31 December 2009

Happy Christmas & New Year

Hello and Happy Christmas!
I'm back to work tomorrow, ready to launch into 2010 with great enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to this coming year, as it's going to force my team and I to be innovative, resourceful and creative - all good things. Twelve months from now as we finish 2010 and move into 2011 I want Outdoors Ireland to be positioned as the number one adventure provider in the south west of Ireland.

Apologies if your email or phone message hasn't been answered over the last couple of days, all will be taken care of tomorrow...
On behalf of myself and my team; including Ferghal, Darragh, Dave and Ruth; I wish you the very best of luck in 2010 and really look forward to meeting you and working with you soon.

MacGillycuddy Reeks looking into O Shea's Gully

26 December 2009

Christmas Eve

The Slieve Mish Mountains, separated from the waters of Castlemaine Harbour by a thin veil of cloud...

Sunrise over Caher & the MacGillycuddy Reeks

23 December 2009


Eric from Discover Ireland Tours sent me this amazing photo from Carrauntoohil's summit. Long may these beautiful hill walking conditions last!

21 December 2009

MacGillycuddy Reeks in Snow

On Sunday morning, our frozen breath hanging in the air, Philip, Charlie and myself walked into the very back of Coomloughra Glen, where we had hoped to climb a steep gully which cuts across the north face of Caher. Although the gully was too slippery and wet, we had a fantastic day exploring this undiscovered north face, before cresting out just below the summit of Caher.

Winter Hill Walking Trips

18 December 2009

Climb a Mountain or Jump in a Lake

Press Release
As Christmas ticks ever closer, whether you're in the festive spirit, or not, have you thought about doing something different and adventurous over your holidays?

Stand on the summit of Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain, in the bracing Kerry air, savoring spectacular, sparkling views; kayak across bottomless, glaciated lakes in Killarney, feeling the fresh Atlantic breeze in your hair, as you explore limestone caves and wooded islands. Rock climb and reach new heights of adrenaline on sandstone cliffs, high in the ice-carved Gap of Dunloe or discover hidden Kerry Way hikes, where every step onwards is a step backwards in time; past famine cottages, ambush sites and Celtic standing stones...

With transport and all equipment provided outdoor adventure company, Outdoors Ireland, based in Killarney, Kerry, are offering a choice of half-day and full-day trips in Kerry's outdoors from Stephen's Day right through to New Year's Day.

Suitable for all abilities, if you want to experience something different this Christmas, work off the turkey and mince pies, get a new perspective for 2010, or just meet like-minded people and have some fun and excitement - come and try it!

Prices start from €50 per person, with a 20% discount for 4 or more people.

For bookings contact Nathan:
+353 (0) 86 860 45

15 December 2009

Scrambling in the Irish Mountains

Scrambling is a true form of mountaineering; tackling a mountain straight on, overcoming any obstacles, working as a team and using whatever techniques and equipment are needed to get you to the summit and back.

It's also a grey area and potentially dangerous.
Are you hill walking or are you rock climbing?
If you slip how far will you fall?
Should you be using a rope?
Are you placing gear and pitching or are you moving together on a rope?

In Ireland, especially Kerry and Cork, the rock is loose and fragile; not the kind of rock you want to be trusting if you do slip, yet sometimes that's all you have and you have to adopt a 'sure it's better than nothing' attitude, which is far from ideal.

Over the coming weeks I'm going to add to this blog post dealing with some of the many considerations when scrambling.

I'm not writing this as a manual to go into the mountains and try out for the first time, but rather as a backup resource if you've already done a Scrambling Course with us.
What I'm writing about can't be properly absorbed from reading this, but needs to be absorbed through doing one of our training courses or going through an apprenticeship with experienced mountaineers.


Develop Mountain Sixth Sense:
through hill walking in all kinds of mountain terrain, in all kinds of weather, at all times of year. Click here to read more on this

Turn Back Early:
from your planned route, or look for different options, if you feel you're stepping out of your comfort zone, you're beginning to lose control of your situation, or the weather and mountain conditions are worsting.

Be Prepared:
for most eventualities in the Irish mountains, so a minor incident such as a map blowing away or someone getting cold and wet can be quickly dealt with. Click here to read more on this

Know Your Route:
through asking local experienced mountaineers firstly, then check guide books and the internet. Find out where it starts and finishes, what the tricky sections are like, any major hazards and your location on the mountain when you reach the top of the scramble.

Look For Your Route:
on your approach walk as you'll probably have an overall birds-eye view of the mountainside.
Use this time to look at different routes up your scramble, different ramps that you could link together, any areas to avoid. Look for the easiest and safest descent route, in case you need to make an emergency descent for some reason.

Moving Across Steep Ground

Visually Check:
the ground as you move across it. Are there loose pieces to avoid? Are there solid pieces to use? Does it look slippery? Most importantly look at the rocks you’re scrambling over. Even though they’re big or may look solid, how well are they connected to the mountainside?

Kick Each Foot Placement:
before you place your full body weight onto it. This will test for looseness and a solid kick will also bond your foot more securely to the ground.

Bang Each Hand Placement:
before you place your full body weight on it. This will test for looseness. You want to feel for any wobbles or vibrations and also look for any vibrations.

Three Points Of Contact:
should be made with the mountain if you’re scrambling steeply. You’ve four contact points altogether; two feet and two hands. Only move one contact point at a time, so if you slip you’ve three secure points holding you to the mountain.

Think About The Likelihood:
of a slip before you make each tricky move. Is the likelihood of slipping low, medium or high? Obviously the higher the likelihood of slipping, the more precautions you need to take.

Think About The Consequences:
of a slip before you make each tricky move. Are the consequences of slipping low, medium or high? Low consequences being a slither down some scree or a banged knee and high consequences being a serious fall or falling backwards. Obviously the higher the likelihood of slipping, the more precautions you need to take.

Combine Likelihood & Consequences:
to make an informed and safe decision. If you’ve low likelihood of a slip combined with medium consequences then it's probably safe for you to do. If you’ve medium likelihood of a slip combined with medium or high consequences then it’s not safe for you to do.

Never Lunge, Grab Or Throw Your Weight:
onto a handhold or foot placement because while that handhold may support your weight when used carefully; by shock loading it you put it under much more strain.

Careful, Balanced & Delicate Moves:
using small steps and short reaches, to ensure you’re never off balance or throwing your weight onto anything. This is especially important when descending.

Excellent Communication:
with all party members, so if you touch a loose rock or step on a slippery slope, everyone else learns from your mistake and no-one else puts themselves at risk.

Look For Safe Havens:
that you can aim for, recover your breath, take a drink and re-assess your route. These aren’t things you want to be doing part way up a tricky section, where you will need full concentration on simply moving safely.

Difficult Ground

Never Scramble Up:
something you can't safely scramble back down again. Before you climb up or across a step ensure you're happy to climb back down or across the same step, if you need to retrace your route.

Zoom Out:
and look at the bigger picture if you begin to feel trapped or in danger. Often if you take a minute to look around you there is an easier, safer option nearby, that you just haven't spotted.

Scout Ahead:
if the route becomes complicated. Instead of the whole party wandering around on steep ground send two members slightly ahead to scout out if there's a safe route or not.

Secondary Drops:
need to be watched out for. There may only be a minor drop from the little ledge you're standing on, but is there a secondary drop slightly lower down that you may also tumble over, if you were to slip?

Fall Lines:
need to also be watched out for. Look at what direction you would slip and by weaving through boulders try to put obstacles in the way of your fall direction. If you were to slip these obstacles will stop you from tumbling.

Say No:
and look for another option, take your time to scout ahead or even turn around and re-trace your steps back to your car if need be. The best and safest decision you'll ever make in the hills is to turn around!

Don't Be Under Pressure:
from yourself or from other party members. If you do ever feel under pressure or think you shouldn't really be in that situation, then find a safe haven, stop, relax for five mins, have a cup of tea or chocolate bar and carefully re-assess.

Always Be Warm, Dry, Watered & Fed:
You make much better decisions when you're warm and dry. Even more importantly you need to be fully hydrated and full of energy so drink and eat throughout your day. To that end use a platypus and fill your pockets with snacks.

If You Get Stuck:
don't take chances. Stop, re-assess and if really necessary call for help. Don't take dangerous chances to get yourself out of difficulty. Are you sure you're really stuck though? Really think about the above two points.

Next week I'll look at when you think about using a rope in a minor emergency...

Click here to book onto a Scrambling Course!
Please leave your comments or suggestions below.
Have I missed out on anything? Just add in the comments section.

14 December 2009

Carrauntoohil & MacGillycuddy Reeks

Scrambling and Ropework on 'The Bone' yesterday on a fantastic winter's afternoon!

11 December 2009

Just Another Winter's Evening

Sunset over Drung Hill and Kells Village

Cromane Beach

9 December 2009

Hill Walking in Bad Weather

After spending a very wet, very windy weekend running a Mountain Skills 2 for Doolin Coast Guard, followed by a very cold, windy two days running a Mountain Skills 1 for trainee instructors from Kinsale it got me thinking about the little tricks and tips I use for staying as comfortable as possible in bad conditions.
Have a compact & tidy backpack, with no flapping straps. No backpack is waterproof so have a waterproof liner or thick bin bag to keep your bag's contents dry.
Have the correct equipment to be prepared for most eventualities.
Click here to read more about equipment: http://tinyurl.com/ydundg2
Pack your backpack in the correct order of what you'll need over the day; so spare fleece on top, lunch in the middle & first aid kit at the bottom. That way you're not rummaging through your bag, in wind & rain, pulling things out to get to the bottom of your bag for something that you need.
Before you leave your house in the morning fold your map to the area you're going to & have it already in a map case, if you use one. That way you're not on the side of a hill trying to fold a paper map in the wind.
To stay dry you need your waterproofs zipped right up. To have them zipped right up you need to get your layers underneath right, so you don't overheat. You want to be a little chilly when you leave your car, as once you start moving you'll warm up.
Have a chocolate bar or snack in one of your pockets so at any stage over the day you can have a quick snack without stopping. Also have map & compass in your pockets ready for use at any stage.
You'll stay warmer over the day, especially when you stop, if you keep your layers tucked into your trousers & keep all of your zips, including pocket zips, zipped up. Control your body heat over the day by using these zips. It's a good idea as a general rule to always keep pockets zipped up, which prevents you ever loosing anything, such as phone, map or car keys.
When you start your walk look ahead & if you think you'll need hat & gloves shortly put them in your pockets in advance so you don't need to stop & go into your backpack in 20 mins.
Over the day do a steady & slow pace, which allows you to keep going all day with just a few short breaks. It also keeps your energy levels higher & lowers your rate of perspiration. The more you perspire the colder you'll be when you stop & the more energy your body uses to dry out your damp clothing.
Keep your coat bottom, trouser ends and sleeve cuffs closed tightly to prevent wind & rain driving into them.
When you do stop to eat and drink turn your back to the wind & rain. Try not to sit down or lean against rocks or hillside, as any contact your body has with the hillside is drawing your body heat outwards. Damp will also seep in through your waterproofs if you have contact with the ground or rocks. Also if you're wearing gloves avoid touching rocks as damp will seep in through your gloves.
Neck gaiters are great for extra neck & face warmth.
Do your best to keep your feet dry over the day, so even if your boots are very waterproof, avoid splashing through puddles & bog holes. Gaiters are useful for really wet days. If you wear gaiters pull your waterproof trousers over your gaiters.
Don't put anything down as it can blow away so easily. If your map or gloves have just blown away then you could be in difficulty.
Bring sunglasses or ski goggles, so if you have to look ahead & navigate through driving rain or hail, which can sometimes be painful, you can put on your sunglasses and navigate.
These are things that we cover in Mountain Skills Courses.
Have you any more tips? Please leave a comment below...
Dont be put off hill walking during the winter. Some of my best days in the mountains have been during winter time! Just be prepared.

1 December 2009

Some Favourite Parts Of My 2009

Enjoying a well deserved picnic on a bike trip through the Black Valley & Gap of Dunloe

Evening time on the Old Head of Kinsale, full moon in the background

Sea Cliff Climbing on the Old Head of Kinsale

Rock Climbing on dramatic cliffs near Caherciveen

A sunny July afternoon on the Lakes of Killarney

Getting wet on the Owenroe River in Glencar
Second Drop on the Owenroe River in Glencar

Lough Leane, overlooking Torc & Mangerton Mountain
Snow covering the flanks of Carrauntoohil, last January
Nearing Carrauntoohil's summit, on the final ascent from O Shea's Gully

A friendly face in the Hag's Glen

Sunset in Castlemaine Harbour & Dingle Bay

Sea Cliff Rock Climbing

Sea Cliff Climbing on the Old Head of Kinsale.
We had a little porpoise swimming along the cliff base in the afternoon and a whale surfaced way off in the distance.