Monday, February 2, 2009

Summit #1

On the flight over to Shannon, I thought it was really awesome when the plane flew right through a giant white cloud, and I could almost reach out and touch it.  Then I got here, climbed to the top of a mountain and realized it is a lot cooler to walk through a cloud, reach out and touch it.  
The Mountaineering Club took a trip to Connemara on Sunday, and we went along to summit the Maumturk Mountains, which you can see in the all the pictures from my previous post.  We actually went out expecting just to walk around Connemara for a little and soak in some of the scenery; I really did not expect to do any real mountain climbing.  Boy was I wrong.
We had gotten all of the "required" gear together though just in case; I had boots already, and bought some water and wind proof pant ... I felt pretty prepared.  That was until I got there and saw the other members - decked out with one piece mountain suits, huge boots, gaiters, climbing poles, goggles, ski masks, and camel-back packs.  Suddenly we all felt a little under-prepared.  (really this whole trip, especially my experience with clubs, is about being underprepared)
As we neared the foot of the mountain, the winds hit hurricane force, probably about 60 mph, so forceful that the guides initially weren't going to take us to the top.  Our sporting desire got the better of good judgement though and we started the ascent.  Now I at least expected some trail or path to reach the top, but apparently most of the fun of mountain climbing is finding your own way to the top.  As we continued up and hit the rock line, the winds doubled, to the extent that when we got tired we could basically sit up against the wind for a good rest.  
The approach to the summit provided some great views both of the ground below and the numerous mountain top lakes, rivers, crevices, and ravines.  
After about 2 hours or so of climbing we finally reached the pass to the summit and made our way through dangerously strong gusts to the top, where a small pile of limestone rocks marks the highest point of the range.  Up here the view was great, and the winds were greater.  My camera almost flew out of my hands and you could barely hear anything.  After spending as much time up here as we could all stand, we finally made  our way down the other side of the range.
The glory of mountain climbing it seems is the approach to the summit; the hell of mountain climbing is getting back down.  First at the summit we were engulfed by a huge white cloud that flew up and over the peak.  While an awesome experience, it also resulted in our guide getting completely turned around and basically lost.  We made our way down a steep mountain ravine into what seemed like a never ending bog between two of the peaks.  Long story short, we finally made it back to the path at the base of the range, only after adding about 2 or 3 extra miles to the hike.  
The final summit brought us up about 2000 feet or so; not bad for our first one.  I'm really looking forward to our weekend trip in a month or so when we head down to Kerry to summit the tallest peak on the Island, about twice the altitude of the Maumturks, 4000 feet or so.  I'll definitely need to load up on some more gear though for that climb.  Thanks mom and dad.

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