Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Climbing Great Gully Ridge

Great Gully Ridge on Ben Leagh from walk in
On the nasty gorse sinkhole walk out we bumped into a lad who asked what I did on the top pitch, did I do the crack with the piton? I described to him. gesturing with my hands, taking the first crack, getting in a good #3 nut, stepping up into this barn-door bridge-ish feet with my left-hand, bottom fingers turned sideways, slotted under a hidden crack and my right arm pulling on an edge, moving my left foot up a bit and then moving my left hand up expecting an edge but only finding slopers...not enough for me to hold and jump my right hand up...climbing as we know it!

A perfect day! The couple of mistakes I made were inconsequential in the end. The plan was to meet at the car park for Baravore Valley at 8.30. I had not organised buying an OS map for the area and had the WhatsApp directions from a friend in my head "turn right into Glenmalure having travelled down the Old Military Road from Laragh". I left 10 minutes later than planned and arrived in Laragh at 8.30, as I came in I saw a brown sign for the old military road kind of half going to the right outside the Glendalough Green cafe. I pulled up and asked the waitress, who was just starting to say "we don't have...", was that the Old Military Road, pointing to the right. She said "Yes, thanks a million", no doubt relieved I was not jonesing for coffee, as she gripped her first smoke.

So I headed up the road, passing the first big lay-by after a few minutes where there were some cars stationed and I could see tents in the trees. The road kept going and going, a couple of hikers, more campers, a cyclist - a perfect road for that. Another 10 minutes and there was a lad at the back of his car with the hatch up, I rolled up and popped the question. "You are on the wrong road mate, this goes to the Sally Gap, head back down to the crossroad, turn right back into Laragh, past Lynhams, then turn right and follow the Glenmalure sign". Military road my ass, 30 minutes lost.

Glenmalure is a u-shaped glacial valley in the Wicklow Mountains in eastern Ireland, 250m higher than Glendalough, with this being the one road leading in or out, I turned right at the Drumgoff crossroads, with Glenmalure Lodge on the left, and took the road to the end where the Baravore Car Park was unexpectedly large. We left the car park at 9.40 having figured we walked up past the hostel. The warden was out in the garden and we queried about accessing Great Gully Ridge? "Keep on going, head up to the left, there are 2 lads ahead of ye", he called out, as we kept moving. This was useful when a couple of minutes later the road swung to the left with a path going on ahead.

So warm already, a guaranteed cracker of a day under the precious high-pressure spell. As we walked in the unsealed road into the heart of the Fraughan Rock Glen, another name for the valley, Colm told us about Michael Dwyer, who was a captain in the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The area around us was a stronghold for rebels against the British due to its remoteness and inaccessibility but also relative closeness to Dublin. He held out for years in the hills with the British attempting to deny him shelter by severely punishing those suspected of harbouring his men. They assigned thousands of troops to Wicklow, and built a series of barracks as well as the aforementioned military road! Eventually, a deal was made but the British reneged on an agreement to give him safe passage to America and he spent 18 months in Kilmainham jail before he was sent to Australia as an unsentenced exile in 1805. However, he was stripped of his free settler status and transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). In 1808 the Governor of New South Wales ordered that Michael Dwyer's freedom was reinstated. Amazingly, Michael Dwyer was later to become Chief of Police (1813–1820) at Liverpool, New South Wales.

As the road progressed into the valley it became more and more obvious that our route was up in the right corner, a relief with the left side in shade somewhat. It's marked  Baravore Upper in the guide. As the unsealed road ended it was clear we need to cross the rough ground towards the base of the ridge, there was a slab with some water trickling down it that's better to cross lower than higher. We were at the base of the route at 11.00.

The route is HS, 4 pitches of 4a,3c,4b,4a and is described as 140m long on the route wiki. The system for grading traditionally protected climbs in Ireland is the traditional, two-part British \ Irish grade, a combination of the adjectival and technical grades. From the BMC site: "The adjectival grade [HS - Hard Severe] is the first part of the grade, and attempts to give a sense of the overall difficulty of a climb. This will be influenced by many aspects, including seriousness, sustaindness, technical difficulty, exposure, strenuousness, rock quality, and any other less tangible aspects which lend difficulty to a pitch. The second part of the grade, the technical grade [4a, 4b], is there to give an indication of the hardest move to be found on the route, irrespective of how many of them there might be, how strenuous it is, or how frightened you are when you do it." Comparing this to the USA where they have a single grade, the route is 5.6 from my experience.

David Flanagan's book Rock climbing in Ireland has a topo of the route and he has made these available: longer topocloser topo. We used the former for route finding:
Dave Flanagan's Topo
I lead all the pitches, bringing 2 ropes, with Colm coming second cleaning the gear and Dave following third bringing the backpack. We only used one of the ropes for leading\belaying. I did clip one or 2 pieces into the 2nd rope to protect Dave when there was some traversing and he was being belayed on that rope. I ran out the 2nd pitch but still needed a 3rd scrambling pitch to set up a belay at the grassy wall described for the last pitch.

Tom on 2nd pitch

As we moved up the wall Art's Lough came more into view and the gorgeous weather made the thought of swimming across it all the more appealing.

Art's Lough from Great Gully Ridge
Taking snaps along the route got me thinking of a problem I never had climbing in the 90s and the first half of the naughties, what's a solution for carrying a camera phone when climbing? For multi-pitches, I used a small camera bag in the past clipped to my rack, but the camera always had a strap. Maybe a phone loop is an answer?

Dave & Colm on route
Dave Flanagan's 2012 blog on the route, describes three cruxes which are spot on, the first being literally at the start. I agree there is plenty of gear for all the cruxes. The exposure on the last pitch is outstanding and I wished it just kept going but it ended all too soon when another perfect belay spot materialised. There was about another 50m scramble up some grass, if you were to contine to the ridge top.

Colm found the abseil chain, I double-fishermaned the two ropes together and tossed them towards the narrow grassy gully. I ended up coming down a clean buttress, which must be the headwall area, it has a couple of 20m star VSs (D-for-Dog & Z-Backwards), which looked about right from abing down. The 50m rope barely got to the gully on the stretch. The orange rope would not pull! No tricks would get it loose. So it was out with my prusik to self-belay climbing up the corner. The 4 pm sun was catching us now and without a head scarf under my helmet, the sweat was literally streaming in rivers into my eyes, as I bridged up, with the sun block burning them as a result. I had to keep my eyes closed tight and trust those feet, feeling the prusik inching up. It's always great to have a reference and mine was The Maiden in Boulder's Flatirons in 1995 and having to "Kill the fear" and jumar with prusiks up a hanging free rope in the dark in order to free what ended up being a knot jammed on the other side of the lip. This time, it was easier, I reached a grassy bank and was able to traverse over to where I was above a point I passed between on the 2nd  pitch where I knew there was another abseil point. I figured the rope had to pull from there and it did with some effort.

Great Gully Ridge looking down route
So talking to the lad we met walking out, I pulled out of my climbing gestures and said, yep, I backed off and climbed the crack with the old piton in it! It was exposed but felt very solid in comparison to the first crack 😀 The lads said most people go that way! Reading the UK Climbing log, one climber says the first crack is a VS finish, which feels about right for my rusty climbing skills, a good edge for liebacking he says...hmmm, not sure about that part! This lad still had another 15 minutes slog to the base, he had two women with him and he was leading having done the route a few time before. He was going to walk down via the head of the glen near the watercourse. It was 6.30 and he had a solid 4 hours of light left, you can't beat Irish summer evenings!

We were out of water! Colm gave me the last 10ml when I got down after the abseil saga. I was well thirsty after all that! My reference was a summer day in Eldorado Canyon with Matt, perhaps my favourite crag to climb in the world, getting down and driving to a gas station and drinking a straight bottle of Gatorade! I think this was worse! On the ridge, we had spotted the 2 climbers ahead of us cutting directly from the base to the road and we followed suite. Clearly, there is no path through and with the vegetation at a mid-summer high, it was not possible to avoid sinkhole drops in the gorse. Not an escape to the road to remember, most definitely climb with all your gear and walk out via the watercourse after you top out on the ridge and walk down to where it drops into the valley. Next time I would also walk in the same way we did, taking the road to the end.

Gorse walk-out marked - it does not look so bad from a height!
We called into the hostel desperate for water - it's pretty much is a simple Mountain Hut, with no running water or electricity. We could hear the Avonbeg River flowing at the back of the hostel and see their stack of 5L Bottles in the kitchen. The volunteer wardens very kindly brought us out some glasses, I drank 5 straight. They told us the hostel is now open in the summer months and every weekend through the year, staffed by volunteers.

The hostel was originally built as a hunting lodge and key historical Irish figures have spent time there, Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne and her son Sean McBride, a founding member of Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Of course, Maud Gonne was W.B. Yeats's Muse, so Yeats also visited. J.M Synge owned the estate at one point and he wrote a play which was set in the house. It also hosted Irish presidents Eamon De Valera and Erskine Childers. It was donated to An Oige in 1955. The climbers ahead of us had stayed at the hostel the night before, an ideal choice for getting a proper early start on the route.

The Glenmalure Lodge was a perfect stop before the 2-hour drive home and this was my order for myself! A new reference point for thirst!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Mizen to Malin 2017

Night 1: Leg 1: Mizen to Schull

Day 1: Leg 2 Schull to Tralee

Kevin 12:21

Kevin 00:22

Tough enough day today. 140km to Tralee. 5.5 hours saddle time, but over 8 hours from start to finish. Lovely weather, lovely scenery. Two significant climbs, Caha pass and molls gap, but each of those is not steep and fairly steady. Just long. While 6 of us did a longer spin two weekends ago, we all felt grand after it. Made us all think we were sorted. But, same guys, me included, have fairly sore tired legs after today...not good!

Not a whole lot of craic after dinner tonight... Lots off to bed early, those that stayed were pretty quiet.

175km planned tomorrow to get to Galway, so it's new territory there. Must go to bed!

Day 2: Leg 3: Tralee to Galway

Kevin 08:06 

Heading out soon, heading for the ferry!

Kevin 16:05
Galway bay
Kevin 16.10 

Gorgeous... That cycle from Lahinch to here in Kinvara [inland] was one of the best ever...

Conor 22:09

Good day today. Left Tralee at 8:30 and were well on target for the ferry at Tarbert at 10:30. A puncture for one of the two lads with disc brakes meant it had to be fixed so we barely made it. Got off at Killimer and headed for Cooraclare and to Quilty. It was Wild Atlantic Way to Lahinch from there with a good breeze behind us. Lunch was at one of the lad's mother's house. We were of again by 2:00 and made our way through mid-Clare, Ennistymon, Kilfinora, etc to end up in Kinvara by 4:00. Time for a pint and we rolled out of there to Kilcolgan. From there it was a bit of a grind to Galway city and we arrived here at 5:40. 

Another big day awaits tomorrow!!

Preparation... And...nutrition! 😲

Day 3: Leg 4: Galway to Bundoran

Conor 20.10

Day 4: Leg 5: Bundoran to Malin

Conor 09:20
Getting there...

A few brief comments on yesterday's final stage. Kevin will have a different perspective as he is a fit as could be. 

The grand plan was to be in the road for 7:00 so that we would be finished by 3:00 - it didn't work out that way. The start was delayed to try and avoid rain but we were all fairly wet by the time we got to Donegal town. Barnesmore Gap was a grind but beautiful, even in poor enough weather. After the descent to Stranorlar and Ballybofey, the tone was set for the rest of the day as long drags started to feature - a killer after three long days (unless you are Kevin). In fact Kevin matched one of the Athlone dudes, Michael, whenever he felt like it. 

Ballybofey to Letterkenny was the worst of the weather so lunch at 10:45 was very welcome. Most lads did a near complete change of gear, especially top layers. Having that option highlighted the value of a support vehicle. From there to Buncrana was enjoyable as spirits were good. After coffee and the purchase of slabs of beer it was time to push on, on into a beautiful bog-land wilderness to Carndonagh. Sharon's sister, Michelle, gave us the lights as she passed us on the way to a call-out and Kevin had a lovely welcome from Maire and John McGeoghegan in Carndonagh who waited on the street to see us. 

The last leg was really scenic as the sun came out for us. We rolled along the coast before turning inland and up (some more) short steep ramps. Once we were within 5km we could see the tower at the headland so we pushed on in great spirits. One final push was needed to cover the last 500m as the road climbed steeply to the finish line at 4:20. I'm glad it wasn't a climb that I knew about as it was, at a guess, over 10% with a few bends at 15%. 

Cue great celebrations and relief and silly photos as we could finally say that the job was done. 
It sounds silly, but the return journey framed the achievement for me. I broke each day down into segments and tried to avoid the thoughts of long daily distances. It took a long time to get home and that's what made me realise, "Christ, this was a huge undertaking!" I got to bed at 2:30 but really glad to have knocked it off. I'm sore today, but the memories will live forever and the legs will be fine tomorrow.

The last few minutes of Mizen to Malin captured on Adrian's GoPro here! What a relief to get up that last steep little hill and see the painted "Start/Finish" on the ground! Kudos to all the team!

That's the elation at knocking it off! Bloody great day!
678 km, c. 5,500 m of vertical ascent.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 
15 April 2017 
150km and 1,600m of climbing 
15,000 particpants 

Back from the Amstel, I survived, Kevin thrived. He was something else.

 Saturday didn't dawn well as gloomy early morning light was dappled with sporadic raindrops on the windows. The so-called Amstel Gold breakfast was inadequate, I doubt if it would have fortified a doggy for sitting in a window, let alone a body facing 7 hours or more on the saddle. We collected rented bikes from a warehouse and pedaled down to register. With all of that done, we rolled out at 9:30 in chilly, misty conditions.

The severity of the challenge became apparent as heavier showers punctuated the mist. With many parts of the route trailing through open upland meadows there was no shelter from a sometimes gusting but always present wind. The first foodstop came after 49 km, it was in a field that wouldn't look out of place in the ploughing championships. It was a low point as we stood around shivering while Redmond Burke fixed his second puncture. We literally had to get going before the cold paralysed is but some 30 mins later Redmond was fixing his third puncture. He eventually resolved the puncture trilogy and after we had completed two really good, even climbs we all met up again at the point where the borders of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet. This social occasion included coffee, chips and Paul Quinlan warming his feet while trying to dry his socks at a very swanky open fire.

At that stage, with 82 km completed and a descent ahead I was feeling more optimistic. Little did I know that the sight of heaven and the finish was to require a further purgatory as short, jagged climbs with average gradient of 8% and ramps of double that signposted the closing 50 km. Kevin didn't put a foot down while I cracked and crumbled on three of them. In truth only one was a source of later reproach as I just can't do beyond 10%. Meanwhile Kevin crowned his day by passing multitudes in the Keutenberg, (the steepest hill in the Netherlands, average of 11% which begins with 22%.

We eventually came down into Valkenburg and swung left on to the iconic Cauberg hill, one last km at 7% with 12% shortly after it commenced. I was out on my feet but stayed in the saddle and ground it out. The last 1800m of flat was pure relief and a place that seemed so far away for so much of the day. After a quick beer we solved a transport issue by having some of us cycle back to Maastricht. I didn't care, it was a level road, one of the few I had been on that day.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Athlone Flatline Half marathon 2016

The last two years I have gone with the 1.45 pacer and lasted half way through the bog, to about the 9 or 10k mark, keeping the pacing balloon within sight. But the last half and especially the last quarter I have slowed and suffered. Those year's I had a modest 240k training done in the preceding 3 months but this year I had done just 160k, 70% or previous, but I was hoping having gone to the gym twice a week since November - for the first tine in my life - would stand to me!

There I was at the start and I met a lad I was planning on seeing but had not arranged, another Tom C, right by the 1.50 balloon. Tom was going out with them and see how he got on, ideal, the gun went and I set off, after a little bit I noticed Tom a stride ahead and I joined him. We got around some runners and into open space, I spotted the pace balloon ahead, grand. The Endomondo lady on my phone said 5.04kph for the first k and then 4.45kph for the 2nd, why were they going so fast? Checking the app as I write -which I have used to track my running for all my half marathon training the last few years - I set a PB for 3 miles at 23min 24 sec. Not my plan! The ks continued at just over 5min\k pace and at about 7k I asked someone why the 1.50 pacers were going so hard, I was told it was the 1.45! Bollocks - game plan out the window.

Of course, I felt pretty decent and started dreaming of breaking the 1.45 and surely 1.50 was in the bag to give me a PB. I got to 10k just over 50min, not too far off my 10k best made in my only running of that as a singular event. I was still 3 telephone poles off the 1.45 pacing balloon. Looking at Endomono afterwards, I did a PB for 1 hour - 11.88k. Coming out on the main road was at 13k and then there was a slight downhill for 2k before tucking back into the bog road. I targeted the road, but the pace was dropping down to 5.17kph at 12 - I can recover this. I hit the main road and where are the family, who've always been at the finish line the previous 2 years and I never saw them cause I was too far gone. This time, they are viewing from here and the finish. Looks like they've stationed themselves well up the road. 14k. 5.20kph. Where are they? I wave in the distance at the wrong group.  Ahh, there they are! Great, cheers, nice buzz. "Jimmy is winning" I hear Cadhla fade in the distance. Memories of doing the Athlone Olympic tri 5 years before when it still ran and cycling this road at 30kph with Malie having made a poster and out at the top of our old estate. But that is only a memory as I write, as I run I am not able to think of anything.

Almost immediately after I pass them I feel myself dropping and slowly punters pass. They pass in the car on the way to the finish line and I am helpless. I tuck back into the bog. At this point last year I had a stitch, this year I chugged 600ml 2.5 hours before the race, 150ml 25 min before, 70-100ml (1 gulp is about 30ml) at the water stops at 3m, 6m and 10+m. I felt different, I knew I was stronger this time. But damn, I could not run faster, 16k, 5.33. 5k left and I just can't run faster, I want to stop. This is so bloody hard, why am I doing this? Never do this again. People are stopping and walking. I want to stop too. Whatever you do, don't stop lad. 18k, 5.59kph, I've felt myself go backwards, punters have been passing me and it's continuing. The road turns back in from the bog, will it ever end, 20k, 6.11kph. Last turn home straight, keep an eye out for the family, this time, Gawd damn it. There's Malie, there they are, awesome. She has her hand out, she wants to finish with me, great, I put my hand out but don't turn and make sure she grabs it and the moment is gone. 50m, I can sprint this, go, take 3 lads, just at the line I break it with some lad. I turn and it's Tom C, I have pipped him at the line, he shakes my hand.

Meters passed the line I sit down and don't move for 20min I think. Laura passes over the chocolate milk, I take the one for Tom C as well, where is he, I wonder when he'll come in, I must go down to the runner's exit and look for him. Can you find me a blanket, the shivers kick in, Laura has one brought from home, the ambulance lads's unwrapped this other one. Tony can you get me another cup of coke. I get up what seems like 20min later and am unsteady.

Eventually, I bump into Tom C, I've stashed his milk in Christine's bag after having it under my blanket all that time. He reminds me I pipped him on the line, I had blanked that. Tom C had won the M60 last year and beat his time by 7 or 8 minutes this year but a Trim AC runner came in at 1.39 and a Ballina AC runner at 1.41, leaving his title in tatters but he still had a podium finish! The results were posted on the fence, we finished 404 and 405th, me 1sec ahead in 1.53.48. Check out my "sic sprint" to finish (barely moving): 

So a couple of minutes slower than last year. I have realised that there are no shortcuts in this game to the long road miles. Also, next time I'm going with the 1.50s pacer mos def! I also discovered a recovery secret - a 45min power nap in the afternoon :-)

It was the 5th running of the flatline, a brilliantly organised and run event which takes a lof of effort from the committee.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Meacan Déarg

Carrot Ridge, Gleann Eighneach, Binn an Choire, Connemara,
370m Diff
Sunday 17 July 2016

So I picked up Matt at 8.30 in his hotel in Athlone, later than ideal but a good compromise with him just having arrived from Chicago the day before; we met Colm at 9.30 in Galway city. With a coffee stop and finding literally the only parking spot on the Recess Kylemore road we left the car at 11.30. We hiked in via sheep trails, following the river into Gleann Eighneach, having to cross this before hiking up to the hidden base of Carrot Ridge - a tough ascent carrying packs.

Matt insisted on hiking in flip flops (one of his trade marks) and one strap spit before reaching the base with him finishing in bare feet. I got a big shock when i opened my bag and found no climbing shoes, seeing them in my head in the side pocket of my climbing gear bag in my room where I swapped bags to a 45L :-(

We started up the route at 1.30 carrying 2 packs and with me and Matt swapping leads, Colm was in the middle tied into a 60m and 50m to Matt and myself respectively. The grade was run out Diff (5.3, maybe some 5.4) and I managed to lead fine in boots.

We had the whole valley to ourselves, it was incredibly peacefully up there with a distant sound of the river Inagh and the endless sheep. We ate lunch on a wonderful ledge up at the top of pitch 6 before the rain came in. We couldn't see the road or any signs of civilisation, proper remote, I haven't experienced much if any of that in Ireland.

The climb was 370m, climbing,ie says, on lovely quartzite and after 8 pitches the last 100m was a gorgeous 100m clean rock scramble. It's so special being high on rock after a step hike into the base. On the route there was an amazing view of Seventh Heaven (HS) to the west against the skyline (see this topo), a 8 pitch route with plenty of 30m 4b run out I'm told. I'll be dreaming about it!

We topped out at 5.30 with the last hour-ish in rain, the rain, which had finally blown in from the west, was not too bad and didn't ruin things. Then we had a nasty descent down a scree slope \ moving boulders. Matt hiked down in his climbing shoes down to the flat before switching to the ripped flip flop. With a bum knee flaring up for Matt it was close to 8 by the time we were all back to the car. Epic. Great to be alive.

Named Meacan Buí, Colm's brother, who lives in the Gaeltacht, told him that means parsnip and it should have been called Meacan Déarg!
I highly recommend this amazing mountain experience at our doorstep here in Ireland.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Lynam Lecture & Medal 2015 - Ines Papert

Last night at the Edmund Burke Lecture theatre in Trinity College Dublin Ines Papert got presented with the Joss Lynam Medal for 2015 by the Mountaineering council of Ireland, see their review of the night.
YearMedal Receiver
2011Harish Kapadia
2012Dawson Stelfox
2013Stephen Venables
2015Ines Papert
2017Frank Nugent

Her account of her first ascent completed on Mount Asgard in Baffin Island was fascinating and included a 60k walk-in with intense river crossings.
She got into paragliding as she hates walking down. An excellent multimedia presentation. Gift.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Openwater Swimming: Great Fjord Swim & Coumshingaun

It has been such a busy year between building our house and lecturing in the college that I did virtually no swimming training at all. Over the summer I managed 4 or 5 sea swims and that was it. Unlike the previous few years though I did not bother with the wet suit on those swims, enjoying that sweet spot after the initial shock is over and you acclimatise and getting out before the cold had time to kick in, maybe after 20 minutes.

I did my second half marathon in September, Athlone's Flatline, and on the Monday after I went for a lunchtime swim to give the body a stretch. It felt really good and I went back on Thursday for a proper 1k session. I was loving it and got in touch with one of my swimming mates who told me they had been going out to the lake all summer and were still going out. I joined them the following lunchtime giving my wet suit it's season debut.

I joined them again the next Wednesday and was buzzing from it now. The lake was a 8 minute drive and we were in the water 40 minutes at the most. I had been aware of the Great fjord swim the last few years and was aware it had gone back to the format of diving off a boat and swimming in rather than the lap format of last year. McG then mailed and said did I know about it and that was the spur. I said it to the 2 lads I was training with and they were both keen, one of them having done it before.

Lunchtime training in Lough Ree for Great Fjord Swim 2015

I had done the Coosan Aquaton the previous summer but prior to that my last open water race was the Dingle Olympic triathlon 2 years ago. I had been scared before that race and got bitten by a jellyfish swimming but felt that I had broken through and could survive out there. But I never went on to cement that. It was 2 weeks to the race so I just kept going at lunchtime. My goal was to get over any residual doubts of being afraid in open water.

I read or rather listened to my first audio book while training for the half marathon, The Rise of Superman which is a brilliant book about flow. On the Thursday session, 9 days before the fjord, I experienced flow swimming and I'm not sure I did again - though the race itself was close to getting there. The body was just moving, going though the routine and I was not thinking about it, a wonderful feeling I am struggling to articulate.

The fjord race was a dream event, the most fun event I've ever done! Because of an accident in a triathlon in England this summer were a swimmer went missing the great fjord swim were making tow buoys compulsory. We got the ferry out 2km up the fjord from the sleepzone hostel and jumped off the back of it.

The course had buoys every 100m and a bonfire on the beach we were swimming too but I saw maybe 3 or 4 buoys and never saw the fire smoke :-( What I did see were other tow floats and they kept me on course, so we guided each other really. I finished in 0:52:24 and was very happy, especially when I went into the exit tent and got some hot soup. I was surprised and delighted when McG told me on top of Diamond Hill the next day, after a hike in to die for conditions, that I came 38th, which was actually in the top 25%. After so little, though intensive training, I was chuffed.

4 weeks later I had a weekend trip to Waterford planned and when a Coumshingaun hike was raised, it was clear to me that this was a not to be missed chance to swim there! The last time I visited this most special corrie was to climb on one of the routes there in September 2009, previous times were invariable family trips with our first born before we moved away from Waterford.

Jumping off the boat in Killary I had no nerves just a desire to swim and even after reading the lone swimmer's blog post which starts off saying "My days of being an open water swimmer are over.", I was well up for the coum swim. I swam right into the back of it moving from the south west edge over towards the back. Knowing the rest of the group would be getting cold waiting I didn't go into the back corner - next time - but turned and swam back down the middle of the loch. I didn't see even one fish - it has some even though no rivers feed it. It's 800m long and I guestimate I did about 1300m. My feet were cold, hands just a little, but there was no thawing involved. I've been a lot colder after getting out of the water after a quick in and out on Christmas\New year's day.

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