na nGall. 5/6 Márta. (Steep ground work in the Poison Glen, Donegal. March 5/6)

Scrambling is the name given to the method of walking up steep terrain involving the use of hands! It is a skill that lies somewhere in between walking, climbing, mountaineering and canyoning. 

Idir cloch agus áit cruath

Our camp for the night can be seen here on my Instagram page. Lightweight camping is essential and a whole set of skills in itself, my new gas stove weighs just 80g. It's the MSR Pocket Rocket pictured below. €30 well spent on this, it performed well and boils a litre of water in less than 4 minutes.

Mountain Leader training has since been completed. I hope to go for assessment by the end of the year. It's going to be a busy season ahead exploring and gaining more experience in Ireland's mountain ranges and taking groups out along the way.

February and March saw the first few rock climbing sessions of the year, we had some great days out on the rocks of Sligo with some surprisingly good weather. For images and more about that check out the Facebook page. We also rescued a dog. Marley has been keeping us busy and is already learning how to rock climb!

Keep an eye on here for more about that and high tyrolean antics in Donegal!

One thing is for sure I am looking forward to the seasons ahead!