Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Climb of GaltyMore Mountain

I have recently realized that I have been very remiss in visiting the range that were my introduction to the great outdoors, The Galtee Mountains. It had been nearly fourteen months since my last visit so I resolver to head there this morning when I finished work and do The Attychraan Horseshoe. This is one of my favorite routes on this compact range and is about fourteen kilometers in length and gives a wild and remote feeling route to Galtymore 919mtrs. I had hoped that there would be a hard frost overnight which would make going on the boggy terrain a bit easier but it was a few degrees above freezing as I set off. I parked at the roadhead at Carrigeen and set off in the predawn along a forestry road for about a kilometer and a half before climbing steeply to the shoulder of Knocknagalty at over five hundred meters. It was well after dawn by now and I was also already enveloped in thick cloud which, given the forecast for rain later in the morning, looked set to be there constantly throughout. Less steep ground now for a while until another stiff pull up the nose of Knockduff reminded me of my lack of hill days and made me aware of the extra weight I was carrying as a training exercise for Scotland. Here there is easier ground until the final pull to the plateau like summit called Dawsons Table. From above seven hundred meters the ground started to freeze and old patches of snow remained. On the summit plateau there was a stiff wind and everywhere had a nice coating of hoar frost. I guess the temperature was a few degrees below freezing and when you added in the wind it was very chilly indeed. The wind was one of those that made the cold penetrate into your sinuses when you walked into it.
The Chilly Summit

 Thankfully once I reached the cairn I turned about and it was now mostly at my back as I headed west towards Slievecushnabinnia. From early doors I had the map and compass out but once I was down from the plateau and I reached the wall that runs along the ridge as far as Lyreacappul I could relax and use this for navigation. I was recently talking to a colleague who got lost while on a hike hereabouts and it is easy to understand why. The ridges and spurs are very wide and relatively featureless and when the mist is really thick like it was today visibility can be as little as thirty meters. It was amazing how near I got to sheep before I could see them. Still it was nice to have the compass out it was a good training exercise. Anyway I walked above the ghostly chasm of the coum of Lough Curra and followed the wall as far as Carrignabinnia. Normally I would continue as far as Lyracappul for the outstanding views that are afforded but today there wasn't much point and besides the promised rain had long since arrived and was being delivered with force be the wind. So once again the compass was employed to navigate the slopes of Bengower and eventually down to my car. Despite not having any views once I was above five hundred meters I enjoyed my morning immensely. The Galtees may lack the rugged cliffs and narrow ridges of the mountains further to the west but they have a wild and remote feel to them on a day such as this. It won't be too long before I will make a return visit.

Back down below the mist

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Very Wintery Carrauntoohil

Yesterday I went back once again to Kerry for a day out with Frank. After a stellar weather day on Saturday it was something of a disappointment to be awoken by heavy rain. Driving to the train station it was only reading four degrees so it promised to be decidedly chilly on top and it didn't disappoint. Arriving in Killarney it was a relief to see that the rain had stopped (briefly) and after our usual coffees we decided to climb Carrauntoohil.
Arriving in Lisliebane we could see that there was snow lying to about six hundred meter. There had been precious little snow this winter and I was a bit shocked to realize that this would be my first time on snow since I was on the Pyrenees in June. Rain had started again by the time we set off so we were fully suited up from the start. As usual every day with Frank is a pleasure and soon the chat was flowing as we made our way easily into the "Hags Glen". Down here there was very little breeze and we were a tad warm in all the gear. Eventually we reached the snow line on the first level but there was no need for crampons or anything like that as everywhere was unfrozen and running with water. Still it was nice to once again be in a snowy landscape and the mountain scenery hereabouts is great. By the time we reached the third level there was a decent covering and the little lake was starting to freeze over. The long slog up "Brother O'Sheas Gully" is never nice but it eventually passed and when finally we emerged onto the ridge we were treated to the full blast of a strong wind which whipped horizontal spindrift like needles straight into our faces. We weren't complaining about being over dressed now. The 400 feet to the summit was a stinging buffeting freezing onslaught to the senses and I loved it. Now proper ice was starting to coat the rocks and occasional white out patches were experienced.
What . We have to go up there??

A wintery Carrauntoohil

Entering the third level Coumeenaughter

There was no question of us stopping for a bite to eat on the summit and we turned immediately down and headed for the "Heavenly Gates". On this side of the mountain there was a more comprehensive covering and the trail was hard to follow but I was just able to make out steps in the snow as I peered through the biting spindrift. Goggles would have been useful. One nice thing was that the snow made for more cushioned going and we made easy progress, that is until we lost the trail and found ourselves facing down towards steeper ground than we should have expected. We reasoned that we had gone too far to the left and that a rising traverse to our right should see us reach the broader slopes by the "Devils Ladder". We climbed up for a while but the easier ground wasn't materialising so I checked our altitude and I saw we were up at over 850 meters so were well above the level of where we should be. Out came the GPS and map and we realised that we were in fact on a rising traverse of Caher,oh dear. Nothing for it but to take a bearing due east and soon we were once again back on track, literally. The descent was uneventful thereafter, except for the fact that when we eventually did stop in a nice sheltered spot lower down to enjoy a bit to eat we were immediately treated to a resurgent wind in our faces and sleety snow. Unsurprisingly by the time I was down I was soaked through and through and therefore feeling the cold. I fear a new waterproof is called for. Still it was great to get a proper blast of the winter mountain experience and it was proof once again that familiarity is no guarantee of successful navigation in the mountains. I'm looking forward to further challenges ahead.
Always willing to pose for that photae

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mangerton Mountain via The Horses Glen

I have been a little remiss in visiting the mountains of late so today I took the opportunity of a break in the atrocious weather we have been having and headed west to Kerry for a hike. I had gone for a short run last evening and I was surprisingly tired as I set off. It was a pleasant weather day with little or no wind and little cloud in the sky. As I neared the start of the route I got a great view of a young stag on the edge of the woods. The mountain was largely clear of cloud except for the very top which had a thin layer of mist clinging to it. Unsurprisingly there was a lot of water on the trail and the heathery boggy trackless ground towards Lough Garagarry was the usual trudge but all the effort was rewarded when you round the shoulder of the stunning view into the beautiful Horses Glen. I was quite tired and found that my legs felt really tired and leaden. Some big hill days are required if I am to regain sufficient fitness for a trip to Scotland in February. Anyway I persevered and eventually the steep slope to the summit of Mangerton North eventually passed. The impressive cliffs of the north face of the giant coum that surrounds Lough Erhogh are always a treat to look across at and today was no different. I continued on across the ridge to the main bulk of Mangerton itself and didn't stop until I was down and passed the Devils Punchbowl where a most welcome lunch was enjoyed as I enjoyed the view towards the Black Valley and a misty Reeks. Back down at the car I was tired but pleased that the outing had been done in 3 hours 45 mins. I must up the ante for the next one, perhaps a six or seven hour day.