Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lough Duff Horseshoe

I went to Kerry again on Thursday to do the Lough Duff horseshoe. This is a lovely circuit into some of the most remote ground in the country. It take you right into the heart of the Everagh peninsula and you will usually have only the local herd of wild goats for company. The 24k drive from Killarney is an event in itself as you travel through the Gap of Dunloe and drive down and into the furthest recess' of the Black Valley. Parking is in a little layby just after a bridge under the steep eastern flanks of Braughnabinnea. Almost from the off you start to climb up through a small holly wood and then enter an easy gully that allows one to gain height rapidly. When you get to the top of the gully after four hundred meters of effort there follows a nasty slog to the summit plateau of the mountain. There was a stiff fridgid easterly breeze so I didn't linger and instead headed down the heathery slope to the col under the gradual ridge that leads to Knockduff.

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Knockduff was the scene of a tragety in January 2002 when two experienced hillwalkers were killed when they fell from near the summit into a gully while trying to retreat from bad weather. Every year since Killarney Mountaineering Club holds a commemorative walk to honour their memory. This year, due to impassible roads we couldn't get there so they were in my thoughts as I progressed along the ridge to the summit. Though the day was a little gloomy under a thin layer of cloud Knockduff is a wonderful place to stop and gaze about as you enjoy lunch. This is what I did and when done I continued easily along the broad ridge and turned east to head in the direction of the valley once more. I hadn't progressed very far when I spotted an eagle rise above the crest of the ridge. I stood stock still in the hope that the bird might come in my direction. I was overjoyed when this magnificent creature gradually glided towards me and eventually hovered no more than fifty meters above me. I watched enraptured as I could see it turn its head one way and the other as it searched for food a thousand foot below in the valley. I stood for a minute maybe more and just enjoyed until it moved away effortlessly to the other side of the valley. I continued happily along the ridge, gradually losing height until I came to a broad saddle. This marks the normal spot for descent but I continued on up the next hill and descended steeply down to the road, picking a route through rocky outcrops and steep wet slabs to the road. Another memorable day.