Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WINTER CLIMBING ON CARRAUNTOOHIL. "THE STEP" PLUS

Stunning view leaving Cronins Yard
A good dump of snow and a promise of a frosty night meant that Bridie, Denis and myself went back once again to Carrauntoohil in search of a quality winter climb. Having enjoyed a wonderful outing on the Grey Area in recent times this time I thought the Grade 2 outing "The Step" would make a worthy outing. We reached the second level and arrived at the base of the climb. The bottom of the step is the most difficult section and in proper cold conditions can offer an icy start with good axe placements but today I wallowed and waded up through deep powder and I had to climb the steep slabby left side of the gully. Its fair to say that finding anything decent in the way of placements was tough and trusting the front-points in soft turf meant that at times things felt much tougher than Grade 2. I got over the difficulties and brought the guys up to join me. I looked up at the continuation of the route and lets just say the prospect of wading up through more deep powder for the rest of the way didn't appeal and I decided to go right to the base of the steeper mixed ground that formed the left side and overlooked "The Lick".
 
The green line is The Step (above the initial section) and the red line is the continuation we followed.


Looking up at the start of the route. A bit steeper than it looks here
Deciding to head up the rocky ground on top right instead of continuing up the snow of The Step
After crossing the deep snow on the right I arrived at a nice looking rocky section. It was steep but it looked okay so after setting up a belay I set off up. It was decidedly sketchy and exposed and I was glad to finally get over the difficulties and reach somewhat easier ground. It was just about 10 meters but the absence of any protection and having to scratch and scrape for foot and axe placements meant it was a high Grade3 section. I brought up Bridie and Denis and we continued up. The remainder was long and interesting and a mix of steep deep snow and rocky steps. We basically were able to look at "The Lick" on our right as we rose. There was some ice on that route but a lot of it was banked out and I guess it would have been pish lower down. We stuck faithfully to the ever narrowing ridge and eventually reached the end where we turned right and made our way up the final 50 meters or so to the cross. It had been a long and interesting outing covering around 300 meters of technical ground. We devoured a late lunch and descended via a well snowed up track all the way down to the bottom of the Heavenly Gates where we finally dispensed with the crampons. We arrived back at the car a full nine and a half hours after setting off, tired but very satisfied with our day. The Reeks were particularly wonderful looking. Next up hopefully more of the same for me in Scotland.
Following on after pitch three

Looking across to the East Reeks

Lovely winter conditions all the way up


People on the Benkeeragh Ridge

Looking across The Lick. Shows how steep the ground is.


Final section

Summit views across to Caher

Almost enough to make you forget the horrible winter