Carrauntoohil

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On Saturday, ten of us from the Pyrenean group set off at the crack of dawn to drive to Killorglin and onwards to Carrauntoohil to attempt The Horseshoe which takes in Ireland’s three highest peaks – Caher, Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh. An awesome eight hour trek in some pretty changeable weather. It was amazing up there.

Monte Perdido

Monte Perdido, Spain.

This is on the ascent of Monte Perdido (3355 m) looking south into Spain. One of the three peaks we climbed during a trek of the Pyrenees, starting on the Spanish side and ending up in France.

For my late brother, Dave:

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Snow Field

Snow Field, Island Peak, Nepal.

From just below the headwall of Island Peak, about 6000m. Extremely tired, cramping every step due to lack of preparedness. Very tough, very high, very lovely. Bottom right you can see a party of Austrians out for a stroll.

Island Peak

Nepal: Island Peak.

Island Peak is the “small” mountain at the centre of this picture. To put it in perspective, its summit is about 6150m, over six times the altitude of Ireland’s highest hill, Carrauntoohil. I remember the exact moment I took this picture, one of the younger trekkers in our group called it a day, he was sick and unhappy and the rigours of high altitude trekking didn’t suit him. It’s ironic that altitude seems to affect younger fitter trekkers. It was upsetting for the rest of the group, but I guess mountaineering is a selfish pursuit, and we carried on regardless, down a member but faster and lighter.

Above Pheriche

Above Pheriche, Nepal.

Looking back towards the Khumbu, above Pheriche, the last large village before you get the Everest Base Camp at 4371m. There’s a medical centre here staffed by a charming Scottish Doctor who regaled us with stories about HACE, HAPE and all the other deadly by products of extreme altitude. SHe was also able to supply us with some medication for stomach ailments, something which was to knock me sideways a few days later after my failed attempt at Island Peak.

Khumbu

 

Nepal: looking south in the Khumbu Valley.

This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, trekking up to Everest Base Camp, a little short of Gorak Shep, a small settlement and pretty much the last outpost before Everest. The air up here is thin, at about 4500m you’re surviving on a lot less oxygen and the body has to adjust. For me, the altitude manifested itself in constant low-level headache, nothing unbearable, just a mild throb which I treated by chugging down a couple of aspirin. A lot of this is connected with being dehydrated, the air up here is incredibly dry and with every breath, you’re losing moisture. Also because of the lack of cloud cover and the extreme altitude, you’re being baked literally by the sun, it’s hot up here and sunburn is a real issue.

I was in the company of 14 other trekkers, led by the gregarious Pat Falvey, who has summited Everest twice and failed on two other occasions.

Into the Khumbu

Nepal: Into the Khumbu.

A couple of hours above Dhukla Pass (4620 m) we step into the Khumbu, above the tree line, above normality as we know it. Stark, beautiful, unforgiving.

Awi Peak

Nepal: Awi Peak from Dhukla Pass.

For some reason, this picture encapsulates a lot of the emotion of the trip in the Himalayas for me. The picture was taken from a place called Dhukla Pass (4620m, 15,160ft). Just above Dhukla is the place where many of the memorials for fallen climbers are. There are hundreds of corpses on Everest and many more on other mountains in area, just goes to show what a savage place this is and what a risk you’re taking if you go up really high. This place is eerily calm, one gets the sense of being in the presence of gods and spirits.

 

Prayer Wheel

 

Tengboche Monastery, Nepal.

We attended a puja ceremony for climbers up here at the monastery in Tengboche (3867 m), a rather eerie and special occasion. Not easy to articulate what actually happened, as I was a bit heady from the altitude and was a bit overcome by the weird chanting and blaring of the trumpets. It’s something I’ll never forget and will attempt to articulate in time.