Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Moonlight Wander On The Galtee Mountains

For some reason I don't go walking that much at night-time. Indeed the last time I was walking at night on the Galtee mountains must be twelve years ago. It was well past time that I put that statistic to rights and what better time than with a full moon and the mountains white with snow. So I set off from home at 16.30 yesterday and arrived at the carpark on the north side of the mountains at 17.30 and set off on the Clydagh Valley horseshoe, a nice 14 kilometre hike with about 1200 meters of ascent with the added bonus that it takes in Galtymore 919 meters. I was really looking forward to it as the skies were clear and a frost had already set in and the views of the north side of the range as I drove in were great.
A view to whet the appetite.
Despite the chill I was soon warm as I set off up the easy track that rises to the shoulder of Cush 642 meters and then climbed the stiff pull to the summit. I had to stop a few times and admire the view around the valley and off the west the rose red sky after the sun set was truly lovely. Soon the lights of the many villages and towns twinkled in the fading light but I didn't need my headlight before I reached the top at 18.30. What a pleasure it was to pause and take everything in. The mountains looked magnificent in their winter coat and to top it all off to the east a blood red moon was appearing on the horizon. There was a liberal dusting of powdery snow covering a hard frozen turf but there wasn't any need to bring out the axe and crampons. There was also a stiffer breeze than I expected and this encouraged me to keep moving.
Starting up towards Cush looking at the rest of the horseshoe. Galtymore in the middle

Glowing skies to the west

I wish I could get a good picture
The wonderful thing about this frosty weather is that the normally wet, boggy ground was rock solid and made what is often a meandering way to try and avoid the boggy bits a much more direct route. The nearly 400 meter climb to the summit of Galtybeg (799 meters) is never easy but with the moon now higher and casting a brilliant glow upon the mountains I didn't mind it a bit as I was enjoying myself immensely. The wind on the summit ridge was really quite stiff now and very chilly and after I tried (unsuccessfully) to capture something of the majesty of the scenery with my camera I was glad to head off towards Galtymore. The normally terribly mucky/boggy ground from here to about halfway up the summit slopes of Galtymore was frozen solid and the going was so much easier which was just as well as the wind was strong and cold. By the time I reached the summit of Galtymore I had to stop and put on warmer layers. A little misty cloud was scudding across the broad icy ridge and I reckon that it must have been -5 degrees with a thirty mile an hour wind making for a wind-chill temperature of minus thirty. I kept moving and soon was heading down towards the broad flat spur that then drops and curls around above the impressive coum in which nestles the almost frozen Lough Curra. Spindrift was now a bit of a problem but if anything the views were even more spectacular. I opted to drop steeply down to the lake and then followed the easy trail all the way back to the car. I arrived back at the car at 21.30 in great spirits having thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Even though the there was a decent snow covering higher up there was no need to utilise axe or crampons as it was soft and powdery everywhere. I must do some practice after dark with my camera as I didn;t manage to get one decent picture. I must do more night walks in the future.
Trying to get a bit of shelter on the summit of Galtymore

All layers needed