Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Two Day Special. A Big Walk In The Kerry Mountains.

Friday June 20th;

Special is perhaps a word that's overused. I know I am guilty of doing it but in the case of the walk I went on this weekend I think its a word thats justified. Having returned from the Pyrenees just last week and having a couple of days off work I decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather we are having and go for a two day hike in the mountains of Kerry. My biggest problem was what to do. The mountains hereabouts are lovely but it isn't that easy to string a truly wild multi day outing together as the ranges are quite small. The Everagh peninsula offers one of the best options and it was to here I headed. A place I hadn't visited in perhaps eight or nine years was the Coomasaharn group that rise near Glenbeigh so I thought this would be a good starting point. It also had the added advantage in that I could use public transport to get to the start. The route was  long and serpentine in nature and initially wound its way from Drung Hill around to Meentog, across the Ballaghisheen Gap, onwards to Finnararagh before finally crossing Mullaghanattin and down to the Sneem to Killarney road where I would trust in my old thumb to try and get a lift back to the train in Killarney. Approximately 48 kilometers and a total of nearly 3000 meters of ascent promised a testing couple of days. It is always interesting to revisit your home patch after a foreign trip and I suppose comparisons are inevitably going to be made but this time, immediately from the start, I left aside any doubts I may have had and was bowled over by the beauty of the landscape.
The old railway viaduct..soon to be reopened as a greenway


Dingle Bay

Across towards Mount Brandon

An early start saw me catch the 07.25 train from Mallow to Killarney and a bus at 09.45 saw me alight at the appropriately named "Mountain Stage" junction about four miles beyond Glenbeigh at 10.45. The bus driver was a bit of a character who was entertaining and had a great line in chat with all his "regulars" on the bus. The morning had been cloudy inland but here by the sea, blue sky was the order of the day. The high temperatures of the previous days were gone though and there was a chilly breeze coming from the north but that was nothing to complain about as any day when the sun is shining makes being near the sea such a beautiful place to be. My  first objective was to find a was a way onto the open mountain, the oddly named "Drung Hill", which rose gently in a westerly direction beside the road. I walked down a lovely little lane for a few hundred meters before spying a gate that allowed me climb up to open moorland. I also spied the large bull in the corner of the paddock and I kept a close eye on him (and he on me) until he was well behind me and I could truly start my wild outing. Drung Hill was a revelation. It rises gently on a long spur to 640 meters and the views to the right straight down to the sea and the Dingle Peninsula beyond are lovely. I always feel there is something special about any mountain that rises directly from the sea and here was no exception. It also helped that the weather was so nice and that I had never been here before. If I thought that the views on the way up were nice, I was blown away by the panoramic vistas from the summit. Everywhere in all directions lay wonderful mountain and seascapes. To the east the Reeks looked wonderful but it was the imposing hulk of Knocknadobar that caught the eye as it stood in magnificent isolation. When viewed from the road below it looks an uninteresting lump but from up here it took on a more complicated form. I can honestly say that this must be one of the best viewpoints in the country.
Towards The Reeks


Rugged ground

Heading towards Ballaghisheen

I sat and enjoyed a bite to eat and but not for too long as I had a long way ahead and I was keen to put some kilometers behind me. The tops just kept on coming in (not so quick) succession and each one gave new and varied views. Drunh Hill, Beenmore, Been Hill, Teermoyle, Coomacarrea and Menteog followed and the views down the series of impressive cliffs and coums was spectacular. The normally boggy ground was crispy and dry from the recent sun and it made the going a bit easier and all the more pleasurable. I had the added bonus of getting a  really good view of a pair of Hen Harriers soaring and calling round and about me from the summit of Meenteog. Water was also becoming an issue as since I was thus far entirely on a ridge I was relying on the liter and a half I started with. From Meenteog I left the spectacular coums behind and headed southeast for the delightfully named Colly mountain. I must confess to feeling quite tired at this stage and even though the bag wasn't that heavy (about 13 kilos) I was still struggling on the uphill sections. I made a detour at the col below the climb to the summit down a promising looking gully in search of water but even though I went went down a fair ways it remained stubbornly dry so I returned empty handed. I wasn't too worried however as I wasn't too far from the next possible source at "William Scotts Well" less than three kilometers further on. Thankfully I was able to replenish my supply there and I continued onwards over increasingly rough ground over Knocknagapple and down to the roadway that traverses Ballaghisheen pass. By now I had been on the go for seven hours, had covered around 20 kilometers, climbed 1400 meters and my thoughts were turning to finding a place to camp for the night but first I had to leave the road behind and this meant climbing the 300 meters to the summit of Knocknacusha. Leaden legs meant that any thoughts of going beyond Ballytrusk had gone and I was scouring the ground by the pass below to try and see a possible camping spot. I headed down and as I neared the bottom I saw a likely looking gully and followed it down. Soon I was delighted to see a nice steady trickle of water at its base and shortly afterwards a level grassy spot...result!. I quickly set about setting up the tent and cooking a bite to eat but it was with considerable dismay I discovered that my gas wasn't working so I figured a hungry night was to follow. There wasn't exactly a lot of wood about to burn but I gathered up some dead gorse and made a fire with that and soon I had a boiling pot of water and a nice hot meal followed. I slept very well.
Wildcamp heaven

Saturday June 21st;

Last night had been the shortest of the year but it didn't make too much difference to me as I had slept soundly from well before sundown till well after sunrise. Not having any cooker I wasn't going to waste time trying to start a fire so it didn't take long to break camp and I was away. The midges that had thankfully been missing the previous evening had made an appearance which added to my enthusiasm to get moving. I was a bit surprised to see a big leech just outside my tent as well. Keen as I was to get going I'm afraid my body was less so and I was still feeling tired after yesterday. It took me nearly 3/4 of an hour to cross the 1.5 kilometers to the base of peak 666 (call it what you will). Admittedly the ground was very rough but still!!.Anyway the day was beautiful and so were my surroundings and I had a long way to go still so I kept moving. Eventually I reached the top and an easy descent to the next col (where I was able to replenish my water supply) and I climbed to the next top 636 meters before turning towards Finnararagh 667 meters. The view across to Coomalougha Lough with its savage rough ground is one of the best in the area. I was starting to feel stronger as well and the long undulating rough ridge that stretches to the base of the second last steep climb to the top of "The Pocket" passed next. I hadn't had a breakfast and I only had some chocolate biscuits to eat but they kept me going and I made sure to eat a couple before setting up the 180 meter climb. It passed off well and as this was an area I hadn't been for several years I relaxed a while to take in the views. Next comes the final peak of the trip Mullaghanattin and at 773 meters also the highest. The 200 meters to the top is steep and unremitting but this too passed and while I was tired I was also a little sad that the journey was heading towards its end, but not yet as I still had five kilometers to reach the little road (that descends from Ballaghbeama Gap) and then a further seven to reach the Killarney road. This all passed off well but yet again I had been on the go for over eight hours before I finally dropped my bag and started hitching. A half an hour later I was on the move thanks to a couple of German tourists who were certainly seeing the countryside at its best. So another 24 kilometers covered and 1300 meters of climbing was done today and I must say I was whacked but really glad I had done it. I can say with hand on heart that without doubt the scenery in Ireland is, when the weather is good, a match for any I have seen anywhere. It's so good to have it on my doorstep.
Over Cloon Lake towards "The Reeks"

Another great weather day

I had come from way way back on the top right.

Cotton Island?

The ridge onwards from Finnararagh

Back towards Finnararagh


Back towards "The Pocket"

All the climbing done, now for the next twelve kilometers

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