Friday, July 24, 2015

Mount Brandon to the Connor Pass

Yesterday I set off from home looking to have a good big mountain day. I had intended to head to the Reeks but I opted instead to travel the extra few miles and climb Mount Brandon. This is one of my favourite mountain areas of any I have been to and as I drove west from Tralee I once again felt the excitement and thrill that I get whenever I visit. As you reach Cloghane the view of the mountains as they encircle Brandon Bay is truly wonderful. It helped as well that the weather was good and it promised to get better throughout the day so as I left the car at 10.30 I was feeling good and set fair. Cloghane itself is a sleepy pretty little village nestling between the shore and the mountains and it seems to run to a different clock to the rest of the world. I have always said that it I could ever afford a holiday home it is here that I would like to have one.
Beautiful Cloghane

Beautiful right from the start

Brandon Peak from low on the Faha Ridge

Stunning views towards the main ridge

The view from Benagh.

Leaving the village you follow the Dingle Way up through some sheep filled fields before leaving it and walking up a country lane to the start of the Faha Ridge. I followed the broad ridge to the wonderful summit of Benagh 822 meters which is a great place to rest and soak in the stunning views all about. Ahead lies the narrow section of the ridge that joins the main Brandon ridge. The north face of Brandon itself is one of the most rugged and wild in Ireland and the paternoster lakes that run to the east is the finest example I have seen anywhere. To the northeast ocean vistas draw the eye and the curious shape of An Sas (the trap) comes into view. I set off across the ridge and some care was needed as the rocks were damp and greasy and at times the drops considerable. Once past the narrowest part there is a wonderful (fairly difficult) spine of rock to the crest above that offers top class scrambling but alas today it too was greasy and uninviting so I stuck to the grassy ground on the right hand side until I arrived at the top of the main ridge. I have been here many times before but it is always a huge thrill to suddenly see the gobsmackingly beautiful view down towards Smerwick bay and the Blasket Islands. I can honestly say that I have never seen any view more beautiful in all my travels. It quite simply takes the breath away and once again I wished I could adequately capture the scene on my camera.
Looking back across the Faha Ridge


The exciting bit of the ridge

Amazing views once you crest the main ridge

Towards the Three Sisters and The Blasket Islands

I went to the nearby summit of Mount Brandon (952 meters) where I enjoyed a spot of lunch before setting off in the direction of Brandon Peak and from there Gearhane. The day was getting better and better with sunshine and light winds ensuring that nothing spoiled the wonderful views. I was feeling pretty strong as well which is always a good thing. Once beyond Gearhane the ridge becomes broad and boggy but this only makes the going underfoot a bit easier and those views are still there. It is still a fair long way to the Connor Pass and before you get there you drop to just under 400 meters when you pass the "Pilgrims Route" at the pass below Ballysittera which stands over 230 meters above you.By now I had covered about 13 kilometers and climbed over 1200 meters so I wasn't looking forward to the slog ahead but needs must and in fairness it soon passed. I still had a good ways to go so I didn't delay too long on the broad flat summit and I soon had passed Beennabrack 609 meters and continued onto An Bhinn Dubh where I stopped for a rest and a bite to eat. Next up was the Connor Pass which (this being the tourist high season) was very busy. I was delighted to discover that an ice cream van was there and I enjoyed a delicious cone as I walked up to the next summit Slievanea 629 meters above Pedlars Lake. The walk above the twin coums and the easy pull to my final top Slievanea NE top at 671 meters which is a wonderful place to soak up the views. By now I had been on the go for six and a half hours but all the climbing was over (1800 meters or so).  I had traveled over 20 kilometers but I still had about seven kilometers left to get back to my car so I didn't delay too long. The descent is easy and on good ground but there are still four kilometers on the road. I arrived back at the car after a total of 7 hours 45 minutes a bit tired but so so happy I had visited one of my favourite places anywhere. I look forward to going back soon.

The ridge towards Brandon Peak

Down towards Cloghane
 
View from Brandon Peak
Looking back towards Brandon.

Oh yes, that is an ice cream van at the Connor Pass


Heading to Slievanea

The Brandon massif from Slievanea

New view on the descent

Slievanea