Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Couple Of Days On Mount Brandon

Friday March 14th;

The weather forecast looked like it would be playing ball and both Frank and I having the time off work we decided to have a change from our usual haunt of Carrauntoohil and head further west to the beautiful Brandon massif. The plan was for me to head as far as Tralee by train and hook up with Frank and we would set off the thirty or so miles west to the furthermost extremity of the Brandon Peninsula. This is one of my favourite places and is always a joy to visit. Indeed I always say that if I should ever be fortunate enough to be in the position to afford a holiday home it is in this area that I would choose. The day arrived and it was a little disappointing to see the sky was overcast but I was looking forward to the outing nonetheless. I quickly packed the tent and other accoutrements and caught the train and relaxed and enjoyed the journey back. Frank, as usual, was on time and off we set.
Looking down into An Sas (The trap) Signs of erosion ongoing

Worth a look with rockshoes on.

Quite the poet

Across the wild bog to An Sas

The day was still a bit overcast but the cloud was up at about 800 metres and occasional bursts of sun were breaking through. The scenery as you get further west just gets better and better and our spirits were high. After the terrible winter we had endured when there was a succession of storms that seemed to be in competition with each other to see which could wreck most havoc it was wonderful to have a real hint of spring in the weather. We decided to drive through the delightful village of Cloghane that nestles in the innermost spot of Brandon Bay and is surrounded some of the finest mountain scenery in Ireland and we parked a few kilometers further on at Teer Bridge. The plan was to head up to the spectacular sunken coum of An Sas and from there make our way up Masatiompan and find somewhere to camp for the night. We quickly readied ourselves and at 14.15 we set off along the lovely country lanes towards Brandon Point. Friendly locals (both human and canine) greeted us and tried not to look too pityingly on these two middle aged men laden down with somewhat overlarge bags. We were immediately loving it. After a few kilometers we left the road and climbed steeply to reach the open mountainside towards point 275 mtrs. Frequent stops to enjoy the view and get used to the heavy(ish) bags were enjoyed but we made steady progress and once we passed the point we were suddenly alone in a wild boggy landscape that led nowhere but to the wild Atlantic.

Going to explore

Happy house
Getting ready for bed

Quite palatial I'd say

Eventually we arrived at the spectacular An Sas. The huge semi circular coum with its precipitous drop of over 300 mtrs to the sea below never fails to impress. It is a great place to linger and just simply enjoy the privilege of being there. On our right there are some lovely cliffs that would give some great sport for rock climbing, perhaps we will have a look another day. As lovely as it was , there was an undoubted chill in the air. A strong breeze swept across the ridge and a bank of cloud was scudding along at our level as well. There now seemed little prospect of seeing a starry sky this night. We set off around the rim and then dropped down the rough boggy ground to the col under Masatiompan. Here a track contours around the hillside and at its end are the remains of an old village/farmstead. One of the buildings looked to have a good roof and we went to explore. We were delighted to see that it was unlocked and inside there was a bench to sit on and a table. A decent dry floor completed the picture and it took us all of a few seconds to decide that as it was now 16.30 and the fog had rolled in from the sea, this would be our home for the night. We wasted no time in getting a brew on the go and a most convivial and pleasant evening and night followed (although frank mightn't concur as he was a wee bit cold).

Saturday March 15th;

We roused ourselves at 06.40 and  enjoyed breakfast. Frank, unusually for him, ate heartily and unfortunately suffered a bit later on (he's a delicate flower). After a leisurely bite to eat we emerged into a bracing breeze but thankfully the fog was gone and despite some cloud covering Masatiompan, to the east and north extensive clearings were to be seen. It promised to be good. The one problem with camping?staying low down is that you have to start climbing pretty much straight away and this morning was no exception. We were now faced with a slog of almost 500 mtrs to the summit and its fair to say that it was a tough start to the day. Frank wasn't feeling great after a big breakfast and suffered a bit on the way up but we still made reasonable progress. It was no hardship to stop and enjoy the view and to the east the Reeks could be seen rising above a base of cloud. Nearby the cloud that was being whipped over the summit of Masatiompan was flowing down to our left until it was met by the wind coming across the other side of the mountain and where this happened the cloud swirled just like a contrail from a jet, lovely. Up into the mist we went and it was with some relief that we reached the broad summit. There was no point in dallying and we set off down to join the ridge that would take us towards Brandon. As we descended we emerged from the cloud and were greeted by a wonderland of mountain panorama. Ahead the ridge rose free of the cloud which now lay a thousand feet below to the west and covered Dingle and the Blasket Islands from view. This cloud stayed in place for the day. To the east the sun bathed the land and sea and the mountains of Benoskee, Caherconree and the giants of the Everagh Peninsula stood proud above layers of cloud. It had been reading just five degrees on the summit of Masatiompan but now the sun carried real warmth and layers of clothing were shed and we enjoyed the easy and stunningly beautiful ridge all the way to the summit of my favourite Irish mountain-Mount Brandon. Here the last couple of patches of snow were to be seen but today had a feel that winter might be past and a promise of balmy days ahead.
An Alpine view first thing

Looking back at home sweet home

Suffering a bit but still a trooper

Into the sun

Later on towards Benoskee and Caherconree beyond

Easy ground on the ridge

Crabbit and Glicket

Parias Mor and Masatiompan

Fine mountain scenery

We relaxed for a while and decided to descend via the Faha Ridge to our car. We returned to point 891 and dropped steeply to the eighty or ninety metres to the start of the ridge proper. Now interest is maintained all the way until the final pull to the top of Gearhane at 822 mtrs. Some nice rock steps present themselves but you can opt out of most if you choose so the going is never too stressful. Soon all difficulties were past and when we arrived at the top we lay in the warm sun and just relaxed. It was heavenly but all too soon we had to rouse ourselves and set off down. Its something we don't do enough, take the time to just sit and enjoy the quiet of the mountains, but I hope to do it more often in the future. The descent is easy but it is fairly long as the ridge stretches five kilometers in a northeasterly direction all the way to the sea. As we got lower it just got warmer and warmer and by the time we eventually reached the car spring had begun to have a touch of summer about it. I was hot and got my first touch of sunburn of the year and tiredness was definitely a factor but we were delighted. It had been a wonderful experience and with scenery like we had enjoyed I was left wondering why I go abroad at all. I'm sure the next miserable weather day will cure me of my doubts. Thanks Frank and here's to more throughout the coming year.
The Brandon Massif

Summit views

Along the Faha Ridge towards The Reeks

A beautiful mountain
Coimmin ou Chorrain

Towards Brandon Peak

An easy spot to linger

Towards Mullaghanattin

View down from the Faha Ridge

Towards Gearhane

Coimin na gCnamh

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