Monday, November 25, 2013

There's Nothing Like Variety

This weekend I had a lovely varied time. On Saturday I went for a couple (yes a couple) of runs with the force of nature that is Kevin and on Sunday I had a lovely hike on the Reeks with Frank.

Saturday November 23rd;

I took the train to Midleton to meet Kevin on a stunning clear frosty morning. It meant an early start but it was so worth it to arrive at the start of the cliff path in the lovely village of Ballycotton with brilliant sunshine and frost still coating the landscape. I had walked this trail decades ago but I had long since forgotten what it was like so it was like discovering it anew. We quickly got ready and the chill air meant we didn't delay before the off. The plan was to run the clifftop trail which lasts for almost four kilometers and return via the road to the village which a total of 10 kilometers. Boy oh boy it was a treat. A nice firm narrow track wound its way in a lovely undulating meander along the clifftops. On our right fertile farmland rolled away inland and on our left the blue ocean was a joy to behold. A little fishing boat chugging along was the only thing to break  the calm carpet of unending blue. The short uphill sections were followed by lovely downhill stretches so the going was always interesting and varied. All too soon the trail came to an end and we had to turn onto the tarmac. Still the return had its compensations and we could see the Knockmealdowns and Comeragh mountains in the distance and of course the sea was never out of sight for too long. We clipped along at a good pace (for me) and we soon entered the village. I tried to up the pace for the final kilometer but I hadn't bargained for the stiff little pull back up to the car and I was reduced to my usual shuffle to the finish, unlike Kevin who took off in a rapid sprint and sustained it until the car. I was tired and delighted all at once. It had been a real joy to experience such a different outing and of course the banter was great.
Ideal Running Trail

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Stellar Weather

Trails End

Anyway us being us and the day being so young Kevin proffered the opportunity to visit Killagh Woods and I agreed. I had been here once before and it is a beautiful compact deciduous wood that has a variety of trails that never climb too steeply. There is a lovely little river that runs through the middle of it and this just adds to the already great feel of the place. I must confess to feeling the first run in the legs a bit but we set a steady (relaxed, slow...) pace and just enjoyed ourselves. Here we were mostly in the shade with the occasional bursts of sunshine breaking through. The ground was completely carpeted with fallen leaves and our progress was accompanied by the crunch and rustle as we ran. I was fast running out of puff and we decided to call a halt after six kilometers. The final kilometer back to the car was along a sunken path about four feet wide that was so like something straight from "Lord of the Rings"that I half expected to see Frodo coming towards me. I was delighted with our morning. Both runs had been over entirely different terrain and both were the finest of their type. I look forward to revisiting both spots again in the not too distant future.

Sunday November 24th;
Easy ridge to the summit

When I arose this morning any hopes I harbored of another sunny frosty day were quickly dispelled as I looked out on a gloomy overcast sky. Still it was dry, which is always a plus and I harbored hopes that there might even be a temperature inversion in the offing. I set off back to Killarney on the train to meet with Frank and I must confess to having felt quite weary. I'm not sure if it was the effects of yesterday or just a culmination a generally fairly busy time but I was more ready to hit the bed than the slopes by the time I reached Killarney. Still it is always a pleasure to hook up with Frank and he promised to take it easy on me. We settled on climbing Maolan Bui (The Bone) on the Reeks. It had been quite a while since we had gone up the long spur to the ridge on the East Reeks and it promised to just fit the bill, being neither too strenuous or severe. It was also heartening to see that the weather was much brighter in the area than at home and this made for a welcome change. So after our usual coffees we hastened to Lisliebane and we were quickly on our way. As I suspected or at least hoped, once I was out and actually moving I started to liven up and soon any lethargy was forgotten. The "Hags Glen" was holding a fair bit of cloud but there were breaks and occasionally the tops were to be seen. It was something of a surprise to see that even up at 3000 ft there wasn't any sign of frost. We took it nice and leisurely and enjoyed the experience of our majestic surroundings. Eventually we reached the summit and now we were treated to stunning views down to the eastern side. We had a bite to eat in a windless sunny summit and soaked up the views. After our respite we headed off along the easy ground over Cnoc na Cuillan, then down and up to Cnoc na Toinne. Here we opted to go down the "Zig Zags" as I was ancious to see for myself the state of this trail. It was quite the shock to see the erosion that has already occurred on this track that a mere four years ago was only a slight barely visible line down the side of the mountain.

Stunning views

Terrible erosion in a short time.

Sometimes I despair at the stupidity of the mountaineering bodies in this place. When a proposal five years ago suggested putting a safe "Tourist Track" up the Devils Ladder there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by local mountaineering clubs and even the mountain rescue who all came down heavily against the idea. Local guiding groups then started using the Zig Zags and this has led to this latest damage. Eventually there will be a path made but I fear not before irreparable damage has been done. Anyway we were now moving rapidly and I was back in town in good time to get the early train. It had been another lovely day and as I traveled home I felt fortunate indeed to have been able to experience and enjoy such a great variety of the best this land has to offer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Carrauntoohil with James

Sunday 17 November;

Today I went to Killarney to have a hike with James Moore. It had been far too long since we were last out and this was too good an opportunity to miss. James has been working hard on his fitness over the last couple of years and has been concentrating mainly on road running. A few years ago I would have to take it easy if we went on a run together but now the tables have turned and he can sustain a six minute mile pace while it would give me all I could do to break seven minutes for one. Anyway he had been to Killarney  the day before with his club for a race and social evening and as it had been quite a while since he had been on the mountains we decided to go for a hike.

I have been trying to get in a few long runs of late to try and prepare for a marathon I intend to run in Clonakilty on December 7th. I went for a nineteen miler on Saturday and found it tough, very tough. I ran over Bweeng Mountain and this added over 400 meters of climbing to the route and I guess I paid the price for it in the latter stages as the last three miles were brutal. Its fair to say that I still felt the effects of that outing as I set off for Killarney but I reckoned that a hike was just the ticket to try and stretch out my aching muscles. The weather forecast was for rain to arrive in the morning and continue for the day so it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in town and see that the skies remained largely clear. I collected James from his hotel and after a brief discussion we decided to climb Carrauntoohil and off we set. It was great to see him and we nattered away as we had a fair bit of catching up to do. We were changed and ready for the off at 9.45 and still the weather played ball. It is always a joy to walk into the "Hags Glen" and this amphitheater of 3000 ft plus peaks never fails to inspire. We decided that we would go up the "Heavenly Gates" and  then see from there. I don't think I ever actually climbed the mountain by this route as I normally use it in descent but it is a delight whichever way you go and it shows the impressive ridges and cliffs to their best effect. We were delighted to get a great view of a wild goat perched on a ledge on Primroses Ridge and he looked positively regal as he surveyed all beneath him. Onwards we went and we soon reached the col by the Devils Ladder.
King Puck

Sorry James, not your most flattering pose

The Hags Glen

The Heavenly Gates

The 300 meter slog from here is always a chore and there was nothing for it but to put the head down and plod on. As we got higher the wind got stronger and colder and there was a real bite of winter by the time we reached the summit. I also had a touch of rubber legs and was in dire need of something to eat. We had intermittent views when the clouds parted but the cold ensured we didn't tarry and we left as soon as we had eaten. We both agreed that a swift return to lower ground was the best option and we descended via the Heavenly Gates again. Once we were down under the cloud the temperatures improved dramatically and we enjoyed glorious views down and across the plain of north Kerry. We were back at the car about four hours after setting off and in a reversal of what normally happens when I'm out with Frank I dropped James back to the train station. The weather was now lovely and thankfully the bad weather forecast hadn't materialized. We have plans to get out and about soon, only this time I hope James will take it easy on me during our runs.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Today I once again went to Killarney to have a hike with Frank. Alas once again the weather was pish so we opted to do something different. Since I ran a circuit of Lough Leane a couple of months ago I have wanted to go back and revisit the beautiful trail that goes from the western end of Tomies Wood  through the rhododendrons to the shores of Lough Leane and the ruins of Glena Cottage.
Frank enjoying the day

O'Sullivans Cascade

Doing chin ups 
We started in the rain and ended in the rain but we ended the day completely smitten and enchanted by our outing. From the car we walked the forestry road for a few kilometers until we diverted briefly to look at the lovely O'Sullivans Cascade. After this there is a gradual pull up to the 200 meter contour where you leave the road and cross some rough boggy ground and just when you think that the way ahead is barred by an impenetrable thicket of rhododendron a tunnel like trail appears and from here for the next couple of kilometers you enter another world of enchanting trail that has the feel of something straight out of a Terry Pratchett novel. Eventually after a steep slippery descent to the lake you come to the ruins of Glena Cottage. A holiday retreat built in the early 19th century by Lady Kenmare and where Queen Victoria lunched when she visited the area. It burnt down in the 1920's but it is still an atmospheric place to visit. We explored hereabouts for a bit and then not wanting to try and cross the truely trying O'Sullivan's Punchbowl we turned and retraced our steps. The climb back up was a bit testing but soon passed and eventually we reemerged into the open ground by Tomies Wood. We returned to the car via the higher road and Frank even wanted to jog some of it. So four hours after we set off we arrived at the car where we changed out of our wet gear and set off for home. It is a spot we will definitely revisit again in the future and makes for an excellent bad weather outing.
Slippery and a surprisingly big drop beneath

Wonderful place

The ruins of Glena Cottage

Gorgeous trails 

Typical trail

Actually much darker

Back in the open ground above Tomies Wood