Friday 5 June 2015

Hiking in

Last time they came visiting from England, The Boy and his team urged us all off our sofas at Bunmahon in Co. Waterford and into the wilds to the other end of the River Mahon where it can be said to begin 15km N at Mahon Falls [R].  In the picture you can see shadows, which implies that the sun is shining.  On the day we were there, at least it wasn't raining.  You can see the alien gravel pathway which the County Council has decided is the best way to handle the level of people who come to visit this reasonably delicate site. Dry is a bonus when you consider that most visitors have the walking-in-clouds experience of visitors Bret and Emily. They seem remarkably upbeat about the colour of wet heather and the way wet sheep loomed out of the mist. We met a couple who were pushing a buggy with an infant child, that looked as if it was able to walk but preferred to be a penance to its parents - therefore the path is wheel-chair accessible almost to the base of the falls.

Today on metafilter someone has clagged together a few posts about the Cirque of the Unclimbables [R looking a little like Mahon Falls and a little like Mordor] on the borrrder between Yukon and Northwest Territories in N Canada.  It's more difficult to get there than Mahon Falls, if you fancy a bit of remote rock climbing. The nearest you can get by commercial scheduled flights is Yellowknife 500km to the East. We know someone in Edmondton which is only an inch away on the map but that's 1500km or a two day hammer up the MacKenzie Highway.  When you get to Yellowknife to have to rent-a-car or get driven to a distant lake where you can board a small float-plane which will deposit you on another distanter lake which is an 8hr hike from the base-camp of the Cirque.  If you are made of money and have a tremendous carbon footprint you can hire a helicopter to deliver you, your canvas bath, your tiffin-trunk and your wind-up gramophone to the base camp.

What I like about the tales is that no matter how well-heeled and limber you are, your access to the rock is likely to be severely limited by the weather. Although the Cirque is only 61oN [about the same latitude as Helsinki], even in the height of Summer in July you are advised to allocate three weeks to your stay in the hope of getting 2-3 days of weather dry enough to be safe on the walls. If you get one day when the weather is really pleasant - nobody has mentioned midges and biting flies - then you are fortunate. If you are going to spend days in a tent then you want to have it big enough to turn round in, but if every gram (and gramophone) of comfort you have on site has to be carried in on your own stout pins, you'll think twice about how big the tent should be . . . and cut the tags off all the tea-bags.  And there are bears!  You are advised to hang your food on a bear-line at least 4m above ground and at least 50m away from your tent. I think I'll stick to Mahon Falls and home to tea and scones immediately afterwards.  Or maybe just stop at home and work my way quiet and intense across my own back-yard like Louis Agassiz.

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