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Climbing the highest mountain in Ireland on the morning of the Winter Solstice is a longstanding tradition in Kerry, which was started by Mike Ward, Bronagh Tarrant and Nuala Finn years ago. It was a regular fixture of the Tuesday Night mountaineers, which Tomás Crowley memorably called the “Dawn Raid.” The aim has always been to reach the summit in time to see the sun rise on the shortest day of the year – weather permitting.
In recent years, persistent bad weather has meant that the Winter Solstice climb was more or less abandoned. This year was different. Conditions looked very good on Friday 20, December and Mike Slattery put out a call on Whats App, giving the rendezvous as the Lidl carpark in Tralee @ 4.50 or Lisleibane carpark @ 5.45.
14 mountaineers turned up in Lisleibane, from 11 years of age to 60+. Patricia McGuirk was leading another group of five and there was one solo climber. Conditions were perfect. It was mild, there was some cloud cover on the mountains and a peek-a-boo quarter moon gave some light, but not enough to put the torches in the bag. At 6am we headed for the summit.
06.45 am: the Hags Glen.
07.07 am: Bottom of the Devil’s Ladder.
There was a lot of surface water from melting snow.
07.51 am: Daybreak at the top of the Devil’s Ladder.
08.10 am: heading for the summit.Photo: Ian
08.30 am+: Summit
09.03am Cloud breaks on the summit.
09.12 am: leaving the summit.
09.23 am: heading for the Heavenly Gates.
09.44 am: Crossing Collin’s Gully, above the Heavenly Gates.
10.42 am: crossing the outflow at Loch Gouragh, Hags Glen.
11.32 am: Lisleibane Carpark.
the mountaineering collective | the Winter Solstice 2019
is based on a log that Timmy Flavin kept during a 942-mile paddle around the coast of Ireland with Donal Dowd, a kayaker and mountaineer. They left Courtown harbour in Co Wexford on May 11, 1991 and returned just four weeks later, paddling an average of 50 kilometres (31 miles) a day.
Timmy Flavin died of cancer four years ago and his wife Bríd Farrell has published an illustrated book based on his log. It includes tributes from Dowd, other paddlers, and friends. Cathal Cudden and Bernard Forde, well known in the mountaineering community, were involved in the design and publishing of the book.
At the Water’s Edge: Two Boats sells at €15 a copy.
The book is also available in Polymath Bookshop in Tralee (+353667125035) and Woulfe’s Bookshop in Listowel (+35366821021).
If its not stocked in your local bookshop, email Bríd Farrell at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All profits from At the Water’s Edge will be shared between the Palliative Care Unit in Kerry University Hospital’s and the RNLI Valentia lifeboat station.
Read reviews by
Seán Moriarty in the Killarney Advertiser
Lorna Siggins on Afloat.ie
The Mountaineering Collective 20|12|2019
Video recorded by Bertie Hickey in Curve Gully, Magillycuddy Reeks (Co Kerry, Ireland) on Sunday, December 15, 2019.
Source: Piaras Kelly.
The Mountaineering Collective 20|12|2019
The Irish Uplands Forum (Fórum Cnoch na hÉireann) commissioned Dr Brendan O’Keeffe and Dr Caroline Crowley to write this study of the Irish uplands. The Heritage Council published it in October 2019. Michael Viney had an interesting review of the study in The Irish Times over the weekend, under a headline that says it all: These hills are made for walking. Viney, however, highlights access as a key issue for the 13,000 plus mountaineers and hillwalkers who make up the membership of 186 clubs in Ireland.
He identifies two factors that will have influence on access in the future. The first is a shift from sheep farming to off-farm employment and a parallel rise in (a) the number of “large sheep ranches” and (b) hillside houses occupied by “commuters, retirees and holiday homeowners.” We have seen the problems this has created in places like Glanteenassig in County Kerry.
The second is that government action on the roll out of access programmes stalled since 2009, when voluntary agreement between mountaineering interests and landowners created pilot projects in two areas, Mount Gable near Clonbur, Co Galway and Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Co Kerry; just two of the 57 mountain ranges identified in the report. However, O’Keeffe and Crowley note that “key stakeholder groups remain committed to its vision.”
As Viney points out, most of Ireland’s uplands are farmlands but adds that “sheep, significantly, get a mention on only four of the study’s 140-odd pages.” That is worrying, given the traditional partnership between mountaineers and sheep farmers, people like Martin (RIP) and Nóirín Griffin in Derrymore Glen (Slieve Mish), Mick Murphy in Knocknagantee (Iveragh) and, of course, John and Esther Cronin of Cronin’s Yard in the Reeks. That partnership is captured by mountaineer and photographer Valerie O’Sullivan in The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks: People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range , which Frank Miller, former Picture Editor of The Irish Times, described as ‘An intimate and beautiful portrait of the people and landscape of Ireland’s loftiest place.’
This aspect of the Irish uplands deserved more attention in the study. Nevertheless, A Profile of Ireland’s Uplands is essential reading for mountaineers and hillwalkers. To obtain an Executive Summary click HERE. To obtain the full report click HERE.
For more information, have a look at the current edition of the Mountain Log
The Mountaineering Collective | December 2019