Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Boughil near Molls Gap Killarney

Last weekend I went with Frank for a hike in the mountains of Killarney. We had hoped to have a day rock climbing but alas the weather wasn't playing ball and with plenty of rain showers about we had little choice but to forego the rock and go hiking. Frank wanted to go somewhere other than the Reeks today so we opted to head for Boughil near Molls Gap. This proved a lovely choice and it provided a nice scramble of over 300mtrs from the back of Barfinnihy lake to the summit and then we continued across the rugged mostly trackless ground that dipped and rose over the next few kilometers until we stopped at our final top for lunch. The views in all directions were lovely and thankfully the rain that occasionally threatened never reached us and we stayed dry for the full day. We descended northeast towards the valley and explored at our leisure the lovely unspoiled terrain that was littered with large boulders. We followed the gurgling stream until we opted to traverse around the hillside at Gearhasallagh rather than intrude on the privacy of the homesteads in the valley floor. The day was now lovely and by the time we neared the car we were enjoying warm-ish sunshine. A change of clothes and a nice coffee back in town ended the day nicely. Hopefully from now on we will need to apply some sunscreen when we go out. Maybe even some rock climbing might get done. Roll on summer.
The gully in the center was the route of choice

Nice steep scrambling

Tired but having fun

Lovely wild ground

The view east

The Reeks

What a man

Beautiful valley

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Great Island 10 Mile Run In Cobh

This morning I headed for Cobh near Cork to take part in the Great Island 10 Mile Run. It was with a little trepidation I set off as I could still remember the difficulty I had over the last four or five miles in the Mallow 10 and while I had done more in the way of training I felt that I was still a long way from where I wanted to be. I registered and milled about for the thirty or so minutes before the off and as the sizable crowd gathered at the start I got caught up in the occasion and excitement of it all and soon my nerves went. Its really a bit silly me getting nervous at all but I suppose it is just in my make up to push myself, and while I knew I could cover the distance easily enough, I would always try to run as hard as I reasonably could. The weather forecast had been poor so I had my warm merino top on covered by a light jacket and tights as well, unfortunately the sun was shining and I was a little overdressed for the day. Ah well what harm. Soon the start arrived and we were off.

I could do with losing a half stone or two.
It had been quite a climb up the hillside in Cobh to get to the start but that meant that after an initial flat few hundred meters we were then treated to a long fast downhill section. I enjoyed this but all too soon we bottomed out and the first of the big hills arrived. This was fairly steep and carried on for a good four or five hundred meters and any time gained from the downhill start soon disappeared. I wasn't feeling too bad and this time I listened to my body and tried to keep at a pace I could sustain. The run continued and so did the undulations. I would crest a hill and try to recover on the all too brief downhill sections while also trying to up the pace to make up for what was lost on the hill, before I would have to face into yet another hill. I tried to have a drink at the regular water stations but I nearly choked myself trying to gulp some water from the plastic cups that were being used and gave up on them after that.
Sonia o Sullivan. I was only a few minutes behind....honest

The miles passed and I suppose gradually things took their toll. Each hill seemed that little bit tougher and my recovery period took that little bit longer so that by the time I arrived at the seven mile mark I was starting to suffer a bit. Still at this stage I knew that I would reach the finish and it was great to hear the encouragement of James Moore at this stage as he cheered me on. All the hills were now behind and the scenic views across the harbor helped to take my mind off my failing stamina that saw me slow gradually over the last couple of miles. I looked with some envy at the people that passed me at this stage and wished that I had the strength to put on some speed rather than slow down but hey I wasn't doing too bad I suppose. Eventually the finish line appeared and once again James was there to cheer me home and I crossed the finish line in 73 minutes 37 seconds and came 120th. There was a great atmosphere in the town and it was lovely to sit outside and enjoy a coffee and a chat in the sunshine. A rest tomorrow but then the training must go on.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Tour of Torridon and Assynt.

Saturday April 6th;

 After my climbing trip to Torridon in late February I went back with Margaret to share with her the unrivaled beauty of the area. Once again I took the sleeper train to Inverness and we set off on Saturday morning in our hire car for the west. The weather forecast for the three days available to us wasn't great but we were delighted to find ourselves enjoying bright sunshine and views of snow capped mountains. I had feared that Margaret might not get to experience the majesty of the scenery but at least today it seemed would be good so she could see for herself what I had been waxing lyrical about for the past five weeks. As we reached Achnasheen I was reminded of my mis-adventure, geographically speaking, and here we got our first views to Liathach and Bienn Eighe. After stopping to take some photos at Loch a Chroisg we continued to Kinlochewe and turned onto the single track road to Torridon. Here we stopped at Loch Clair and enjoyed the famous views towards Liathach from here. Time slipped past and we decided that Margaret would visit Inverewe Gardens on Sunday morning instead of this afternoon as originally planned and we explored the area at our leisure for the rest of the afternoon.

View from Achnasheen


We arrived in Poolewe about five in the afternoon and once we were settled in our B&B I took advantage of the proximity of a ready made run and did a circuit of Loch Kernsary before dinner. This was a joy as the first half was along an estate road where I soon entered the wild spectacular landscape with views back along Loch Maree towards Beinn Eighe and Beinn Airigh Charr. Then you suddenly arrive at the lake and the return is along a delightful trail that wends and winds its way along the lake shore back to the village. So after an hours worth of trail running heaven I was ready for dinner which was a tasty fish and chips in the local hotel. The forecast for the next day wasn't good but at least we had had a great day today and we would take whatever tomorrow would bring in our stride.

Sunday April 7th;

We awoke to a winter landscape of snow this morning. Cloud was hovering at only 200mtrs or so and it was snowing steadily and there were already several centimeters resting on the ground. It didn't look good for either of our planned activities today. There didn't seem much point in Margaret visiting Inverewe Gardens or in m,e trying to do a long trail run through the snow. By the time we went down for breakfast the snow had stopped and an imperceptible lightening of the sky was in evidence. As we lingered before we had to leave there arrived a little thaw and the snow retreated slowly up from sea level and conditions looked like they were on the up so we were all set and Margaret headed for the gardens and I readied myself for my run. I was now regretting eating a prodigious breakfast but I set off at lets just say a gentle pace. The plan was to head along the estate road from the evening before and when I reached the point of the trail along the lake I could extend my route all the way to the road end about five kilometers further on and retrace my steps and them follow the trail along Loch Kernsary. This I did and it was a treat. What a great feeling it was to be running through such a beautiful landscape with not a care in the world and where all I had for company were deer and what was perhaps an eagle soaring over the hill to my right. I arrived back at the car after two and a quarter hours tired but very happy.
Looking across Loch Maree towards Torridon

Loch Kernsary

We had a nice sweet treat in a little cafe in the village and then headed north. By now the day was lovely with big patches of blue sky and only a chill breeze to remind you of the snow of early morning. We were both delighted with our respective mornings and we were looking forward to the new scenery and landscapes that were ahead. First up was Dundonnell which sits at the head of Little Loch Broom and is towered over by the iconic An Teallach which unfortunately kept a blanket of cloud on its summits. Still there was much to please the eye and once we passed the village we climbed and crossed the vast expanse of bleak wilderness to its south before we arriver over the more verdant valley that reaches out from Loch broom. Soon we were in Ullapool and we had a little wander around here before we set off north again towards Assynt. It wasn't long before I had to stop the car and look in wonder at some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. A succession of stunning vistas which framed some of the most iconic mountains in Scotland made for frequent interruptions but each delay was so worth it. Stac Pollaidh was like something captured from Lord of the Rings. It could have been Mordor itself. As if that wasn't enough next came Suilvan, followed by Quinag and many more. I was hooked and could only agree with all the great things I had heard about this wild and wonderful part of Scotland. We now had to turn our attention to finding somewhere to stay and after calling at a couple of places that were full we found a lovely B&B in the interestingly named Scourie which nestles at the head of its own little bay and here we enjoyed a lovely sunset after  I had my first dinner of Haggis Neeps and Tatties.
Stac Pollaidh

Towards Ullapool


Typical scenery


A couple of the locals

Monday 8th;

Once again blue skies were the order of the day and we emerged to a sunny and decidedly chilly morning. I went for a run after breakfast and the plan was to cross the rough ground from the village to the little cove of Tarbet and then return via the road. There was supposed to be a track across the wild ground but as is my wont I couldn't find it and I had to try and make my way through bog and heather and rock outcrops. It was unrunable so I found myself having to walk a lot of the time and I was relieved to be able to join the road before the village and run back to the car. We set off north for a short while before we turned finally in a southerly direction and began our return to Inverness. I suppose that today Ben Stack was the star of the show and proved yet again that a mountain doesn't have to reach Munroe status to be either impressive or beautiful. We drove at our leisure along big impressive lakes from which mountains reached skyward. As we went further south the landscape became less wild and eventually agriculture and I suppose what you could call civilization became the norm. We stopped awhile in the charming and pretty town of Tain and then returned into Inverness and enjoyed a nice dinner and had a little stroll around this nice little city. Soon the time arrived for us to catch the south and we begun the long journey home. Once again Scotland had delivered and I can only recommend that you visit its extraordinary northwest region. I look forward to returning and continuing to explore.
Sunset over Scourie Bay

Ben Stack

Towards Foinaven

Ben Stack

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Cappagh Glen Killarney Easter 13

A swim anyone??

Yesterday I went back to Killarney to meet Frank and we decided as the day was wet and windy to visit the Cappagh Glen near Lough Guitane. It had been a while since either of us had been here and we were looking forward to seeing again one of the most beautiful places in the area. Once we had negotiated the obstacle course that is the road to the trailhead we set off into the biting wind and rain. For a change instead of heading directly into the glen we opted to climb the steep northeast flank of Eskduff Mountain. Fortunately the rain had eased off and we were able to enjoy the flat walk past the productive pastures before we reached the wilds of the inner glen. Here we had to cross the Cappagh River which today after the dry spell of weather presented no problems. At our crossing point there was a glorious pool just below a little waterfall which we were briefly tempted to have a plunge in but good sense prevailed and we vowed to return when better weather arrived.

We are going that way??

The face of exhaustion

Wonderful views

What a trooper

The slog up Eskduff has little to recommend it but at least we gained height quickly and soon the views opened up and afforded us good reasons to stop and rest. The wind was pretty fierce and at times it was a struggle to maintain balance as it tried to blow us this way and that. The clouds that blanketed the top were fairly scudding by and promised that conditions weren’t going to get better as we got higher. Eventually we reached the summit plateau and we briefly toyed with the idea of turning west and heading for Stoompa but the wind and now snow that was hitting us made up our minds and we opted to traverse across and descend to the back of the Cappagh Glen. Here we entered the beautiful wild terrain that remains one of Killarney’s best kept secrets. Even though the heights reached here are low in comparison to the larger neighbours nearby there is a truly wild and remote feel to this place that is rare to find in Ireland. Rugged rocky bluffs and boggy basins make it tough ground to cross and you are unlikely to see another person to disturb you. Even the red deer we saw seemed startled by the intrusion into their domain. After we sheltered behind some rocks for lunch we had to head straight into the wind to reach the valley and here the snow, that was hitting us in a horizontal assault made it tough going, especially when it catches you right into the eyes.
Head down into the wind

Having fun really

Corkscrew oaks

Fairy Glen

Eventually we reached the sanctuary of the ancient oak woods that straddle the river in the glen. This is a magic place where trees are gnarled and twisted into strange formations and everything is blanketed by a generous coating of moss. Sheltered from the elements it is easy to linger here and imagine fantastic adventures with a child’s mind. Soon enough we reluctantly leave the wood and enter the flat open ground at the back of the glen where the eye is drawn along the glen that is flanked on the west by Eskduff and the east by the rugged Bennaunmore. We followed the river out through the rocky narrows and all too soon left the untamed landscape behind and re-entered farmland. It had been a fairly short outing but what it lacked in distance it more than made up for in ambiance. We even enjoyed the harsh weather as it all added up to make the experience feel even wilder. I had had two very different mountain days in succession with different conditions and goals. The one thing that links them is the great company I was fortunate enough to enjoy on both days.