Sunday, 5 June 2016

What happened on The Bone | Eastern Reeks Misty Adventure

This post will be very different than the others... The day turned out bad. You need days like that though just to remind you that mountains can be dangerous and you should always respect them. We want to share this story to remind the others how quickly things can go wrong and how important is a good preparation, bringing the right gear even if the forecast is good (it's always only a forecast) and to have somebody who can read maps and use compass (and even that person can make a mistake).

The black clouds covering Eastern Reeks
The weather was so good in recent days that we were all expecting sunbathing on the top and maybe swimming in the lake after walk, but when we arrived at Cronins Yard we saw the black clouds covering Eastern Reeks. The top of Carrauntoohil was covered as well but you could see some more light there on that side. But the eastern part of the range was just black...

Off we went hoping for the clouds to clear later on. We climbed up Devil's Ladder quite fast and without any problems. We had our lunch on the top of the ladder and headed up Cnoc na Toinne. At this point one of the leaders started feeling a little bit unsure as the fog was thickening and winds getting stronger. At this point we should have used our escape route down the safe Zig-Zag route. 

Climbing up Devil's Ladder

Remember here please. If you feel unsure, don't go. But we as a group went forward. We were trying to be too brave.

This is where good leaders are vital. In the fog just stay calm and follow the bearing. We had the route card with all the waypoints and bearings, we had 2 compasses and the map. What could go wrong? We learned that day that something still could... 

Looking back to Cnoc na Toinne
We set our compasses and we climbed the next peak Cnoc an Chuillinn no problem. The path is quite easy to follow, but the higher we went the thicker the fog was and soon we lost the view down to the Hag's Glen completely. We continued on the ridge following the bearing again until we reached Maolán Buí (The Bone). That's it we've made it, only down this path now and back to Cronin's Yard. Easy peasy we thought. Set the compass and go...

We started descending all relaxed and happy, talking and laughing. And... then it happened. We had our compasses deep in our pockets and were just following the path until suddenly we had drifted off the route, going to the left without noticing it and missing out on an easy to follow route with some rusted metal fencing posts which will guide you to the bottom. A momentary lapse that led to a tough descent.
One very important thing at this point. We found from later research that it happened there to some other walkers before us in exactly the same point. That point is V831 839 We had lost the path due to a false path going down to a steep gully used by some individuals who like climbing up these gullies (there's 2 of them there). That is why we posted this to warn people of the easy mistake we made.

One of the 2 sttep gullies down The Bone (not the one we used)
The path  we used started getting steeper and steeper and we knew we were wrong. We looked at the compass. Yes we had drifted west... One of our experienced went down to check down below, saw the lake (Loch Coimin Mor) and then knew we were much too far west. He thought we would have to climb back up to the ridge running down from the top of The Bone to the Hag's Glen and find the path must be there. It was, he found it. He even rang us to tell us that. 

The end of the gully and Loch Coimin Mor
But while he was down below we started to get cold from sitting around, one of our other leaders actually found a safe looking gully, went  down to check this gully and found that it was clear to the bottom and was definitely walked before. It was steep and maybe difficult for some but we managed by staying together as a group. It was a good scramble to the bottom, but we got there slowly but safely.

Our other leader was at that stage going back up to meet us as well, but we contacted him and told him that we decided to go down the gully without climbing back and trying to find the right path. We were safe seeing Hag's Glen and the path between the 2 lakes. We met up with the other leader too.
Back to Cronin's Yard then for some hot coffee.

Hag's Glen - the safe view

Things to remember:
  1. Don't go if you're unsure of the route or the weather 
  2. Bring the right gear! Even if they give 30 degrees in the forecast, bring something wind and water proof.
  3. Make sure you go with somebody who can read maps and use compass as if we had not we would have been in real trouble.
  4. Don't panic in the fog. Keep your compass in your hand and follow the bearing not only a path as some paths might be false.
  5. Don't be too brave and always consider the ability of the group.


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