Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Clydagh Valley Horseshoe..On The Crispy Galtees

I am very neglectful of the Galtee Mountains. It has been too long since I was last there and today I put that right. We have been enjoying wonderful weather for some time now and I was interested to see how the dry spell has affected these normally wet and boggy mountains. Well its fair to say I cannot remember ever having seen the ground so dry hereabouts.

I left the car at 11am and while it was warm the sun still hadn't burnt off the clouds from the tops. I opted for the very nice round that is the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe today and this takes in Cush, Galtybeg and the big one Galtymore. I have had a medial ligament tear on my right knee since before Christmas and it is very slow to clear up. I was sure it was almost completely healed after my trip to Brandon last week as I had been pain free for a few weeks. Of course last Friday I went for a walk with Ruby on Mount Hillary and I was feeling so good I decided to have a bit of an easy jog down the steep bike trail. I started off nice and easy but it felt so good to be running that I threw caution to the wind and ran all the way down. I loved it. Alas the following morning my ligament was quite painful and its fair to say that my run threw my recovery back several weeks. Bollocks to it. Anyway I was interested to see how my knee would cope today and while I knew the problem was there it never became too painful. Here's hoping.
Greenane looming out of the mist

Galtybeg and Galtymore

Lough Muskry


I usually prefer to do the round in a clockwise direction as this gives a nice long easy descent and I set off up the little lane at a good pace. Wow the ground was dry and when I reached the shoulder of Cush where there is usually a long wet section of walking it was lovely to walk completely carefree along the easy ground. Next comes the steep drag to the lovely top of Cush and finally the cloud started to burn off. Easily down to the col under Galty Beg and again it was a straightforward walk across the normal quagmire that is there and I started the long slog to the elegant little top of Galty Beg. This is always a lovely spot to stop and soak in the new vistas to the south. It was a bit misty today but the warm sun and soothing breeze were adequate compensations. Galtymor and its cliffs above Lough Diheen beckoned and I didn't linger too long. Again the normal twists and turns that are required to make progress between these two tops wasn't necessary and I was able to take a direct line through powdery dry peat hags all the way until the final slopes of Galtymore. At the deserted summit I sat and enjoyed a bite of lunch before dropping and contouring around above Curra Lake and then continuing northwards on the spur of Slievecushnabinnea and back to the forestry and my car. A leisurely 3hours 45mins in warm and glorious sun. I mustn't leave it so long to return.
Looking west from the summit


Friday, 3 June 2016

Bivvying On Brandon. Close to Perfect.

After a very nice trip to The Lake District on May 20th I found myself with the opportunity to head back to one of my favourite places Mount Brandon on June 1st. With the weather being so fantastic I decided to bivvy for the night and make a two day outing of it.

I finished my week  of night-work on Wednesday morning and after a couple of hours in bed I got up and gathered my bits n bobs together and struck off west. Warm sun and blue skies have been the dominant weather pattern for a week now and the countryside was looking glorious as I went back and things only got better and better the further west I got. Beyond Tralee, the azure sea and stunning mountains were added to the mix and my mood and anticipation got better and better. Entering the little village of Cloghane I wasted no time in getting ready and I was on the move at 13.30. Initially the first 7K of the walk are on the road but don't let this put you off as we are talking fairly quiet lanes for the most part and the views in all directions are great. The hedgerows too are coming alive right now and Fuchsia flowers are now competing with Flag Iris and many more wildflowers to catch your eye as you walk. It was warm but not too hot and the gentle breeze made it a heavenly day to be out and about. After passing through Brandon village the road rises gently until it terminates at the lovely viewing point at Brandon Head 300ft above the serene ocean below. It was great to see the faces of the few tourists that milled about as they soaked it all in. They certainly got lucky with the timing of their trip this time.
Walking along the lane the views on one side were nice

And not too bad on the other side either

Benoskee looking good

Looking down into An tSáis
I must explore that rock face sometime. There looks to be some great climbs there.

Some erosion clearly underway


The view towards the Blasket Islands

I bivvied on top of the outcrop ahead

From here I turned left and walked up past the old lookout post and on over the crispy ground to An Buaicín and then followed the wayposts of Súilóid a tSáis, over Cnoc Duíléibhe and then Slieveglass where I paused and wondered at the raw beauty of An Sás (the trap). It never fails to inspire me being here and coming so soon after my trip to Cumbria, I inevitably began comparing each place in my head and today I was left in no doubt that, well, there is no comparison. The elemental raw scenery that is found here is way beyond anything that the rather tamed Lake District (by comparison) has to offer. I continued on my way as far as the deserted village in the following glen where myself and Frank enjoyed a night in the bothy that can be found here. I loaded up with water and set off up the long slog towards Masatiompan 763mtrs which is never great fun but boy o boy is the effort repaid when you reach the summit. What had been glorious views all along just got even better as the astonishing beauty of the views down towards the Blasket Islands and the rugged gnarly coastline that fights with the wide open Atlantic is almost emotional to behold. It is no great surprise that filming has only just been completed here for the next "Starwars" movie, as the scene is almost otherworldly. It was now after six pm and hunger was insisting that I found somewhere to settle for the evening. Looking along the ridge at the nearby Piaras Mór (a tor that juts up some 40 mtrs from the broad ridge) and seeing that I could source some water not too far below it, I settled for there.
Evening light working its magic

Casting a shadow in the morning

Bye for now

The Faha Ridge

Mount Brandon summit

It had been a bit of a pain hauling the 2.75 litres  of water to the ridge but it was now well worth it as I was able to immediately set about getting a comforting brew on the go. I was soon basking in the warm sun, relaxing and eating my sandwich as I drank in the scenes below. Oh how lucky I counted myself to be, to be able to get to these wild places and luckier still that it is all within a two hour drive from my home. If I am ever fortunate enough to have the funds to buy a holiday/retirement home then Cloghane would be the place for me. Anyway I whiled away the time and evening gave way to sunset and after that delight I settled down to sleep. I would love to say that I slept like a baby all night but as is so often the case a bivy (when poorly planned) can turn uncomfortable and this was another of those times. It wasn't entirely my fault (I chose a spot that was a little too exposed and had a bit too much slope) as the gentle puffs of breeze that prevailed as I settled down to sleep became stiff gusts and came from a different direction in the night and as the temperature dropped things became a bit chilly. Still "occasionally"having my eyes open in the night allowed me enjoy the deepest carpet of stars that blanketed the sky. The blood red sky that welcomed the morning was another bonus. I did get some sleep and when I finally extricated myself from my sleeping bag I felt reasonably refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
Brandon Peak

Brandon Bay

A super-yacht dwarfs the entrance to Dingle Harbour. Who could own it??

Towards Slievanea

Looking down to Pedlars Lake with Brandon beyond

The gentle zephyr of the previous day was now a stern wind that at 7am and 2500ft had a distinctly chilly feel to it. Another reviving brew and biscuits (very healthy) and I abandoned my home and set off for vistas new. Walking in a T shirt would have to wait a while but I was well insulated against the chill and the blood was soon pumping as I climbed the ridge towards Mount Brandon 952mtrs. Views into the coums on the east side and the Faha Ridge meant things got more rugged and spectacular. I crossed over the summit and continued easily for the next couple of kilometers to the col under Brandon Peak 840mtrs and stiff pull to this graceful summit got rid of any lingering chill. From here I walked as far as the pass of Mullachveal 357mtrs before climbing to Ballysitteragh 629mtrs and continuing as far as the busy Connor Pass. It was once again warm and sunny and it was no surprise to find a fair few people out for a drive. I left the cars and tourists behind quickly and climbed the gentle slopes to the wonderful viewpoint of Slievanea 629mtrs which soars above Pedlars Lake (another tourist hotspot) and offers a wonderful place to admire the scenery of the Brandon massif and look back on the  length of ground that has been covered. Onwards next to the final top of the day Slievanea NE Top 671 mtrs and almost unexpectedly the stunning Coumanare with its shallow lakes under rugged cliffs and views across towards Benoskee and the remainder of the peninsula take centre stage. It is fair to say that the area packs in loads of punch and doesn't stop delivering those views. Even the four kilometers on the road back to the car that finishes the trip is really a joy with those hedgerows still alive with colour and you are now looking across the bog to the rugged heart of the mountains.
The view east form Slievanea


Walking back to the car. Lots still to enjoy

After passing a group of school children yesterday and over the course of today I had seen only one other person on the hills. Long may such a wild beautiful place remain so unspoiled and quiet. I arrived back at the car tired but so so happy with my couple of days. Yesterday had been a five hour hike and today a seven hour one. I didn't set any records but then again why would I want to. It was a time to look around and enjoy and drink in the landscape. Oh and I could get seriously used to weather like this.