We're proud to partner with Newry and Mourne Tourism to sponsor the 2013 Mourne International Walking Festival this summer. Walkers, book the 28-30th June in your diaries now.
You'll take part in a celebration of the very best of our mountain range, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Consider taking a group of friends along to share the outdoor experience and look forward to the company of new friends too.
On Saturday the 29th, head to the aptly-named 'Blister Ball' in Warrenpoint for an evening of entertainment. A perfect way to wind down!
Early bird registration could save you a bit of cash. Pre Booked Ticket prices are as follows:
Be sure to wear well supporting walking boots for all walks, and refer to our easy guide to outdoor clothing for everything else you need to wear (top to toe).
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are split into walks of varying lengths and difficulties. Check out the walking timetable below to help decide beforehand which ones are for you.
On the day, simply register for your chosen walk at 8am in Warrenpoint town hall.
It's not often that I find myself looking for my ice axes and crampons after returning home from Winter Climbing in Scotland. In the few weeks previous to the snow arriving in the Mournes I had been enjoying some days out on rock, and was starting to get the head into summer rockclimbing mode. After a few days of unseasonal heavy snowfall, that was all about to change.
There's something about being out in snow-covered hills that's hard to beat, its quite normal to find people rushing towards the Mournes with the first signs of snow. There's a certain novelty factor that comes with seeing our little hills being plunged into unusual winter conditions. Then there's also the fact that it never lasts for very long, and it's very much a case of "get there before it disappears". This year was to be a little different.
You know that it's going to be pretty full-on if you're having trouble just getting to the hills, and my first few ventures involved parking at Tollymore and just walking from there. The difference in the roads above and below Tollymore was unreal!
My first few trips into the winter conditions were mainly to go walking, for personal days out but also for work. It was great to have the opportunity to do some winter skills work in the Mournes. I do a lot of my work for Tollymore National Outdoor Centre, and its not too often that I'm rummaging around their store for winter boots and ice axes to go walking with groups in the Mournes... A more than welcome change to the routine!
As the days ticked on, the weather became more and more settled and the snow looked like it was going nowhere fast- in fact, it looked like winter in the Mournes was here for a while. With friends heading out Skiing, my thoughts turned towards climbing and the possiblity of getting onto some winter routes!
For winter climbing to be at its best, it generally requires not only low temperatures, but also little periods of higher temperatures to create what are known as freeze thaw cycles. This is what builds nice thick ice, but also turns the snow into snow ice, or neve, which is fantastic for climbing on. Although temperatures had remained fairly constant, there had been a big influence from the sun during the clear weather, meaning that things were melting a little during the day, then re-freezing at night, so there was a good chance a few things would be climbable... somewhere!
My first trip was an after work mission up into the Pot of Legawherry, which is a big bowl that sits in behind Slieve Commedagh, it has lots of craggy ground spit by numerous gullys which all hold snow, so it seemed like a good option. I packed up my axes and crampons and headed off.
I headed up to the longest section of gully and found it to be in reasonable condition, with a nice little icy bulge at the bottom and bullet hard snow above. It was all looking good!
As I got higher, the snow conditions were variable; ranging from very hard snow to lose unconsolidated powder which was hard going. The route was fairly straight forward with the exception of two or three steep little steps which made it all the more interesting, a great night out!
After a great night out climbing in the Pot I was off working in Wicklow for a few days, so it was nearly a week before I had another chance to get out in the Mournes again, and this time I even managed to find a climbing partner!
I heard rumours of various parties climbing a route called Rock and Roll gully, which is one of the classic winter routes in the Mournes (when in condition). Eventually I got speaking to some people who had actually been climbing on it and said that it was in "fantastic condition". They were veterans of Mourne climbing, so if they said it was good, you knew it was going to be amazing.
The next day I met my climbing partner Eamon after work and we headed for Rock and Roll Gully. As we walked in, the snow was very wet underfoot, thawing was happening at an alarming rate, so it wasnt looking good! We decided to push on anyway, it would be a shame to have come that far and not to go up for a look. As we got closer to the gully the snow started feeling a bit firmer though, finally we rounded the corner to look up into a gully choked with fat ice - it was going to be another good night out.
We wasted no time in getting geared up and got stuck straight into climbing. Eamon led off and climbed the first pitch, which was reasonably straight-forward ground with a little tricky step every once and a while.
It was then my turn to lead, one little short pitch got us both up over the last tricky step before the main ice pitch. It looked fantastic, I was struggling to believe I was in the Mournes! I headed of towards the mass of blue ice and began to climb. The ice was in great condition, slightly plasticy in the warm temperatures which made it pefect for climbing on. All too soon I arrived at the top and set about finding a belay to bring Eamon up. Another successful winter adventure in the Mournes.
The inevitable warm up came, and the snow cover has started to reduce, although there will be snow in the hills for weeks to come. The opportunity for Mournes winter climbing has past, and once again I've started to think about getting back onto the rock, and enjoying those first few gilimpses of spring sunshine, long may it last!
About Jonny Parr:
Jonny is a mountaineering and kayak instructor, based in Belfast. He spends his summers paddling around the Irish coastline, and his winters ice climbing and mountaineering in Scotland. He is currently trialling the Target Dry Pioneer Jacket, HikeMid & TrekComfort Socks, as well as the Origin Jacket.
Once again it had reached that time of year, things were starting to become very quiet, the days were feeling very short and the nights long. It was time to dig out the axes, dust of the crampons, and head north in search of winter! Every year I finding myself heading to the Scottish Highlands for a stint of winter climbing and mountaineering, and this year was no exception.
Scottish winter can be a fickle beast, with conditions normally less than prefect, a season here can be a frustrating thing a times...
I arrived at the end of a huge thaw to find conditions in a very similar state to those that I left at the end of last season, not the most inspiring of starts, with only the major gully lines still holding snow. I spent the first week out and about with Sam and John, getting tuned back into to winter and climbing a few of the things that still remained in condition, with visits to the northern corries of the Cairngorms and a day on Ben Nevis.
For the second week of the trip, Sam headed home and we were joined by Caoimhe, just as winter made a reappearance. One of the joys of Scottish winter climbing is that conditions can literally go from bad to good in a matter of days. On our next visit into the Cairngorms it was remarkable to see the difference, with things looking much more wintery!
What a difference a few days make, this is the same corrie that is pictured above. Its always good to spend a little bit of time getting back to grips with being out on the hills in winter, so we spent a day with Caoimhe in Coire na ciste refreshing snowcraft and crampon skills.
The rest of the week was spent getting as much climbing done as possible. Caoimhe hadnt done any winter climbing before so was keen to get a few routes under her belt. We started of on a climb called Jacobs ladder, which is a grade 1 snow gully, and was the prefect place for John to do his first winter lead and Caoimhe her first winter route, a great day of firsts!
The next day it was onto facille ridge, a fantastic little grade 2 ridge. Part of the skill in winter climbing, especially in Scotland, is being able to climb not only on snow and ice, but also on rock. As the route followed a rocky ridge line it was a great opportunity for Caoimhe to get to grips with using crampons on rock, something that's a very unnatural feeling.
We spent the next couple of days doing a bit more climbing and a day of winter walking, (always good to have a day out on the hill with a light rucsack). The end of the week brought more snow, which although in the long run would be a good thing it meant that the road up into the hills was closed, so Caoimhe was forced to spend the last day of her trip drinking coffee and twiddling her thumbs- thats Scottish winter for you!
Unfortunately I was forced to cut my trip short this year, so the third week was to be my final week. With all the snow that had fallen, the avalanche risk was quite high in the usual climbing areas, so we decided to check out a new spot that none of us had been to before. The advantage of this crag was that it was facing in an easterly direction, which is where the wind was coming from. This meant that most of the falling snow would have been blown off the slopes below, giving the chance of a safer approach to the climbs, with a much small risk of avalanche activity, so it seemed like a good option.
The climbs on the crag where all of a mixed nature, meaning that they are basically snowed up rock climbs, with very little ice building up on them. This style of climbing is more similar to rock climbing and is much more technical than pure ice climbing, so is very enjoyable and allows you to make use of a range of techniques.
For my final day out on the hill I was back on Ben Nevis, where I joined Simon and Eamon to climb a route called Faulty Towers. This was Eamon's first time on the Ben and we got a great day for it, with cold temperatures, clearing skies, and very little wind.
It was a great day to finish off my short 3 week trip, and hopefully I'll be able to get back out for another hit of Scottish winter this season, with days on the hill like this, it would be rude not too!
Jonny is a mountaineering and kayak instructor. He spends his summers paddling around the Irish coastline, and his winters ice climbing and mountaineering in Scotland. He is currently trialling the Target Dry Pioneer Jacket, HikeMid & TrekComfort Socks, as well as the Origin Jacket.
Frosty weather, chilly winds and icy showers. Some might say winter is a time to batten down the hatches, curl up in front of the fire and emerge again when spring is in the air.
We think differently at Target Dry. With the right clothing to keep you and the family warm and dry, winter brings a whole host of outdoor activities for you to enjoy!
So without further ado, here is a round up of the best outdoor events happening in the UK this weekend...
1st & 2nd Dec- booking required in advance
Follow a winding trail through the beautiful forest at Thetford and marvel at the amazing art installations which show off the forest in a whole new light.
If nature is your thing, then you'll enjoy this guided walk in the beautiful Redgrave and Lopham Fen. Wellies at the ready!
Find out more at www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org
30th Nov - 1st Dec
Why not try something different and watch a spot of horse racing. The prestigious Hennessy Gold Cup will be contested on Saturday with some of the best horses in the world taking part. We think a full length Outback or Stockman Coat would definitely look the part.
Book your tickets now at www.racecoursenewbury.co.uk
This gorgeous 1820's residence is a treasure of the National Trust. Have a stroll through the 320 acres of wooded riverside estate and then visit the beautiful courtyard with the abundance of stalls, selling all things Christmas. You never know - Santa might even pay a visit to his grotto!
Find more information at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/argory/
There are certain dates in the year, which never quite make it to your diary. Father’s day is one of those occasions when most of us are running around at the 11th hour trying to find a suitable gift to give to our beloved dad. If you reckon your dad has enough “Best Dad in the World” mugs/badges/novelty socks then check out these awesome adventure days available all over the UK.
How cool is this?! This experience is available in Kent and Devon, for around £100- £130 (per person). You get four hours with your very own JCB, taking part in races at a top speed of 20mph - apparently pretty fast for a digger! Spectators are welcome and access to Diggerland Theme Park is included for the whole day. Find out about this adventure on offer at redletterdays.co.uk
This day out requires a sense of an adventure. For only £40 you will be scrambling down sections of river using ropes and harnesses, sliding down waterfalls and swimming in rockpools (with the help of an experienced instructor of course!). Be sure to bring your Mac in a Sac Jacket and Overtrousers. If you reckon your dad has a bit of Bear Grylls about him, visit naelimits.co.uk
Explore the North Coast of Northern Ireland like never before. Enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery, visit a cave and do a bit of seal spotting. The basics are taught in calmer waters before embarking on one of the planned routes which take in the best of what the North Coast has to offer. Visit simplyseakayak.com for more details.
Pics courtesy of Diggerland.co.uk, simplyseakayak.com and naelimits.co.uk