Boulder Hunting

02nd January 2017
Today was cold, crisp and sunny and I headed for a look at some boulders I’d noticed ages ago but never got around to checking out. There’s next to no bouldering recorded in Corca Dhuibhne, which is odd considering how rugged the landscape is here. With all the mountains and craggy coastline it would seem there should be plenty of suitable rock for bouldering (and routes for that matter) but unfortunately this part of the country is surprisingly lacking when it comes to rock climbing. I’m not much of a boulderer but I’ve been lucky the past few years to have found some quality new problems in various parts of the country. But since moving to West Kerry I’ve been getting far less climbing done than I’d like, with 2016 being the least active year I’ve had since I started playing around on stone. I miss it a lot.

I didn’t have high hopes for these distant rocks but it was nice just to be out in the hills on such a stunning day. The light was strong and the shadows were deep and dark. Limbs and curves in the hills that are usually hidden by flat light or a high sun were revealed today in the low glare. The visibility was superb and the Blaskets looked huge and close on the horizon. After about three quarters of an hour I was close to the first boulder and it looked too short to be any good. But as I approached it an overhanging face appeared above a hollow in the ground and it was clear that there’s climbing to be done on it. The landing isn’t great – it’ll require pads and spotters – but there are problems to be done up rising arêtes either side of the steep middle, and I’m sure some wads could force a line up the small holds in the centre. The west face of the boulder has some nice rock with plenty of easy stuff to warm up on too. It’s probably not the new Glendo but it’ll be alright, and the view from here is absolutely brilliant.

Lovely edge

A little up the hill there’s another boulder and my initial impressions were the same; too low, too many features, no real lines. But the back side of this boulder has two decent looking problems and a probable third that’ll be good for warming up if nothing else. The landings are pretty good and there are one or two other problems on small outcrops nearby. Overall, it was a successful scout around. I’ll probably head back up there a bit later in the year when the sun shines on the boulders. It was baltic today.

I carried on up towards the top of Brandon, heading along a route I’d never taken before. I stopped on a quiet slope, sat on a sun-warmed slab of clean sandstone and had some tea and lunch with a great view. Having gained the trade route to the summit I encountered plenty of people coming and going on this popular mountain. It was good to see families out with young kids. If a day like today didn’t impress you then I don’t know what kind of day will. I know this kind of experience would have absolutely blown my mind when I was twelve years old.

The summit was icy, with very little snow cover but plenty of frozen surface water making conditions slippery. I didn’t bother to stop at the top, but kept on walking to keep the stiff north-easterly from chilling me too much. It was quiet again as I headed along the ridge off the summit. I passed frozen tendrils of ice hanging over peat hags and was blinded as I walked back towards the car in the dazzling, lowering sun. It passed freely through the sea horizon, a rare sight in cloud-bound Ireland.

Hoar frost on high ground


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