Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Glengarra Wood Horseshoe, Galtees

Rhododendron trees
After a week of night work I decided to make the most of the two days off I had and also the good weather and headed first thing for the Galtee Mountains instead of home to bed. I decided upon the Glengarra Wood horseshoe as this was an area I hadn't visited in years. After a long drive through the forestry the walk starts  just after a ford of a stream at Cullenagh. The start of the woodland drive was a wonder of old flowering rhododendron trees that arched over the road giving glorious tunnels.

I left the car at 7.35 and was soon out on the open mountainside striding up the broad southern spur of the equally broad Greenane. The Galtees are a compact gentle range of mountains that run generally on an east west axis , where a series of spurs reach south and where the northern side is steeper and is punctuated by four glacial corries which each hold lovely lakes. I soon reached the summit at 802mtrs and headed along the broad ridge towards the conglomerate rock outcrop called O'Loughlans Castle. This outcrop bears an uncanny resemblance to the ruin of a man made structure. The ground underfoot is usually tediously boggy, but today, after the recent spell of good weather the gong was firm and progress was easy. Even the peat hags that normally bar the way and necessitate detours and much jumping were dry enough just to walk over. The one disappointment was the scarring in evidence after recent activity by motorbikes.

O'Loughlans Castle with Galtymore beyond

Mossy Cascades
I was soon down at the col under Galtybeg and the 160mtr pull up here got the heart pumping. The top soon arrived and off down again to the col above Lough Diheen with its cliffs and on for another 200mtrs to the summit of Galtymore, at 919mtrs one of the few 3000ft tops in the country. A little brunch here and I retraced my steps to the col and crossed under Galtybeg and then southeast towards the confluence of a triumvirate of streams where they entered the forest. This is a nice easy decent and the forest glen looked wonderful with the new leaves on the deciduous trees. The stream itself was a sparkling series of mossy cascades that led to a series of plunge pools that would be very tempting in the summer when we get (hopefully) some warm weather. Soon I was back in the forestry and a couple of kilometers more saw me back at the car. It was a lovely relaxing walk of 12k with  just over 900mtrs of climbing. It was a nice way to start the day off.
Lovely confluence of streams

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Snowdonia April 2011

 Friday/Saturday 15th/16th
Home sweet home

Well I'm back home again after another trip to the beautiful Snowdonia national park in north Wales. I traveled alone and camped in Capel Curig for three nights. I set off from Mallow on Friday afternoon on the train to Dublin and caught the nine pm ferry to Holyhead. Arriving at Holyhead I had a four hour wait for the train to Llandudno Junction where there is a connecting train to Betws Y Coed. Arriving at the junction at 05.15 I discovered that there was a train failure and my connection was cancelled. This meant that I had to wait until 8am for a bus to Betws. Eventually I arrived and promptly caught the excellent Sherpa bus to Capel Curig where I pitched my tent in Bryn Tyrch Farm campsite. This is a beautifully situated site on a hill behind the farmhouse a few hundred meters from the village. It is quiet and enjoys fantastic views across to Moel Siabod and the Snowdon Horseshoe. All this for four quid a night, result I'd say. 

Tryfan south ridge

Anyway having pitched the tent and gotten myself suited and booted I headed off into the village and gained access to open mountain immediately behind Joe Browns outdoor shop and climbed gently onto Creglau'r Gelli and thus onto the broad ridge to Gallt yr Ogof. The cloud was down at 700mtrs so when I arrived here i was in the mist. Still there was no wind and the ocassional brightening promised that the cloud might lift. The plan was to continue on to the Glyderii and I would see how I felt then as to what I would do. So I continued on over Y Foel Goch 805mtrs and down to what was an otherworldly col of little ponds and lakes at Llyn Caseg Fraith under Glyder Fach. I started up the very eroded path towards the summit and sure enough the promised lifting of the cloud happened and I was afforded wonderful views across towards Tryfan and when I reached the summit plateau the crazy paving of rocky needles strewn in every direction looked spooky in the occasional misty flurries.

Castell y Gwynt

Anyway despite the lack of sleep I was feeling good and continued to the summit of Glyder Fawr. Here the views down into Cwm Idwall and the Ogwen Valley are breathtaking. I descended the horrible loose scree path to Llyn Gwm and still feeling good I headed for Y Garn. Up ahead there was a guy moving quite quickly and being the competitive type I made it my mission to make up the two hundred meter gap and overtake him. Well it nearly killed me but yes you guessed it I failed. The Bugger was faster than I bargained for. Anyway after a suitable breather I headed down the easy ridge on the northern side of the very lovely Cwm Llyd and quickly down to the road at the Cottage at the head of the Ogwen Valley. I stuck out my trusty thumb and I soon had a drive back to the campsite. I called in to Pinnacle stores for a few supplies and after a shower and cooking dinner for myself found that the lack of sleep caught up with me and I was sound asleep by eight pm.

Sunday 17th.

Rock buttresses aplenty

I awoke at eight am after a full twelve hour sleep feeling refreshed and fit. After a leisurely breakfast my route for today started up the hill directly behind the campsite and crossed over an ever rising series of tops to eventually reach Llethr Gwyn which at 678mtrs rises up above Llyn Conwld Reservoir. Before I reached here I had the wonderful bonus of some top quality scrambling on the tops of Castell y Gwent and Craig Wen. This offered a total of I would guess 150mtrs climbing and lines were available of at least grade three. Arriving atop Llethr Gwyn I enjoyed a spot of lunch and contemplated the 400mtr climb that awaited me in order to reach Pen Llithrig Wrach at 800mtrs. I had decided to continue the day and traverse the Carneddu and descend down to the Ogwen Valley. The broad grassy summit came easily enough and I continued on to Pen Y helgi Du. A steep descent leads to a nice narrow ridge that passes over Amphitheater Buttress and leads to the gentle slopes that lead to the summit of Wales second highest mountain Carnedd Llewelyn 1064mtrs.

Rock climbers on the wall near Amphitheater Buttress

The broad plateau of the summit brings the Cairngorms to mind. Indeed the whole of the Carneddu is a gentle winding upland area that is quite environmentally important. From Carnedd Llewelyn a gentle slope leads towards Carnedd Dafyedd 1044mtrs. This mountain has an impressive north face with sharp rock ridges and steep gullies which I presume gives top quality winter climbing when in condition. Again easy ground leads to Pen yr Ole Wen 978mtrs. On the way you pass a few really large ancient cairns which all  adds to the overall experience. I descended the south easterly ridge into Cwm Lloer and followed the easy path to the road in the Ogwen Valley. Now I had a decision to make, it was still seven kilometers back to the tent so would I walk or thumb. I decided to try thumbing for fifteen minutes and if no joy to walk the track running parallel with the road back to the campsite. I was quite glad to eventually trudge up to the tent and remove my boots. A total of 25kilometers and 1500mtrs climbing ensured a tiring but satisfying day. A book, my music and a few tinnies ensures a most enjoyable end to the day.

Monday 18th,

The impressive Atlantic Slab

I decided that as yesterday was such a big day that I wouldn't do as big a route today. Once again I hoped on the sherpa bus that headed into the Ogwen Valley and rode it all the way into the Nant Ffrancon valley.The plan was to head into Cwm Gaianog and have a look at the Atlantic Slab. This is classed as a moderate rock climb of a full 250mtrs. To cut a long story short I decided to head up the southern ridge instead and was soon on the top of Mynydd Perfedd, a broad grassy top at 812mtrs.The view across the Marchlyn Mawr Resevoir to Elidir Fawr  from here is lovely and I headed down to Bwlch y Brecan and climbed the airy ridge to the summit. There was a stiff breeze and a definite chill in the air so I didn't tarry and quickly retraced my  the col and headed for the sharp 120mtr pull to the summit of Foel Goch. This airy spot is a lovely place from which to view whole of the mountains of northern Snowdonia. Below the flat valley of Nant Ffrancon sweeps off to Bethesda and the sea. Across the valley the rugged west flank of  Pen Yr Ole Wen promises much in the way of entertainment for future outings. Off to the right to the Ogwen Valley cuts through the Massifs of the Carneddu and the Glyderi with the ever attractive profile of Tryfan standing proud of the rest. Mindful that I had a bus to catch if I didn't want to have to walk to the campsite I headed along easy ground for Y Garn and slogged the 200mtrs to the summit. Here I was given a really good look at an RAF rescue helicopter as it buzzed around on maneuvers.

The Idwal Slabs

Big Bird
I headed down to Llyn y Cwm and descended into the Cwm Idwal via the devils kitchen. This well constructed path ensures rapid and safe descent through impressive rock scenery. Soon I was walking under the Idwal slabs and paused to watch some climbers enjoying the good weather and dry rock. I arrived at the road in good time and caught my bus back to the campsite. All in all another good day but I was a little disappointed that I had decided to forsake the Atlantic Slab. Still it will be there when I return.

Tuesday 19th.

Tuesday dawned without a cloud in the sky and it promised to be the warmest day yet. Once again I caught the Sherpa bus towards the Pen y Pass this time as my intention was to do the Snowdon Horseshoe. This is an outing that is justifiably popular but until you do it nothing can prepare you for the sheer numbers that climb Mount Snowdon each day. In an effort to avoid the crowds for as long as possible I decided to climb Crib Goch via its north ridge. This meant staying on the bus down into the Pass of Llanberis until the road crosses over the river. Off here and straight away a lovely scramble presented itself at the roadside. Short it may be but it got the blood pumping and shortly after more rocky bluffs provided good sport. Eventually however you have to endure a steep slog until the shoulder of the ridge is reached. This then becomes progressively narrower until suddenly you find yourself on the summit of Crib Goch. The views from here are wonderful but the narrow arret that heads westwards beckons and I was soon engrossed in traversing its knife edge top and the pinnacles beyond.
Elegant Snowdon soars over Llyn Llydaw
View down from Garnedd Ugain

I managed to avoid most of the Gridlock by sticking faithfully to the crest and I was soon heading for the summit of Garnedd Ugain. A short lunch break here and I steeled myself for the circus that is the summit of Snowdon. Once on the summit I left straight away and headed down into Bwlch Ciliau and enjoyed the views to the awesome  north face of Y Lliwedd. Airy scrambling to the summit ensues and a sometimes steep descent finds at Llyn Llydaw with it's wonderful views of the entire horseshoe. Soon I was at the Pen Y Pass and once again the Sherpa bus came to the rescue and I was back at the tent in good time. So, four good hiking days had come to an end and I prepared or the long journey  home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brandon Ridge

Thursday April7th

I had a good couple of days out last week. Thursday I went into the Hags Glen under Carrauntoohil with Frank to explore a couple of rock crags. The day was quite hot and we enjoyed a few hours rockclimbing on crags that are to the best of my knowledge completely ignored. One was about 15mtrs high that gave a couple of nice routes and the other was about 35mtrs and was quite difficult but would give a serious test to top grade climbers with lots of overhangs and roofs to be negotiated. We climbed up to the third level and saw lots of other places that we are going to look at in the future.

Friday April 8th

Sea fog over Cloghane

On Friday I headed to Mount Brandon with James Moore. We parked in the village of Cloghane and climbed Brandon via the Faha Ridge. The ridge itself is nice and exposed in places and the far side of it has a great sustained scramble with some quite difficult steps. The day was warm and sunny with a real touch of summer about it. It was a good thing that I remembered to put on the sunscreen before we started. We had a  nice lunch on the summit where we enjoyed the tremendous views and then headed  along the ridge towards the Conner Pass. It was a big day out involving 26 kilometers and 1800 meters climbing in total. A lovely bonus was that when we arrived at the pass there was an icecream van there so we sat and enjoyed a delicious 99 in the sun. We continued on up the other side to the summit of Slievenea and then down to the road and the three kilometer walk back to the car. We arrived tired but satisfied eight hours after we started.

Along the ridge with Brandon behind

Towards Brandon Creek and the Blaskets

The view from Slievenea

James looking accross the Faha Ridge towards Brandon