I got as far as book 13 Chapter 6 with the aid of some kinsmates and a couple of others. We had to retrieve a book from the dourhand controlled icereave mine. Ice-reave is very reminiscent of Sarnur the Thorin's hall rep dungeon in Ered Luin. The mobs also drop the dourhand tabards but seem a little easier than in Sarnur so I could imagine this being the preferred new zone for grinding Thorin's Hall rep.
We did a few more quests in the same group - earning an epic hammer reward for killing Arnoth the Exacting in Icereave. In truth the hammer is not all that Epic but it's Beleriand Damage type is not very common and may come in useful for mobs who have special resistances.
I got a second epic unexpectedly when a kinsmate appeared literally out of nowhere as we were entering icerave and gave me a dragonscale breastplate. How is that for a welcome back present after six months of not playing? I am very lucky to have found such a helpful, casual friendly kinship.
Near-raid quality crafted items can be bought on the auction house and prices seem to have fallen in anticipation of the impact of Mines of Moria. I'll probably buy a few bits and pieces but I don't actually feel that badly off gear-wise. My virtue traits are another story. My currently equipped virtues stop at levels six, seven or eight but I notice that while I was away the ceiling on most virtues seems to have gone up to nine or ten. A fully upgraded virtue is probably equivalent to a piece of epic armour so they are worth having but I have come to realise that earning virtues is the real grind of lotro. To get a virtue to level 10 requires thousands of mobs to be slaughtered. If I get bored of questing that's where I will have to focus my attention I reckon.