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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sneem April 2015

Margaret and myself recently decamped to one of our favourite places for a few days....Sneem. We stayed in the excellent apartments at the Sneem Hotel and we were blessed by good weather as well. As I was in this wild and wonderful landscape it would have been rude not to sample some of what is on offer thereabouts so after a run along a little piece of the Kerry Way on Tuesday evening I got up early-ish on Wednesday to go for a short hillwalk. My route of choice was the nearby Coomcallee horseshoe. Alas the stunning weather of the previous day was replaced by a combination of fog and misty cloud this morning and shortly after leaving the car I had the map and compass out to ensure I was heading in the right direction even at the start. I was hopeful that it was just fog blotting the views and that I would soon rise above it but it wasn't to be. A short story shorter I didn't get any views whilst on top and didn't emerge under the clouds until I was well into my final descent. I didn't mind however, as it was a good exercise to have to use the map and compass to make my way safely and I often find that things can be quite atmospheric in such conditions. A total of eight kilometres and 800 meters of climbing in three hours was a nice start to the day and as the weather cleared up beautifully in the afternoon we enjoyed a lovely touristic experience for the rest of the day.
Twas more than the mist dripping into my eyes. I was a tad warm.

Briefly out of the mist at the col

Moody cliffs stretch away to the right.

Back down under the cloud looking at the Coomcallee cliffs

Seriously good boldering to be enjoyed. The big ones are house size

The route taken that evening is up the left and down the right...simples

The last time I was in the area I did a lovely but tough 95 K cycle with 1000 meters of ascent. It starts from the hotel and heads to the Ballaghbeama Gap, then onwards to Ballaghisheen Pass , from there on to Waterville and then home the stunning coast road which is part of the ring of Kerry. Now its fair to say that I'm no great shakes on the bike and the little I have done this year didn't exactly prepare me too well for it but overall I was pretty pleased with my efforts. The climb to Ballaghbeama is a toughie with a 13 degree gradient but I managed to huff and puff my way to the crest. A brief rest and I enjoyed the downhill section towards Glencar which passes through some of the wildest and most rugged landscape in Ireland. Then it was on to Ballaghasheen and the views just kept on coming. If I was disappointed with the weather the previous morning, today I had nothing but blue sky and warm sun. It was magical.
Shortly after starting out. Not a bad backdrop.

Ballaghbeama Gap

The way onwards


 It didn't make the climb to the pass any easier and I suspect some of the noises I was making towards the top would have sent alarm bells ringing for anyone unfortunate enough to have heard them. Another brief rest at the top and I think the view back towards the Reeks is truly special. Then there is the long but relatively flat ride all the way to the coastal village of Waterville and now the deep blue of the wild Atlantic is a joy to behold. Alas it isn't that easy to enjoy it as there is a long drag out of the village but boy oh boy, when you reach the high headland at the crest the scenery is breathtaking (if you had any left). The Skelligs, Scarrif island and the serene Derrynane compete for your attention. I actually felt pretty good but I hit something of a wall with about 15 kilometres to go but I managed to keep going to the end. I was banjaxed at the end but elated at the same time. With weather such as this it was a huge privilege to be able to ride through some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever been in.
Back towards Waterville

Scariff Islands


That evening I went after dinner and walked to the top of nearby Bheann Mhor which at 308 meters was plenty after the exertions of the morning. It is a rough wild little hill that requires a lot more effort to reach the top than you would expect. It offered a lovely viewpoint and as the sun set I soaked up as much of the views as I could. It was a fitting finale to my efforts this trip. I hope it won't be too long before we go back.
Views from Bheann Mhor

Bheann Mhor

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Wonderful Bit Of Winter On The Reeks Today

April 11th;
We have had a beautiful week of great spring weather this past week but alas the forecast for the weekend wasn't good with chilly conditions and plenty of rain. It was therefore with some delight I saw lots of blue sky about and even some snow on the hills as I went back to Killarney to have a day out with Frank. Even though it had been a while since he had been out Frank opted to head for the "big ones" and we set off for the Reeks. They looked wonderful with a dusting of snow giving the range a wintry look. We decided to climb the north spur of Cnoc na Chuillan 958 meters. It was a bit chilly and some showers could be seen in places but it was overall a very promising picture and we were in fine fettle as we set off. We walked in as far as the outlet of Lough Callee and then climbed up into the impressive Coumeenmore. Things got considerably steeper from as we climbed up towards the ridge high to our right. As we neared the ridge the wind got up a bit but it was not too bad and allowed us to stick to the nice ridge and eventually reach the summit.
The route is just right of centre

Inspiring vistas

The north spur of Cnoc na Chuillin

Impressive back wall of Coumeenmore

Some nice scrambling to be had

Looking back down the ridge

Frank on the summit.
We were occasionally treated to ex-foliating hail showers but at the top we found a lovely sheltered spot and enjoyed a delightful lunch. The play of dark cloudscapes and stunning scenery plus a gentle fall of snow made for an enchanting interlude. From the top we could have gone left to Cruach Mhor or right to Carrauntoohil and we chose the latter. So rested and fed we turned to descend into the breeze. Ahead of us the Bridea Valley was a dark forbidding sight as another shower headed our way. It reached us after we had gone down about 100 meters and it hit with some force. The breeze became a strong wind and it carried hailstones that hit and stung. I had no option but to stand and turn my back to it but very shortly I had to squat right down as the backs of my legs were really stinging from the hail. I was actually laughing as I waited for things to improve as this was full on severe weather that was a bit intimidating but was equally exhilarating. It soon passed and we were able to continue on and shortly afterwards we were basking in glorious sunshine and enjoying stunning views once again. We continued up and over Cnoc na Toinne and then on up to the summit of Carrauntoohil. The weather behaved itself for the rest of the outing and we descended back to the car via the Heavenly Gates. It had been a varied exhilarating outing and had the odd reminder that perhaps winter isn't finished with us yet. Thanks Frank.
The view from lunch

More lunchtime views

The snow was melting fast
During the squall

Shortly after the squall stunning

A wee bit more weather on the way

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Galtees Wildcamp

Last night I took advantage of the good weather and an early finish from work and headed to the Galtee Mountains with all I needed for an overnight camp. I parked in the excellent Kings Yard at the foot of Knocknagantee at 17.15 and I set off for Monabrack 630 meters with the aim of heading up onto the main ridge somewhere near Lyracappul. What a lovely evening it was. Proper warm sun meant I was sweating pretty quickly after I set off but the views were lovely and I was really loving being in this lovely range. There was the added advantage of the dryer than normal underfoot conditions thanks to the fine few days we had enjoyed. Soon enough I the broad flat top of Monabrack and as the time was getting on I headed down to the col 100 meters below and continued up the slopes towards the ridge some 300 meters above. I was only carrying 1 litre of water with me and i needed to get more before I set up camp and as I would need to get a refill before morning I wanted to find a source as high as possible. The dry conditions meant that a lot of the watercourse were dry but I found a trickle about 100 meters below the ridge. I climbed up and found a lovely dry and flat spot near the col and looking down to the steep slopes to the wide plain below. This is one of my favourite viewpoints in the whole range and I was well happy. I quickly returned to refill my water bottles and once I returned I cooked a quick dinner and sat and enjoyed a stunning sunset.
Starting up the lower slopes. Looking towards Galtymor.

Looking towards Lyracappul  825 meters. I camped on the right of the picture

Looking back to Monabrack

Enjoying dinner with a view.

Evening light on Lyracappul

The views were expansive


Home sweet home
There was a bit of a breeze at the col but it wasn't too bad but as the sun set the temperature dropped with it and I soon retreated to my tent to relax for the night. I slept quite early but later in the night the wind got up and things got pretty noisy but I slept more than I was awake. The wind was still strong in the morning and the temperature was just 3 degrees but I really enjoyed sitting eating breakfast in my tent looking down on the stunning landscape below. I was on the move again at 07.30 and I set off alonf the ridge all the way to Galtymor  919 meters. A thirty mile per hour wind meant there was a brisk feel to the morning but I loved the trip. I descended directly down to the deep valley on the south side and went to the confluence of three streams and then followed the woods back to the car. I had only been on the move for a few hours but I was very satisfied with the whole experience. I must go back again soon.
A bit more light pollution than Ben Alder

Lovely morning

Towards Galtymor

A strange cylindrical roiling cloud

Galtymor looming large


A magic spot.