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!




Go hard sa spéar (High in the sky)

Making my way across the traverse

Making my way across the traverse

A tyrollean traverse is a way of travelling through the air from two high points on a rope fixed to anchors at both sides. I was only too happy to assist Iain Miller in the set up and rigging of Ireland's highest, longest and remotest tyrollean to date. Also present were Dave Lee and Conor Ó Braonáin. 

Rigging - Breathtaking views all around us

Rigging - Breathtaking views all around us

The walk in was well over an hour and Dave and I drew the short straws as we were deemed the spring chickens! We took turns carrying "the pig" a 200 metre static rope necessary to span across the gully. It was a balmy day and the hike was a test of fitness lugging "the pig" from Lough Barra to our high point of 590metres above sea level!

Set up was time consuming and lasted almost 2 hours. 6 independent anchors were chosen and tested on either side. After much searching for anchors, testing, rope uncoiling, tensioning etc eventually set up was complete and all that was left to do was step over the edge, into the abyss..

Oscar supervising the whole show

Oscar supervising the whole show

As it was Iain's stupid idea in the first place he had the luck of going first and testing the rig! Needless to say he made it to the other side with some explicits along the way, big breaths and i'm guessing a flood of adrenaline.

Yours truly leaving the earth 

Yours truly leaving the earth 

So with the rig now tried and tested it was our time! We took turns walking off the edge and trusting the set up to keep us from falling to the valley below.

Throughout the day the anticipation and excitement was building inside but once it came to my turn I had second thoughts.. I began to question the anchors, the wind, the rope, the solid mountain rock.. etc etc.. . That would be the logical part of my brain questioning if what I was about to do would put me in grave danger. For me this is often the trickiest part of climbing and other extreme outdoor activities to overcome. You have to override your natural safety instincts sometimes and just tell yourself that it will be ok.. Trust yourself, your training, your equipment and have faith.. and if not well at least you'll die doing what you love right?! :)

Nearly there..

Nearly there..

So all in all a great experience and i'm now on the lookout for cool places for tyrollean traverses in Sligo and surrounding areas!