Monday, December 17, 2012

The Eastern Knockmealdowns Mountain Run

Last Saturday I met Kevin for a run on the Knockmealdown Mountains.  Kevin had a nice route picked out that was a good length and had lots of height gain, in other words very challenging but we wouldn't have it any other way.
As I had to work the afternoon shift it meant an early start to the day and I left home just after seven am and met Kevin in Tallow from where we headed to The Vee in the heart of the range. This meant that we would have a nice gentle run downhill to start  the day before we would join the East Munster Way trail after a few kilometers on the road. The plan was  to run the trail as far as the Liam Lynch Monument and then get onto the open mountain and climb over all the subsequent tops before descending to the car. This would be about 22K and involve around 1200mtrs of climbing. Not too bad for a winter Saturday morning. The weather was quite good as well. It was chilly and there was a fair breeze blowing as we left the car. The tops of the mountains had a blanket of cloud but it was dry so we had no excuse to grumble. We both  revelled in being out and the lovely views across the valley towards Slievenamon and the Comeraghs inspired and added to the great start to the day. The banter was good as we eased into the run.
Elvis or Travolta, you decide.

Soon we departed the tarmac and started down a good track that we hoped would connect with the trail. I was in front and once again the legendary McAuliffe route finding ability came to the fore and we took a wrong turn. I followed what seemed like a feasible trail uphill until it petered out and we had to enter a glen, cross a stream and up a short pull to join a forest road that we hoped would join the trail. Alas no, it contoured around the hill before turning once again uphill and in the wrong direction but eventually we took a rough track downhill and this thankfully at last saw us join the proper route. It added another four or five kilometers and a couple of hundred meters  ascent to our day but it added to the adventure as well. We ran along the delightful trail that wound its way through the forest for the next few kilometers before it joined the forest road that zig zagged its way uphill to the Liam Lynch Monument. This is a quite imposing structure in the style of a round tower "guarded by four hounds that commemorates a hero or villain of the struggle for Irish Independence, I guess it depends on which side you were on. It is unfortunately quite crudely built but its inspection allowed us a pleasant respite before we headed on to the open mountainside.

We struggled through a short section of forest and emerged on the heathery northern slopes of Crohan West. We were delighted to find a decent trail to the summit. It was fairly steep and there was no question of us running it but when we topped out at 521mtrs we were able to enjoy a nice gambol towards Knockmeal. We were now in the cloud so there was no point dallying so we turned and followed an old wall to Knocknafallia. The large cairn gave welcome shelter as we enjoyed a bite to eat before we continued over Knocknagnauv and down to the base of the pull up Knockmealdown. This is a steep 270mtrs and with more than 20kilometers already done we felt every step. Still we pushed hard and set a good pace the whole way. We were delighted to reach the top as this signalled the end of most of the difficulties and it promised to be mostly downhill from here. We ran wearily down to the col before the final easy push to the top of Sugarloaf Hill. A brief stop for fuel here and we set off down the steep stony track that made running almost impossible. Still it is quite short and we were soon back at the car. We were delighted with our morning and after a quick change of clothes we were off. All in all we had done about 27 kilometers and 1400mtrs of climbing in just over four hours. We hadn't pushed ourselves too hard but it had been a tough substantial outing. Here's to the next time.

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