Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Clydagh Valley Horseshoe..On The Crispy Galtees

I am very neglectful of the Galtee Mountains. It has been too long since I was last there and today I put that right. We have been enjoying wonderful weather for some time now and I was interested to see how the dry spell has affected these normally wet and boggy mountains. Well its fair to say I cannot remember ever having seen the ground so dry hereabouts.

I left the car at 11am and while it was warm the sun still hadn't burnt off the clouds from the tops. I opted for the very nice round that is the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe today and this takes in Cush, Galtybeg and the big one Galtymore. I have had a medial ligament tear on my right knee since before Christmas and it is very slow to clear up. I was sure it was almost completely healed after my trip to Brandon last week as I had been pain free for a few weeks. Of course last Friday I went for a walk with Ruby on Mount Hillary and I was feeling so good I decided to have a bit of an easy jog down the steep bike trail. I started off nice and easy but it felt so good to be running that I threw caution to the wind and ran all the way down. I loved it. Alas the following morning my ligament was quite painful and its fair to say that my run threw my recovery back several weeks. Bollocks to it. Anyway I was interested to see how my knee would cope today and while I knew the problem was there it never became too painful. Here's hoping.
Greenane looming out of the mist

Galtybeg and Galtymore

Lough Muskry


I usually prefer to do the round in a clockwise direction as this gives a nice long easy descent and I set off up the little lane at a good pace. Wow the ground was dry and when I reached the shoulder of Cush where there is usually a long wet section of walking it was lovely to walk completely carefree along the easy ground. Next comes the steep drag to the lovely top of Cush and finally the cloud started to burn off. Easily down to the col under Galty Beg and again it was a straightforward walk across the normal quagmire that is there and I started the long slog to the elegant little top of Galty Beg. This is always a lovely spot to stop and soak in the new vistas to the south. It was a bit misty today but the warm sun and soothing breeze were adequate compensations. Galtymor and its cliffs above Lough Diheen beckoned and I didn't linger too long. Again the normal twists and turns that are required to make progress between these two tops wasn't necessary and I was able to take a direct line through powdery dry peat hags all the way until the final slopes of Galtymore. At the deserted summit I sat and enjoyed a bite of lunch before dropping and contouring around above Curra Lake and then continuing northwards on the spur of Slievecushnabinnea and back to the forestry and my car. A leisurely 3hours 45mins in warm and glorious sun. I mustn't leave it so long to return. 
Looking west from the summit


Friday, June 3, 2016

Bivvying On Brandon. Close to Perfect.

After a very nice trip to The Lake District on May 20th I found myself with the opportunity to head back to one of my favourite places Mount Brandon on June 1st. With the weather being so fantastic I decided to bivvy for the night and make a two day outing of it.

I finished my week  of night-work on Wednesday morning and after a couple of hours in bed I got up and gathered my bits n bobs together and struck off west. Warm sun and blue skies have been the dominant weather pattern for a week now and the countryside was looking glorious as I went back and things only got better and better the further west I got. Beyond Tralee, the azure sea and stunning mountains were added to the mix and my mood and anticipation got better and better. Entering the little village of Cloghane I wasted no time in getting ready and I was on the move at 13.30. Initially the first 7K of the walk are on the road but don't let this put you off as we are talking fairly quiet lanes for the most part and the views in all directions are great. The hedgerows too are coming alive right now and Fuchsia flowers are now competing with Flag Iris and many more wildflowers to catch your eye as you walk. It was warm but not too hot and the gentle breeze made it a heavenly day to be out and about. After passing through Brandon village the road rises gently until it terminates at the lovely viewing point at Brandon Head 300ft above the serene ocean below. It was great to see the faces of the few tourists that milled about as they soaked it all in. They certainly got lucky with the timing of their trip this time.
Walking along the lane the views on one side were nice

And not too bad on the other side either

Benoskee looking good

Looking down into An tSáis
I must explore that rock face sometime. There looks to be some great climbs there.

Some erosion clearly underway


The view towards the Blasket Islands

I bivvied on top of the outcrop ahead

From here I turned left and walked up past the old lookout post and on over the crispy ground to An Buaicín and then followed the wayposts of Súilóid a tSáis, over Cnoc Duíléibhe and then Slieveglass where I paused and wondered at the raw beauty of An Sás (the trap). It never fails to inspire me being here and coming so soon after my trip to Cumbria, I inevitably began comparing each place in my head and today I was left in no doubt that, well, there is no comparison. The elemental raw scenery that is found here is way beyond anything that the rather tamed Lake District (by comparison) has to offer. I continued on my way as far as the deserted village in the following glen where myself and Frank enjoyed a night in the bothy that can be found here. I loaded up with water and set off up the long slog towards Masatiompan 763mtrs which is never great fun but boy o boy is the effort repaid when you reach the summit. What had been glorious views all along just got even better as the astonishing beauty of the views down towards the Blasket Islands and the rugged gnarly coastline that fights with the wide open Atlantic is almost emotional to behold. It is no great surprise that filming has only just been completed here for the next "Starwars" movie, as the scene is almost otherworldly. It was now after six pm and hunger was insisting that I found somewhere to settle for the evening. Looking along the ridge at the nearby Piaras Mór (a tor that juts up some 40 mtrs from the broad ridge) and seeing that I could source some water not too far below it, I settled for there.
Evening light working its magic

Casting a shadow in the morning

Bye for now

The Faha Ridge

Mount Brandon summit

It had been a bit of a pain hauling the 2.75 litres  of water to the ridge but it was now well worth it as I was able to immediately set about getting a comforting brew on the go. I was soon basking in the warm sun, relaxing and eating my sandwich as I drank in the scenes below. Oh how lucky I counted myself to be, to be able to get to these wild places and luckier still that it is all within a two hour drive from my home. If I am ever fortunate enough to have the funds to buy a holiday/retirement home then Cloghane would be the place for me. Anyway I whiled away the time and evening gave way to sunset and after that delight I settled down to sleep. I would love to say that I slept like a baby all night but as is so often the case a bivy (when poorly planned) can turn uncomfortable and this was another of those times. It wasn't entirely my fault (I chose a spot that was a little too exposed and had a bit too much slope) as the gentle puffs of breeze that prevailed as I settled down to sleep became stiff gusts and came from a different direction in the night and as the temperature dropped things became a bit chilly. Still "occasionally"having my eyes open in the night allowed me enjoy the deepest carpet of stars that blanketed the sky. The blood red sky that welcomed the morning was another bonus. I did get some sleep and when I finally extricated myself from my sleeping bag I felt reasonably refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
Brandon Peak

Brandon Bay

A super-yacht dwarfs the entrance to Dingle Harbour. Who could own it??

Towards Slievanea

Looking down to Pedlars Lake with Brandon beyond

The gentle zephyr of the previous day was now a stern wind that at 7am and 2500ft had a distinctly chilly feel to it. Another reviving brew and biscuits (very healthy) and I abandoned my home and set off for vistas new. Walking in a T shirt would have to wait a while but I was well insulated against the chill and the blood was soon pumping as I climbed the ridge towards Mount Brandon 952mtrs. Views into the coums on the east side and the Faha Ridge meant things got more rugged and spectacular. I crossed over the summit and continued easily for the next couple of kilometers to the col under Brandon Peak 840mtrs and stiff pull to this graceful summit got rid of any lingering chill. From here I walked as far as the pass of Mullachveal 357mtrs before climbing to Ballysitteragh 629mtrs and continuing as far as the busy Connor Pass. It was once again warm and sunny and it was no surprise to find a fair few people out for a drive. I left the cars and tourists behind quickly and climbed the gentle slopes to the wonderful viewpoint of Slievanea 629mtrs which soars above Pedlars Lake (another tourist hotspot) and offers a wonderful place to admire the scenery of the Brandon massif and look back on the  length of ground that has been covered. Onwards next to the final top of the day Slievanea NE Top 671 mtrs and almost unexpectedly the stunning Coumanare with its shallow lakes under rugged cliffs and views across towards Benoskee and the remainder of the peninsula take centre stage. It is fair to say that the area packs in loads of punch and doesn't stop delivering those views. Even the four kilometers on the road back to the car that finishes the trip is really a joy with those hedgerows still alive with colour and you are now looking across the bog to the rugged heart of the mountains.
The view east form Slievanea


Walking back to the car. Lots still to enjoy

After passing a group of school children yesterday and over the course of today I had seen only one other person on the hills. Long may such a wild beautiful place remain so unspoiled and quiet. I arrived back at the car tired but so so happy with my couple of days. Yesterday had been a five hour hike and today a seven hour one. I didn't set any records but then again why would I want to. It was a time to look around and enjoy and drink in the landscape. Oh and I could get seriously used to weather like this.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Four Days In The Lake District.

The beautiful valley of Langdale
For a long time now I have been promising myself that I would visit the Lake District and explore what this famous honey pot of hillwalking has to offer but for one reason and another I never got around to it but last weekend I took the plunge and I must say it didn't disappoint.

Friday May  20th;

After getting the overnight ferry from Dublin I caught the 06.55 train to Crewe and then the Virgin Pendolino train (very nice) as far as Oxenholme where another train saw me emerge into a sunny Windermere at 11.40. A half an hour later than I had hoped which meant that I had to wait until 12.25 for my next bus to Coniston from where I would start my walk. I arrived in the village at 13.20 and after a quick purchase of a canister of gas I set off up the track towards "The Old Man" 803 mtrs. The weather was very nice with some sunshine and broken high cloud but the forecast was poor with heavy rain due to arrive in the late afternoon so I didn't hang about as I was anxious to get some ground covered before the bad weather arrived. A good track leads easily up through the pretty woodland by the village and soon enough I emerged into open ground with nice views of the old mining area and the rugged east face of Brim Fell. If I had more time I would have headed across the short distance to visit the youth hostel and say hi to Jacob Richmond who is now in charge of it and with whom I enjoyed a fine day out in Snowdonia in January but it would have to wait for another time. The good track made for relatively easy going and it didn't take too long to reach the lake called Low Water that nestles under the crags that rise to the plateau above. A wee rest here and I set off up the remaining 250 metres to the summit.
Beckoning me on

Towards Black Sails

Looking back towards the village and Coniston Water

There weren't many people about and the views from the top were lovely but it was windy and decidedly chilly so I didn't dally and set off along the easy ground to Brim Fell 795 mtrs. What a delight the ground hereabouts is. Short cropped grass and dry ground makes for delightful walking. I wager that you could play golf on most of the massif and not have to worry too much about losing your ball. Next was the drop to the col of Levers Hawse (It takes a while to get used to these non Gaelic names hereabouts) with a straightforward 130 metre climb to the next top Swirl How 804 mtrs. This is a lovely vantage point with steep drops on three fronts and wide-ranging views from the sea to the Scafells and further afield. To the south the clouds started to look ominous and I was starting to focus on where I would make my home for the night. I originally had thought that I would drop down towards Little Langdale and find a spot for my tent there but the afternoon had been so good I had hoped to reachRed Tarn between the Pike of Blisco and Cold Pike but as I followed the spur after Great Carrs the first drops of rain arrived so I made a beeline southwest into the rough valley and found a pretty dry level spot at around the 420 mtr contour where I wasted no time in pitching my tent and getting myself sorted before the poor weather hit. I had managed to get in a 3 hour 45 minute day and felt I had made reasonable progress. Thankfully the rain didn't really set in until I had finished preparing my meal and as I had had little sleep the previous night it was no hardship to settle into my sleeping bag straight away after dinner and try to sleep. This I did but the weather got quite bad around midnight and the strong wind threatened to flatten my tent at times. Still exhaustion won the day and sleep returned eventually.
The summit of The Old Man

Lovely undulating easy walking

Towards Skiddaw

Towards Bowfell and the Scafells
Home sweet home. Just before the rain as well :)

Saturday May 21st;
A wee bit extra water in the stream

The gentle stream that that ran near my tent last evening was this morning a whitewater torrent but the rain had temporarily ceased so I emerged to do my morning ablutions at almost 9am. I was strangely refreshed so I reckoned I must have slept better than I thought. My Alpkit Delta tent had kept me bone dry overnight and the mild breeze had almost dried the exterior completely. I wasted no time getting myself sorted and I was all fed and packed and on the move well before 10am. I wasn't under any illusions that the day was going to be good but it always helps to get packed up and underway in the dry. I climbed back up to the shoulder of the ridge and dropped down to the Wrynose Pass and rose easily to the Red Tarn. By the time I reached here the rain had once again returned and I was also immersed in the cloud so it was a map and compass exercise for the remainder of the day. From the tarn I followed the track west as it rose towards Crinkle Crags. My views were limited to say the least and the only remarkable thing was that the wind rose in speed and dropped in temperature as I got higher. Finally I reached a quite awkward rock step that was polished and ran with water and which required my full attention as I climbed it with the heavy bag but it was only a few moves and I was soon at the summit 860 mtrs. One of the problems with following a path is that sometimes it might not be going in the direction you want and so it proved after the summit when I briefly followed a path that went west (and down) but I quickly realized my mistake and I returned to the crest and for the next kilometer or so I traversed rough ground before reaching Three Tarns pass from where I climbed the 180 mtrs to the summit of Bowfell 903 mtrs where I had a rest and a bite to eat.
A brief clearing with fleeting views into Langdale

A busy Scafell Pike summit

The rain had stopped by now but the wind was still brisk and cold so I donned dry gloves and an extra layer and set off towards Esk Pike 885 mtrs which would be the next top. Despite being in cloud the whole way navigation was straightforward as once again there was a good track underfoot and only the occasional check of the compass was required to make correct progress. Thus far I had had the day to myself but when I reached Esk Hause I reached the hoards that were heading for Scafell Pike which at 977 mtrs is the highest in England. I joined the caravan and eventually reached a very noisy and crowded summit. I had another bite to eat here and then set off down the easy path towards WasdaleHead where I hoped to find a good place to pitch my tent for the night. As I reached somewhere around the 700 mtr contour I started to emerge under the cloud and there seemed to be a marked improvement in the day. The odd glimpse of sunshine could be seen and to my left big crags loomed out of the mist on Scafell. Finally the mists cleared and I was treated to gorgeous views of Wast Water and the mountains that encompass it. The verdant valley at its head was beautiful and looked to be a very inviting place to spend the evening. As I neared the valley floor I spied some likely grassy ground alongside the river and I was delighted to find it was ideal for the tent. Okay there was a river walkway running alongside it but it was such a nice spot I reasoned it was too good a place to pass up. And so it proved to be. A few people passed by but in the main I was in blissful quiet with only the soothing noise of the river, lambs and birdsong to distract me. The weather had also cleared up completely and it was a beautiful evening to just chill out and as I had my tent set up by 17.30 I had a nice long evening to enjoy.

The rugged cliffs of Scafell appear

Wast Water looking great

Looking towards Wasdale Head

A delightful spot for my tent

Great Gable looking...great
Sunday  May 22nd;

I rose to greet a lovely calm dry morning and even though the tops were cloud covered I had a feeling that the cloud would burn off through the day. I had decided to travel as far as the Honister Pass today and now all I had left to choose was how to get there. I had a few options. First to take the direct route and climb Great Gable (899mtrs) from the head of the valley or I could climb Kirk Fell (802 mtrs) first and then climb Great Gable. Either of these options would involve a long steep unremitting slog to the summit and they would probably have been my preferred options had the day promised poor weather but with it being such a nice morning I opted for the longer choice and headed for Red Pike (828 mtrs) first which would make for a longer day with more climbing. After a nice breakfast when I could relax and enjoy my beautiful surroundings I packed up and walked through the lambs as far as the pub beyond the carpark and I crossed the river and followed the track into the valley for a kilometer or so before I started to climb diagonally left until I was past Bull Crags and I then followed the steep gully to the easier ground above Dora Head. I was finding the going fairly tough but the views were an ample distraction and compensation for my efforts. The summits were still cloud covered but only just and as I reached the summit of Red Pike things lifted so I was able to enjoy views as well. From here it was just about 1.5 kilometers to Scoat Fell (843 mtrs) and new vistas were to be enjoyed down to Ennerdale and the mountains stretched away to the north.

Towards Bruntwaite

Back down to whence I came

Towards Steeple with Ennerdale beyond

Wasdale Head valley

Looking back towards Scoat Fell

Kirk Fell

Wast Water peering through
Another 1.5 kilometers saw me at the summit of Pillar 850 mtrs where I enjoyed a bite to eat and then negotiated the easy 3+ kilometers to reach Black Sail Pass before climbing the 260 mtrs to the top of Kirk Fell. The day was now a stunner with warm sun predominating and staying hydrated was the major concern. I was feeling a bit tired and the prospect of the 280 mtr pull to the top of Great Gable was a bit daunting. As is usual the fear was worse than the reality and I actually felt quite strong and reached the busy top without too much bother. What a lovely spot to relax a while and soak up the sun and the views. After my break it was a short drop to to the col before Green Gable (802 mtrs) which I climbed over and continued in a northerly direction until I joined the coast to coast path which led towards the pass. I was tempted to stay at the hostel that sits right on the pass but with the weather so good and after lugging my tent and food this far I opted to camp at around the 500 mtr contour with nice views all around. I relaxed after a big 8 hour day when I had climbed over 1800 mtrs and the first brew of tea went down a treat. It got quite chilly later on but it kept any midgies at bay but I was still tucked up in my tent well before dark. I felt I had seen some of the area at its best.
The Scafells looking great

Great Gable

The way way back

Another great wildcamp spot

Monday May 23rd;

Today was the day that I had to return home so I needed to reach somewhere I could get transport back to Windermere where I could catch my trains etc back home. I had decided to drop down into the pretty valley below and then follow the coast to coast path as far as the pass below High Raise 762mtrs which I would climb and from there make my way into the Langdale valley where I could catch a bus. It was disappointingly misty when I got up but again it was light and promised to clear. The walk down into the valley was a joy. There is undoubtedly a tranquil beauty to such places and with its pretty cottages and vibrant woodland where Cuckoos competed with each other for supremacy I was suitably enthralled. I walked as far as the hostel beyond Johnny's Wood (which had several tents pitched outside it) and went from there to the sleepy hamlet of Stonethwaite and passed on through the campsite. I had to divert several hundred meters upstream at Bleak Row to cross the river (footbridge) and then I rejoined the coast to coast path which led steadily to the pass. Here I met a gentleman who seemed confused as to where to head to next and the lack of any obvious cairns crossing the boggy pass seemed to phase him. I set him on the direction for Grasmere and set off up the gentle slope towards High Raise. I couldn't help but wonder how he would have coped if there had been a gale blowing and dense cloud had covered the way. As it was it was now a beautiful sunny warm day and I really enjoyed a short rest at the excellent viewpoint at the summit.
Impressive stonework at Honister Pass


Once again entering the open country..Eagle Crag..I was going left

I decided to set off for Harrison Stickle 736mtrs some 2.5 kilometers distant which looked a lovely promontory. Wonderful easy walking on dry ground followed and I really enjoyed the feeling of wide open space that the plateau provided. After the stickle I descended the good track to Stickle Tarn which nestles under the impressive cliffs of Pavey Arc. I was making decent time and rather than descend directly towards the valley below I decided to prolong the fun and continue along the long spur that went as far as Silver Howe where I could descend to the village of Chapel Stile where I could catch my bus. The next four kilometers were actually a bit tougher than they first appeared and the path was full of little rises and drops and twists and turns but it was still a real joy and privilege to be there on such a day. Eventually the path to the valley dropped steeply down a deep gully and soon I was entering the beautiful village with its immaculately presented gardens. I arrived at the bus-stop at 15.45 to find that there wouldn't be any bus to Ambleside until 17:20 which would make it tight going to reach Oxenholme by 19:00 when my train south departed so I decided to chance hitching. I walked to the edge of the village and stood in a nice shady spot and stuck out my thumb. My usual good luck seemed to be deserting me when after twenty minutes no one had stopped but then a guy in a large van pulled over and I was sorted. Well at least I thought I was sorted but when the sat-nav told him to turn left at the first junction we came to I was once again at the roads edge. I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I must have set something of a record for the shortest lift in history. It had been a total of 250 metres. Still my luck held and a young couple gave me a drive to the edge of Ambleside a few minutes later and I was sorted.

Looking across to Great Gable

The way ahead with the hills from day 1 beyond

The long spur was just too inviting to pass up.

Harrison Stickle, Pavey Arc and Stickle Tarn

Chapel Stile..Journey end...or is that the beginning