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.

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