Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Blast Of Winter And Pain.

Wow the weather forecast was great. -6 degrees of frost overnight and the promise of a calm sunny day. The thought of a big outing on The Reeks in such wonderful conditions was hugely appealing so myself Terence, Anthony and Kevin made an early start and hooked up in Killarney and set off for Cronin's Yard at the foot of the mountains. To say it was a disappointment the find that there was no frost and a strong wind blew high clouds over the range would be understating it a little but we were pleased to see some white stuff above 850 meters and this held the promise of a proper winter outing where perhaps our axes and crampons might be necessary. We resolved to climb up to Cruach Mhor and cross the excellent ridge to Cnoc na Peiste and then go around to Carrauntoohil. We set off up across the boggy ground and soon we were on the long punishing slog up to the lake. Eventually this was reached and now we only had 300 meters of less awful slog left to reach the grotto on the summit of Cruach Mhor. This too passed and we gratefully sheltered by the grotto. Wow the wind was strong and regretfully we immediately realized that sticking to the excellent scrambly ridge was out of the question. Terence wasn't feeling the best and decided to head back down to the car and the rest of us set off into the bitter wind. Great care was needed initially as the wind threatened to blow us off the crest but things improved when we dropped to the leeward side of the ridge and traversed lower down below the difficulties. We were also delighted to see Terence had changed his mind and was following us and soon out little troop was complete.
The East reeks


The Three Amigos...Anthony Kevin and Terence

A rather chilly looking "Crib"

The rocks on the crest above us were mostly black and even if the wind wasn't strong they wouldn't have offered a proper winters outing. Anyway we climbed steeply to the summit of An Garbh (The Big Gun) where we marvelled and luxuriated in the stunning views from this airy spot. On the climb up I had developed some lactic acid pain in both my  calves but I wasn't unduly worried as I reckoned that this would soon pass. I set off down to the col under Cnoc na Peiste and suddenly I was struck by a constant and increasing pain in my legs. Oh dear it was excruciating. I hoped that by keeping going it would pass but by the time I was at the col I had to come to a full stop and rest for a while. A five minute break helped and I felt well enough to continue. The pain was still there but soon I was able to get into a rhythm of sorts and progress became easier. I had to forgo the delights of the narrow ridge above and I stuck to the path and fairly soon I was at the wild and wintry summit. Now we were in the cloud that sometimes briefly cleared and these brief atmospheric views made our spirits soar. Not that we need that as we were loving the whole experience that brought wild Scottish winter outings to mind. I was pleased as well that I had moved better and I was hopeful that the worst was now behind me and I would be able to enjoy the rest of the day. We set off towards Maolan Bui (The Bone) and oh dear the pain returned almost immediately when I set off. I pushed hard through it in an attempt to walk it off but by the time we reached the summit it was no better. I resolved to go as far as Cnoc Na Cuillan and then see how I was. The guys were quite concerned for me and I was conscious that I was slowing them down and putting their chances of getting a big day out in jeopardy. The decision as to what to do was soon made for me as shortly after leaving the summit I had to once again come to a full stop. It was folly to go on so despite their protestations that they would accompany me down I returned to the summit and descended the bone.
An Gargh The Big Gun

The steep bit to the top of An Garbh

Traversing under the crest

The summit of An Garbh

The ridge to Cnoc na Peiste

Up in the mist

Looking epic on the summit

 It was painful and painfully slow but by taking good care I made steady progress. Soon I was below the snow and out of the worst of the wind and once I was down as far as the first rocky step I was able to descend to my right down steep grassy ground to the floor of the coum between The Bone and the northwest ridge of Cnoc na Peiste. I was moving like a decrepit old man but at least I was moving. I had feared that I would have to come to a stop or be unable to continue but thankfully that hadn't happened. Anyway once I was down this far I knew that I would be all right and I continued on the easier ground back towards the car. The ground passed slowly and somewhat painfully but finally after 2 hours fifteen minutes I reached the car, where I relaxed until the guys came back. Terence had forgone the delights of the slog from the Devils Ladder to Carrauntoohil so he arrived before the totally "hardcore" Anthony and Kevin who
 had climbed Carrauntoohil as well. I was just glad to be down but I was disappointed not to have been able to enjoy the round. I must find out the reason for this pain and hopefully it was just a freak occurrence brought on by bad diet and habits that I have been guilty of over the festive season. Twas great to be out with the lads again and hopefully we will have many more "pain free" days out in the future. Happy new year.
Back under the mist on the way down.

The car is a long way off in the yonder woods.

Down in the coum

Beautiful mossy stream

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Blowing away the cobwebs in the Cappagh Glen Killarney

The weather forecast was unfortunately correct when it predicted wet and windy weather today so the hoped for outing on the east Reeks had to be postponed for a future day and myself and Terry Conroy decided to venture into the Cappagh Glen instead as it would provide a safe outing in the strong winds and it is always a joy to visit this wild part of Kerry. We were joined by Terry's friend Marty Hennessy. Terry is only starting out in his exploration of the great outdoors and for both Marty and himself it was a first visit to this area. We opted not to drive in the the terrible private road that leads to the trail head and instead parked before the start of Lough Guitane and walked in from there. My word it was a bad weather morning and it was difficult to see anything at all in the driving misty rain. Still it was invigorating to be out and I was looking forward to showing the guys this wonderful spot. Once we were past the little farmyard we entered the truly wild land beyond and the fun started straight away. We had to cross a stream that normally is a simple matter of stepping on the stones to keep your boots dry but today this was swollen and the only way across was to wade straight through which quickly dispelled any notion of maintaining dry feet.

Water water everywhere

Marty and Terry smiling through the rain :o)

Back out the glen

 I have been here many times but I have never seen the place so saturated and riddles with streams. Waterfalls were everywhere and even though the hills were almost obscured by the mist things were very spectacular. The Cappagh river was thunderous as we walked alongside into the glen and some care had to be taken to avoid any slips. The glen always suggests being a great campsite to me but not today as dry unflooded ground was hard to come by. We turned and climbed to the summit of Benaunmore 454meters which, despite its modest height, offers wonderful airy views but almost nothing could be seen today so we quickly left and descended steeply into the eastern side and returned via the beautiful narrow glen and back to our car. It felt great to change into dry clothes. It had been a modest outing but a beautiful one and the guys really enjoyed the wild feel of the place. Hopefully more outings together in the future.

Terry in Conroy's Crevice ;o/

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Blast Up Mangerton With James.

December 21st, the shortest day of the year and a red letter day for other reasons as well. James has had a tough year with injuries and his Achilles has been causing him big problems for a full year and he hasn't been able to get out running or hiking which are things he really loves to do. It was therefore great to be able to meet up with him this morning in Killarney to go for a hike and welcome him back into the great outdoors as he finally throws off the shackles of injury. The weather was looking less than promising and being mindful that he was still in the early stages of his recovery we opted to climb Mangerton Mountain 838 meters. This offers a fairly straightforward route to the summit yet it still has a nice big mountain feel about it. We arrived at the trail head and the stiff wind and misty rain ensured we put on our full waterproofs right from the start. The one thing in our favour was that there was no cold there and it was about six degrees warmer than yesterday. Despite being a year away from serious exercise James showed little sign of being unfit and he managed the climb with no difficulties and kept up a good pace throughout. Predictably as we rose higher the wind only got stronger and with nothing in the way of views we didn't stop at all and just dropped from the summit down to the arret between it and the outlying Mangerton North which we duly dispatched and then dropped back down to meet the track back to our car. We were just three hours out in total and we got a good soaking and buffeting but the chat flowed throughout the day and it was great to share the evident delight that James felt in his return to the mountains. It is so invigorating to be out on the hills in bad weather. Once you are dressed appropriately it can feel that the wilder things are the better. The change into dry warm clothes at the finish and the subsequent feeling of well-being always make it a memorable experience. Now that James is back in the proverbial saddle I look forward to getting out and about with him regularly in the new year.
James ready for anything

Back down below the cloud looking towards Kilarney


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Coomloughra Horseshoe.

What better way for Frank to finish his hill climbing ventures of 2014 than by doing one of Irelands finest walks-The Coomloughra Horseshoe. This takes in the three highest peaks in the country, Beenkeragh-Carrauntoohil and Caher. I caught the early train to Killarney and hooked up with Frank at eight thirty and after our usual coffees we headed out the the carpark at the bottom of the "Hydro Road" by Lough Acoose. The promised good weather day hadn't materialized and the cloud was down at 700 meters and a chill breeze was blowing some intermittent mist or drizzle. The road is steep and provides a stiff beginning to the trip but once you reach the sharp turn after climbing nearly 200 meters the going is much more pleasant until you reach the majestic coum and Lough Eighter. Even though the cloud shrouded the tops it is still an impressive place to be. We turned left and made the steep ascent to the ridge to Skregmore. Once we were on the ridge the wind became more of a factor and there was a definite chill in the air. Things weren't helped by an almost constant flow of either drizzle or mist and this meant that it wasn't a day for hanging around. Frank was in great form and kept up a good pace throughout. Up and down then up ever higher until we arrived on Beenkeragh 1009 meters.
Even in the mist the Coum is impressive

The cliffs of Caher offer promise of future days

To the west over Lough Acoose

Now we turned almost directly into the wind and it was with some relief that we were able to find some shelter on one side of the ridge. We were passed by Denis O'Brien and companion on the ridge and I at first didn't recognize him until he was right alongside me as he was well muffled up against the weather. They were moving a bit quicker than us so we parted and we continued on our way. By the time we reached the summit of Carrauntoohil 1039 meterswe were very very glad to scuttle into the summit shelter and get some relief from the chill. We enjoyed a nice lunch and set off for the final peak of the day Caher 1001meters. Now we were blasted by the wind in earnest and hard rain reduced the temperatures even further. Suddenly my hands got really cold and not too long after the inevitable happened and I got a bugger of a dose of the "hot aches" which didn't east until I was beyond the summit. Oh how I missed them!. The descent is pretty straightforward and we made rapit progress. The cloud was even lower and we didn't re-emerge under it until we were back down at the lake. It was nice to once again see some colour and views and we didn't miss it until we were back at the car just five hours after we set off. The company was as always great and we felt once again invigorated by the elements. Frank is now off to Englandshire for a break but we are both looking forward to more adventures next year.
Was that fun??

Oh yes indeed

Towards Lough Currane

More weather on the way

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Slieve Mish Mountains. Wild and Wonderful

After visiting the Galty Mountains yesterday with Kevin and the gang I went on the train to Tralee where I hooked up with Frank and we headed to the Slieve Mish Mountains west of the town. Frank had never been in this area and we opted to do the Caherconree and Baurtregaum circuit. We parked up the little lane not far from the main road and we were soon out on the boggy open ground. We met a local farmer who was sending his sheep back onto the hills and he was a delight to chat to. It was refreshing to find he was delighted for others to be on the hills and he said that "when he made it he made it big enough" and assured us that we could head where we pleased. We were in good cheer as we left him and we opted to walk up alongside the Derrymore River which saw us gradually gain height. It weather had been wet and pretty miserable throughout the morning and while it was dry at the moment it didn't look too promising as we gradually gained height. Gearhane rose steeply on our right but ahead the high ground was shrouded in mist. Eventually we reached the first of the little lakes that nestle in the coum below Caherconree. A real bonus was that the weather showed real promise of clearing and sure enough as we climbed the spur that rises to the ridge between Caherconree and Gearhane some blue sky appeared.
Walking up into the glen by Derrymore River

Looking Back to Tralee Bay

The first of the little lakes

Francis looking rather pleased..

We had our lunch just below the ridge where we would be out of the wind that was whipping patchy cloud across it. As is often the case, as we ate the cloud returned and we even had some rain but once we gained the broad ridge we were treated to some amazing views to the west. It had been years since I had been here and I was blown away by the scenery. There is no doubt about it but the Dingle Peninsula is one of the best places in the entire country. We were soon on the summit of Caherconree at 835mtrs and now we could see across to the Reeks and down towards Inch and Rossbeigh strands. There was a stiff chilly breeze so we didn't tarry and set off towards the col below Bartregaum. The ridge becomes pleasingly narrow with steep ground on both sides and of course those stunning views. Suddenly as we reached the col the breeze changed to a strong wind and carried horizontal hail sideways on to us which stung our faces and ensured we kept our eyes protected. Some buffeting gusts made progress a bit tricky and when we reached the broad desolate summit we took a compass bearing and quickly headed on towards the northeast top. By the time we reached here the hail had thankfully stopped which was good because we now turned and descended in a northerly direction which was straight into the wind. The descent is fairly straightforward and we were soon a good deal lower and out of the worst of the weather. We were soon on Derrymore East and we then descended down to the river in the glen below and followed it back to the place there the Dingle Way crosses it and from here it is but a short walk back to the car. It had been a stunning walk with superb views and the wild weather only served to make it all the more invigorating. All in all about 10 kilometers and 950 meters of climbing in four hours. I have a feeling it won't be long before we return. Thanks Frank.
Starting up the steep spur


Across to Baurtregaum

Wonderful views west along the Dingle Peninsula

Towards Inch and Rossbeigh

Frank on Caherconree

Looking down towards Tralee

Back down and still gorgeous.