Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mount Brandon Bivvy

From Brandon Head towards Benoskee
On Monday I decided on a whim to head for my favourite mountain massif in Ireland and pointed the car for Mount Brandon. In recent days for some reason I had been a bit down and was lethargic and  unenthusiastic about the outdoors. Even on the road back I was doubting my decision and I was not really looking forward to the trip. As the weather was set fair I had decided to pack the bivvy bag and food for a day and make an over-nighter of it. In keeping with my mood I actually didn't arrive in Cloghane until 13.30. I intended to traverse the full ridge so that meant that a 5mile road walk was needed to get to Brandon Head from where the walk proper would start. Now road walks are not something that I generally enjoy but this time on this day in this place it was magic. The narrow lanes were a riot of colour. Fuschia, montbretia, meadowsweet and much more were carpeting the hedgerows. This, coupled with the glorious views and clear blue skies was just what the doctor ordered and I found that I was enjoying myself immensely. As I neared Brandon head I was delighted to see a pod of common Dolphins moving along just offshore. This was just wonderful to see and raised the already great spirits even more.
Dolphins down below
Rocky shore and blue skies

The beautiful An Sas

After a nice rest looking down at the Dolphins I left the road behind and headed on to the open mountain and headed in the direction of An Sas. This was still about 5K away and on the was I followed a stream down an glen to the rocky cliffs below. This meant that I lost an unnecessary 200mtrs of height but I was determined to approach this trip in a leisurely fashion and the beauty of the blue sea crashing onto the shore more than made up for it. I continued up the ridge, keeping the sea in view the whole way. Eventually I reached the wonderful amphitheatre that is An Sas. This sunken Coum is a two thirds circle that sweeps over a thousand feet down to the sea. It never fails to inspire and I felf I made the right decision to stop and have a bite to eat here. So rested and refreshed I gloried in the airy walk around the cliff edge and headed down to the col under Masatiompan. I wasn't looking forward to the 450meter slog to the summit but on this day nothing was going to spoil the mood. Eventually I gained the rounded summit and now the vista changed again. As well as the georgous views to the north and east I could now gaze down to the magnificent panorama that streatches from Slea Head and the Blasket Islands away south over the Iveragh Peninsula and beyond.

Slea Head and the Blasket Islands


 It was now after six in the evening and was time to search for my home for the night. I chose the nearby Parias Mor as there was a trickle of water to be found about 100mtrs away and the view from there wasn't bad either. I really enjoyed my dinner and wasn't bothered too much by the midges. My biggest problem was deciding where to look and I was constantly turning to enjoy the varied vistas. After grub I settled down to enjoy the stunning sunset and it didn't dissappoint. All too soon it was time for bed. I had left my sleeping bag at home but was fairly confident that with my belay jacket I would be warm enough. It was a mistake. As darkness engulfed me and I was confined in the bivvy bag it grew colder and colder. Eventually after midnight I put on my hard shell and put my boots on as well. This helped a little but the chill ensured that I didn't get any sleep. Still there were compensations. When I turned to one side the few lights that sprinkled the Ballyferriter area and the faint lights from trawlers at sea were to be seen. On the other side the lights of Tralee and the other nearby towns reminded one that civilisation was not far away. Straight above the sky was a carpet of stars. Still eventually the night passed and I rose to a perfect dawn.

Dawn over Tralee Bay
Rosy glow on Mount Brandon
I didn't tarry as I was anxious to get going and warm up so I was packed up and on the move at 06.30. Soon the light show that was the sun rising over tralee bay was inspiring the soul and as I approached Mount Brandon its east face was bathed in a rosy glow. I was now warm and moving well. No aches and pains were in evidence after yesterdays exertions and it felt great to be out on the mountain and have the whole place to myself. I was now on familiar ground and the ridge passed in comfortable relaxation. After Brandon Peak the nature of the terrain changes again to a series of broad boggy saddles. Easy ground allowed the eyes to constantly scan the views and good progress was made. Another bite to eat was required around 10.30 and I was ready to push on across the Conair Pass. From here I went up Slieveanea. Down steeply to the rough ground above Coumanare and up to the sharp little peak of Slievenalecka. From here there is a short steep drop to a broad ridge and then down to Lock an Duin and enjoyed the views of the impressive waterfall under Slievenagower. A pleasent stroll along a good trail and another three kilometers on the road saw me back at the car. I was tired but well happy with the experience and most of all re-invigourated about the outdoors.

Fabulous and complex Barndon


Lock an Duin
 Day 1; 16K and 1100mtrs and Day2; 23K and 1200mtrs.