Ice Skating in Ireland

   Winter in the Republic of Ireland is a very fleeting mistress with normally massive daily temperature fluctuations bringing buckets of liquid snowfall being normal.  When Donegal and indeed Ireland do come into suitable Winter conditions for a playout, the crux of your day will without a doubt be the traveling by road throughout the county. If and when prolonged winter conditions occur in Ireland it would be rude not to go out and play. The current guidebook to Donegal's winter mountain is HERE.
   During the long Arctic winter of 2009 / 2010 whilst walking across a frozen Loch an Mháma at the base of the north face of Sliabh Sneachta, I had a cunning plan.  
   "How many lochs could I ice skate on in these fleeting glimpses of winter?"
   Fast forward to 13th December 2022 and after nearly a week of sub-zero temperatures above the 500m contour, I had a very cunning plan to visit the upper north face of Sliabh Sneachta. I had calculated that the upper reaches of Sliabh Sneachta north face would be very icy and supremely winter climbable. this cunning plan soon changed when arrived at Loch Sliabh Sneachta. This loch lives in quite a remote location surrounded by the Derryveagh Mountains, so after packing a shed load of essential winter climbing gear myself and Lóki headed in for a play. We followed Sruthán an Sceardáin Ghil from Loch Beara and hit the snow line at about 300m at the top of the falls. Through the ever-deepening snow and icicles hanging from the hags, we continued upward to arrive at a frozen loch. The previous days' north winds had scoured most of the snow and spindrift off the loch's icy surface.  After a little bit of testing the loch's ice, I found it was in its plastic stage with considerable snow and aerated ice mixed with the desired blue ice. We walked across the loch a few times on the slightly creaking and flexing ice. After a while, we decided that another night of sub-zero was needed to allow a safe and fun skate and of course, reduce the risk of a cold water immersion.

Ice Skating on Loch Sliabh Sneachta in the Derryveagh Mountains

   The following day myself and young Lóki followed the same walk in from Loch Beara and snow and ice conditions were perfect. We had parred down your gear taking out all the ice climbing gear and we altered our cunning plans in the event of a cold water immersion but alas our backpack was still huge. As we arrived at the loch the ice was much thicker, stronger and thankfully no longer in its plastic stage. For the next two hours, Lóki and I skated around and up and down the loch until alas it was time to descend back to sea level.  

   Outdoor activities in sub-zero conditions require a great deal of thought and planning with the possible outcome of something going wrong being your hypothermic death. In this short blog post, I have neglected to add any details of the equipment I carried, snowpack knowledge or any of the details of how to rate ice etcetera. I do not recommend anyone go and play on frozen water bodies ever without extensive winter knowledge and experience. If of course, you have the required skills you don't need me to say anymore.  

Ice Skating in Ireland
Ice Skating on Loch Sliabh Sneachta in the Derryveagh Mountains

Ice Skating in Donegal Ireland
Lóki walking across Loch Sliabh Sneachta

Ice Skating on Loch Shliabh Sneachta
A fully frozen Loch Sliabh Sneachta

Loch Beara
Loch Beara from Sruthán an Sceardáin Ghil

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