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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ward Mountain, Bitterroot Range


I've been getting out weekly so far this year and getting up on top of a mountain within a reasonable drive of Missoula. When you do something weekly, it begins to enmesh with your life, and as a result, it becomes more ordinary. The exulted feeling that got you into the activity in the first place softens. I heard a biologist say that this 'trend toward ordinariness' is key to the survival of our species: the greatest intensity is saved for new experiences because they hold the most potential for danger. On the other hand, the relationship with Wild Country also deepens when you're a frequent visitor. This past week was a rough one, and it hit a crescendo on Friday. So I opted to not join Jen & Ellie on a trip to the Dearborn and instead stay home, bag a peak, and have some time to myself. Alex was also home, so it wasn't a bad idea to keep an eye on him (and the house) as well. My climb was of Ward Mountain, which is one of the 9000+ footers of the Bitterroots. The week was still sitting heavily on my mind for most of the hike, but I finally felt myself letting go near the end of the day. I take this as evidence of a deepening relationship with the mountains: a place where I go for solace in difficult times, for challenge (always), for inspiration (always), and for uplift in good times.   

Ward Mountain is just south of Hamilton, is easy to get to, and is a trail hike to the summit. For directions see this summit post description. It's a slog up to the top, requiring about 5000 feet of gain in 5-6 miles. The views from the top of the Como Peaks, The Shard, and El Capitan are outstanding. By the way, you can mountain bike to the summit, which would be a burly climb.

I've become a big fan of spring peakbagging: the temps are cool, the hikes are a mix of trail and snow, with the snow well-consolidated and easy to travel on once you get to it. With the trail head at such a low elevation, Ward Mountain is the perfect spring mixed trail/snow climb.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Piquett Mountain, Southern Bitterroots

Dan, I, and Todd  enjoying the incomparable view. Trapper (right), Boulder (center), Bare (center left), and Jerusalem (left). Photo by Bryan Kercher.
Many Missoulians and Bitterroot Valley residents have climbed Trapper Peak in the southern Bitterroots -- after all, it's the highest peak in the range -- and many more (maybe even most) know about it. Far less are aware of the other Bitterroot Range giants in the area: Mount Jerusalem, the Bare Peaks, and the Boulder Peaks. Just across the West Fork of the Bitterroot River (and road) from these great peaks is another giant of the area, Piquett Mountain. Piquett is slightly lower (at 8831 feet) and is in somewhat gentler country, from which it inherits its character. However, it's the highest peak for miles south of Trapper, making it the best promontory from which to view the great cluster of summits, mentioned above, that make up the southern boundary of the Bitterroot Range. Piquett's isolation also gives it high prominence (>2000 feet), which is why it was on my radar. It also means that Piquett can be seen from far down the Bitterroot Valley and even as far north as the Mission Mountains (Dan Saxton identified it from Calowahcan last summer). 

Dan had mentioned that he might organize a Rocky Mountaineers trip to Piquett when we climbed Three Lakes Peak back in January. I told him I'd be keen to go when he did. Fortune smiled this Saturday, as Dan planned a trip for the Rocky Mountaineers, the weather was perfect, and I was able to join. It's a long drive to Piquett: turn up the West Fork of the Bitterroot Road a few miles past Darby and drive about 20 miles to Painted Rocks Reservoir. Once you're at the Reservoir, take your first left and drive about a mile on dirt to the trailhead. The hike to the summit is about 5 miles by trail. It was a great day with good company.

The photos below are first by Bryan Kercher and then by Dan Saxton. 
Our group. Photo Bryan Kercher.
That's Pudge and I nearing the summit. Photo Bryan Kercher.
Dan Saxton. Photo Bryan Kercher.
Alden Wright nearing the summit with the Bitterroot Valley hazy in the distance.

Pudge and the group. Dan Saxton photo

North Ridge to Piquett. Dan Saxton Photo.

Boulder Peaks and Trapper. Dan Saxton photo.

Southern flank of the Bitterroot Range. Dan Saxton photo.

South ridge of Piquett. Dan Saxton photo. 

Obligatory Pudge shot by Dan Saxton.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Climbing Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain

Jen walking the ridge near the top of Devil's Ladder.

The pace while we were in Ireland was relentless, especially for me with meetings at the University on top of the outings with Jen. After a busy day Thursday (student presentations, my own seminar talk, other meetings at U. Cork, and beers Thursday night with students), the last thing I wanted to was rush out on Friday (our last day) and do something challenging. But when Friday morning came, by 8.30am when I woke Jen, we both knew that we needed to do something. So after breakfast, we rented a car and drove back over to Killarney to climb Carrauntoohil, the highest peak in Ireland. Given our late start and surprisingly bad traffic, we didn't get to the trail head until 1pm, at which point the summit was in swirling clouds. Nonetheless, the weather never got worse than some wind, though the clouds persisted, and the well-worn path to the summit made the route a straightforward one. On the way down, we continued past the Devil's Ladder, which is the route up, and came down the zigzag trail on the other side of the Carrauntoohil cirque, which is recommended. After dinner in Killarney, we were back in Cork by 8.30pm, with enough time to shower, pack, and relax a little before heading to bed for a 4am wake-up and the marathon trip home.
Looking down the valley on the way up.

Looking down from Devil's Ladder

Devil's Ladder taken on our descent. This is the standard way up Carrauntoohil and is class 2 in the dry condition we had.
At the summit.

Jen walking down from the summit on a well-worn path.
That's me standing above the Devil's Ladder. We continued on up the next knoll, along the ridge a little further, and then traversed down into the cirque just below the mist.


This is the trail on the far wall of the cirque in the picture above.

Chilling while waiting for Jen on the walk down.

Carrauntoohil from below.

Carrauntoohil in clouds, which is about what it was like most of the day.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cork Area Activities

Jen looking over Kinsale Harbor from the wall of Charles Fort.

From Tuesday to Thursday, I met with University of Cork graduate applied mathematics students for their project work related to an online course that they have been taking from me since September. They are a great bunch, and I really enjoyed finally meeting them face-to-face. We ended our time together with project presentations Thursday, followed that evening by pints at a local pub, which was one of the highlights of the visit for me. Online courses are challenging for the teacher accustomed to the classroom, where face-to-face interaction plays a major role. Teaching well online requires the development of new skills, which keeps the job of teaching fresh.  I look forward to making the course better next time. 

Even with the daily meetings at U. Cork, Jen and I still had our afternoons to sight see, and so we did the standard touristy Cork area things. First, we visited the Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone (yes, I did it too, as my own 'gift of gab' is limited). This was actually an enjoyable, mellow outing. The castle grounds are nice for walking. The next day, we spent the afternoon at the sea side village of Kinsale, which I especially enjoyed. The day was gorgeous, making the walk along the sea to the Charles Fort and back spectacular, with a long stop at a seaside pub. 

And finally, Cork City itself is a bustling small city. I actually love it. For a town of 250,000, it is surprisingly lively; more so, in fact, than many U.S. cities that I've been to that are much larger. It would be a fun town to live in for a while.
Blarney Castle

Another of Blarney Castle

Johnny Walsh at Blarney Castle. Johnny comes from a town on Sheep's Head Peninsula where at one point in the past he said, "about half the town left for Butte" and where Walsh is a very common name. Walsh is also a common name in Butte. 
The walk along the bay to Charles Fort, Kinsale.

Heading back from Charles Fort.

A seaside pub, where we took a long, sunny break, Kinsale in the distance.

Charles Fort.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cycling in Killarney and Dingle, Ireland

Cycling on the Dingle Peninsula
After hiking Hungry Hill, we had the car for two more days and decided to do some cycling. First, we did an excellent loop from Killarney, up and over the Gap of Dunloe, and back into Killarney through the National Park. The loop is 26 miles with a mountain pass in the middle and is challenging, but not overly so (any reasonably fit adult could do it). It was a great ride with great scenery and we had excellent weather. This is a highly recommended outing if you'd like something with some (though not excessive) physical challenge. 
Heading up the Gap of Dunloe

Near the top of the climb: Gap of Dunloe.


Heading into the National Park on the way down.
We ended our loop ride in Killarney early enough that we had some time for sightseeing on the way back to Cork. So we took a detour over to Guagan Berra, which was the hermitage of St. Finnbarr (Cork's founder) and contains some short, but beautiful, hiking trails. It was definitely worth the side trip, though I had been reluctant to go after a long day.
St. Finnbarr's church.

Hiking in Guagan Berra.

A restful spot.
The next day we drove further out to Dingle, which is a town on the furthest west peninsula in southern Ireland. There's a loop from Dingle out to the tip of the peninsula that is about 26 miles. We had another great weather day, and the scenery on the ride was truly fantastic -- even better than the Gap of Dunloe Loop. It was a long drive out to Dingle, but it was worth it for this excellent ride. The countryside on this route is classic: hand built stone walls, old fallen down stone buildings, and lots of sheep. We found out that humans lived in that spot for thousands of years. It was a great day.

On both rides we hired bikes from a local shop. I was telling Jen that if we were to do it again, I'd want to go immediately to Killarney, rent bikes and panniers, and spend a few days riding the Ring of Kerry and then some. Cycling is a nice way to see the country. 

Old stone walls and sheep.





Saturday, April 4, 2015

Glengarriff, the Beara Peninsula, and Hungry Hill, Ireland

Looking south on the way up, Jen focused.
 Today, we took a drive out to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and hiked Hungry Hill, which was brought to my attention by Missoulian Steve Sheriff. I found a description of a 7-8 mile loop hike here, which is what we followed. It took us 5-6 hours, and the views and countryside were splendid, though we were told we'd missed the truly epic summit views. Oh well, it was a grand day.
The ridge heading up to the summit. We followed the grass gully just to the right.

Heading up the gully.

Stepping into the fog as we head up.

The last push up to the summit ridge.

This nice fellow walked with us a ways on top.

Looking off to the south.
The view north.

Some of the geology on our descent.
Looking back up to where we'd come from.
Jen and I kept saying how much Ireland reminded us of New Zealand. One of the biggest differences is the culture and the people. Kiwi's are lovely, but it's been fun to find new friends in the Irish. After our hike, we stopped in Glengarriff for a pint at a happening little pub and had a great conversation with a couple from Cork City over our first delicious pint of Beamish. 

A lot of the the Irish that immigrated to Butte came from exactly this area. My uncle's family, for example, have the name Harrington, which is local to the Beara Penninsula (three of the businesses in Glengarriff went by the name Harrington), as is O'Sullivan, which is the last name of my mother's best friend. And a few days later we met a fellow named Johnny Walsh, who said that the Walsh name is local to Sheep's Head Peninsula, which is next door to the Beara Peninsula (I had a good friend in grade school by the name of Tim Walsh), and Johnny knew about Butte, saying that at one point in the past half of the town he grew up in left for mining jobs in Butte. Finally, it should be no surprise that this was the area of copper mining in Ireland during the 1800's.   
Betsie, the dog that followed us the entire way (and was quite tired at the end).

New friends at the pub in Glengarriff and Beamish Stout (brewed in Cork) below.