Thursday, August 4, 2016

WILDCAMPING ON THE BEARA PENINSULA

The August Bank Holiday Weekend

 Saturday;
 The Beara Peninsula is one of a series of peninsulas that jut out into the Atlantic on the southwest of Ireland. Each one is different and each one is gorgeous but I think that the Beara is my favourite. That said it is also the one I visit the least and I aimed to put that right this weekend. I planned to go down on Saturday morning and walk and camp that night, repeat the process on Sunday and meet up with Frank on Monday for a hike in the area. The weather forecast was pretty good with fine weather promised until rain arrived on Monday evening so I was set fair. I got the train to Cork where I caught the bus to Castletownbere and I alighted (after three ass cramping hours on the bus) in a sunny bustling harbour town at 11.30. I didn't have a lot of gas for my stove and I did a quick tour of the shops and managed to get some on the third attempt and after a coffee and cake I left the bustle behind and set off for the wilds.
A delightful little bridge after leaving Castletownbere

Leaving Castletownbere harbour behind

Entering the wilds

Leaving the harbour behind I crossed over the bridge and joined the Beara Way up a little laneway that led gently up to open wild ground. A green road continued for another kilometer towards Maulin 621mtrs which was my first target for the day. Leaving the roadway I had to continue on bog and rock and this would make for the theme for the next couple of days. Carrying food and my tent etc made for a fairly heavy bag but I was making decent progress nonetheless. I did stop fairly often to look around and soak in the wonderful views. The town nestled in its harbour behind me and as I got higher the rugged beauty of the whole peninsula became more and more apparent. From the summit my next top was Knocknagree and after this things just get more and more rugged as you head for the "daddy" of the mountains hereabouts Hungry Hill 685mtrs. Don't let the modest height fool you as this is a beast of a mountain that is rugged and wild and offers scrambling and climbing (particularly on the east side) that rivals any to be found anywhere. One of the distinguishing features of walking in this area is the strata of the rock that tends to cross your direction of travel and makes for awkward and tiring going.
Hungry Hill beckons

Looking towards Dursey Island and the tail end of Beara

Bere Island





After a nice rest and bite to eat on the summit I set off on the next leg of the trip and headed for the Healy Pass. I planned to find a  nice spot to pitch my tent somewhere around there as that would have made it a worthy effort for the first day. The way down from Hungry Hill isn't easy and some care is needed to avoid steep drops as you head for the next top Derryclancy. This area is a good example of the difficulties you face around here because in order to cover the one kilometer to the col you probably have to walk two kilometers as you criss cross the ground to find a safe way down. From the top of Derryclancy it is about four kilometers to the Healy Pass and I was looking forward to finding somewhere suitable for my tent. I passed several little lochlans that might have been suitable but I wanted to get as close to the pass as I could. I also wanted to stay as high as possible so that I could enjoy a view for the evening. Eventually after crossing some terribly boggy ground I came to the beginnings of a gully that offered a water-source and some ledges that allowed me to pitch my tent is a fairly level and dry spot. I was also less than a kilometer from the pass so I was well pleased. I had a beautiful view down to the remote valley behind Glanmore Lake which is dotted with small farmsteads. Further afield the Iveragh Peninsula stretched into the distance on the far side of Kenmare Bay. If I wanted a room with a view for the evening I certainly had it here. I had been on the go for around six and a half hours so it was great to chill out for the remainder of the evening and concentrate on nothing more than cooking dinner and making tea. Sweet.


Looking back towards the start


The steep and rocky descent from Hungry Hill

Towards the distant Skelligs


Heading for the Healy Pass looking down towards Glanmore Lake

The east face of Hungry Hill

Camping Bliss


Some of the remote farms

Sunday:
 A reasonable sleep and good breakfast saw me on the move again at 09.20 and continuing on my way. There was a bit more cloud about this morning but it was above the tops so I still had the wonderful views. There was however some rain to be seen across the water on The Reeks but I was hopeful that I would stay dry. I quickly arrived at the Healy Pass which offers a very popular cycle route that resembles an Alpine pass where the roads chicanes its way up from Adrigole. I was on a different mission however so I crossed the road and I was almost immediately alone in unspoiled wild country again. The first top of the day was Knockowen which gave a gradual climb of over 300mtrs and it was here that some rain also arrived. It was gone however by the time I had put my rain shell on and covered the rucksack and it stayed dry for the rest of the day. After leaving the summit you are faced once again with continuous bands of rock that bar the way and make progress awkward. When you are not struggling with the rock you are walking on generally sodden bog so every kilometer is hard earned. I was in no particular hurry to get anywhere so I took my time and just enjoyed the experience.
The long and winding road


Looks deceptively straightforward


The way way back

The Commeengera Horseshoe..Mondays Walk??


The weather was showing signs of improvement as well and by the time I stopped for a bit to eat at the confluence of several streams in a very boggy glen below Ram's Hill it was quite warm and sunny. Even the midges seemed to be playing ball and I was left in peace to enjoy my rest. After lunch the 200mtr pull to Ram's Hill passed easily enough and there followed a long drag to Caha Mountain 608 mtrs and a fairly easy two kilometers to my final top Coomnadiha 644mtrs. Now I had a choice to make. As I said I was to meet Frank the following morning and I reckoned the beautiful Cummeengera Horseshoe would make a fitting end to the weekend but where to best meet him was the issue. I needed to find somewhere within easy striking distance of the road but I also wanted to make the most of today and explore as much of the mountains as I could so I could either head northeast and perhaps stay in Glaninchiquin or even beyond to Dromoughty or I could make a turn to the northwest and head for Knockreagh which had the advantage of being able to camp high up that night and gave easy access to the road the following morning. I chose the latter option. The rocky strata had been mostly left behind by now but the sodden boggy ground remained a constant but the remaining four kilometers passed easily enough. I was once again on the lookout for somewhere to pitch my tent and the little lake at the top offered some promise but the ground around it was super boggy and rough so I continued on. I passed Knockgarrif and came to a level patch alongside a green road which had a nice spring of water and had several places where I could pitch my tent..result. Once again I had been on the move for six and a half hours and I felt I had made a worthwhile effort today as well. What a spot it was to spend the evening. The view was astounding and it was pure pleasure to while away the evening as I cooked my dinner, had tea and generally chilled out. I had high hopes of witnessing a wonderful sunset but alas the cloud increased in the late evening and by 10pm it had started to rain. I hadn't checked the weather forecast in a couple of days but I was hopeful that it was just a short blip in the fine weather...I was wrong.


Remote valleys



Looking into the Rabach Glen

And I thought the first campsite was good..wow

Kilmakillogue and Ardgroom harbours


Monday August1st;

A wee bit different this morning
Lets just say it was an unsettled night where strong gusts of wind and at times torrential rain meant sleep was at a premium. I did doze off frequently but the wind made the tent flap a bit but on the plus side I stayed completely dry with nary a drop coming into where I slept. By the time dawn arrived it was clear that this was no passing front and after checking the forecast it was set to stay miserable for the whole day. I texted Frank to let him know that it was not worth his while making the long drive to have a day in the cloud and rain and I would make my own way back to Killarney where I could catch a train home. I settled down to wait for a hoped for ease in the rain and this arrived after 8am so I had a quick bite to eat and packed up my stuff and actually managed to get completely packed up almost dry. It was an easy walk down to the pass near Garrane where I hoped to hitch a lift towards home. I wasn't over hopeful as it is a big ask to expect someone to allow a drenched person into a dry car but much to my delight I was given a drive by a local farmer into Kenmare within five minutes which meant that I was there before 10am at the least I could get a bus into Killarney. The rain was very heavy in but as the next bus wasn't until 12.30 I decided to take a chance and try my luck hitching to Killarney. I found a somewhat sheltered spot to stand under a tree and again much to my delight I got a drive within a few minutes so I was back in Killarney well before 11am. my train left at 11.40am so I was home before 1pm. It was a pity to miss out on a hike today but the journey home went so well that I was still delighted. The previous couple of days were truly wonderful and reinforced again my love for the beautiful Beara Peninsula. I look forwardto returning again soon.