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Scary fun at the seaside

It’s massif


A faster way down...

What to do when things go wrong


MOUNTAIN MAGIC 14 pages of world-class mountain landscape photography from Ireland and abroad



Routes: Lugnaquilla, Sheefry Traverse, Beentee, Slieve Lamagan, Cliffs of Moher, Causeway Coast AND MORE!


770791 880006

1:25,000 ADVENTURE SERIES National Mapping Agency

For lovers of the Great Outdoors who want more from their maps


The 1:25,000 Adventure Series is based on the very popular Discovery Series, which has been in existence since 1992


The focus is on those areas where a wide variety of outdoor activity or adventure tourism takes place


The larger scale enables OSi to offer greater levels of cartographic detail to better describe the Irish landscape and terrain


The larger scale is envisaged to make outings to the hills safer and easier to navigate


Examples of additional detail include buildings, fences, trails, terrain descriptions (bog, scree, marsh, woodland etc.), summit information, mountain names etc.



The Adventure Series covers certain parts of the country that are of particular interest to lovers of the great outdoors

In the design and compilation of the Adventure Series, OSi worked in conjunction with Mountain Rescue Ireland, Mountaineering Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Mountain Views, GSI and the National Parks and Wildlife Service

Case Study

Mountain Rescue Ireland Mountain Rescue Ireland represents the twelve voluntary mountain rescue teams on the island of Ireland. Mountain Rescue is a 24 hour 999/112 emergency service provided by completely unpaid and voluntary teams funded by government funds and public donations. MRI works to promote safety in the hills, encouraging preparation (footwear, clothing, equipment etc.), routing using marked walks/trails and map reading skills. Navigation in the hills is a vital skill that cannot be reliably replaced with GPS devices. Sound map and compass skills are a necessity. OSi has worked with MRI on the Adventure Series to verify trails, identify wind shelters and safe ‘landing places’ where rescue helicopters can land or can hoist casualties in a safe manner.



Welcome Mountain World Ireland; the slightly more vigorous cousin of Walking World Ireland - for over 20 years Ireland’s No.1 magazine for lovers of hills and mountains in Ireland and the world. In this new title we will strive to maintain and enhance the standards set by WWI; with a wider remit to cover more of what we love doing in, on and around mountains. We hope MWI will be a source of pleasure and inspiration to everyone who loves mountains be they climbers, walkers, runners or just stayat-home mountain voyeurs. Above all (excuse the pun), MWI is your magazine. Tell us what you’re doing, where you’re going, what you’re organising and we’ll aim to include it, in these pages and on our sister website - See you up there! CONOR O’HAGAN Editor

Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan



Who’s going to make sure the Wild Atlantic Way stays wild?

8 HIMALAYAN MELTDOWN Experts say rubbish is contributing to an environmental disaster.

16 CHRISTMAS GIFTS last minute ideas for the mountain person in your life, from Great Outdoors.

6 TAMING THE WILD How long will the Wild Atlantic Way stay wild?

22 ANNAPURNA DISASTER At least 41 people died - Gareth McCormack investigates what happened and why.


A long but immensely scenic exploration by Helen Fairbairn


This scenic, ridge-top traverse exemplifies the very essence of Irish hillwalking.


A highly enjoyable walking loop following an old Mass path provides spectacular views of land and sea.


32 SHEEFRY HILLS The very essence of Irish hillwalking

Gareth McCormack uncovers a route at the heart of the Moumes to suit walkers end rock climbers alike

48 BEYOND THE CAUSEWAY The Causeway Coast Way reveals breathtaking landscapes and spectacular walking routes.

Publisher: Conor O’Hagan Consultingt Editor: Helen Fairbairn Advertisement Manager: Roger Cole Tel: +353 (1)285 9111. Email: sales@ Skype: silchester52 Technical Consultant: Andy Callan Contributors: Judy Armstrong, Andy Callan, Helen Fairbairn, Adrian Hendroff, Gareth McCormack, Paul Tempan, Mary Riordan Photographers: Judy Armstrong, Adrian Hendroff, Tom Hutton, Gareth McCormack Published by: Grand Designs, 10 Kickham Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 Tel: +353 (0)86 805 4590 Email: ISSN No. 0791-8801


Issue 1


Helen Fairbairn is delighted with a new path along the top of Ireland’s most famous sea cliffs


Michael Penston describes one of Europe’s great walks - a circuit of the Mont Blanc Massif


60 SEA, SWEAT & STACKS Hanging around in Donegal

Helen Fairbairn puts her composure on the line as she joins mountain instructor Iain Millar for a day of seastack climbing in Donegal.

66 PORTFOLIO 14 captivating pages of Mountain Porn from some of the best landscape photographers around.

80 MOUNTAIN BIKING If you love mountains, you may just love this...

84 FASTER, LIGHTER, FITTER ...another way to inject adrenaline into your day on the hills. By Lindie Naughton.


JuJu Jay is out there - way out there.



It’s our least favourite piece of kit, but Andy Callan

94 DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT Niamh Gaffney’s guide to First Aid on the mountains. No, we don’t know where the hat comes into it either.

Superb mountain photography

Mountain World Ireland is always pleased to receive articles, but publication cannot be guaranteed. The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos/slides submitted. Unsolicited articles will be returned only if accompanied by return postage. Guidelines regarding articles and photos are available for potential contributors on receipt of return postage. All photos/slides must bear the name of the sender on each photo/slide. Captions should accompany them. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the express permission of the editor or publishers, and even if such permission is given, the source must be acknowledged when used. This also applies to advertising originated by the publishers. Whilst every care has been taken to describe the routes and terrain accurately, the publishers and contributors accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained as a result of using this magazine. Mapping based on Ordnance Survey Ireland by permission of the Government. © Government of Ireland Permit No 7208.




WHO’S PROTECTING THE ’WILD’ IN THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY? Jill Collins asks whether the price of commercialising our most precious wild spaces might not ultimately be too high to bear


he Wild Atlantic Way is this year’s tourism buzz phrase. It’s Ireland’s new Big Idea, aimed squarely at increasing foreign revenue flowing into the country. It follows on from The Gathering as a tourism initiative the whole country can stand behind and market like there’s no tomorrow. But the Wild Atlantic Way is different to The Gathering, because rather than selling an idea (of shared Irish identity, of participation), it is selling something tangible. It is selling our untouched western coastline


and the landscapes that go with it. It’s taking those parts of our natural heritage that have been least touched by tourism thus far, and thrusting them firmly into the spotlight. And I wonder, has anybody really considered the consequences of turning our wild spaces into commercial commodities? Has anybody listened to the voices of people who care about Ireland’s environment, and love the untouched nature of its secret spots, and who might have a more longterm view about the value of our countryside? The ongoing debacle over

the path on Slieve League, in Donegal, makes me concerned. This is a perfect example of what should not happen in the name of tourist development. Though nobody has actually linked the new path to the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s easy to read between the lines. Bunglas, at the start of the path, provides a stunning lookout point across Slieve League’s quartzite cliffs. It’s a breathtaking spot, and has been on the tourist radar for decades. But this is remote west Donegal, and the winding road up to the outlook is so steep and precarious, tourist numbers have been limited by effort required to get there. But now Bunglas has been designated a ‘Signature Discovery Point’ on the Wild Atlantic Way, and Fáilte Ireland has thrown money at a project to improve the path up Slieve League. Surely we can put two and two together, and assume the new path is aimed primarily at increasing tourism numbers to the site? Anybody who knows Slieve League will know it is a danger-

ABOVE The sheer cliffs and awkward terrain of Slieve League will not be easy to tame (Gareth McCormack)


ous mountain; the sheer drop of 200m from Bunglas increases to almost 600m at the summit. The transition from terraced car park to rugged, hazardous mountain is immediate and sudden. Little wonder that until now, 95% of the 160,000 annual visitors to Bunglas venture no further than 200m from the parking area. Mountaineering Ireland is taking issue with the fact that the new path is being poorly built, thrown together without proper consultation or the appropriate expertise to underpin it. But to me the bigger issue is: should we be encouraging tourists into this sort of environment at all? The report commissioned by MI raises similar concerns and the author is unequivocal: ‘Sliabh Liag is inherently unsuitable as a location for the development of a tourist path by virtue of its rugged character, length, and environmental sensitivity, not least as a Natura site.’ The only way to bring tourists safely onto Slieve League is to repeat the sort of construction evident at the Cliffs of Moher. From a tourism perspective, the Cliffs of Moher are a resounding success - the country’s premier natural attraction, they host around a million visitors annually. But the cliffs themselves present a natural hazard that are incompatible with such numbers, and have had to be cordoned off. The path along the Cliffs of Moher is now set far back from the edge, and so heavily constructed you may as well be on a city pavement. There’s no other option if you’re encouraging unprepared throngs with pushchairs and high heels. There is also a shoulder-high, solid stone wall protecting visitors from the drop. In most places along the path you can no longer see the cliffs, or the Atlantic Ocean at their base. In other words, the very success

of the project has meant the natural wonder of the cliffs has had to be hidden, and the thrill of gazing across the dizzying drop has been entirely tamed. The popularity of the site has undermined the wonder it was supposed to showcase. Such is the nature of outdoor tourism. The conundrum is not a new one, and it hinges on meeting the needs of the visitor while still maintaining the integrity of the environment. Getting it right is a complicated balancing act, but there are examples to follow. Countries such as New Zealand and the USA have much more advanced


The ongoing debacle over the path on Slieve League Is is a perfect example of what should not happen in the name of tourist development.

LEFT Heavily constructed paths are required to keep visitors safe at the Cliffs of Moher Photo: Gareth McCormack

outdoor tourism industries than we do, and have many experiences to share. In Ireland, the OPW considers many of these issues within our National Parks. But beyond park boundaries it seems to be a free for all. Foreign dollars are seen as a panacea for our beleaguered economy, and mention of the word ‘tourism’ gives a green light for forging ahead as rapidly as possible. We seem to be blinded by the mentality that more tourism is always a good thing, that quantity is everything. Yet we’re failing to consider the impact on the landscape, and the quality of what we want to

offer. At a recent meeting with tourism providers in Donegal, two hours was spent discussing the implications of the Wild Atlantic Way initiative. In all that time, the outdoors wasn’t mentioned once. In Mayo, new coastal visitor attractions have been thrown up in the space of a couple of months - remarkable timeframes that suggest the plans went through minimal periods of consultation, if wider issues were considered at all. If we’re not careful we’ll launch ourselves into the Wild Atlantic Way with such gusto, we’ll end up compromising the very Wild it was meant to celebrate.





PEAK PERSPECTIVES Nobody could accuse Mammut Sports of not knowing how to mark an occasion. The Swiss mountain equipment company celebrated its 150th anniversary by launching the biggest peak project in history. It is sponsoring 150 climbing teams to scale 150 summits worldwide, all within a year. And some of the photos that have come back so far are amazing. Jungfrau, in the Swiss Alps, was the first peak to be climbed. This image was captured via a drone circling around the nine mountaineers on the summit. The iconic Matterhorn was another peak in the project. This photo shows a line of mountain guides from Zermatt forming a chain of lights up the Hรถrnligrat ridge. The Matterhorn celebrates its own anniversary next year, marking 150 years since Edward Whymper completed the first ascent of the mountain. Photos: PHOTOPRESS/Mammut/Robert Boesch





TWIN THREATS CAUSING HIMALAYAN MELT Experts warn of threat posed by non-biodegradeable waste


he Himalayan Mountains have been dubbed ’the Third Pole’ thanks to the amount of ice they store. The range contains more snow and frozen water than any other part of the world outside the Arctic regions. But while the melting of the polar icecaps is well documented, the warming of the Himalayas receives relatively little attention. Now experts in climate change and glaciology have warned that many of the same factors that threaten the poles are also impacting on the world’s greatest mountain chain. The region has seen an average temperature increase of 1.6°C over the past century, and the effects of the warming are already obvious in the landscape. A report by the state govern-


ment of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, recorded a 21% reduction in the glacial areas across three Himalayan valleys between 1962 and 2001. The flow patterns of the region’s rivers have changed too, with increased discharge during the traditionally frozen seasons of winter and spring. Yet scientists say that rising temperatures are just one factor in a recent environmental shift. They also cite the impact of increasing amounts of litter left by the region’s tourists.Non-biodegradable waste such as plastic bags, food containers and empty oxygen cylinders are the main culprits. Professor Ganjoo from Jammu University explains, ”Non-biodegradable waste absorbs heat, which results in temperature rise that can melt glaciers to

form new glacial lakes. These lakes pose the threat of glacial lake outburst flood. But we don’t know when the lakes could burst.”Of the 249 glacial lakes in Himachal Pradesh, 11 are now in danger of breaching and are being monitored regularly. The consequences of lake bursts are potentially severe, and in the past they have caused catastrophic flash floods throughout the Himalayan region. Scientists are in no doubt that increased tourism is the root cause of the litter problem. The level of non-biodegradable waste has been monitored in different valleys, with popular trekking and expedition destinations displaying waste levels many times greater than unvisited areas. Mt Everest alone holds an estimated 50 tonnes of rubbish. The Nepali government has recognised the problem here, and began a scheme in April this year to make all climbers carry 8kg of rubbish off the mountain, in addition to all their own waste. But Everest is just one peak , and the problem is far wider than that.

ABOVE Abandoned waste on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal Photo: Paul Prescott




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MOUNTAIN BUSINESS PROFILE CATHAL MCNICHOLAS, WALK IN IRELAND NAME: Cathal Mc Nicholas OCCUPATION: Walks developer, Little Brosna Greenway along the old railway line between Roscrea and Birr. (ongoing) Challenge developer (The Slieve Bloom Challenge), Walking festival Developer (Roscrea Walking and Heritage Festival), Hill/mountain guide, WGL Navigation and GPS training. Trainer with The Irish Heart Foundation (2015) Guide with Derg Isle outdoor Education centre on the banks of the Shannon. I have been climbing and hiking for the last 25 to 30 years and like most people, love the outdoors. From new routes, taking photos and guiding overseas, I like nothing better than getting out, but most importantly, I love to show others what they can achieve if they step outside their comfort zone, just a little. Its the look that you get, when someone that has reached the top of Carrauntouhill, Ben Nevis or Mont Blanc in the alps, the sense of achievement evident by their smiles that makes my job so worthwhile. I’m absolutely convinced that anyone can achieve climbing any peak above 3000mts and with some more training most peaks above 4000mts are within the grasp of anyone who has the right mental attitude. (now taking bookings for Mont Blanc for the Summer of 201) No one can show the Irish countryside like a local can, we know all the local history, where to get the best food and drink but most of all we know how to look after our clients and make sure their day out is an experience they will never forget.




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t’s not often that Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) launches a whole new series of maps, so here’s something to celebrate. Climbers and hillwalkers should feel particularly pleased, because the new Adventure Series is a range of 1:25,000 sheets aimed specifically at outdoor enthusiasts. The first sheet is out already, covering Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Killarney National Park in County Kerry. The new map is weatherproof and printed on both sides of the paper, and retails at €12.50. For walkers, there are obvious advantages to the new map over Discovery Series sheet 78, the standard 1:50,000 alternative. The tightly-clustered summits of the Reeks Ridge provide a fine point of comparison. The extra room on the 1:25,000 sheet allows the ridge to be seen much more clearly, and there is space to mark the name and height of each individual summit. The footpath along the crest of the ridge is shown too, and there is an attempt to indicate some details of the terrain underfoot, using symbols for features including bog. The new map also includes a 1:12,500 enlargement of the area around Carrauntoohil and Hag’s Glen, adding clarity to the most popular approach routes to our highest peak. The path up O’Shea’s Gully is particularly clear, and a very welcome inclusion. OSi has collaborated with the likes of Mountaineering Ireland and Mountain Views to collate information for the new series, and the extra attention to detail shows. The task of compiling a map is never complete however, and it is possible to assert criticisms against the new sheet. The 1:30,000 Harvey Superwalker map of the same region indicates the terrain far more comprehensively for example, showing countless cliffs, scree slopes and rocky areas that remain entirely unmarked on the OSi sheet. The relief of the terrain would also become more obvious with the addition of different-coloured shading above certain contour levels, perhaps taking a lead from EastWest Mapping’s 1:30,000 series covering Dublin and Wicklow. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages; the omission of these details makes the new OSi sheet clear and easy to read, though the simplicity comes at the cost of topographical information potentially useful to walkers. The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks map is the first of 13 new sheets proposed for the Adventure Series. The second title Lugnaquilla and Wicklow National Park - is due imminently, with the remaining titles earmarked for publication over the next couple of years. Between them, the sheets cover many of Ireland’s classic hillwalking areas, and it would be surprising if they don’t become the default map of choice for Irish mountain enthusiasts. Welcome to the future.


ABOVE First sheet in the Adventure Series includes the Reeks

RIGHT Extract from the 1:50,000 Discovery Series

BELOW Reeks map is the first of a proposed 13 sheets

ABOVE EastWest Mapping’s 1:30,000 maps cover Dublin and Wicklow




ountaineering Ireland has locked horns with Donegal County Council over a path being built up Slieve League, one of our most iconic Atlantic peaks. The path work has been commissioned by the council and largely funded by Fáilte Ireland, with the aim of improving the existing trail between Bunglas and Keeringear. The problem, according to MI, is that the new construction is anything but an improvement. Dr Bob Aitkin, an international expert in upland path management, was invited by MI to review the project on two occasions in August and September. The conclusion of his August report was damning: ‘The strong impression from the site visit was, regrettably, of a compound failure of conception and execution of an excessively

ambitious project in a delicate and difficult environmental setting. There are major problems in the selected alignment, in the choice and application of path techniques, and in the lack of experience and skill to apply them.’ Dr Aitkin said, ‘It is a fundamental axiom of sound path work that stones in and around the path... must be solidly bedded and stable so that they can withstand trampling and natural processes of water flow and frost.’ However the construction methods employed at Slieve League ‘lacked basic stability and often produced (an) awkward and uncomfortable walking surface’, and posed a ‘significant hazard to walkers’. Dr Aitkin believed, ‘there appeared little prospect of stability even in the short term, and much less so when the underlying peat is saturated.’ So, a large amount of public

money is being used to fund a path up one of our finest natural assets, and the work is so substandard it presents a hazard to users. How is this an improvement for walkers, tourists or the landscape of the area? While Irish understanding of path-building in upland environments is still developing, it isn’t that bad. MI recognised the need to address the issue several years ago, and organised Helping the Hills, the country’s first upland path conference back in 2012. Since then they have issued written guidelines outlining the best principles and practices for trail management, based on extensive international experience. So the guidelines do exist, they have just been ignored in this instance. MI has now requested that the Slieve League works are halted pending a review of the project. Let’s hope they can stop further progress of the path, and that the whole furore will ensure no future upland project is undertaken without careful consideration of the principles contained in Helping the Hills.


ABOVE Visitors looking out from Slieve League viewing area, Bunglas (Gareth McCormack)


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Trekkers in normal conditions on the trail between Thorung High Camp and Thorung La

ANNAPURNA DISASTER In October one of the world’s most famous trekking routes was struck by a storm that left at least 41 people dead. Gareth McCormack, who has walked the route twice, investigates what happened and asks what its consequences should be.



n the 11th of October 2014, Tropical Cyclone Hudhud slammed into the east coast of India with sustained wind-speeds in excess of 160kph. It was the most severe cyclone on record to hit India. Over the next three days the storm tracked north towards the ramparts of the Himalaya, swinging a giant cyclonic arm of humid air against the mountains, where it met the great reservoir of frigid air that sits above the Tibetan Plateau. The resulting collision created a blizzard of exceptional intensity.



They were herded up that mountain to their deaths.

On October the 14th, more than 100 trekkers, guides and porters woke before dawn in the small ramshackle lodge at Thorung High Camp, in the Nepal Himalaya. It was already snowing. In the blue-grey murk of first light they slowly filed up the snow-covered trail to begin their crossing of Thorung La, a barren, wind-swept pass more than 5400m above sea-level. By the end of the day dozens of them would be dead, overcome by the cold or buried by avalanches.

RIGHT Trekkers at the top of Thorung La (5416m) in normal conditions

WORLD-CLASS TREKKING For decades the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal has been considered one of the world’s best trekking routes. It’s a walk I’ve been lucky enough to complete twice, first in 1995 and then again two years later in 1997. The 2-3 week circuit takes trekkers on a sublimely scenic journey around the Annapurna massif, affording incredible views of some of the world’s highest and most beautiful mountains. The trip has been a fixture on the Asian back-packing route for years, and is becoming increasingly popular with well-heeled visi-

tors too. Some of the trekkers are seasoned walkers, others are just active tourists looking for an adventure far away from the bustle of suburbia. For the most part the trails are safe and easy to follow, the weather benign, and the lodges and teashops cheap and plentiful. The only really thorny section is the crossing of the 5416m (17,769 ft) Thorung La, the highest point of the route. In typical conditions this is a straightforward plod, with the altitude being the main concern. The majority of trekkers have little difficulty if they’re properly acclimatized, but every year there are those




who are affected by severe symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). The number of casualties are undoubtedly lessened thanks to a free lecture on AMS offered to trekkers in Menang, just a day or two’s walk from Thorung High Camp. Doctors here work at a British-sponsored outpost of the Himalayan Rescue Association, and are credited with saving several lives every year. Most of those suffering from AMS - Nepali and western victims alike - descend and recover, but there have also been occasional fatalities over the years.

ABOVE Trekkers beneath Annapurna 2

A STORMY HISTORY Despite media coverage suggesting this year’s storm was an unprecedented and freak event, the truth is rather different. In the autumn of 1995


more than 40 trekkers, climbers, guides and porters died when a tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal brought intense snowfall and torrential rain to the Nepal Himalaya. I was on the Annapurna Circuit when it struck, but at moderate altitude and suffered only a day of soggy walking. In fact communications in the area were so poor at that time I was unaware of what had unfolded higher up until a week later when I returned to a larger town. In the two decades since that storm, forecasting and communications have improved enormously. The 2014 storm was clearly forecasted for several days beforehand and many climbers and trekkers did modify their plans. There is internet access in Manang, and there are reports that the

weather was a topic of general conversation in the day or two before the storm hit. According to one British survivor, 49-year old police officer Paul Sherridan, the guides and hotel staff at Thorung High Camp knew about the cyclone but assured him it was nothing to worry about. Equally when questioned at dawn, with snow already inches deep on the trail and the visibility poor, the guides were again telling people that it was safe to go up and the skies would soon be clear. A video from that morning, published by Sherridan, is damning. It shows trekkers leaving High Camp in very unfavourable conditions, and making their way up the hillside through several inches of fresh snow. Later they can be



...all the usual suspects of mountain calamity were at play: hubris, inexperience and inadequate equipment.

RIGHT Doctors explaining Acute Mountain Sickness to trekkers in Menang, in preparation for crossing Thorung La.

seen huddled together outside the small tearoom near the top of Thorung La in a full-blown blizzard. In a location that is hood-up-cold even in sunny weather, the wind-chill must have been brutal. The precise chain of events is somewhat confused, but what does seem clear is that scores of people took shelter in the summit teashop (little more than a stone hut), while those left outside had no option but to either turn back or to descend the other side of the pass towards Muktinath. After some time the teashop owner declared he was leaving and would, for a fee, guide to safety those who chose to go with him. Everyone who remained behind survived, while many who left succumbed to hypothermia.

MAKING THE CRITICAL DECISION From an objective distance and with the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious that the trekkers should have taken a rest day and waited out the bad weather by remaining at Thorung High Camp. However it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that many who left were carried along by the momentum of the collective. Trekkers with guides simply followed instructions, while independent trekkers took their cue from guided groups, trusting in the local knowledge and experience of their leaders. If they’re going up it must be okay. “They were herded up that mountain to their deaths.” Sherridan later said. Yet it’s unlikely that any of the guides had formal

training in mountain safety or navigation. Certainly most properly-trained western guides would have baulked at the idea of bringing clients out into those conditions. Guided groups also operate on tighter schedules than independent walkers, so there may have been a time imperative at play. Then there are the vagaries of the human ego to consider - some guides may have been unwilling to turn their clients around after making the decision to leave, fearing that a show of caution would mean a loss of authority amongst their peers. Whatever the role of the guides, there is a natural momentum on this stage of the Annapurna Circuit that makes many trekkers resistant to break from their ‘schedule’.




For some Thorung La is their Everest, and most walkers are incredibly motivated to get across. It would not be surprising if the altitude played its part in the decision-making process too, even at 4,800m. Later in the day, when the situation became critical, the combined effects of altitude, early-stage hypothermia and the disorienting effects of white-out conditions would certainly have exacerbated confusion and impaired judgement. Another factor in the tragedy is the complexity of the terrain on either side of Thorung La. The approach to the pass is a treeless landscape of steep talus slopes, riven with gullies and small ravines. It would be nightmarishly difficult to navigate this ground in conditions of zero visibility, and all too easy to become lost and disorientated once the trail was obscured by snow.

ABOVE Trekkers on the trail above Thorung High Camp, not far from the Thorung La

FORMULATING A RESPONSE In the aftermath of the disaster, the Nepalese government responded by going on the defensive. Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesman of the Tourism Ministry said that most of the foreign casualties were “cheaper tourists” who had not hired a guide. “If they were with the guide then they would have had a much better idea about the weather,” Sapkota was reported to have said. This is despite the fact that guides


were amongst the primary decision-makers on the day, and well represented among the dead. Nepal’s prime minister, Sushil Koirala, pledged to set up a weather warning system, and said the loss of life was “extremely tragic at a time when worldwide weather updates are available every second”. Later, in apparent recognition of failures in the guiding system, the authorities issued a statement pledging to introduce a programme designed to train and certify local guides. Perhaps more importantly for anyone hoping to trek the Annapurna Circuit independently, they also indicated that in the future, all trekkers would have to employ a guide before they would be allowed to walk the route. It is a sad reality of life, from the Himalayas to the Macgillicuddy Reeks, that wherever people venture into the mountains there will sometimes be accidents. The scale of the Annapurna disaster was unusual, but all the usual suspects of mountain calamity were at

play: hubris, inexperience and inadequate equipment. Weather information should certainly be made more readily available, and the dangers underlined for anybody still ignorant of mountain hazards. The AMS clinic seems an ideal place to discuss such matters in a formal setting. Weather reports could be posted in trail-side lodges in a similar way to the forecasts that are pinned up in alpine huts, and proper training of guides is essential. Yet despite this year’s deaths, it would be a shame if the joy of independent adventure already experienced by millions in this most beautiful part of the world was withheld from future generations. It seems unnecessary for those walkers who do have mountain experience to be obliged to hire a guide. With extra information and well-trained guides making responsible decisions around them, independent trekkers would be encouraged to make the right decisions, not pointed towards the wrong ones.

Glen of Imaal Military Range Lands

An Roinn Cosanta Department of Defence


If you are visiting the Glen of Imaal in Co. Wicklow do not walk onto the Military Firing Ranges as you could be in


From unexploded shells and other dangerous ammunition Watch out for the warning signs

AND TAKE CARE! For further information including free maps of the Glen, please contact:

Military Range Public Information Office Seskin School, Glen of Imaal Tel: (045) 404653

PRISON GATES Looking along the North Prison from Lugnaquilla’s summit plateau.


GLEN OF IMAAL This long but immensely scenic circuit lets you explore the wider Lugnaquilla massif, and includes 5km of fine mountain-top walking, says Helen Fairbairn



he Glen of Imaal has long been a launch pad for ascents of Lugnaquilla. We will follow the most straightforward route to the summit, over Camarahill (known as the ‘Tourist Route’), and then continue north to 758m-high Camenabologue, crossing 5km of fine upland terrain on the way. One of the highlights is the dramatic view down the glacial corrie known as the North Prison. The word Lugnaquilla translates from the Irish Log na Coille as ‘Hollow of the Wood’. The North Prison is most likely to be the hollow referred to because from a distance it is the most striking




You should not deviate from the approved trails as there may be unexploded shells and other military debris lying off the path. the ascent up Camarahill, and the second for the descent from Camenabologue through the forest. As well as checking the weather forecast before you head out you must also check the army’s firing schedule: look for the monthly Glen of Imaal notices in the news section of Mountaineering Ireland’s website,, call the artillery range’s Warden Service on Tel: 045 404 653, or visit the Army Information Centre near the start of this walk. Firing schedules are also posted at many of the key access points within the area itself, and red flags fly around the perimeter of the range on fi ring days. You should not deviate from

of Lugnaquilla’s three coums. This is a long mountain route and there are several hazards to be aware of. First are the natural dangers that surround Lugnaquilla’s summit plateau. The cliff s that bind the North and South Prisons are particularly steep, and solid navigational skills are required to cross this area in poor visibility. This route also involves its own particular, unnatural danger as it crosses the Irish army’s artillery range. Access is completely forbidden on days of scheduled fi ring, and on all other days there are just two approved walking routes through the area, both of which we use in this route: the first for

the approved trails as there may be unexploded shells and other military debris lying off the path. If fi ring is taking place and you are still keen to complete the route, consider approaching it from Glenmalure instead. Follow the route described on p. 125 to reach the top of Lugnaquilla via Fraughan Rock Glen. Then follow the route described here as far as the col beneath Table Mountain. Instead of turning left here, turn right and descend for 5km back to the car park at the head of Glenmalure, always following the track that keeps closest to the southern side of the Avonbeg River.

START & FINISH A forest entrance in the north-

RIGHT Warning signs mark the boundary of Glen of Imaal Artillery Range

29 89



eastern corner of the Glen of Imaal (grid ref: S982948). Approach via the N81 Dublin– Blessington road. Around 17km south of Blessington, turn east towards Donard. In the village, turn left, then immediately right at a staggered crossroads. Continue straight ahead for 6km, and park beside a forest entrance on the left, opposite a sharp right bend in the road. There is parking space here for around four vehicles. If you need more space, continue along the route of the walk and park at Fenton’s pub, just before the route turns left towards Camarahill.

THE WALK From the forest entrance, follow the road southwest for 1.5km. Cross the bridge over the River Slaney, then pass the army information office and Fenton’s pub. Just past the pub, turn left onto a lane, which soon dwindles to a track. After 400m, veer right, then continue straight ahead to


ABOVE View across Benleagh and Camenabologue from the northern slopes of Lugnaquilla

reach a track crossroads almost 1km later. Cross straight over this junction and begin to climb in earnest; there are still some 700m of vertical ascent separating you from the summit. The route is obvious, following a clear path straight along the middle of the rounded, peaty shoulder that rises ahead of you. Camarahill is more of a point on the ridge rather than a peak in its own right, but it does mark a brief respite in the angle of ascent. The climb is steady until you reach the steeper, rock-strewn slope that guards the summit itself. A final effort here will bring you to the wide expanse of cropped grass that adorns the summit plateau, which is known as Percy’s Table, named in honour of Colonel Percy, an eighteenth-century landowner from the Glen of Imaal. In good visibility you may want to divert north once you have reached the plateau, to

enjoy fine views from the top of the cliffs of the North Prison. Otherwise, continue directly to the official summit in the middle of the plateau. As you reach the trig point and huge stone cairn that mark the highest point in Wicklow, the views open up to the east. The next 5km of the route trace the edge of the artillery range. Regular metal warning signs mark the range boundary; make sure to keep these on your left to avoid straying into forbidden (and potentially explosive) territory. From the summit, begin by heading northeast across the plateau. In clear weather you might want to keep further west here, for more good views along the North Prison. Then head over to the eastern edge of the shoulder above Fraughan Rock Glen. Pick up a path that heads north along the shoulder; following this trail will ensure you avoid the pitfall of veering too far west


along Cannow Mountain. Descend easily along the path, with the rock-strewn hummock of point 712m and the rounded dome of Camenabologue clearly visible ahead. Cross a shallow col then continue over point 712m, with Benleagh’s maze of peat hags off to your right. This is a delightful stretch of walking across firm, rock-studded terrain, and with extensive views northeast to Tonelagee and Turlough Hill. As you continue to follow the path north, the ground turns to peat underfoot. There are occasional wet patches as you undulate across several hummocks, then begin the fi nal ascent up the southern slopes of Camenabologue. A large stone cairn marks the 758m-high summit (the first cairn of the route since Lugnaquilla). The vantage point reveals a 360˚ panorama of the Blessington Lakes to the north, the Glen of Imaal to the west and Lugnaquilla to the south.

Continue north from Camenabologue, descending easily through a scatter of peat hags to reach the col beneath Table Mountain, the saddle that separates Glenmalure from the Glen of Imaal. It is marked by a grassy track and a Defence Force map board. Turn left onto the track then, 20m later, veer left onto a side path. You are now descending back into the upper reaches of the Glen of Imaal. Follow the trail to a gate, where you will see more army signs. From here, follow the signed path, as it is the only approved descent route on this side of the artillery range. Turn right at the gate and de-


scend steeply. Continue across two bridges to reach a forest track, which you follow downhill for roughly 2km. Army arrows then direct you off to the right, and you follow a side track for the final 500m before arriving back at the forest entrance where the route began.

INFORMATION Time: 6.5–7.5 hours Distance: 19km (12 miles) Ascent: 920m (3,020ft) Map: OSi 1:50,000 sheet 56, EastWest Mapping 1:30,000 Lugnaquilla & Glendalough, or Harvey Superwalker 1:30,000 Wicklow Mountains.

This walk is one of 29 new routes in Dublin and Wicklow A Walking Guide, published by The Collins Press (ISBN 9781848892019) . Routes range from From mountain landscape to scenic coastal paths, from woodland trails to challenging hill-walks, from two-hour strolls to eight-hour treks, and are illustrated with sketch maps and colour photographs.



This scenic, ridge-top traverse exemplifies the very essence of Irish hillwalking, says Helen Fairbairn



The route is best saved for clear weather , and great care is needed to complete the walk in poor visibility. ble, and few other ranges in the country can compete in terms of scenic variety. Sandwiched between Clew Bay to the north and the clustered peaks of Connemara to the south, the views extend from Croagh Patrick and Achill Island, to Killary Harbour and the Twelve Bens. Besides the views, another defining characteristic of the range is its solitude and isolation. Despite the splendour of the location, walkers are few and far between and it is rare to see anyone else on the route. In other words, if you wait for a clear day with good visibility, you will find that these hills exemplify Irish hillwalking at its very best. The ridgeline is easy to follow, and steep corries have been carved into either side of the massif for most of its duration. This makes for interesting walking, and a narrow arrête towards the western end of the route is particularly exhilarating.


outh Mayo contains so many charismatic mountains, the Sheeffry Hills are often overlooked. This is a shame, and as soon as you venture onto the summit ridge of the massif, you will understand why. The ridge stretches for more than 4km above 700m high, and every step of the way is a treat. The diversity of topography visible from the ridge is incredi-

However the steep drops and abrupt edges to the plateau mean the route is best saved for clear weather, and great care is needed to complete the walk in poor visibility. The route described traverses the massif from east to west. The advantage of completing the traverse in this direction is that you start at a height of 200m, shaving a significant amount of ascent from the day. The only potentially problematic part of the walk is organising transport. Eight kilometres of road separate the start and finish, so two vehicles, a bike or an accommodating driver are required to complete the circuit. If you have only one vehicle at your disposal, consider completing the Glenlaur horseshoe at the eastern end of the range instead. Climb as described to the summit of Tievnabinnia (742m), then return along the mountain’s western ridge. Allow 4½-5½ hours for this fine,

ABOVE View south towards Ben Creggan from Barrclashcame

RIGHT Crossing the arrete just east of Barrclashcame




10km circuit, which has 760m of ascent. Note too that the OS map marks the main peaks by height, but not name. The main omissions are Tievnabinnia, the eastern peak of the massif at 742m, and Tievummera, the central summit at 762m.

GETTING TO THE START The walk starts at the top of Sheeffry Pass (grid reference: L 922,686). From Westport, head 8km south along the N59 to the village of Carney. Turn west here along a narrow road signed to Sheeffry Pass. Follow this for 12km to reach the pass, where limited parking is available in lay-bys beside the road. More space can be found in a parking area 1km west of the pass. To reach the end of the route, continue southwest along the road for a further 8km to a junction with the R335. Turn right here for 300m and park in a small lay-by just north of the Glenummera River (grid reference: L 845,677).

THE WALK From Sheeffry Pass, begin by walking west across open ground, heading towards a small pine plantation. A fence

34 134

BELOW Rock outcrops on the Sheeffry plateau

stretches uphill beyond the trees; follow along the right hand side of this, climbing across grassy terrain that can be wet in places. In less than a kilometre you arrive at the top of the first rise, and the views are immediately impressive. The steep-sided basin of Glenlaur lies to the northeast, with a 250m-high waterfall plummeting to the valley floor beneath Tievnabinnia. Needless to say, the falls are a particularly dramatic sight after rain. From the first top, trace the ridgeline west and then northwest. The ground undulates over several intermittent rises, with short grass underfoot making for relatively easy progress. The fence continues to mark the top of the ridge for some distance, providing a handy navigation guide before it disappears to the south. Negotiate several small peat hags at the base of the final climb to the summit plateau. The ascent is then steady, and care is needed to avoid steep ground to the west. Once the slope eases, you can relax in the knowledge that most of the hard climbing is behind you. If you want to visit the summit of Tievnabinnia (742m), continue northwest over the rounded, rock-strewn plateau, climbing gently to the small summit cairn. Alternatively, some walkers will be happy to cut the corner and join the summit ridge around 800m west of Tievnabinnia. Wherever you join the main ridge, the impact of the view is the same. The distinctive profile of Croagh Patrick lies directly to the north, topped by its little church. Beyond that the waters of Clew Bay can be seen, with Clare Island guarding the entrance to the bay and Achill

Island standing sentinel on the far side. Beneath your feet, impressively sheer corrie walls fall away to the farmland below. Turn left now and follow the summit ridge southwest, passing a series of small loughs and pools. The concrete trig pillar that marks the top of Tievummera (762m) can be seen ahead, beckoning you on. Climb the gentle, grass-covered slope to reach the cairn itself, where more splendid views are revealed. The serrated skyline of Connemara dominates the scene to the south, while the island of Inishturk can be seen off the coast to the west. From the summit of Tievummera, arc southwest then northwest around the lip of a steep corrie. The narrowest part of the ridge can now be seen ahead, marking the col beneath Barrclashcame. The ground remains


wide enough to preclude any real danger, but steep drops either side ensure at least a little excitement and provide a fitting finale to the route. A final, short climb then

brings you to the top of Barrclashcame, and the highest point of the traverse at 772m. From here the bulk of Mweelrea – Connacht’s highest mountain - fills your vision to the west,

ABOVE Looking north towards Croagh Patrick from Tievnabinnia


while the waters of Killary Harbour can be seen to the south. Veer southwest at the summit of Barrclashcame and continue to the end of the plateau, taking care in poor visibility to avoid steep cliffs to the west. The easiest line of descent now lies to the south. Drop steeply but steadily down the grassy slope, skirting several outcrops of rock on the way. As you near the valley, veer west towards Doo Lough, aiming to join the road at the western end of a copse of Scots Pine trees. Your vehicle should not be far away.

INFORMATION Distance: 10.5km / 6½ miles Total Ascent: 720m / 2362ft Time: 4½ -5½ hours Maps: OSi 1:50,000 sheet 37 covers all but the first 100m of the route, which lies on sheet 38.




A highly enjoyable walking loop following an old Mass path and a ridge to a summit which provides spectacular views of land and sea




views from the summit are superb and extend as far as the Dingle Peninsula.

town. The mountain referred to in the poem is the hill overlooking the town, Beentee (376m/1,234ft). A National Loop walking trail has been developed, taking in the foothills to the east of Beentee, then along the ridge running to its summit. This route follows the trail, which is signposted in its entirety, and provides spectacular views of the town, harbour, plains, islands and the surrounding hills. Looking toward Knocknadobar from the Beentee ridge

START/FINISH A car park known locally as ‘Fairgreen’ at V 47337 79516 at the rear of the Spar Express shop and near a tyre centre and garda

station in Cahersiveen.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION Follow the road at the rear of the car park between the garda station and playground toward a T-junction. Turn left there to follow the trekking man signpost for ‘Beentee Loop Walk’ (Note: The OSi 1:50,000 4th Edition map labels it as ‘Bentee’ but Discover Ireland and the locals call it ‘Beentee’). Continue on the road for around 350m to reach a Y-junction. Branch right there and continue uphill, passing some houses and eventually arrive at a ladder stile. Cross the stile and follow a path by a stone wall around

O the town it climbs the mountain and looks upon the sea And sleeping time or waking time ’tis there I long to be. Sigerson Clifford (‘The Boys of Barr na Sráide’)


he poet Sigerson Clifford (1913– 1985) writes fondly of Cáthair Saidhbhín, ‘Little Sadhbh’s stone ringfort’, in his poem named after a street that runs above his beloved boyhood

RIGHT On the foothills of Carhan Upper along the Beentee loop




the reservoir. Look back here for fine views down to Cahersiveen. Another ladder stile by a ruined building at the other end of the reservoir leads to a track beyond. The grassy track meanders under the cover of trees and soon passes a wooden bench and a sign for the holy well, Tobar na mBan Fionn, at V 48171 79461 on the left. Continue ahead and cross ladder stiles on either end of a grassy field. Turn right by a metal gate soon after and cross two more stiles. Follow a narrow path, passing a house and a shed on the left before reaching a junction by a boreen at V 48387 78868. The hillside toward Beentee away to the right is heavily deforested. Follow the signpost along a grassy path ahead by some fuchsia bushes. Cross a field with a ladder stile on either end and then pass a zinc enclosure on the left. At a fork, continue ahead to reach a ladder stile by a metal gate followed by a junction a few metres further. Veer right there, following the ‘Beentee Loop Walk’ signpost, and walk up some steps to enter a small metal gate. Note: do not follow the Kerry Way signpost to the left. You are now on the foothills of Carhan Upper. Daniel O’Connell, The Liberator, was born in Carhan on 6 August 1775. The ruin of the house where he was born is near the twisting Carhan River in the broad valley to the north-east below. O’Connell, an important Irish political leader in the early nineteenth century,

38 178

ABOVE Looking toward Portmagee Channel and Valentia Island from the Beentee ridge

campaigned for Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Act of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland. Follow a narrow path between fences to reach another small metal gate and ladder stile. Continue on a wide track to the left and reach another stile. The track then passes an enclosed field on the right which sometimes has livestock in it. Take a right when the path forks. Cross a ladder stile into a field with an abandoned house in an enclosed area adjacent to it. Reach another ladder stile with an electric fence to the left. Pass a farmhouse on the left then cross a further three ladder stiles before reaching a small metal gate with steps leading

down and across a small stream. This path leading to Gurteen was once an old Mass path during Penal times. A narrow path rises beyond the stream to meet a ladder stile. Cross the stile and follow the path as it passes a field on the left with a ‘Beware of Bull’ sign and an electric fence on its boundary. The narrow path then passes a small wooded area on the left with a ladder stile at its end. It crosses an open area soon after, before it is fringed by gorse and heather by an enclosed field on the right. Cross further stiles to reach a tarmac road by a metal gate. Turn right at the road and pass a farm shed on the left. Look out for a ladder stile by a rusted


metal gate on the right soon after at V 49447 77364, just before a patch of tall conifers. Follow the broad, stony track uphill keeping the conifers to the left. The track later veers right and away from the conifers. A few hundred metres further at V 49154 77446, leave the track and turn left to follow signposts uphill. A path runs to the right of a ditch and a stone wall covered with bracken and grass to arrive at the ridge top. Views north toward the Knocknadobar massif improve as height is gained. Turn right at the ridge top, following a fence on the left initially. Cross three ladder stiles to arrive at a grassy col. From there, the path initially follows a fence then later veers left and away

from it. The path leads gradually uphill, crossing two more ladder stiles, before reaching the broad grassy top of Beentee (Binn an Tí, ‘peak of the house’) which is marked by a small pile of rocks by a fence at V 47610 78058. The views from the summit are superb and extend as far as the Dingle Peninsula. To the west, a magnificent panorama sweeps northward from Valentia Island to Knocknadobar. Houses and buildings stretch across the banks of the Valentia River at Cahersiveen, a concrete strip amongst the network of fields that dominate its green plains. Further east, the collection of hills at Coomasaharn watch over the wide, green and brown plains, and Knocknadobar again

ABOVE Cahersiveen town, Valentia River and Doulus Head from the summit of Beentee


dominates the landscape. From the summit, descend the spur for around 150m, following a fence to the right and with Cahersiveen town also below on your right. Cross a ladder stile and continue a short distance to V 47479 77980 where there are two ladder stiles, one ahead and another to the right. Here, cross the stile on the right, following signs for ‘Beentee Loop’. Follow the path downhill, crossing another ladder stile before meeting a broad, eroded track. When the track bends left at V 47539 78409, leave it to continue straight downhill along the spur on a narrow grassy path. There are some conifers to the right. Note there is a signpost




Knocknadobar and the surrounding hills from the summit of Beentee

10km Hard

Mass paths, hillside paths and minor roadways.

further down the path but not at the bend, so the path is easy to miss. A few hundred metres downhill, the path veers left and away from the spur. As you descend, Cahersiveen should be to your right and the ground rising to your left. Feral goats and wild horses are commonly seen on the hillside here. After crossing a ladder stile, the path veers right and descends gently downhill passing some low gorse bushes to meet a ladder stile by a rusted metal gate at V 46927 78283. Reach a small stream and cross two ladder stiles there then veer right immediately after. Cross three more ladder stiles before reaching the road, with the last stile located under a tree to the right of a metal gate. Turn right on the road which is flanked by tall fuchsia bushes. After passing some houses the road runs above a standing stone in an enclosed field to the left at V 46762 78944. This ancient stone is about 2.5m (8ft) high and is named after the road, Barr na Sráide (‘top of the street’), that runs above Cahersiveen town. Reach a junction on the left and continue ahead there along The Old Road. The Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church, the


only Catholic church in Ireland named after a lay person, can be seen further to your left as you walk along the road passing some painted houses back to the start.

INFORMATION Distance: 10km (6¼ miles) Ascent: 380m (1,247ft) Time: 3¼–4 hours Map: OSi 1:50,000 Sheet 83 This walk is one of 29 new routes in Killarney to Valentia Island The Iveragh Peninsula: A Walking Guide, published by The Collins Press (ISBN 978-1-84889-232-3) due out in Spring 2015. Routes range from a few hours to fullday walks, and explore the coast, hills and woodlands from Killarney to Cahersiveen to Kenmare. See also

Ocean View Bed & Breakfast (oceanviewbnbkerry. com , Tel: +353 (0)66 948 1639) along the Reenard Road in Cahersiveen is an ideal base for this walk. The B&B is close to Valentia Island car ferry at Renard Point (operates from April to October). For more information see,


WWW.MWI.IE Subscribe, join in, contribute Share your mountains



Gareth McCormack uncovers a route at the heart of the Moumes that has challenges to thrill walkers and rock climbers alike with options to suit both with modest technical demands




The great slabs of bare granite on Lamagan’s south face are breached by a classic easy rock climb that goes by the name FM. gan’s south face are breached by a classic easy rock climb that goes by the name FM. For those of you who don’t know anything about climbing , its grade of VD or Very Difficult is something of a misnomer as this grade is almost as easy as technical climbing gets. However it is still much more serious than most scrambling routes and requires previous experience of multipitch rock climbing. For walkers who dabble in climbing and have the requisite equipment and experience then the ascent of Lamagan via FM makes a wonderful day out. If you don’t have such ambitions don’t worry, it is also possible to walk to the top of Lamagan via a straightforward ascent of the southwest ridge. The information inthe fact file


lieve Lamagan (704m) enjoys the distinction of lying right at the heart of the Mourne Mountains. This central location lends it some of the best views in the entire range and its graceful pyramidal form dominates approaches from the Annalong Valley. However the mountain is probably better known to climbers than walkers. The great slabs of bare granite on Lama-

is for the walking route. Add an hour or even two to this time if you take up the challenge of climbing the mountain via FM. This route starts and finishes at the entrance to Annalong Wood, although you can just as easily use the Carrick Little carpark, or a combination of the two. In fact the Carrick Little option would probably be the more popular but I chose the Annnalong Wood option for a bit of variety. It can sometimes seem as though every trip into the Mournes starts from the same old spots!

GETTING TO THE START Follow the A2 Newcastle-Rostrevor road as far as Annalong village. In Annalong , turn west beside the Halfway House pub and follow a minor road

ABOVE Near the summit of Slieve Lamagan

RIGHT Climbing into the Annalong Valley




BELOW South face of Slieve Lamangan

northwest for three kilometres to a T-junction. Turn right here and continue a short distance to a set of massive stone gate pillars on the left, marking the entrance to Annalong Wood (GR: J 357,223). There is room to park several cars. During July and August it is also possible to access the walk via public transport using the Ulsterbus ‘Mourne Rambler’ service. For a timetable see service 405 on the Translink website: www.

THE WALK Go through the gates and walk along a tarmac road into Annlaong Wood. This first section of the walk rises gently through pine forest for just over two kilometres. The trees thin out as the road draws close to the Annalong River and you get a fine view of Slieve Lamagan straight ahead. Leave the road and pick up a rough path along the east side of the river. Don’t follow this too far, but instead look for a place to cross the


BELOW Crossing a stream in the Annalong Valley

river. In normal water levels this is a straightforward task, but if the river is in spate it could be very dangerous. Water levels can easily be assessed at the Dunnywater Bridge before setting out, and if the river is in flood, use the Carrick Little track instead. Once across the river, pick your way across some rough heathery ground, heading directly towards Slieve Lamagan. After a while you’ll encounter the Carrick Little track, and this is where climbers and walkers part company. See the accompanying text for more information on climbing Lamagan via FM. If you’d rather stay on the safe side of gravity then turn

left onto the Carrick Little track and walk almost due south for several hundred metres. This may feel as though you’re going back on yourself somewhat, but you’ll quickly reach the junction with another track that leads northwest towards Blue Lough. Turn right here and climb past the lough to the col between Lamagan and Slieve Binnian. The ascent is gentle and provides excellent views up to Buzzards Roost, a conspicuous prow of rock on the lower northern slopes of Slieve Binnian. Buzzards Roost is home to Divided Years, one of the world’s hardest rock climbs, which has had just three ascents since it was first climbed in 1994 by John Dunne .


The col between Lamagan and Binnian allows a first view west into the dramatic Ben Crom valley . You really feel at this stage that you’re in the heart of the Mournes. An informal path

now takes you northeast up the shoulder of Lamagan, the gradient becoming steeper as you gain height. When the going eases back you know you’re close to the summit, which is

ABOVE Surveying the valley from the summit of Slieve Lamagan

LEFT Climber on pitch 2 of FM (VD)


adorned with the simplest of cairns . The views encompass all of the main summits of the Mournes with particularly impressive views down into Ben Crom and Silent Valley. From the summit, follow a worn path down the northern shoulder of Lamagan. Once you’ve reached the col between Lamagan and Cove Mountain , turn right and descend steeply over rough slopes to pick up a path leading south . This path drops steeply past the western buttresses of Lower Cove and joins up with the end of the Carrick Little track. Follow the track to the appropriate break-off point for Annalong Wood, then retrace your outward journey back to the start.




CLIMBING FM BELOW Descending towards Cove Mtn from Slieve Lamagan

Cross the Carrick Little track and strike out once again across the heather, aiming for a clean apex of slabs on the southeastern corner of the mountain. This is the line of the route, but to reach the start you have to scramble up some steep slopes of heather and grass. Looking up from the base of the climb, two distinct bands of steeper rock are visible, one at mid-height and one at the top. These rock-steps are the 3rd and 5th pitches and are interspersed with pitches of easy angled slab climbing. PITCH 1 Climb up cracks just to the left of a steep corner to a good ledge and then head up easy cracks to a wide, sloping belay ledge above. PITCH 2 Choose several options to climb the slab above, leading to a dark corner in a steep wall higher up. Belay at the base of this wall . PITCH 3 Step out left and then make a committing high step and reach left to gain the easy slab above. Belay as soon as possible to avoid rope drag . PITCH 4 Follow easy grooves to a ledge beneath the upper slabs . PITCH 5 & 6 There are two options here. The direct finish warrants the slightly harder grade of Severe. Climb the blank slabs leading inexorably to the headwall and a prominent steep corner. Climb this corner using good holds, finishing with an exposed and thrilling pull over the final block. This is much more enjoyable than the traditional finish to FM, however if you’d rather stay within the original grade then traverse riqht from the top of pitch 4 into a corner of broken rock, and then finish up this. Pack up your gear at the top of pitch 6 and then climb through terraces of heather and rock to reach the summit of Lamagan. You can also traverse a good distance to the right to the base of a giant slab. This is Upper FM and adds an extra 100m of climbing at the grade of VD.

FACT FILE SLIEVE LAMAGAN Distance: 13km I 8 miles Ascent: 620m I 2035ft Time: 5-6 hours Maps: OSNI 1:50,000 sheet 29; OSNI 1:25,000 Mourne Country


North Antrim Cliff Path along the Causeway Coast Way

BEYOND THE CAUSEWAY Widely regarded as one of the finest coastal walks in Europe, the Causeway Coast Way reveals breathtaking landscapes and spectacular walking routes with unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean



hen people talk about the highlights of Northern Ireland’s North Coast, the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage site is often top of the list, closely followed by Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. However, ‘Beyond the Giant’s Causeway’ there lies breath taking landscapes and spectacular walking routes just waiting to be explored. Offering unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean from cliff top paths with dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches the 53km



The grandeur of the rugged North Antrim Coast and the deep glens set against the pastoral farmland create other worlds away from busy life DAWSON STELFOX

Widely regarded as one of the finest coastal walks in Europe, the Causeway Coast Way is a relatively flat linear route best enjoyed over 2 days, during which you can escape from the crowds and immerse yourself in the history and geology of the area all whilst covering plenty of ground underfoot.


‘Causeway Coast Way’ from Portstewart to Ballycastle along Northern Ireland’s most celebrated coastline, still remains largely untouched despite hosting some of Northern Ireland’s most famous tourist attractions.

Approximately 262km from Dublin the Causeway Coast Way is easily reached by both car and public transport links. A Causeway Rambler bus service is in operation May through September with a number of stops available along the linear route. Further information can be obtained from

BELOW East Strand, Portrush

DAY 1: PORTSTEWART TO PORTBALLINTRAE INCLUDING THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY (23.6KM) The walk on day 1 takes walkers on the first 3 sections of the Causeway Coast Waymarked Way. Beginning at St Patrick’s Well at the head of Portstewart Strand, this route follows the coastline via the cliff path as it passes the holiday resort of Portrush and the spectacular 16th century Dunluce Castle before reaching Portballintrae. The walk continues alongside a section of the Giant’s Causeway and Old Bushmills Railway to reach

the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best place for food: The Ramore Wine Bar is renowned for its great food and lively atmosphere. A favourite of professional golfer Darren Clarke, this wine bar by the harbour in Portrush is a great place to settle in and sample the relaxed way of life on the North Coast. www.

DAY 2: PORTBALLINTRAE/ GIANT’S CAUSEWAY TO BALLINTOY/BALLYCASTLE (18/27.7KM) Day 2 of this itinerary takes walkers round Benbane Head and past the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and is officially referred to as the North Antrim Cliff path. After reaching the tiny hamlet of Portbraddan, the route follows the sweeping sands of White Park Bay around a headland of jumbled boulders and sea stacks to the picturesque harbour of Ballintoy. A short detour here will take walkers to Carrick-a-Rede with the opportunity of an exhilarating walk across the world famous rope bridge. Ballintoy’s hidden beauty is found at the end of the harbour road where you will find a small beach and a limestone harbour dating back to the 18th century a picturesque end to your walk. In recent years this harbour has




been a key film location for the television series Game of Thrones. For those who wish to continue further along the coast, once at Ballintoy there is an option to continue for a further 9.7km on road to Ballycastle. Often walkers prefer not to walk this section. Best place for food: Roark’s Cafe in Ballintoy Harbour is one of the most idyllic cafe locations in Northern Ireland. A must for a quick snack or a hot drink when out walking along this coastline (Seasonal opening hours apply). Also based near Balllintoy Harbour another great place open all year round is the Red Door Cottage Tea Room - a traditional Irish cottage with real turf fire, it is the perfect place to stop for a tea and scone or something more substantial.


FACTS ●● Walk Distance: 53km (Linear route) ●● Terrain: Varied tracks, beach, rock and road ●● Points of Interest along the route: Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge ●● Distance from Dublin: 262km (Less than 3 hours) ●● Distance from Belfast: 96.9km (1hr 15 mins)

“...This has to be the best long walk I have ever done. The scenery is spectacular from start to finish. The way is well-marked and for the most part, off-road and traffic free. A real gem, there’s something for everyone- seascapes, cliffscapes, golden beaches, verdant pastures, small towns and world class tourist attractions along the way.”

Posted on by visiting walker Dean Douglas, September 2013 Plan your walking break for next Spring –simply contact the accommodation providers listed below directly and quote ‘WalkNI’ when booking. All offers are valid from 1st March 2015 – 31st May 2015. Visit


LEFT Sunset Over Ballintoy Harbour (Richard McAleese)

More information on this route can be found by visiting where you can download the free ‘Causeway Coast Way Guide’ as well as the ‘North Coast & Antrim Walker’s Guide’ including route descriptions and maps for you to plan your walking trip and make your own discoveries ‘beyond the Causeway’.

BELOW Dunluce Castle (Brian Morrison)


PLACES TO STAY ALONG THE ‘WAY’ The route starts at Portstewart Strand with the nearest accommodation in Portstewart town or 1 mile away in nearby Bushmills where there is a wide range of walker friendly accommodation to choose from including B&B’s guesthouses and self-catering accommodation.

Top Discounts for Walkers, exclusive to Ballylinny Cottages (Self-Catering) 15% Off 7 Causeway Road Bushmills Co. Antrim BT57 8SU +44 (0)28 2073 1683 Cushleake House (Self Catering) 3 nights for the price of 2 32 Quay Rd Ballycastle Co. Antrim BT54 6BH +44 (0)77 90647481 Bushmills Inn Hotel 15% Off 9 Duluce Road Bushmills Co. Antrim BT57 8QG

+44 (0)28 2073 3000 Cul-Erg House B&B 10% Off 9 Hillside Atlantic Circle Portstewart Co. Derry~Londonderry BT55 7AZ +44 (0)28 70836610 Marine Hotel 15% Off 1-3 North Street Ballycastle County Antrim BT54 6BN +44 (0) 28 2076 2222 reception@marinehotelballycastle. com


LOOKING OUT from the coastal path, dwarfed by the scale of the cliffs


MOHER COASTAL PATH Helen Fairbairn is delighted with a new path along the top of Ireland’s most famous sea cliffs



or most Irish people, the Cliffs of Moher need no introduction. One of the most spectacular stretches of vertical cliffline in the country, they are home to a premier tourism site that attracts almost a million visitors annually. The people come to gaze across an Atlantic rock face that stretches for over 8km at more than 100m high, and reaches its highest point - some 214m - just north of the visitor centre. Though people have been making excursions to the cliffs for centuries, the history of walking in the area has been rather chequered. A previous incarna-




LEFT View along the Cliffs of Moher, with O’Brien’s Tower visible at the top of the precipice.

BELOW Visitors on the walkways near the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre

tion of the Burren Way did pass along the cliffs, but the route was later closed due to access disputes with local landowners. It was June last year before an official, constructed throughpath was opened right along

BELOW The coastal path near Hag’s Head

the top of the precipice. And the result is something to celebrate. Suddenly walkers are being encouraged to explore the entire 12km of dramatic coastline between Doolin and Hag’s Head. The new path permits access to the coast’s quieter charms, as well as the busy stretch around the visitor centre. If only it could act as inspiration for the development of similar trails along other stretches of the Irish seaboard. The €400,000 path has been incorporated as part of the 114km Burren Way, but can also be walked as a one-day route in its own right. Here I concentrate on the most scenic off-road sec-

tion, between Doolin and Moher Sports Field. As with all linear routes, you do have to think about the transport logistics of getting back to the start. If you don’t have a second vehicle, consider using Bus Éireann›s service No. 337, which travels between Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre and Liscannor between two and four times daily. This bus service can collect or deposit you along the R478, around 1.5km from the finish at Moher Sports Field. The route is well signed throughout and follows an obvious trail that is constructed in most places. Be warned however - much of the route




passes along the edge of a sheer drop, with nothing to protect you from the gaping abyss below. Avoid walking in high winds and exercise extreme caution near the cliff edge.

GETTING TO THE START The route starts in Doolin village. Either park in a long lay-by just west of the bridge over the Aille River in Fisher Street (grid reference: R 068,965), or 1km further northwest along the R479 at Doolin Community Centre. The walk finishes at a large car park beside Moher Sports Field, just southeast of Hag’s head (grid reference: R 027,885).

THE WALK Begin at the road junction on the eastern side of the Aille River bridge in Fisher Street, Doolin. From here, follow the road that climbs southwest. At the top of the rise, the road veers left and a track continues straight ahead. The junction is marked by an information board for the Burren Way. Pass around a metal gate and begin to follow the track ahead. Already there are fine views west over the Clare coastline to the Aran Islands. Depending on the time of day, you may see ferries ploughing the waters to and from Doolin harbour. Just before a second gate, turn right and climb across two stiles. This brings you to the edge of the cliffs, where you turn left and begin to follow the coastline south. A gravel footpath runs between a fence and the top of the cliffs. The


ABOVE Evening light on the Cliffs of Moher

coast here consists of a series of low rock slabs and angular ledges, and after 500m you pass the remains of a portal tomb in a field on the left. An adjacent stile provides access and allows you to explore the site. The path now veers inland slightly and climbs across a hillside to reach a higher section of cliff. Despite the increasing drop on the seaward side of the path, there are no safety barriers between the trail and the edge of the precipice. The result is a wild and thrilling experience, but please take care near the edge. Continue ahead, passing above the headland of Aill Na Searrach, which hosts some of the biggest wave surfing in Europe when large Atlantic swells push in from the west. The next landmark is an open field, where the constructed trail disappears underfoot. Signs direct you along a fence to a cattle pen at the top of the field. Here you have to squeeze along the right hand side of the pen to reach a track near the R478 road. Rejoin the constructed pathway and turn right across another field to return to the cliff top. Here, at a lofty vantage point, the first, breath-taking view across the main cliffs is suddenly

revealed. The precipice is now over 200m high - the highest point of the entire route - and the rock face is plumb vertical or even undercut. You are now approaching the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, and may begin to pass more people along the trail. You enter the grounds themselves at a paved area surrounding O’Brien’s Tower, a viewing point that dates from 1835. The path is now heavily constructed, with a protective line of stone slabs on the seaward side. Descend to a hollow; the visitor centre, with its exhibitions, toilets, gift shop and café, is located a short distance to the left here. The coastal route continues ahead, following a brief stretch of tarmac before the footpath resumes at the top of the hill. The view is still incredible, with 5km of thrusting headlands and magnificent cliffline visible between O’Brien’s Tower and Hag’s Head. As you exit the southern end of the visitor centre grounds, the trail dwindles to an unprotected, earthen footpath. The cliffs gradually lose height now, though there are plenty more good views all the way to Hag’s Head. This headland is crowned



Walker enjoying the view from the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Path

Suddenly walkers are being encouraged to explore the entire 12km of dramatic coastline between Doolin and Hag’s Head.

by Moher Tower, a partially-ruined, Napoleonic signal tower that was built in the early 1800s. It is worth pausing here for a moment to explore the tower and savour the final coastal views of the route. When you’re ready, follow the path that leads inland from the back of the tower. Descend to the end of a stone track, and follow this onto a tarmac lane. You now pass a private, fee-paying car park on the right, which provides the closest parking to Hags’s Head. Moher Sports Field, with its large, free car park, is located on the left some 800m further along the road. If you plan to use Bus Éireann›s service No. 337 to return to the

start, continue ahead along the road. Turn left at the next junction, still following the signed walking route. Either follow the signs for a further 5km to Liscannor, or keep straight ahead where the route turns right some 1.5km beyond Moher Sports Field. This shortcut brings you directly to the R478, where you can hail the bus back to Doolin.

INFORMATION Distance: 13km / 8 miles Total Ascent: 240m / 790ft Time: 3½-4½ hours Maps: OSi 1:50,000 sheets 51 and 57





Michael Penston describes one of Europe’s great long-distance mountain walks



he Tour Du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a walking trail involving a full circle around the Mont Blanc Massif, starting in France and dipping across borders into Italy and Switzerland before finishing back in France. It is roughly170 kilometres in length and the trail itself never gets above 2,700m as you walk mostly above the valley floor, and with very little or no technical difficulty it is pleasant walking for the whole route. The small town of Les Houches is the recommended start/ finish point for this trek, which can be tackled in a clockwise



LEFT River scene on the Swiss section of the Tour du Mont Blanc

BELOW Cable car to Courmayeur

or anti-clockwise direction; anti-clockwise being the most popular. Overall the TMB will take 10 to11 stages/day walks to complete. On some stages you can climb over 1,300 metres and on others descend a

ABOVE Surveying Mont Blanc’s south face from the italian side, Courmayeur. Photo: Roberto Caucino. BELOW The Trient Glacier

similar height. Some stages are less taxing with walking times varying from 4 to 8 hours a day. I took on the challenge in early July and found a mixed bag of weather; some rainy days, but most walking was done in shorts and T-shirt in temperatures on average around 18C. Sometimes it got a bit chilly, so a warm fleece is recommended, as is a set of light raingear, which I had to use on a couple of occasions. French is the spoken language in most areas, even in the Swiss and Italian sectors, but if you can learn a few words beyond bonjour, you will get along fine.

VARIANTS On some stages you can walk alternative routes called Variants which can sometimes have more ascent or take longer, but can also be more scenic options. I opted for a couple of Variants on my trek; one was a challenging walk over the Fenetre D’Arpette from Champex, which has some boulder scrambling. You are rewarded at the top with a fine view across to the Trient Glacier. Another variant I took on was the ‘Delicate Passage’ near Agentiere which involves climbing some steel ladders and metal rungs to negotiate a rock face to reach Tete au Vents, which eventually rejoins the




official route. It was more fun than difficult going through this section, but you can avoid these ladders if you like by sticking to the main route. You always have options. On various sections of the path you can jump on a cable car to take you down to large towns if you need to rest up for a spell or sit out bad weather. Mountain huts or Reffugios/ Gite D’Etape were the most practical accommodation on route, where you got an evening meal & breakfast. They will supply you with a duvet/blanket and pillow, so all you need is a sleeping bag liner. Silk ones are great and fold down to a tiny size for packing away. If you like some comfort you will also pass some nice towns, where a B&B or Hotel can be had. I stopped en route for a couple of nights in the Italian section, staying in a hotel in the beautiful town of Courmayeur. Once rested up for a day I was ready for the trail again.


ABOVE Ibex near Brevant

MOUNTAIN SCENERY As you are making your way around the trail, the scenery is spectacular. You are constantly looking across and up at jagged rock towers, countless glaciers and of course the snow-capped Mont Blanc itself.The higher peaks were sometimes covered with cloud, but when it was clear you could find a nice spot to have lunch amid all these fantastic views and spread out your map to pick out the main peaks like The Grand Jorasses (4,208m), Dent Du Geant (4,013m), Mont Dolent (3,823m), Mont Maudit (4,465m) and of course Mont Blanc itself at 4,810m. The conditions underfoot while walking are quite similar to what you would find around Irish mountains; walking on soft ground along narrow trails through green shrubbery/bushes, some wider forest tracks, and stony/rocky areas higher up around the Colls.

FLORA & FAUNA There is an abundance of wildlife around the circuit. You are likely to come across ibex (large mountain goat ) chamois (goat-antelope), wild boar and marmot, a large rodent which you will hear before you see as they will give a warning call as you approach. Lots of birdlife; alpine choughs of the crow family being a regular sight. Ravens , golden eagles (which I did not spot but am assured are out there) and a host of smaller birds. Also, I was surprised when I passed a couple of small snakes on the Swiss section. A huge variety of alpine plants can be seen, some I had never seen before but very colourful. You will find areas with blanket cover of alpenrose (mini rhododendron) and also find alpine gentian, edelweiss and a large collection of other alpine plants.

A TYPICAL DAY’S WALK Rise at 6:30 for breakfast at 7. You would be walking by 7:45-



A great melting pot of people, all with the same goal of just walking and enjoying the great outdoors crossing our path here and there on different walks like Chamonix to Zerematt, the GR5 etc. The quality of the Refuges varied but most were well organised. Some of the better mountain huts I have stayed in would be Gite Bon Abri in Champex, and Auberge de la Boerne in Tres la Champ . The TMB is well signposted and overall navigation is a doddle. I only used my compass a few times, just to check my bearing in misty conditions.

GEAR 8:15. Refuges will organise a packed lunch to take with you, or you can make your own on the go. You will arrive at next accommodation roughly mid-afternoon. A hot shower and a coffee /beer while you study the next day’s hike. Dinner is always at seven sharp; usually a 4 course meal. During my trip I sat down to dinner with Americans, Canadian, Norwegian, Danish, Japanese, Scottish, Australian, Russian, Israeli, new Zealanders…..apologies if I have left out any nationality! A great melting pot of people, all with the same goal of just walking and enjoying the great outdoors; there was always a great buzz and camaraderie at dinnertime, with politics more or less a taboo subject. After a hearty meal and a few glasses of vino, people are ready to hit the scratcher between 9.30 and 10.30. An interesting point of note was that there was as many over-fifties as under on the trail. While most were doing the TMB, others were

BELOW View of the Mont Blanc Massif from the Italian side

I brought a Berghaus Verden 45+8 pack, which worked out great and kept the overall weight just below 10Kg (this included full bottle of water) I took along two maps; IGN 1:25000 Carte de Randonnee 3630-OT and 3531-ET which cover the whole circuit with marked TMB route and also marked Variants. There are two excellent pocket books with route descriptions: Jim Manthorpe’s Trailblazer Tour du Mont

Blanc and Cicerone’s Tour of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds. You can take your pick but be sure to bring one along for reference.

SUMMARY A really superb trek to be taken at a leisurly pace. I would recommend it to anyone with a good level of fitness, and would guarantee that like me when you are walking down that last kilometre to the finish you will get that great sense of achievement and you will know for sure that all is well with the world.

GETTING THERE I flew Aer Lingus Dublin to Geneva (1:50mins) and took the Alpybus from the Airport which dropped you off/picked you up at your accommodation in Les Michael Penston is from Dublin and a member of The Lung Gompas Hillwalking Club based in the city; the club is always open to new members of all ages.


SPREAD-EAGLED above the waves: Helen seconding the VS.







t’s funny the things that cross your mind as you hang suspended above an ocean chasm. First: if the rope snaps now, would I crash straight into the swirling sea (fair chance of survival), or bounce off a few rocks first (don’t even want to consider the mess)? Second: if Alison Hargreaves was pilloried as a bad parent for climbing dangerous mountains while she had young children, would I be lambasted for wilfully endangering my life as my two innocent children play at home, blissfully unaware of the foolhardiness of their mother? But third, and perhaps most pressingly: ‘Am I there yet?’ Because a tyrolean traverse is actually quite hard work. A spectacular method of crossing through space using just a rope and climbing gear, the idea is to rig the line as tight as possible, eliminating any sag between the two anchor points. But though

THE FERRY HOME: crossing the channel back to the mainland in the inflatable dingy

Iain had spent some time tensioning the rope, a certain degree of slack is inevitable once weight is added to the equation. So after I attach my harness and swing out into the void, my body causes the line to bow downwards. This makes the first half of the crossing easier because

Helen Fairbairn puts her composure on the line as she joins mountain instructor Iain Millar for a day of sea- stack climbing in Donegal.

it’s downhill, but once past the midway point, I have to haul myself up against the force of gravity. Horizontal pull-ups probably best describe the action. Needless to say, by the time I’m manoeuvring onto the high rock ledge that marks my return to terra firma, my grunts and groans




BELOW Helen negotiating the Tyrolean Traverse on the way out to the stack

are anything but ladylike. Completion of the traverse means I am now committed, stuck on an Atlantic sea stack for the day. This might sound alarming, but I’m in the company of Iain Millar, a Scottish mountain instructor based in County Donegal. There are qualified guides all around Ireland who teach the skills of climbing and mountaineering, and a day out with any of them is worth its weight in gold. But Iain’s speciality is unique: guiding clients up offshore sea stacks. He’s famous for posting You Tube footage of his exploits, and his website promises ‘dynamic learning experiences’. I’m intrigued to find out more.

PROFESSIONAL AND PASSIONATE There’s a decent-sized swell running, so a long sea trip is out of the question. Instead we’ve set our sights something closer to the mainland. Despite its relative proximity, the granite outcrop we’ve selected is decisively detached, surrounded


BELOW Faith in the gear: Iain enjoying his crossing of the Tyrolean Traverse

on all sides by surging waves. I would hazard a guess that the only people ever to stand here are the few clients Iain has brought out. Virtually all his explorations of Irish sea stacks are first ascents, and the knowledge of breaking new ground adds a special atmosphere to the day. Intrepid me! Though Iain likes to encourage the idea of being on the edge, I have to admit to feeling remarkably calm thus far. I have a few years of rock climbing experience under my belt, and I’ve never seen anchors placed as well as those on either side of the tyrolean. Three points of contact, all of them reassuringly solid, rope protectors to guard against rub points, the comfort

of watching Iain’s two test runs to check the security of the rig; his professionalism is impressive to watch. Yet he can’t quite suppress his excitement, and the glint in his eye and his tales of daring let you know he really is crazy, just behaving well today because he’s with clients. It’s great to see his passion - passion for the outdoors, passion for exploration - and his energy is infectious. Ireland’s northwest coast is so fabulously wild and fractured, and so untouched, why not make it your goal to climb as many virgin stacks and bits of offshore rock as possible? Sounds perfectly logical to me. When I question Iain, he says that most of his guided trips involve just one or two clients.


The majority of his customers are actually female, and have little or no previous climbing experience. A typical scenario is a hillwalker who wants to find out more about rock climbing, but has never actually done any. All I can think is, a day or two with Iain would soon put your curiosity to rest. Whether it left you galloping for cover or hooked for life, a decisive response is guaranteed.

‘CLIMB WHEN READY’ Once atop the stack, we organise our gear and make plans for the routes we’re going to climb. Iain has two ascents in mind. First a three-star ‘Severe’, the stars indicating quality and enjoyment factor, the Severe

grade denoting a relatively easy route in rock-climbing terms. Then, all being well, an attempt at a more demanding line that has never been climbed before. Again I’m impressed. In the climbing world a first ascent is a prized possession, and here he is, casually offering me - a relative rookie - an opportunity to have one of my own. Not only that, but he’s in the process of compiling a new Donegal climbing guidebook, so my name will appear in print, forever linked with this route. My ego swells the glory of it all! It’s a short scramble down to the ledge that marks the start of the routes. I clip in to a belay and Iain disappears around the corner, leaving me suddenly

ABOVE Iain checking the slings that will attach Helen to the rope


alone. I feed out the rope and know he’s not far away, but my solitude tugs at me keenly. I’m attached to the edge of a remote outcrop, secured by nothing but a couple of tiny metal wedges, with the restless Atlantic churning threateningly just a metre beneath my feet. It’s an impressive location, and I haven’t even started climbing yet. Iain belays me round the corner, then starts leading up the first route. He makes it look easy and coaches me in technique, underlining the importance of good foot placement. Though the rock is steep, this is only a Severe, and he assures me that every hand hold is large, secure and well-defined (a ‘massive jug’ in climbing lingo). He reaches




the top and secures a belay stance, then sends down the instruction, ‘Climb when ready’. It’s my turn. My first moves are tentative - it’s been a long time since I was doing this regularly. But as a seconder, I have the security of the rope above me, and shouldn’t fall even if I lose contact with the rock. In other words, very little actual danger. If you can get your mind to accept this, you can just get on with enjoying the moves required to reach the top. The hardest part is pausing long enough to remove the gear Iain has placed to protect his lead. This means extracting metal nuts and camming devices from cracks in the rock, sometimes taking a minute or two to work the pieces free. This is where good foot holds become important, because if you’re in a


ABOVE Iain balancing across the VS, with Helen belaying below

precarious position and gripping the rock hard with your arms, you only have a certain amount of time before the combination of surging blood and fatigue causes your muscles to become pumped, making you lose power and fall off. This also explains the classic climbers’ habit of shaking out their hands on steep sections, trying to relieve the burning sensation in their forearms. Needless to say, the more you climb, the more your muscles develop tolerance for the extreme load-bearing required. I haul my way to the top, my harness now jangling rather pleasingly with all the pieces of gear I’ve collected. Once safe, the adrenaline surging through my body is quickly replaced by a flood of relief and feel-good endorphins, rewarding me for my efforts. It’s an addictive business,

this climbing lark. We relax in the sun, enjoying a chocolate bar and admiring the view from our outpost, with Tory and Arranmore Island both visible in the distance.

FIRST ASCENT It’s not long before the jovial interlude comes to an end, and our thoughts return once more to the rock face below. It’s time to step into the unknown, to attempt a first ascent on a line Iain had spied on a previous visit, but never actually completed. Though it’s second nature to him, the originality of the route adds a whole new dimension in my mind. We resume our position at the base of the wall, then Iain steps boldly out to the left. The plan is to follow a diagonal crack that cuts its way to the upper



When it’s my turn I work my way up to the crux, then remember all the pleasure of good rock climbing

corner of the stack. The rock is still steep, but the holds are much more delicate, and Iain reckons it’ll merit a grade around VS, a couple of levels above the previous route. From experience I know that when most climbers find themselves in tricky positions, they start to make funny noises. So when Iain lets out a couple of sounds like a bull snorting, I know this route is indeed more demanding than the last. I shouldn’t really comment, because I begin to sound like I’m in labour when I’m reaching my limit on a climb. But it’s all good, because this is committing stuff, and this is what we’re here for. Iain shuffles his feet and lays back from the rock, swapping his hands one over the other as he tries to maintain a solid grip in the crack. His job is much harder

than mine, not only because of the extra danger of leading, but because he has to pause longer to place safety gear. He climbs smoothly and calmly despite the increased difficulty, and it’s only when he is past the crux and lets out a heartfelt whoop that I know the section was tough enough to engage him fully. When it’s my turn I work my way up to the crux, then remember all the pleasure of good rock climbing. You’re on the route, committed. There are no holds large enough to let you stop in comfort, so you have to keep moving, pulling off your arms, walking your feet higher, utterly absorbed in the physical challenge of maintaining upward momentum. You’re surprised by the tiny knobbles that hold your weight, surprised by your ability to progress over them. It’s an act of physical commitment that is required by few other sports, and the effort of accomplishing the moves and the relief that surges through your body afterwards are equally exhilarating. This is what it’s all about.

THE FERRY HOME At the top we swap a few notes about the climb, but the weather is taking a turn for the worse. Time to hightail it back to the mainland. Rather than re-cross the tyrolean traverse, we agree on the easy option, which is a small inflatable dingy that Iain uses to reach most of his stacks. Though I have my doubts about the seaworthiness of this vessel on longer crossings, it serves our purpose perfectly here, and Iain swiftly ferries both the gear and me back to the mainland. It’s been a fabulous day, and I return home buzzing with pleasure. I think I might re-engage with the sport of rock climbing, to let this be the start of something more. I’m proud of our accomplishments today and energised to take things further, and you can’t ask for more than that. Iain Millar is the owner of Unique Ascent. See for further details.

RIGHT Arranging the belay at the start of the climbs

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German landscape photographer Lukas Gawenda has been capturing ‘the unique interaction of light, time , shapes and colors’ since he was 10 years old, and has built an international reputation for his images of the natural world. ” I hope to contribute with my pictures to the fact that these wonders of nature are in their proper manner appreciated , protected and preserved.”

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The Mweelrea massif in winter, Co Mayo





Ridges and peaks of the Twelve Bens, Connemara, Co Galway


Gareth McCormack is an Irish photographer and filmmaker specialising in landscape, travel and adventure imagery. His professional career began in 1997 when he began shooting and writing for Walking World Ireland. His horizons soon expanded and within long he was travelling across the globe to work on contracts for Lonely Planet Publications. Since then his images have been used by many of the world’s most prominent magazines and newspapers, including Time, National Geographic and the New York Times.

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Climbers making their way onto Binn Chaorach Ridge, The McGillycuddy Reeks, in perfect weather conditions. VALERIE O’SULLIVAN

Valerie O’Sullivan is a full-time Photographer based in Killarney. She has won many National Awards in the (AIB) Press Photographers Association Ireland (PPAI) Annual competition, in Features, Sport, People and The Arts.Specializing in Press,Landscape, Documentary and Outdoor Activities. Valerie is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and Irish Examiner Newspapers. She is club captain and PRO of The Workmen’s Rowing Club, Killarney, and a Trustee with The White Tailed Eagle Project in Kerry.

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A bronze age (c.4000 year old) stone alignment site on the col between the Black Valley and Bridia Valley with the McGillycuddy’s Reeks in the backgrounds.



ADRIAN HENDROFF Adrian Hendroff is a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, Mountaineering Ireland and the Mountain Training Association. His articles and photographs have been widely published. He has explored the mountains of Scotland, Wales, England, Romania, Iceland, the European Alps and the Dolomites, but he thinks of the Irish mountains as home.


Robert Lloyd Praeger describes Achill Island as having a “strange charm which everyone feels but none can fully explain�. The summit of Minaun on the island is the perfect place to wait for first light. Watching the dawn break over the calm waters of Trawmore Bay is an experience to stir the soul. The peaks of Croaghaun and Slievemore are slowly illuminated by rays of light shafting from the east. Houses are dotted like white cotton-grass on the grassy plains and foothills of Dookinelly, Keel and Dooagh. Keel Lough and Inishgallon add further shapes to the magical Achill landscape below. Photo:





“One can’t help but feel inspired on the summit of Ben Creggan. The view down its steep northwest slopes is no doubt one of the best and dominated by the monarch of County Mayo, Mweelrea. Doo Lough, the site of tragedy on a stormy night during the famine of 1847, nestles in a long hollow below the craggy face of Mweelrea and the Sheeffry Hills. The evocative landscape, sublime in its barrenness, is the west of Ireland at its very best.” Photo:


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MOUNTAIN BIKING? Cyclists are from Mars, walkers are from Venus - or so you’d imagine sometimes. Yet the two sports are more complimentary than you might think. So why not give mountain biking a try?



balancing act that seeks a sweet spot somewhere between speed and control, mountain biking is a subtle blend of technique, adrenaline and courage. At best it’s a fantastic buzz, hurtling down narrow trails, riding high on cambers, and daring yourself to overcome the obstacles in your path. At worst it involves burning muscles, wiping mud splats out of your eyes, and picking yourself up after (hopefully infrequent) falls. Overall though it’s exhilarating, addictive and great fun, and definitely worth a try. Over the last ten years




BELOW RIGHT Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails (Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI)

while others concentrate on the delight of downhill riding. Whatever you choose you’re guaranteed a day of fantastic, quad-building, aerobic exercise, with more thrills and spills than you can imagine.


Davagh Forest Trails (Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI)

Ireland has developed a fine network of purpose-built mountain bike trails, with more popping up all the time. Each venue has its own character; some routes climb cross exposed hilltops, others delve deep into forests,

BELOW Derroura mountain bike trail, Connemara, Co Galway (Gareth McCormack)

Surprisingly enough, you don’t even need your own bike to begin mountain biking in Ireland. Most of the country’s best venues have hire outlets near the start, with all-day bike rental costing around €30. This provides an excellent opportunity to try the sport without investing any hard-earned capital up front. Most hire shops will let you swap bikes during the day too, so you can experiment with various designs and see what suits you best before you buy. When you’re ready to get serious, you need just two pieces of kit: a bike and a helmet. Bikes range from €300 to €13,000, but beginners should definitely look at the lower end of that price band. Expect to spend around €500-€600 on a decent entry-level bike, which will satisfy most people’s needs for around 15 years. One of the most important things about your bike is that it fits properly. You’ll need a smaller frame size than for a road bike, with at least 5-10cm clearance between the top tube

and your crotch when you’re standing normally. Avoid too long a reach to the handlebars too. The smaller frame avoids painful injuries if you come off, and gives you more control on tight corners. Most mountain bikes have 21 gears, though some have more and others less. Ultimately you’re looking for a wide resistance differential between the highest and lowest gears. Mountain gears extend much lower than road bikes, because the terrain is steeper and trickier. Yet you’ll be amazed how often you slip into your ’granny gear’ (the easiest gear on the bike), and wish you could go even lower. Once on the trail you’ll need to change gear quickly and frequently, so easy-to-reach thumb shifters are best for the job. Suspension is another component to look out for. The choice is a rigid bike with no suspension, front suspension only (known as a ’hardtail’), or full suspension at both front and back. For most recreational bikers, hardtails are quite sufficient. The front shocks absorb some of the jolts and impact of the trail, letting you enjoy a more comfortable ride. Many suspension systems come with damping control that allow you experiment with the right amount of travel for you, and you can even adjust the settings depending on




the terrain of the day. Apart from the bike, a well-fitting helmet is your primary piece of safety kit. Over the years, various studies have reported a reduction of between 30% and 90% in head and brain injuries sustained by cyclists wearing a helmet. Make sure you wear it correctly - it needs to sit well down on your forehead, and be tightened so it won’t slide backwards as you bounce along the trail. Personally I also recommend wearing a pair of cycling gloves. Fingerless mitts that have extra paddling built into the palm, these gloves improve grip and absorb impact, protecting your hands from the constant vibration of the handlebars. A pair of padded cycling shorts protects your nether regions too, and can be worn in combination with longer clothing in cold weather. If you’re getting really serious


ABOVE Photo: Manfred Stromberg

- or are particularly accident prone - various pieces of body armour like knee, elbow and back pads, or full face guards, can also be worn.


BELOW Blessingbourne Trails (Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI)

By far the best place to start mountain biking is on one of the country’s dedicated bike trails. These routes have been designed specifically for bike riders, and allow one-way travel, with no pedestrians allowed. Shared walking/biking trails can be very dangerous - the last thing you want after you’ve come careering around a bend

is to slam into an unsuspecting walker. Wide, forestry-type tracks - known as ’double-track’ - are good for complete beginners, but you’ll soon want to progress onto narrow ’single-track’ trails. These purpose-built paths are usually packed full of design features such as cambered bends, rollers, steps and small jumps, and generally give a much more satisfying ride than non-designed trails. All the trails at dedicated centres are well signed, and graded to give an idea of difficulty level. If you’re a skier you’ll be familiar with the colour-coded grading system; routes progress from green (very easy), through blue (intermediate) and red (advanced) to black (experts only). There’ll be long and short route options, ranging from a couple of kilometres to epic rides of up to 50km. Many locations also have a short practice track near the car park, known as a pump track. This is a great place to get up to speed before you hit the big trails. Even if you have your own bike, the hire shops are handy resources in times of forgotten kit or mechanical emergency. Apart from that, the only likely charge is a modest car parking



Blessingbourne Trails (Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI)

When you’re ready to get serious, you need just two pieces of kit: a bike and a helmet. fee, and sometimes there are showers, toilets, a café or other facilities thrown in too. Renowned mountain bike centres in Ireland include Ballinastoe in Wicklow, Ballyhoura in Limerick, Derroura in Galway, Davagh in Tyrone and Rostrevor in County Down. There are numerous smaller locations as well - do the research to find out what’s available in your area. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from devising your own route along the country’s forest and bog tracks too. Or why not combine off-road riding with another activity? Mountain biking can be a great way of reaching more remote hillwalks, or of circumventing monotonous pine plantations on your way to an upland summit.


You’ll develop your own riding style as your skill improves, but here are some basic tips to help you get started: •

Become an expert gear-shifter - Hitting the right gear makes the difference between overcoming or failing at an obstacle.

Remain seated on ascents - This improves traction and stops your back wheel spinning.

Stand up during descents, with knees and elbows bent - Your arms and legs are your best shock absorbers. Let the bike bounce beneath you, while your body remains flexible above it.

Shift your weight back for downhill riding - Your belly should be on the saddle for very steep sections.

Brake evenly using both front and back brakes - This avoids skids and handlebar somersaults.

Look ahead, and focus on where you want to go, not at what you want to avoid - Watch the trail 5-6m ahead and remember, you’ll steer towards the point you’re looking at.

If it’s too difficult, get off and walk - We all do it. Pick your challenges wisely.

Relax and have fun - Mountain biking is an exhilarating sport. Whooping with joy is encouraged!




FASTER LIGHTER FITTER WORLD CHAMPION John Lenihan descends Mangerton at speed Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

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There’s another way to experience mountains on foot; with its own challenges and rewards - but the same inspirations



LEFT There are times when the only view that matters is your feet


ambling though the uplands, you will notice the members of several mountain loving tribes – the lone walker, the larger and more social groups and the occasional stripped down customer, wearing no more than a thermal vest, shorts and a bumbag, In the early days, such an individual was viewed askance and indeed often berated by those who who swathe themselves in several layers before venturing outdoors. I remember one such an instance in the Twelve Bens, when a friend and I were stopped by well-meaning members of the local mountain rescue who demanded to see the map we were using and any spare clothing we might have in our bags. “Let’s hope we don’t have to rescue you later on,” they shouted at us after we excused ourselves and turned again to the exhilaration of tearing down hills and puffing up them with the beauty of the world stretched out on all sides. Mountain runners may wear

less clothes, but they still love and respect the mountains just as much as any lifelong rambler. In some ways, they respect the upland environment more because they have to. There will be much anxious consulting of weather reports and squinting at the sky before any long expedition into the hills. All mountain runners will have “epics”: days when the wind and rain whips the face and the legs, when you can’t quite figure out where you are, you’re run out of food and every inch of your body is screaming at you to lay down and rest in the nice warm heather. Then there are the other days: an early morning run in Wicklow when you burst though the mist and see a watery sun and the clouds below you in the valleys. Or an evening when everything is still, the birds have gone quiet and you can see a lake shimmering far below in the valley. You feel your part in it all; tied to this beautiful universe by your muscles, your bones, your heart and your sweat. It’s as close to paradise as you’ll get on

this planet. Even better, on good days and bad, you know you have friends nearby and that a cup of tea or a pint awaits when you descend and rejoin the world of buildings and dual carriageways. Mountain running has a long history in Ireland. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, in the 1850s, Charles Barrington organised the first mountain race in Ireland on the Sugarloaf. Like many other Victorian gentlemen, Barrington spent his summers rambling in the Alps and, in 1858, became the first man to climb the infamous Eiger Mountain in Switzerland, succeeding where many others had failed

You feel your part in it all; tied to this beautiful universe by your muscles, your bones, your heart and your sweat. 85



BELOW Competitive mountain running has a loyal and hardy following

disastrously. More recently, a memorial race in his honour was held for a few years at the Sugarloaf on December 27. While runs up, in and around mountains have certainly taken place since Barrington’s Sugarloaf effort, mountain running in this country only became formally established in the early 1980s. On the Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) website, the first recorded run is a race at Fairy Chase, where the winners were Brian Keeney and Carey May. May, who was later to set an Irish marathon record, was an orienteer by background, as indeed were many of the founding members of IMRA, who were looking for a means of keeping fit in the orienteering off-season. Early pioneers such as Douglas Barry, the Rice brothers, the McIlhennys and the Bents were both mountaineers and orienteers and they lived mostly in Dublin or Wicklow. Robin Bryson, whose record for the fastest uphill run on Snowden still stands, was one of those who came from orienteering. In the summer, he would cycle all the way to the Swiss Alps, where he would combine a mountain-based holiday with running the Matterhornlauf, one of the big mountain runs on the international calendar. John Lenihan, Ireland’s most celebrated mountain runner, came from a different background. Growing up in the rugged landscape of Glenageenty in Co Kerry, he was a true-blue “mountainy man”. As a teenager, he showed early promise in


the more traditional athletics pursuits of cross-country and road running. Indeed his best half marathon time was a very respectable 62 minutes - a time few Irish athletes these days can manage. While fell running was a long-established tradition in the north of England and in Scotland, all changed with the coming of the first World Mountain Running Cup in September 1982. Hosting the event was Italy, still a powerhouse in the sport and included in the programme were two men’s races: a long race in the uphill only Italian style and a shorter “up and down” race to suit the British fell runners. Although Ireland wasn’t

represented, Douglas Barry, by then the chairman of IMRA, was determined that an Irish team would participate the following year, when the event was again hosted by Italy. He cajoled John Lenihan into giving it a go and the Kerryman finished a highly respectable fifth in the “short” race. In 1991, he became champion of the world when he won the short race at Zermatt; Bryson was fourth and the Irish team third. At home, Lenihan was perhaps more famous for his 18year domination of the annual Carrauntoohill race. As well as some of his finest moments, Lenihan also had one of the worst on his beloved Carrauntoohil when on wet, misty day,


he broke a leg on a solo training run. It took him an agonising four hours to limp and crawl off the mountain - a descent that would normally take him 25 minutes. He recovered from that and became the Irish champion for one final time in 2008. These days Lenihan is still involved with the mountains and was chief marshall for the Kerry Way Ultra over the summer of 2014. He has also established the Glenageenty Way around the hills and woods of his own back yard. Another distinguished Irish mountain runner whose first love was mountain walking is ultra runner Eoin Keith. Originally from Cork, Keith began mountain running in the 1990s and soon discovered that the longer the

race, the better he performed. Among his mountain running achievements are a record on the Wicklow Way from Marlay Park to Clonegal, a second place among the veterans at the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc in the French Alps and strong finishes in a number of team adventure races, which combine running and trekking with other disciplines, usually cycling and canoeing. So why should you try running the mountains as well as walking in them? For mountain runners, the close contact you have not only with the mountain but with the environment, becomes addictive. You can feel the stone, the muck and the ridges through your feet in a way you never can

ABOVE The sensation of speed on a mountain is addictive


when wearing boots. The wind and rain will whip your face with even more vigour when you are running - and you have the great joy of know you can get out of it quicker when it turns nasty. Then there’s the views - ah the views! These remain the same whether you run or walk. Honest. Those who choose not to stop and stare are soaking in their surroundings through their eyes, their ears, their skin and their feet. They are responding to their surroundings as wild creatures in a wild environment that was there before we arrived and will long survive us. We were born to run and nowhere is this more obvious that in the glorious wild uplands of this beautiful planet we live on.



JuJu Jay A chance encounter with JuJu Jay (formerly Jason Handyside) in the Wicklow Mountains could be an alarming experience at first - until you realise that this dedicated mountain runner, fitness evangelist and offthe-grid lifestyle enthusiast is nothing more or less than a latterday hippy with a deep love for the mountains he now calls home. After a sometimes difficult childhood in the south County Dublin suburbs, including teenage depression. drugs, alcohol and more, JuJu found escape in the various forms of BMX biking, skating, surfing, the punk culture and, most visibly, tattooing. “I got my first tattoo at 14 and just kept going from there. Eventually, it became my job, as a professional tattoo artist. These days I’m not really involved in the tattooing culture at all, but I still love my own tattoos; they remind me of my journey and where not to go.” Since returnng to Ireland after several years in the UK, JuJU has radically cleaned up his lifestyle and now leads Mud, Sweat and Runners’, a trail running community “Mountain running seemed like a natural next step, as I got fitter and healthier living in Glendalough. I got to know some of my running neighbours and learned more and more about the mountains and trails around the area. “Plus, I loved the sociability of running with people - all sorts of people - but mainly like-minded people from a running point of view. So, from there, I began to use Facebook to invite others to join us and the group was born.” At the time of going to press, the group has more than 1000 members. JuJu and fellow MSR members lead groups into the mountains for sociable training runs. He is keen to impress upon me that it is a casual running group (at your own risk), at varying levels of fitness: everything from guided beginner runs to ‘every man for himself’ night-time winter expeditions with head torches. The ‘mission’ is to encourage people to get running and explore local mountains and trails. More:



THE RIGHT TROUSERS When it comes to testing gear, Andy Callan wears the trousers around here

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ack when life was simple, waterproofs generally and overtrousers in particular were a thing of fearsome dread, only to be donned when absolutely necessary. This was back when mountain-goers habitually wore a ¾ length Cagoule, and the only unprotected part of your leg was from the top of your gaiter to just above the knee, so often it was a case of guessing how long the rain would last and mentally tossing a coin as to whether it was worth the bother. Because we didn’t have modern breathable fabrics, condensation collected on the inside; you got damp at the very least and very uncomfortable if you were flogging hard uphill. Nowadays with

lighter, breathable fabrics and much better designs, wearing these once most hated piece of kit isn’t the penance it used to be, some of the trousers tested even work as all-day options in colder weather. So what should you look for? Once you decide that you’ll definitely need something fully waterproof rather than just a showerproof softshell trouser, there are three basic options: Salopettes – the dungarees of the overtrouser world, come up as far as your chest with elasticated braces to keep everything in place. Their main advantages are that they tend to be more waterproof and are great for keeping the small of your back warm. Absolutely bombproof in the worst weath-




anyhow. High-waisted with braces A halfway house between both of the previous designs, giving you more protection and comfort without the weight and expense. They’re much easier to put on than salopettes and you won’t need to remove your jacket since they’ll work without the braces too.


er but they’re also expensive, heavy and can be difficult to get on in a hurry. Walking Overtrousers The normal high-waisted overtrouser is usually sufficient for hillwalkers, being lighter, cheaper and they pack a lot smaller than the other options. Underneath a harness though they tend to “travel south” leaving a cold and possibly wet spot behind. A lot of these designs have short or no side zips, making it difficult to get them over boots. Make sure any overtrouser has knee high side zips at the very least. If they have a waterproof gusset behind the side zip think about cutting it out to make life even easier – you’ll be wearing gaiters beneath so there’s very little chance of getting soaked

Badly cut or overly tight overtrousers are a real nightmare because they restrict natural leg movement, especially when climbing or even just walking uphill. Good design offers a well-considered compromise between a neat fit that won’t flap like a sail in the wind and freedom of movement. The knee area is vital so look for articulated or pre-formed knees where the front of the knee has been shaped to allow for high stepping. A crotch with a separately sown-in panel (gusset) will also allow for more freedom of movement. Another area to check is the waistline, make sure it’s well clear of the hips so that it can’t be dragged down by your sack’s hipbelt and a raised back will give extra protection and prevent any gaps developing. Always try before you buy, check for sufficient leg length – not all manufacturers offer different lengths - and make some exaggerated movements to simulate high steps and bridging a gap.

ZIPS You must, repeat must, be able to get your overtrousers on over your boots. taking boots off on the hill isn’t practical.

Like I said earlier, knee high zips are the minimum requirement and if you’re heading into crampon/ski country you’ll need full side zips. Put simply, the longer the zip the easier things get, (and conversely, more expensive too!). an additional third zip pull also lets you use the zipper as a vent. Thankfully water resistant zips have done away with the need for bulky Velcro storm flaps cutting down on both weight and the inevitable faffing about.

DURABILITY The common stress areas are seat, knees and ankles. Mountaineers and climbers will need reinforcing patches in these spots. The inside of the ankle takes a thrashing from both skis and crampons, even hillwalking boots put a lot of wear on this vulnerable area so an extra layer of Cordura or Kevlar is a good idea.

WAISTBAND An elasticated waistband gives a comfier and more secure fit, the option to fit either a belt or braces is even better. If your simple overtrouser is only secured by a drawcord, make sure the cordlocks grip properly.

AND FINALLY If all that seems way too complicated and you view your overtrousers as the item of last resort, you could just buy a pair of the (usually) cheaper lightweights with the intention of only wearing them when absolutely vital and accepting that you’ll thrash them quicker. You wouldn’t be the first.




Tests BERGHAUS VAPOUR SHELL OVERTROUSERS €180.00/£130 A simple pair of pull-up overtrousers with ¾ length water resistant zips. Berghaus’ Vapour Shell is made from Gore-Tex Active fabric. These pants only weigh about 25 grams and roll up nice ‘n’ tight so carrying them isn’t a problem even if they don’t leave your sack all day and they’re available in different leg lengths for a better fit. Despite being so light you’re still getting a 3 layer fabric so they’ll take more abuse than other lightweight overtrousers. Donning/Doffing these trousers is very easy because of the long side zips and both breathability and waterproofing are excellent. Light, easy to wear protection and ideal for hillwalking, the Vapour Shell fits into a stuffsack about the size of a large mug – what’s not to like? Our lady tester liked the Vapour shell pants a lot and found the 2-way side zips great, allowing her to vent the pants rather than having to take them on and off in showery weather.

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BLACK IS BLACK Also available in a range of colours we wish

SPRAYWAY MOUNTAIN RAINPANT £134 / €160 Here’s an overtrouser that seems to have been around as long as Gore-Tex has been available in all its various incarnations. Now made from 3-layer Gore Performance Shell, it’s still the same no frills design with a drawcord waist and knee high zips. They weigh in at a not unreasonable 380g (men’s L, including stuffsack) and certainly feel as if they’ll withstand all that nature can throw at you, even if they are a bit noisy. Sprayway have added a strip of Microfibre to the waistband, not only does it make them more comfortable but they also seem to sit better as a result. They pull on over boots easily enough thanks to the knee length zips but feel a bit baggy at the front when pulled up. All in all, not the most eye-catching pair of overtrousers available but hard to find fault with them for hillwalking purposes.

OUTDOOR RESEARCH PALADIN PANT £180.00 These full zip pants are made from Pertex Shield fabric and

weigh 437g (men’s L), light for a 3-layer garment. With a gusseted crotch and articulated knees any sort of movement is easy. A substantial Cordura scuff guard at the ankle should withstand any wayward crampon points and the front of the hem has a hidden hook for securing the pant to your boot - sounds good but gaiters still work better. The waistband is elasticated and will accept either a belt or braces. Again I’d have liked a 2-way zipper on the fly but it’s not a major issue. Unusually the Paladins have 2 pockets, 1 at the thigh and another at the back, both are zipped. I liked the Paladins a lot, they were very easy to get on and off and the thigh pocket is useful. Outdoor Research only do a single leg length so shorter people may have to try something else.

RAB BERGEN PANT £135/€160 Made from a combination of mid and heavy weight 3-layer eVent fabrics Rab’s Bergen Pant has been a mainstay of their range for what seems like ages. They’re a simple pull-up design with ¾ length 2 way zips, elasticated drawcord waist,


articulated knees and drawcord cuffs at the ankle. The Bergens weigh only 345g (men’s L), move very well with your legs and are easy to get on/off over boots. The knee area is reinforced with a heavier eVent fabric for a bit more durability but there’s no scuff guard at the inner ankle which is the other area that gets most wear even when you’re not using crampons. Other than that though, Rab’s Bergen Pants are a very well made and straightforward overtrouser. they’ll see you through all weathers even if wearing them over just a pair of longjohns.

SPOT THE ODD ONE Clue - they’re not waterproof


THE NORTH FACE QUEST PANT £75/€80 TNF’s Quest pant is another simple pull-up design made from their HyVent fabric. Unlike most of the other overtrousers tested the Quest is made from a 2 rather than 3 layer fabric so it has a mesh liner to both protect the inner surface of the material and help with breathability. This also makes the Quests a bit lighter too; my men’s medium weighed 310g. Sounds good so far but here’s the rub (literally!) these pants only have ankle length

zips. Getting them on and off over even my tidiest pair of boots is a nightmare, plus they seemed to drag around the knees. They’re obviously been designed for something other than hillwalking/mountaineering and there are other more suitable options in the TNF range.

All prices are approximate

More of a waterproofed trouser than an overtrouser, the All Day Rainpant (ADR) is a stretchy walking pant with a waterproof/ breathable and seam-sealed lining. Rather than having to stop and put on your overtrousers when a shower threatens, you put these on at the start of the day and carry on regardless. Being a lined pant they’re warmer than ordinary walking trousers but not unbearable so - certainly no worse than wearing overtrousers on a warm day - and because they’re windproof they work very well as a cold weather option. I found myself liking the ADRs much more than I thought I would, they’re comfy, warm and ideal for winterish walking or scrambling. So far I’ve no complaints


about waterproofing, the lower legs will “wet out” if you brush up against vegetation but your gaiters will prevent that and they dry very quickly. Would I recommend them? Definitely, and at this price they won’t break the bank either.

CRAGHOPPERS STEFAN PANT €80/£60.00 These are another pair of waterproof trousers designed to be worn all day; they too have a waterproof lining under a stretchy outer fabric. The Stefan’s have three pockets (2 hip and 1 rear), all zipped, a part-elasticated waistband and Velcro adjustment at the hem. I found them a slightly baggy fit and the waistband didn’t come up as high as I’d have liked – this may suit some people however. The Stefan’s were comfortable when worn without a rucksack but my sacks hipbelt sat directly over the waistband which tended to cause my baselayer to ride up. Waterproofing and breathability were good but I didn’t get any periods of prolonged rain while testing these particular pants, just the odd passing shower which they handled well.

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r, simincte os adi m faccaturi



LEFT It is not unusual to be waiting three or four hours for Mountain Rescue to reach you.




NIAMH GAFFNEY explains the basics of emergency First Aid in the mountains


y childhood memories are rich with images of mountains, lakes and the sound of a tent zip. I watched my father getting ready for his day on the hills and wondered why he was going to all this trouble organising his bag when he was just going for a walk. Why does he need all that rain gear?, it’s sunny out, why is he packing all his things in little plastic bags?. I learned a thing


or two from my dad about mountaineering; his savvy navigation skills bypassed me somehow, but his organisation tips remain in my memory. But even the best-laid plans don’t always ensure a smooth outcome - my father met an untimely death in the Swiss/ Italian Alps in 1996 when deteriorating weather conditions resulted in a fatal fall. The vast majority of people who attend my wilderness first aid courses will probably never use the skills I teach them, but it

is rewarding when students tells me of how they put their newly acquired medical skills to the test to help a fellow walker or mountain biker. What happens when you have planned your journey meticulously, brought all the supplies you need to sustain your day’s adventures and disaster strikes; you or your fellow walker slip and find yourself miles from your car and unable to walk? Here I will outline some basic first aid techniques, plus the ABCs of CPR. In preparing this


Check the weather forecast. If high winds are forecast, stick to lower ground. During winter months you should be starting your walk at 10am to allow for failing light.

Plan your journey realistically, don’t allow your ambition to outweigh your ability. Your group is as strong as the weakest member.

If venturing off way marked paths, bring a map and compass. Mountaineering Ireland provide details navigation courses.



training methods. Outlined below are the basic techniques to deal with some life threatening situations. If you experience a medical emergency and you are not sure what to do, follow these basic guidelines and if still in doubt, ring mountain rescue they will provide medical advice over the phone.



Perform 30 chest compressions pushing hard and fast on the patient’s chest to depress the chest approximately twice every second. You are looking to achieve a depth of 2-3 inches

You should give 2 breaths to the patient after 30 compressions. Open the airway using head tilt chin lift, pinch the nose closed and make a seal over patient’s mouth with yours. Blow for approximately one second until you see his chest rise. Do this twice then resume compressions.

The first topic I cover on any of my first aid courses is scene safety and management. If you have been unlucky enough to witness a major incident involving casualties, you may have noticed your behaviour is a little different to normal. This is because in a crisis your body enters ‘fight or flight’ mode. This is a physiological response your body triggers when you are exposed to something potentially life threatening or overwhelming. The danger is that you can forget to consider your own safety and place yourself directly in harm’s way to help someone else. If you call an ambulance or the Fire Brigade, I can assure you that they will not deliberately



If you do not have a CPR barrier device which is a face mask to prevent cross contamination you can do compression only CPR. The compressions are by far the most important part of CPR.

CPR is exhausting. You will need someone to take over, get someone to help. Keep going with compressions until help arrives or you are physically unable to continue.

guide I spoke to Gerry Christie from Mountain Rescue Ireland, the representative body for Ireland’s 12 mountain rescue teams. He gave me the lowdown on the preparation end of things before setting off. Gerry is an active member of the Kerry Mountain Rescue team and no stranger to coming to assisting mountaineers in need.

There’s a casualty, you’re the First Aider; what do you do? It is not possible, or safe, for me to cover all aspects of outdoor first aid here. If you want to be fully prepared to deal with a medical or trauma incident in the hills you should attend a course led by an adequately trained instructor who will give demonstrations and use proven

Gloves on

Examine wound for foreign objects

Raise wound above level of heart to slow down blood flow

Apply direct pressure to would

Cover with sterile dressing

Keep wound elevated if possible




risk their lives to help a casualty. The first thing the emergency services will do at any incident is secure the scene; If the scene is not safe, do not approach or attempt to help. This can be the hardest point for my students to accept during classes and often meets resistance with questions such as “ but what if the person is going to die if I don’t help him”?, I can’t just leave him there”. If the choice is between saving somebody or preserving your life you must do the latter. You have phoned Mountain Rescue and told them you have one casualty; they will not thank you if they arrive with resources to deal with one casualty and are greeted with two or three.

DELEGATE JOBS There are 10 people in your group, one casualty. The priority is to keep it at one casualty. One group member is first aidtrained, one has strong navigation skills, two are elderly and one is a diabetic. If you have decided to call Mountain Rescue you must prepare for a long wait. If everyone in the group sits on the hillside you will have a couple of hypothermic patients before long. Send a good navigator home with the more vulnerable members of the group, keep three or four with you to assist. The most qualified first aider takes control of the patient; it is of little use to send the first aider off down the hill with the phone to direct the mountain rescue leaving the patient with someone with no first aid experience. Delegate jobs according to skills in the group.

RE-EVALUATE REGULARLY It is not unusual to be waiting three or four hours for Mountain Rescue to reach you. Just because the scene was safe at the onset does not mean it will stay that way. Keep check with the group to ensure no one is becoming hypothermic or that


RIGHT Hope for the best but prepare for the worst

weather conditions haven’t deteriorated to an extent that jeopardises the safety of yourself or the group. The scene is safe, everyone has their jobs to do. Time to help the patient… There are some basic facts about First Aid which could be considered common sense. We need certain things to sustain life. We cannot survive without oxygen. The oxygen needed to keep us alive needs a clear pathway to enter our lungs. Your casualty needs to be physically breathing to draw oxygen to the lungs, and finally, this oxygen needs the ability to circulate around

the body, which is the job of the blood. In summary, these three things are known as ABC: Airway, Breathing and Circulation. The most common cause of a blocked airway is the tongue of an unconscious casualty. If your patient is unconscious, and you have tried to get a response by squeezing a shoulder or finger nail, you must open his airway using a technique called head tilt chin lift, demonstrated over. You must now check if your casualty is breathing. Place your ear to the casualty’s nose and mouth, looking down chest for chest rise. If he is breathing, place him in recovery position remembering to place insulation


Save the battery on your phone to communicate with mountain rescue personnel.


If you don’t know where you are, say so.


Be patient and prepare for a wait.


If your signal is bad do not set off walking up a hill to find good signal.


If at all possible, walk towards home or to meet mountain rescue to prevent getting cold.


If casualty can’t walk or you are lost, stay put.


Provide reassurance to your casualty.

In 2013 mountain rescue Ireland recorded 334 calls. 18 were fatalities. Approximately 50% are lower leg injuries. There are 12 mountain rescue teams around Ireland made up of highly trained volunteers.

MOUNTAIN WORLD IRELAND under him, monitor vital signs and await help. That covers A & B. Airway and breathing, C refers to your patient’s circulation. There are a number of things which may compromise a patient’s circulation; some you may have no control over such as a cardiac issue. If a patient is bleeding this will compromise circulation. The average adult has approximately 5-6 litres of blood. If you lose enough blood there will not be sufficient oxygen delivered to the cells in the body; blood loss must be stopped immediately. Back to personal safety for a moment - do not treat any casualty who is bleeding without wearing gloves. You are at risk of infection yourself and you must protect the patient too, so always wear gloves. I mentioned during the assessment of ‘B’ for breathing that you should place the casualty in the recovery position if they are breathing. The worst case scenario for your casualty is they are not breathing. You only have a short time to act with a patient who has stopped breathing. If you check for a response in a patient and you are unable to get one, open the airway and check for breathing. If there is no breathing you must commence CPR immediately. Do


We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation. Thomas A. Edison

FRACTURES, DISLOCATIONS, SPRAINS AND STRAINS The best advice for the above injuries is to immobilise the affected limb and sent patient to hospital for x-ray. If it is a leg and the patient cannot walk, ring mountain rescue. Do not attempt to relocate a dislocated limb, if there is an open fracture where the bone is visible, cover the fracture with sterile dressing, do not apply pressure to open wound.

BELOW There are 12 mountain rescue teams around Ireland made up of highly trained volunteers

not check for a pulse, just go straight to CPR. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation is necessary to ensure a continued supply of oxygen to the person’s brain. Here are the basics. Our island’s mountain ranges may be dwarfed in size by those of neighbouring countries such as Scotland; even more so by the alpine ranges of Europe. Thankfully, they continue to attract large groups and individuals in all seasons. Their gently sloping flanks and easily acces-

sible trails should not distract us from the dangers that threaten even the most experienced mountaineer. Take to the hills as readily and often as your schedule allows; hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The rewards of standing atop even a low-lying summit picturing city dwellers negotiating their way through the concrete pathways or encased in their dwellings will inject a high sure to last long through your working week. Just don’t forget your hat.


Life over limb. If you suspect a patient has a spinal injury but he is not breathing or in a situation which will result in his death if not moved, you must move him. Otherwise do not move a casualty with a suspected spinal injury.


Any patient with cardiac chest pain should be seen to immediately. Ring mountain rescue and await further instructions.


Hypothermia can occur in the middle of July. If the bodies core temperature drops below normal your patient will start shivering in the initial stages , then the condition can deteriorate to unconsciousness. Remove wet clothing, keep warm and hydrated. Don’t forget to insulate your patient from ground up and cover them from top.



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