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The lecture took place on Wednesday evening and so we had the day to kill before we needed to drive up to Cork in the late afternoon. The previous day had been one of continuous torrential downpours and as we had initially planned to head rock climbing in the Gap of Dunloe, the chances now were that the crags and cliffs would be too wet and greasy and so we changed plans. Stephen was totally game for a day in the wild Kerry mountains and so we decided on a route to the top of Ireland’s highest – Corrán Tuathail, by the all time Classic “Howling Ridge”. We ate a hearty breakfast washed down with plenty of stimulating fresh coffee, packed the ruc-sacs and drove the short distance to the parking and approach area at Lisleibane
Wind was still gusting quite strong as we shouldered our packs and began the trek into the beautiful Hags Glen. Not another soul to be seen. Cloud was down to the 800 metre mark but the rock underfoot actually drying quite well which wasn’t a surprise really considering the strength of the flippin’ wind!!! We made great time to the start of the Ridge, a lofty perch high up on the North Face known as the “Heavenly Gates”. We adorned helmets and harnesses as well as much needed extra warm layers and gloves as the wind was not only exceptionally strong but was now bitingly cold too!
I had brought a rope and rack with me just in case, but at this point I was really unsure whether a climber of Stephen Venables stature and experience would want to rope up and pitch a route which could almost be described as a straightforward scramble!?!? We said we would play it by ear, scramble the easiest bottom section and rope up if need be near the top. Well the rope remained packed away and we enjoyed the most fantastic hour or so climbing on superb bone-dry sandstone with the wind doing a plenty of “Howlin” all around us. We moved quickly and pretty soon we topped out on a wild’n’windy summit and after a taking a few snaps we headed off again across another jagged arete, this time our objective being Ireland’s 2nd highest . Still, we never met another soul and it almost felt like we had the Mountains to ourselves. The wind was still blowing strong and so great care was required while scrambling the crest of this airy ridge leading us onto Binn Chaorach.
We descended back down again to the Hags Glen via the long “Stumpa an tSaimh” (Hags Tooth ridge) and rested awhile underneath the mighty rock tower known as “The Tooth” (An Stumpa). While relaxing and chatting here I pointed out Joss Lynams 1953 rock route on this impressive pinnacle called the “Wedding March”.
As-well as our Winter Lecture in Cork, the following evening Stephen would also be the guest speaker in Dublin for Mountaineering Ireland at their annual lecture in memory of Joss Lynam, whose contribution to Irish climbing and walking spanned 60 years until his death in 2011. Stephen would be the 3rd recipient of the “Lynam Medal”, an award set up in Joss’s honour in recognition of ones contribution to climbing and notable Mountaineering achievements.
We leisurely made our way back out the lovely Hags Glen and after driving the short spin back to the house we grabbed a quick bite to eat before we then headed to Cork for the evening talk. Legs and bodies felt weary and tired but the one and a half hour drive gave us a nice chance to relax a little before the busy evening of meeting and greeting at the evening lecture in UCC. A highly entertaining evening and a hugely inspiring and entertaining talk by a really fantastic speaker and true gentleman Mr Stephen Venables.
It was a real pleasure and honour to meet and climb with him and a great memory of Howling Ridge I will have forever…