Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coomloughra Horseshoe.

Looking west on the Everagh Peninsula


The Eastern Reeks
I headed back to the Kerry mountains today for a day on the hills and to test out my knee. The weather was good and as I passed Killarney I decided to do the Coomloughra Horseshoe. This is one of the finest walks in Ireland and takes in the three highest peaks in the country. The western side of the coum was free of cloud so I decided to climb up the steep slopes of Skregbeg and thus on to Beenkeerach. The views from here are great so I decided that this was a good spot for lunch. I was joined by two walkers who were a little unsure of doing the ridge across towards Carrauntoohil so they followed me across. The summit was now clear as well and the views across to the eastern Reeks was great. Onwards to Caher in the cloud and gently down and back to the car. A lovely day out and thankfully no problems with my knee. Back to running again I think.
Carrauntoohil from Beenkeerach

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mangerton Stoompa horseshoe

Last Sunday I went with the lovely Ruby for a gentle walk on Mangerton. The day was fine and I was looking forward to having Ruby along for company. She adores being out and about and I knew she would love being on the mountain. I obviously took the lead for her but she is so good now that we struck off with her free and I resolved to keep a close eye on her. There was a distinct chill in the air and this coupled with the strenghening wind as we got higher meant that hat and gloves were necessary on the summit. We set off along the summit plateau and the wonderful views were a joy. The 1000ft cliffs that swept down into the Horses Glen make this one of the most spectacular walks in Kerry. Soon we were heading up towards the summit of Stoompa.This was a good spot for a bite to eat although I wasn't allowed to linger too long by the impatient Ruby who was ever anxious to be on the move.

Looking into the Horses Glen
Looking east from Stoompa
 The initial descent from here is fairly steep and the ground has some rocks and lots of heather and then continues gently down a spur. Not long from the summit I put my left leg into a hole and my knee got a terrible snap backwards. I went down like a sack of spuds roaring. It was agony, and I was sure I was after doing damage. I writhed around for a bit and soon to my enormous relief the pain eased and I began to hope that the damage wan not as severe as I had first feared. After a short while I stood and to my delight found that the knee would take my weight. I was soon on the move again, gingerly picking my way down and making sure of each step. Bang, I suddenly found myself in a hole between two rocks. This was not going too well. Thankfully I was unhurt and hauled myself out and continued. The knee looseded out more and I was again able to enjoy my spectacular surroundings. Thankfully the rest of the walk passed without incident and we both went home happy.
Looking towards Killarney

Eastern buttress of Mangerton North

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tyndrum Halloween 2011

On Friday Oct 28th,
 I set off from Mallow for the long journey to Scotland for a few days hillwalking. The travel is exhausting, a train to Dublin followed by another to Belfast. A ferry to Stranraer followed by a five hour wait for a train at 7am to Glasgow followed by another train to Tyndrum. So 22 hours after setting out from Mallow I stepped off the station platform in Tyndrum and into the By The Way Hostel. It is beautifully located in the little hamlet nestled in the hills of Argyle. The reason I do this is as I work for the railway the travel is practically free. Anyway unfortunately the hostel was fully booked for the weekend so I was stuck with the tent. As the weather was to say the least uncooperative even pitching the tent was an effort. Still after I was settled in ,I was restive after the confinement of travel and decided to go for a run. I went through the forestry and emerged on the road into Cononish. When I arrived at the farmyard I turned right and ran up to the goldmine. Though it was pissin down It was just what I needed and when I turned back downhill I was feeling strong and enjoying myself. I stayed on the track until I reached the West Highland Way and I followed this back to the campsite. I went into the village and bought myself a few beers and had a bite of dinner and settled down for the evening. All the travel and lack of sleep caught up with me and I had to give up and go to sleep at eight pm. A long great sleep followed.

Sunday 30th,
I awoke at eight am to a dull wet morning. I lay awhile and listened to the wind and rain and contemplated staying where I was, still I hadn't come all this way to do nothing so I groaned and groused my way up and made ready for a day on the hills. I set Ben Lui as the target for the day and after breakfast I set off once again foe Cononish. I was feeling very sorry for myself as I walked in. The view was limited to say the least, the wind strong and the rain constant. All this coupled with the memory of what the first time I came in here a year previous was like only further dampened my spirits. It would not have taken much persuasion to make me turn about and head for home. Still I persevered. Eventually I reached the end of the track and the point where the climb starts only to find that the stream was in spate and dodgy to cross. Not really being in the mood for a long detour to the bealach on the right I turned instead for Beinn Chuirn, a Corbet which rose just to the north of the track and would allow for a horseshoe walk (of sorts) back in the direction of Tyndrum.

There followed a steep 350meter slog before the gradient eased and I headed for a subsidiary top. The cloud was after lifting and I didn't need any navigation aids to make my way over the bleak terrain. I turned and crossed the saddle and climbed the easy slopes to the summit 880meters. A little cloud had come down so I had to be a little careful to avoid the cliffs to the southeast as I made my way down the east side and back to the track to Cononish. Now that I was actually doing something I felt much better and my spirits were further raised when I happened upon two startled stags only about 50meters away who seemed to stand and stare in disbelief at the intrusion. If only I hadn't forgotten my camera. Anyway the rest of the walk passed without incident and I was soon back at the campsite enjoying a beer and dry clothing. I finally felt that the holiday had begun.

Monday October 31st.
View northwest fron Coire an Dothaidh

Changing light

I know there is gold in the hills around here, but really||
I rose early and caught the first train to the Bridge of Orchy. The plan for today was to climb Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh. The route starts directly from the station platform and follows a boggy path gently up into Coire an Dothaidh and a bealach at 744mtrs. Last year the weather here was fierce and I had to retreat from just above the bealach from storm force winds and horizontal blizzard conditions. Today there was merely horizontal rain and strong winds to endure. The cloud was up at about 800mtrs but it clung stubbornly to the summits. I opted for Beinn an Dothaidh first as I would have the wind at my back on the way up. It is a gentle enough pull and soon I was on the summit at 1004mtrs. The return to the bealach was less gentle and I was battered by the full force of the wind and rain. Fortunately on the way up Beinn Dorain I was sheltered by the slope and it was a pleasent enough walk to the summit at 10076mtrs. As there was nothing to be seen I didn't tarry and returned quickly to the Bealach. I retraced my footsteps back to the train station and here enjoyed a spot of lunch and contemplated my next move. So far I had done 14K and about 1200mtrs of ascent but I was feeling good and the day was showing signs of improvement so I opted to return to Tyndrum via the West Highland Way which meant a further 11K. This I had also done last year but today it was quite enjoyable just to amble along and let my clothes dry a little.
Viaduct under Beinn a Chaisteil

Tuesday November 1st.
Tyndrum nestling in the valley

Towards Bienn Dorain
It had started raining as I returned to camp the previous evening and continued heavily right into the night. So, it was with some surprise and delight that I awoke to a fine bright morning. This was my last day here on this trip and I was catching the train out at 19.15 that evening. I decided that I would climb Beinn Odhar today. At 901mtrs another Corbet and just a few meters short of Munroe status. I set off north once again along the West Highland Way. After a couple of kilometers I turned right and went up the spur that decends gently all the way from the summit. It was great to be able to enjoy extensive views but there was a distinct wintry nip in the air. The views from the summit were great and I savoured my time there. Thge eyes were constantly drawn south towards the hills of Crianlarich and Arrochar. All my previous misgivings were gone and my mind was filled with possibilities for my next trip.
Towards Crianlarich

Gleann Achadh-innis Chailein. Wildcamp anyone?

Beautiful colour by Fillan river
The day was still young so I decided to add another Corbet to my route. I turned from the summit and headed southeast towards Beinn Choarach 818meters. This meant a big drop down to about 440mtrs and a steep climb of over 350meters to the summit. From here there is a great view to Beinn Challuim. I was really tempted to include this as well but it would have meant another big drop and over six hundred meters of ascent and I was worried that darkness would arrive before I was down. So I headed instead for Auchtertyre Farm and there once again joined the West Highland Way and so back to the campsite. The weather held good and I was able to do all my packing in the dry and I once again settled down to wait for my transport. All in all I was once again enthused by my trip and I'm already planning for my return. Crianlarich next maybe or perhaps the fleshpots of Fort William, who knows.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Valentia Half Marathon

My chronology is gone to pot. How could I have forgotten about the Valentia half marathon. I headed down on Friday 30th of August in order to make a weekend of it. I camped at the lovely Mannix Point campsite in Caherciveen and enjoyed a stunning sunset. The weather forecast for the following day looked good and I settled down for a good nights sleep. A nice leisurely start on Saturday morn was in order and I made my way around to Valentia Island in good time for the midday start. I registered and collected my T-shirt and ambled around for a while and soaked up the athmosphere. The start was in Knightstown on the eastern tip of the island and the route circled the island with an out and back section to the abandoned slate quarries. I was a bit apprehensive as this was my first real road half marathon but still fairly confident that I could finish it.

Soon enough the start time arrived and we were off. It was lovely to run through the village to the strains of a pipe band. The Valentia Triathlon Club pulled out all the stops to make an occassion of it. The first couple of miles up to the quarry was up hill so I was careful not to go off too fast. After rounding the mark in the quarry we turned downhill and as I was feeling good I upped the pace considerably. Thereafter the course was more level and I was able to maintain a good pace. It is a beautiful circuit and the views were a constant distraction to the efforts of the run. Gradually the miles passed and I became confident that I could not only finish but maintain a good pace. The last couple of miles was along the seashore and I admit I found them quite tough. I was very gald when the line came in sight and far from a sprint finish it gave me all I could do to keep up the pace. I finished in just over 96 minutes and finished in 32nd overall, I was delighted. There was a fine selection of sandwiches and really good coffee on offer at the nearby hotel and this finished off the afternoon nicely.

As the day was still young I headed to the far end of island and enjoyed a short walk out to Bray Head. This proved to be a really enjoyable excursion and was the perfect warmdown. The views in all directions were spectacular and the cliffs steep and dramatic. The weather however was showing signs of deteriorating and the first drops of rain arrived as I got back to the car. I had taken my bike with me with the intention of having a good coastal cycle on Sunday morning but unfortunately there was a dense fog about as well as rain so I returned home instead. Still I was really happy with the whole experience and I hope to return to the area soon.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Killarney Adventure Race

I entered the Killarney Adventure Race on Saturday October 8th. This was my second such event and I was really looking forward to it. I was very familiar with the course as the cycle was over some of the route that the Killarney mountaineering club went when they did the Gap Triathlon.  The course was a run up Srickeen Hill (6.5 kilometers and 400mtrs climb) followed by a 35 k cycle with two good hills, then  run followed by 1.5k on the kayak and an 18k run up and down Mangerton mountain with a short sprint on the bike back to the finish in the grounds of Muckross House. A total of about 60 kilometers so it promised to be a tough outing.

I was in the third wave off and this meant that I could enjoy a full Irish at the B&B at 8am and still have two hours before the start. We were bussed from Muckross to the start at Kate Kearneys cottage. Soon we were off. The track up Strikeen was really turning to muck by the time we went up it. I set a steady pace and managed to keep running most of the way to the summit. The weather was a little misty and breezy but not too bad. Conditions underfoot for the descent were treacherous and I resolved to be careful but still despite my best efforts I took a tumble not long after starting down. I managed to give my left knee a good bang and I was sore and  limping for a while. Soon it loosened out again and after a stop to wash off some of the mud and the blood I was moving well as I got back to the transition area and started the bike section.

I passed a fair few on the initial section through the Gap but at the tough climb a Turnpike rock I dismounted for the steepest section. This was half by design and necessity but afterwards I was glad not to have bollixed the legs too much. The decent into the Black Valley from the head of the Gap was treacherous to say the least and I was super careful all the way down to the valley floor. Near the top I passed an accident which had the ambulance in attendance. I later learned that it was feared that the guy was paralyzed. As I said conditions were treacherous. Along the valley floor I pushed a good gear and another guy joined with me and we took turns at the front. When we hit the climb to Molls Gap I found that I couldn't live with him any longer and he gradually pulled away. Still he gave me a target to follow and I overtook many in the effort to keep him in sight. The descent and cycle to the carpark for Torc waterfall was exhilarating and enjoyable. Here I changed back into my running shoes and turned for Muckross lake and the Kayak section.

After the bike it felt a little strange to be running again but it was all part of the experience. About one kilometer later I arrived at the lake where I was given a flotation device and a partner and we walked into the lake with our Kayak. It was comical to watch a crew in front trying to get mobile after sitting into the Kayak too early and being stuck fast to the bottom. We set off at a nice pace and with neither of us being experienced it felt good to be able to steer a straight line and maintain a good rhythm. The course rounded a large rock before heading off at an angle for a bhoy and back to the starting point. Here we said our goodbyes and I set off at a steady jog back in the direction of Torc carpark again.

Now came the best bit of the day, the 18 kilometer climb of Mangerton. The access to the mountain from Torc follows forestry trails for a good distance before you emerge at the tourist route up the mountain. Previous efforts at running up Mangerton have started here and I have found myself able to stay running for perhaps a little more than half the way up. Now however, at this stage of the event the legs were not that strong and I had to walk more than not. Progress was still faster than most others. I was surprised to arrive at the summit check in , not at the top but at the lake about 100 meters below the plateau. This was because the top was swathed in cloud and I guess the organisers feared that people would lose their way. Now I was in my element and I really enjoyed the run back down the mountain. The knees were holding up well and I was able to pass many. At the forestry trail section I managed to maintain a jog for nearly all of it and soon I was descending the steps back to the carpark. A quick change of footwear and the short 4k on the bike back to the finish line soon passed. I parked the bike and trotted the final few meters through the finish line, really tired but very happy that I had given it my all. I entered the tent and collected my times print off. 5 hours and 3 minutes. I was gobsmacked and delighted to discover that I was in 22nd place overall. Roll on next year.