Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Hags Glen Horseshoe...What A difference A couple Of Days Make

Gone is the blue sky. A return of winter. I went up the slope from centre to top right.
After the wall to wall sunshine of Sunday I headed back to the Reeks on Tuesday for a big hill day out and was transported back into winter. My objective was the Hags Glen horseshoe. This gives a total of 16 kilometres in distance and 1700 meters of ascent so it is a worthy outing. The fact that most of this is spent above 3000ft makes it unique in Ireland. The temperature was reading as low as four degrees during the squalls on the way back and the dusting of white on the hills meant that I was in no doubt that today would be very different to Sunday. I waited out a hail shower that hit just as I parked up and I set off from the car at 10.30.
The East Reeks looking wintery.
I decided to do the round in an anti clockwise direction today as that meant that I would have the wind to my back as I went across the East Reeks. It meant however that I would be into the wind from Knockbrinnea all the way to Carrauntoohil. I decided to climb up to the summit of Knockbrinnea via the slopes by the Hags Tooth and this means a steep unrelenting slog of 550 meters and I was pretty glad when it was over. As I neared the top I experienced the full force of the wind which gusted to sixty miles an hour at times which made progress difficult. I was sheltered on the slopes up to Benkeeragh but boy was I assaulted by the full force of wind and hail when I topped out. Thankfully it was short lived and I was able to progress down to the connecting ridge and head to Carrauntoohil. Again I was blasted by savage gusts as I crossed above O'Sheas Gully but thankfully as I climbed to the top of Carrauntoohil the wind was quartering towards my back. I had the top to myself but I didn't stop long and I set off down to the Devils Ladder.
Approaching Knockbrinnea looking towards Benkeeragh and Carrauntoohil

Benkeeragh Ridge looking moody
I now had the wind to my back and it was most welcome as it helped me up the following climbs. I kept going until I reached the top of Cnoc na Chuillinn where I found a nice sheltered spot for lunch. I was really enjoying myself and the taste of winter and moody views added to the experience. After my bite to eat I continued on my way. After reaching Cnoc na Peiste I was faced by the knife edge ridge that stretched all the way to Cruach Mhor. Thankfully I didn't have to stick to the crest and in the wind it was more prudent to use the paths that cross lower down. A fall at a narrow section which saw me land heavily with my head looking down at a lot of air below me was a sobering moment but I reached Cruach Mhor without  further incident. All that had to be negotiated now was the long but straight forward descent to my car which passed easily enough. I was pleased with the time of 6.5 hours considering the problems with the wind and snow and hopefully it will stand to me for upcoming adventures.
The view from lunch

Climbing over for the day. The view back from Cruach Mhor

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Howling Ridge Always A Great Day Out

I was supposed to go to the Lake District this weekend but the weather forecast was a bit pish so at the last minute I chickened out and decided to relax at home instead. I was feeling a bit guilty for doing this but today was just the tonic I needed to put any melancholy behind me and I headed back to Killarney this morning on a perfect blue sky day. Frank suggested doing Howling Ridge and I readily agreed. Off we went (after the obligatory coffees) to Lisliebane and we were on the trail at 10.55. Blue sky and light wind there may have been but there was a decided chill in the air whenever we were out of the sun.
Heading in...what a morning

Francis looking fit

The ridges on the east face

Cnoc na Chuillinn

The ridge itself is a very nice hard scramble that starts at almost 700 meters and lasts for about 200 meters. It is a lovely outing that is an airy and exciting experience. Some care is needed as there is some loose stuff but good holds are plentiful and enjoyment rather than fear is the dominant emotion. It helped that the sun had worked its magic on the rock and it was nice and warm to the touch. We broke with tradition and enjoyed a lovely lunch high on the ridge and it was nice to sit on our airy perch and bask in the sun. After lunch we finished the ridge and slogged up to the summit. The views were wonderful and the lakes and sea were as blue as the sky and any lingering thoughts of the Lake District were dispelled. We finished off our day by crossing the Benkeeragh ridge and descending via Knockbrinnea back to the car. Just over 5 hours of stunning weather and climbing and in good company to boot. A good day!.
Posing by the heavenly gates

Francis having fun

Wonderful scrambling ahead

The final section

Wonderful views towards the Dingle peninsula

Displaying the flexibility of an arthritic hippo

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sneem April 2015

Margaret and myself recently decamped to one of our favourite places for a few days....Sneem. We stayed in the excellent apartments at the Sneem Hotel and we were blessed by good weather as well. As I was in this wild and wonderful landscape it would have been rude not to sample some of what is on offer thereabouts so after a run along a little piece of the Kerry Way on Tuesday evening I got up early-ish on Wednesday to go for a short hillwalk. My route of choice was the nearby Coomcallee horseshoe. Alas the stunning weather of the previous day was replaced by a combination of fog and misty cloud this morning and shortly after leaving the car I had the map and compass out to ensure I was heading in the right direction even at the start. I was hopeful that it was just fog blotting the views and that I would soon rise above it but it wasn't to be. A short story shorter I didn't get any views whilst on top and didn't emerge under the clouds until I was well into my final descent. I didn't mind however, as it was a good exercise to have to use the map and compass to make my way safely and I often find that things can be quite atmospheric in such conditions. A total of eight kilometres and 800 meters of climbing in three hours was a nice start to the day and as the weather cleared up beautifully in the afternoon we enjoyed a lovely touristic experience for the rest of the day.
Twas more than the mist dripping into my eyes. I was a tad warm.

Briefly out of the mist at the col

Moody cliffs stretch away to the right.

Back down under the cloud looking at the Coomcallee cliffs

Seriously good boldering to be enjoyed. The big ones are house size

The route taken that evening is up the left and down the right...simples

The last time I was in the area I did a lovely but tough 95 K cycle with 1000 meters of ascent. It starts from the hotel and heads to the Ballaghbeama Gap, then onwards to Ballaghisheen Pass , from there on to Waterville and then home the stunning coast road which is part of the ring of Kerry. Now its fair to say that I'm no great shakes on the bike and the little I have done this year didn't exactly prepare me too well for it but overall I was pretty pleased with my efforts. The climb to Ballaghbeama is a toughie with a 13 degree gradient but I managed to huff and puff my way to the crest. A brief rest and I enjoyed the downhill section towards Glencar which passes through some of the wildest and most rugged landscape in Ireland. Then it was on to Ballaghasheen and the views just kept on coming. If I was disappointed with the weather the previous morning, today I had nothing but blue sky and warm sun. It was magical.
Shortly after starting out. Not a bad backdrop.

Ballaghbeama Gap

The way onwards


 It didn't make the climb to the pass any easier and I suspect some of the noises I was making towards the top would have sent alarm bells ringing for anyone unfortunate enough to have heard them. Another brief rest at the top and I think the view back towards the Reeks is truly special. Then there is the long but relatively flat ride all the way to the coastal village of Waterville and now the deep blue of the wild Atlantic is a joy to behold. Alas it isn't that easy to enjoy it as there is a long drag out of the village but boy oh boy, when you reach the high headland at the crest the scenery is breathtaking (if you had any left). The Skelligs, Scarrif island and the serene Derrynane compete for your attention. I actually felt pretty good but I hit something of a wall with about 15 kilometres to go but I managed to keep going to the end. I was banjaxed at the end but elated at the same time. With weather such as this it was a huge privilege to be able to ride through some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever been in.
Back towards Waterville

Scariff Islands


That evening I went after dinner and walked to the top of nearby Bheann Mhor which at 308 meters was plenty after the exertions of the morning. It is a rough wild little hill that requires a lot more effort to reach the top than you would expect. It offered a lovely viewpoint and as the sun set I soaked up as much of the views as I could. It was a fitting finale to my efforts this trip. I hope it won't be too long before we go back.
Views from Bheann Mhor

Bheann Mhor

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Wonderful Bit Of Winter On The Reeks Today

April 11th;
We have had a beautiful week of great spring weather this past week but alas the forecast for the weekend wasn't good with chilly conditions and plenty of rain. It was therefore with some delight I saw lots of blue sky about and even some snow on the hills as I went back to Killarney to have a day out with Frank. Even though it had been a while since he had been out Frank opted to head for the "big ones" and we set off for the Reeks. They looked wonderful with a dusting of snow giving the range a wintry look. We decided to climb the north spur of Cnoc na Chuillan 958 meters. It was a bit chilly and some showers could be seen in places but it was overall a very promising picture and we were in fine fettle as we set off. We walked in as far as the outlet of Lough Callee and then climbed up into the impressive Coumeenmore. Things got considerably steeper from as we climbed up towards the ridge high to our right. As we neared the ridge the wind got up a bit but it was not too bad and allowed us to stick to the nice ridge and eventually reach the summit.
The route is just right of centre

Inspiring vistas

The north spur of Cnoc na Chuillin

Impressive back wall of Coumeenmore

Some nice scrambling to be had

Looking back down the ridge

Frank on the summit.
We were occasionally treated to ex-foliating hail showers but at the top we found a lovely sheltered spot and enjoyed a delightful lunch. The play of dark cloudscapes and stunning scenery plus a gentle fall of snow made for an enchanting interlude. From the top we could have gone left to Cruach Mhor or right to Carrauntoohil and we chose the latter. So rested and fed we turned to descend into the breeze. Ahead of us the Bridea Valley was a dark forbidding sight as another shower headed our way. It reached us after we had gone down about 100 meters and it hit with some force. The breeze became a strong wind and it carried hailstones that hit and stung. I had no option but to stand and turn my back to it but very shortly I had to squat right down as the backs of my legs were really stinging from the hail. I was actually laughing as I waited for things to improve as this was full on severe weather that was a bit intimidating but was equally exhilarating. It soon passed and we were able to continue on and shortly afterwards we were basking in glorious sunshine and enjoying stunning views once again. We continued up and over Cnoc na Toinne and then on up to the summit of Carrauntoohil. The weather behaved itself for the rest of the outing and we descended back to the car via the Heavenly Gates. It had been a varied exhilarating outing and had the odd reminder that perhaps winter isn't finished with us yet. Thanks Frank.
The view from lunch

More lunchtime views

The snow was melting fast
During the squall

Shortly after the squall stunning

A wee bit more weather on the way