Ulster University Mountaineering’s Freshers’ Trip
Our adventure begins with the realisation that hurricane Ophelia was going to intrude on our weekend’s enjoyment. With rain now bucketing down on us, we headed to the Mourne cottage . After much careful driving in low visibility, we arrived at the cottage to warm up our accommodation for the weekend. We spent the night playing ice-breaker games to get to know each other better.
Day 2 kicked into gear once John— guide and former club president—arrived. While he and our assistants were plotting our laborious hike, our sleepy-headed members noshed down breakfast. Sandwiches were also prepared for future noshing; hermetically sealed for freshness.
Our guides laid before us our route; with targets including Slieve Binnian, Ben Crom dam and Silent Valley reservoir.
Our daunting 16km hike began at 10:00 under wet but hopeful conditions. We reached Carrick little carpark and began equipping our waterproofs. Ronan had to return due to a sore foot. We continued towards Binnian, our first strategic location. Binnian was not to be under-estimated, due to the resistance they showed and environmental factors playing to their favour, we took an alternative route that avoided facing them directly. Along the route, a lake provided some entertainment for the members. After such an arduous battle, we had some personal time at the top of Ben Crom dam. This short respite allowed rations to be consumed and a light jog to be had.
Our final mission was to conquer the Silent Valley dam. Our path, now with an incline in our favour allowed us to reach the designated point quicker than expected. However, as the air force picked up, we were forced to wait behind cover. This didn’t lower our spirits as this marked the beginning of our journey home. We reached home at 15:30, and enjoyed the warmth of the fire.
Our thoughts soon turned to where to head next. Due to wet weather we decided on ice-cream, food and pub. By 16:30 we were all warmed up and made our way to ‘Nugelato’ for ice-cream and enjoyed the cocoa-fest they’re known for. With our sweet-teeth sated, we headed for dinner. Afterwards we head to O’Hares bar for a winter warmer. As dusk fell, we headed to the cars and arrived home at 19:30. The rest of the night was filled with table top games like Munchkin, a frustrating and better variation of snap and card games.
We woke up on our final day with hope glistening in our eyes as the weather finally cleared and we saw Mr. Blue Sky. With renewed vigour we got ready for a day of actual climbing. After eating breakfast and making lunches, we cleaned our weekend home. Emptying rubbish, cleaning the fireplace and generally making it look all fancy took surprisingly little time with everyone helping, so we were done for 09:30. The rubbish was given to Liam to recycle and dispose of it.
We decided to climb at Altandue quarry as it dried out fast and was beside the road. We all got into cars and enjoyed the majestic scenery and winding roads on our way there. When we arrived, we equipped gear and warmed up with some light bouldering.
The first ropes to go up where a short and long abseil for members to try. We ensured that freshers where safe by using a releasable abseil or having another member hold on to the rope below to lock-off should anything happen.
We then got experienced climbers to lead routes, set up an anchor then have freshers second the route. The quarry had a mix of difficulties, making it ideal for their first outdoor climbs. We then took the abseils down to use the static rope in anchors for bottom-roping, making it quicker between climbs. We set up two bottom-ropes and a top-rope so that everyone had a chance to climb.
Some spaces between boulders made it technically possible to go spelunking, so of course we did.
After a morning of climbing, we decided to head home. We stripped anchors and ensured that everyone got their climbing gear back. Richard took the students staying at halls back to Jordanstown. All in all, a lovely trip that would have been more popular with better weather.