Monday, December 26, 2016

The Attychran Horseshoe. A Post Christmas Hike On The Galtees

Kings yard on the right with the long spur of Knocknagantee leading to Galtymor
I went back to the Galtees today for a blast of fresh air which was much needed after the excesses of Christmas day. I opted for the Attychran Horseshoe which is a nice round of about 15 kilometers and involves about 900mtrs of climbing so it would make a decent outing. I parked at Kings Yard and walked alongside the river for a kilometer before turning and starting up the broad slopes of Knocknagantee. There was a chill brisk breeze blowing so it was a hat and gloves kind of day but it was bright and sunny and it felt great to be out. After gaining a bit of height the views, as you would expect, become a bit more expansive and it was nice to pause and look back across the valleys towards The Knockmealdowns and the Comeraghs. The summit plateau of Galtymor is called Dawsons Table and I thought I could see a bit of white on the ground but it was still a fair ways away. I pushed on and eventually I reached the slopes of the table and suddenly the wind increased exponentially in strength and by the time I crested the slope I was being occasionally being blown sideways.

Looking back at the Knockmealdowns

Gentle rolling and lovely. Towards Lyracappul and Temple Hill

As close as I am going to get to snow for the remainder of this year.

Lough Curra with Galtymor soaring above
There was a faint dusting of frost or snow on top and the boggy ground was nicely frozen but I didn't get too much time to enjoy it as progress was difficult in the biting wind. Thankfully the wind lulled before I reached the summit cairn and I was able to soak up the views for a short while before I turned and retraced my steps and dropped down to the easy ground that drops gradually as it curves above Lough Curra. Thankfully once off the summit the wind was more manageable and I was able to enjoy this delightful section of the outing. I followed the Galtee Wall all the way to the summit of Lyreacappul 823mtrs and after retracing my steps for about 500mtrs I was able to easily drop towards the col below Monabrack and climb the 100 or so meters to the 630mtr summit. I continued south along the spur and eventually back to my car. In total it took 4hours 15mins and it was a delight to get some sun in these short dark days.
The Galtee Wall


Wednesday, December 21, 2016


It is a bit flattened out here but this is the start of the route..looking up from the bridge
On Sunday myself and Frank went for a final blast of mountain air before Christmas to the Kerry mountains. A fine weather day was promised and tking advantage of it I decided to have a look at "The Ramp" on Cnoc na d'Tarbh or "The Bull" as it is often called. This is a seldom used route that makes its way up the very steep ground that rises from "Turnpike Rock" and the narrow skew bridge at the narrowest point of the Gap of Dunloe. Immediately after you cross the bridge you climb up the bouldery ground, initially to the left before turning right above a rock step and aiming for a wet notch on the right of a large black rock step and the route starts here.
You can't really see it but trust me there is a big drop on Franks right side

Back down into the Gap

Exit step

It is not really difficult but it is at times very exposed and there are a couple of places that lets just say I wouldn't like to have to reverse. The first of these is at the start where you climb the dry rock on the right of the wet notch on reasonable but not "bomber" holds before you reach the steep grassy ramp above. This is followed until the ramp narrows at a notch where the rock on the left is overhanging and to progress you have to hunker down into the notch and then step to the right (good holds) onto or over the exposed edge where a very large drop awaits a mistake. It is only a couple of moves but I dare say it is not for those of a nervous disposition and the feeling is relief when you are past this spot. Follow the ramp up to almost its end and then a short easy five meter rock step awaits on the left and you leave the ramp behind. It had been ten years or more since my one and only climb of this route and I had expected that there was only a long slog to the summit remaining but after the step the way seemed barred by further large bands of black slime covered rock with horrible looking gullies between them. We traversed to the left for a hundred meters and more but we seemed to be constantly foiled by these awkward steps and we were being pushed lower and lower so we turned back (reasoning that we had missed something) and soon we spotted a way up. It was still a bit awkward and Frank lost on of his poles down a hole but we got up and then all that remained was the slog to the 655mtr summit. We enjoyed a nice spot of lunch here before then climbing the nearby Cnoc an Bhráca 731mtrs. After that we "enjoyed" the long walk across the bog to Strickeen and descending along the track back to the valley floor before walking the three kilometers back to the car. It had been great to climb this route again, though it is certainly one to avoid when the rain arrives. All in all it had been a lovely and interesting day. Thanks Frank.👍
Not a bad view from the summit

Suffering..more days out needed

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Hags Tooth Ridge,,,Beenkeragh to the Bone.

A nice early start saw me leave the car at Lisliebane at 08.30 and set of into the Hags Glen for another outing on The Reeks. It was quite windy and the cloud could be seen scudding across the tops of the East Reeks as I walked in. I had thought to start off by doing the Cnocnapeiste Ridge but I decided against it due to the strong wind and I opted instead for the Hags Tooth Ridge which gives a fine Grade 2 scramble (or perhaps a little harder if you pick the choicest bits) as it rises towards Beenkeragh 1009mtrs. My legs were a little tired as I had run 10K the previous day (the first time in a year 😊) and I had gone for a walk on Bweeng with Ruby but my knee was pretty good and I'm getting hopeful that the end of the injury is in sight. Anyway after a steep pull up a grassy gully I reached the base of the ridge and really enjoyed picking the best bits and I gradually gained height. Eventually the top of the tooth is reached and this is a great airy spot to rest awhile before tackling the more broken ground ahead which becomes mostly a steep slog as you near the summit. Reaching the top I sat and ate a snack and took in the views before setting off again.

Hags Tooth or Stúmpa an tSáimh

The view west
The wind was pretty buffeting and care was needed to ensure safe progress but it eased as I descended to cross the ridge towards Carrauntoohil. It is always a pleasure to cross this ridge and the pull to the roof of Ireland was soon over as well. I didn't stop and set off down to the top of the Devils Ladder before climbing Cnoc na Toinne and then Cnoc an Cuillan where I had my lunch out of the wind. I continued on to the Bone where I turned for home. The descent went smoothly and again I was pleased with how my knee felt. I think perhaps the running is actually tightening up the supporting muscles and this seems to be supporting the ligament a bit..or at least I hope so. I reached the car at 14.20 so it had been an outing of just shy of 6 hours and all in all a very enjoyable day. Now all we want is for Santa to bring some snow😎.


The ridges of Carrauntoohils east face

Down into the Black Valley

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mweelrea...Sheeffry Hills...The Twelve Bens...Connemara Magic

Taking advantage of a good weather forecast (a rare thing at this time of year) and having a long weekend off work I decided to head to the west of Ireland and have a few days hiking. It being not too far from the shortest day of the year I opted to forego my usual camping style for the "luxury" of sleeping indoors, so with that in mind I booked into the Wild Atlantic Hostel which is part of the Delphi resort for Friday and Saturday nights and then I really went to town and booked into the Clifden Station House Hotel (I just can't seem to get away from trains) for the Sunday night. So all set I set off from home at 15.30 for the long 250kilometer drive which thankfully went without a hitch and I was checking into Delphi at 19.30.

Saturday December 3rd;

Even though I was up at 7am it was 08.15 by the time I emerged from the hotel to begin my walk. The beauty of staying in this location was that I could leave the car where it was and start and finish my walk from the front door. Leaving in the early light it was wonderful to see the stunning  surroundings that were hidden by darkness when I arrived the previous evening. Across the road Ben Gorm soared and the Sheeffry Hills book-ended the valley and of course the impressive east spur of Ben Lugmore stretched westward. I had chosen to do a big round of the Mweelrea Mountains today and this meant I had to cross the very boggy ground until I reached the slopes of Teevnabinnea, a long hill that rises from the northern shores of Killary Harbour. Even though it is only 379mtrs high it is a worthy start as the resort is only just above sea level so every meter is hard earned. I must say it felt great to be back here. It must have been over ten years since I did this particular route and it felt fresh and new. I had of course climbed Mweelrea last January 2015 in stunning winter conditions and it is one of my favourite mountains in Ireland and it is always a pleasure to return. From the summit the views to the south open up and the Twelve Bens, Bencoonaghs and Maumturks come into view over the waters of the harbour. I continued west and the route drops over 200mtrs which gives a steep 300mtr plus pull up to Mweelrea east spur at 495mtrs before another drop and a long 400mtr slog around the spectacular coum to the summit of Mweelrea itself which at 814mtrs is the highest in Connaught.

Looking back to the start

The Twelve Bens

Mweelrea and Ben Lugmore then down to the right

The Connemara Mountains

The southern slopes of Ben Lugmore
A stiff wind made the already low temperatures feel even lower and in the exposed summit sloped I didn't delay too long while I had a bite to eat before I set off for the second half of the route that took in the beautiful ridge that traverses Ben Lugmore which soars above the huge and spectacular coum that rises from the shores of Doo Lough. This is for me the highlight of the walk so I set off eagerly after lunch/brunch. Broad easy ground led to the wide saddle below the gentle climb to Ben Bury 795mtrs where I stopped to marvel at the spectacular views to the east and north before then continuing over the three tops of Ben Lugmore with the highest being 803mtrs. Cloud was unfortunately making an appearance on the tops but I mostly had a view and I was enjoying myself immensely. As I went along the ridge that gradually turned to the northeast and dropped in an east southeast direction I debated which way to reach the valley floor. I could have dropped on another spur to the expanse of bog that led directly to Delphi but I chose instead to drop steeply down directly towards the river which I crossed via a footbridge (rather cheekily as it was marked private) that entered the back garden of a house and I quickly exited to the public road. I wouldn't have done that normally but the house seemed deserted so I took the chance. I then walked easily the two kilometers on the quiet (off season) road past Fin Lough and entered the hostel just over 6.5 hours after starting off which wasn't too bad for a circuit that stretched to around 18kilometers and had over 1400mtrs of ascent. I relished a long soak in a hot bath and relaxed into the long evening.

From Ben Bury to Ben Lugmore

Doo Lough and Ben Creggan and Ben Gorm

Back down across Fin Lough
Sunday December 4th;

 I once again had had the room to myself so I had slept very well. I got up again at 7am so I could make the most of the short days and I was breakfasted and packed and on the move by shortly after 08.30. I had thought to climb Ben Creggan 697mtrs and Ben Gorm 700mtrs which rose steeply directly across the road from the hostel but at the last minute I opted for the Sheeffry Hills which were just a few kilometers away and they stretched in an east west axis from the shores of Doo Lough. I parked my car a short way along the little road that ran through the valley under Ben Creggan and The Sheefry's and after crossing the river using some slimy rocks as stepping stones I set off up the steep slopes that rose a full 700mtrs towards Barrclashcame 772mtrs. It was another chilly morning and the wind was a little stiffer today so there was little chance of overheating as I rose steadily. One thing that delighted me was how dry the ground was and it stayed that way throughout. It always makes it a little easier when you don't have wet bog sucking at your feet. Again as I rose up the views got better and looking over the lake to Ben Lugmore was great and Ben Creggan and Ben Gorm rose to the south and after a little while the Connemara mountains also drew the eye.
Getting high on Barrclashcame
Mountains everywhere
Croagh Patrick to the north

Easy wonderful walking ahead

Towards Clare Island and Achill in the mists beyond

Eventually I reached the broad almost flat summit ridge and I wandered easily to the inconspicuous summit. Ahead stretched over four kilometers of gently rolling ridge that made for super easy and very enjoyable walking. I gamboled along and enjoyed the views and tried to ignore the biting and occasionally buffeting as I passed over Tievummera &62 mtrs and then Tievnabinnea 745mtrs before dropping easily southeast towards Tievnabinnea south east top 525mtrs and then dropping down steeply to the harvested forestry below and easily back to the road. I then had a further 5kilometers on tarmac but it was a delight on the deserted lane that led back to the car. A very enjoyable 4.5 hours had been spent on what was new ground for me and it is a nice undemanding circuit with good underfoot conditions. When the cloud would be down and visibility poor it would be a good place to practice map and compass skills. I was all set and on the road again by 13.40 and I enjoyed the fifty or so kilometer drive to the lovely little town of Clifden where I checked into my hotel and enjoyed an evening of luxury in the plush surroundings and made full use of the leisure centre and had a three course dinner thrown in as well. It was worth it.

If you have to walk a road it might as well be one like this
Monday December 5th;

I stuck to my 7am rising time and after a full Irish breakfast I was checked out of the hotel by 08.30 and on the road towards the biggest little mountains in these islands...The Twelve Bens. Today I was going to do the Owenglin Horseshoe which is a big circuit of about 20kilometers and involves around 1800mtrs of climbing so I wouldn't have any time to waste if I was to get it all in before dark. I drove in the little bog road that exits off the main road a few kilometers before the Benlettery youth hostel and after several kilometers  parked where a narrow bridge crosses the river. I was on the move at 8.48 and for the first couple of kilometers I walked back along the road until I could start across the bog towards the slopes of Benglenisky 517mtrs. Soon I was climbing steadily up the increasingly rocky slope and eventually crested to a crumpled crest with several cairns. The view over the wilderness of water and bog to the south is always wonderful and this was added to by the sun creeping through the cloud on the eastern horizon. Passing the rocky crest you cross a broad boggy saddle before climbing onto the ridge that rises from Benlettery to the first of the major tops on the round Bengower 664mtrs. Unfortunately the cloud was a little lower today and seemed to have settles at around the 600mtr mark so once I reached this top I had little reason to tarry before setting off towards the next mountain Benbreen 691mtrs. Some care is needed here as the descent is steep in places and precipitous drops are to be found if you take the wrong route. Today though it wasn't too long before I was back under the cloud and I could once again enjoy more expansive scenes.

Looking into the Owenglin Horseshoe...A couple of tops cannot be seen

It is often magical to come out from the cloud

Looking south over Roundstone Bog

See what a full Irish does to you..
A feature of the Twelve Bens is the relatively large drops between each top and once I reached the col I had 200mtrs of steep ground to climb to reach the rocky top of Benbreen. The undulating rocky crest that follows stretches for around 1.5kilometers before another steep and at times tricky descent sees you reach the col under Bencollaghduff. From here you traverse the slopes to reach Maumina, the lowest point in the horseshoe and a glorious place to be right in the heart of these beautiful mountains before climbing the over 300mtrs required to reach the highest in the range Benbaun 729mtrs. I had stopped halfway up this slope for lunch and as I was once again in cloud on the summit I continued quickly for the next top Benfree 638mtrs. Even though I had the bulk of the climbing done I still had three tops to go over so I pressed on. This part of the round was all new ground to me and the first thing I noticed was that these mountains were much grassier and more peaty than the ones before. They were still pretty dry however so progress was straightforward. The 100mtrs to the summit of Benfree passed easily enough but next col was down at 470mtrs so I had 180mtrs of steep ground to climb before reaching Muckanaght 654mtrs. Once again the next col was down at 470mtrs and thus once again the climb to Bencullagh 632mtrs was substantial but thankfully less steep. I finally felt I had cracked it once I reached here and the 50mtrs of ascent required to reach the final top of the day Maumonght 602mtrs was blessedly short. Patches of fine scree made for some easy descent before I reached the boggy ground once again and turned for my car. Nearing the forestry I had some fences to cross but the proximity of the end kept the spirits high. I was fairly tired by the time I reached the car but I was very pleased to have finished the circuit by 15.20. I was changed, sorted and on the move by 15.30 and now all that remained was the 250kilometer drive home. Lets just say I was tired but well satisfied by the time I reached home. It had been a wonderful few days in a wonderful place. I'm looking forward to returning in the future.
In Maumina. The heart of the Twelve Bens

Not a bad spot for lunch..Looking towards Bencorrbeg

Looking towards Diamond hill and Tully

Less rocky but still lovely

The sentinel??