Monday, July 31, 2017

A Summer Break In Sneem.

Last week Margaret and myself decided to brave the high season and headed to the excellent self catering apartments at the Sneem Hotel for a well deserved family break (Ruby included 🐺). We were staying from Sunday to Thursday and the weather promised to be good for the first couple of days at least.
A nice relaxing jaunt around the quieter sections of the grounds at Muckross gave us an appetite for a pancake at a very busy Strawberry Fields cafe (very disappointing) and we arrived in the late afternoon at a busy hotel. Rest and relaxation was the order of the day for the rest of the evening.

I got up early Monday morning and the plan was to go for one of my favourite cycles--a circuit over Ballaghbeama Gap, Ballaghisheen Gap and then into Waterville and back to the hotel along a section of the beautiful Ring of Kerry. I have been doing a fair bit of cycling this year (as I have had to stop running temporarily) so I was hoping that I would find the cycle easier than the last time I did it. It was a stunningly beautiful morning with blue skies and little breeze and I was immediately enjoying my ride. Starting at sea level the route starts with a gentle climb with stunning scenery to distract and enthrall. Thhee pull up to the Ballaghbeama Gap is hard going and I needed to stand on the pedals so as to keep going but I eventually made the narrow gap and of course the reward of a long swift descent in amazing surroundings was ample recompense Crossing the boggy plain towards Ballaghisheen is another highlight as is the wonderful descent from Coumakishta. All in all the route is just over 59miles and has over 1100mtrs of climbing and it took me just under four hours. Thankfully my extra biking had paid dividends and while I was tired I wasn't too bad and I actually enjoyed all the route.

Back in the apartment before noon and after a nice bite of lunch we headed for the delightful Derrynane where we strolled around the gardens and walked to the stunning beach. There were a good few people enjoying the warm sunny day and when I ventured in for a paddle I was pleasantly surprised to find that the water was actually not too cold. Poor Ruby tried her best to follow me in but as soon as the water got a bit too deep for her to walk she wouldn't venture any further and it was really funny to see her almost bobbing on the spot near me. We had a lovely time and when we returned to Sneem we went for an excellent feed in the very busy O'Sheas pub where lots of people went away disappointed that they couldn't get a table.

On Tuesday I got up early and headed off before 7am to climb Mullaghanattin via "The Pocket". Alas the wonderful weather of yesterday was gone and very low cloud and mist obscured all views. I opted to do the round clockwise today as this gives a nice gentle start before it rises to reach the shoulder of the spur that rises to Beann South Top. With nothing in the way of views to distract me I just put the head down and plodded on to the main ridge of Beann where a window in the cloud briefly allowed a glimpse down to Cloon Lake. Next up is the long slog to the summit of Mullaghanattin itself and at 773mtrs is the highest point of the day. Still no views so I trundled on down to the long undulating broad ridge and once over the boggy top of An Cnoc Riabach I  dropped steeply to the valley and only re-emerged under the cloud a mere 200mtrs above the road. It had taken just 3hours 45 minutes to complete the 14kilometres and approx 1000mtrs of ascent. A lovely relaxing family afternoon ensued where cakes, ice cream and good food followed😀.

Not a lot to see today
Cloon Lake through the mist
It was a brighter day on Wednesday and I decided to go for another bike ride. Not as big as Monday but decent none the less. I rode to Kenmare which was great as I had the stiff wind at my back and once in the town I turned and rode the six mile drag to Molls Gap. It is long and gradual but I was glad to finally crest it as by now the wind wasn't as friendly. The final stretch completes the triangle and I turned for Sneem. Now I was cycling directly into the wind which largely negated the benefits of going downhill. Still things were much better than when I reached the long pull to the final pass before dropping to the village. That was tough. I delighted in the final few miles back to the hotel and was delighted with my near 37mile outing. This area is a cyclist's paradise. To round off the day we went back to Derrynane that afternoon and I went for a swim in the pleasantly warm sea. There is little to compare with the wonderful sense of well-being that is felt after a saltwater dip. Except maybe for munching on a bit portion of banoffi pie afterwards. Feckit I'll be good this week 😊.

Finally on the weekend I headed back to the Reeks once more to have another hike to try and get my fitness up to speed for The Alps. I had hoped to do the full Hags Glen Horseshoe but the wind was quite high and there was plenty rain about so I opted to climb the North Spur of Cnoc an Cuillian and take things from there. It provides a steep route to the crest of the East Reeks and it is seldom enough you meet anyone here and today was no exception. It sort of promised to clear but then the rain arrived half way up and the cloud enveloped me (seems to be a pattern forming here) and it stayed down until my descent. The summit of Cnoc an Cuillian is one of my favourite places on these mountains but today there was little to see so I turned and headed for Carrauntoohil. My word but the ground from the Zig Zaggs as far as The Ladder is really terrible now and the few stones that have been thrown into the boggiest places are no longer adequate to protect the ground. Perhaps the guides and their groups should set aside a few minutes at each pass to place some more stones and so help to ease the problem they created. Anyway the slog to the roof of Ireland went quite well and I chose to rest here a while and have my lunch. It was a bleak place today and as I left I was quickly soaked by a heavy squall so I decided to drop down O'Sheas gully and so back to the car. Not as big a day as I had hoped but good fun none the less. My knees also felt as good as they have in a long time so perhaps the workouts with the Kettlebell are paying dividends. 😊
The route rises from left to right and then up into the cloud

Across the glen..Carrauntoohil in the mist

Always nice to re-emerge under the cloud to a view like this

The weather clearing up nicely..


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Another circuit of The Gap of Dunloe

I went for a hike in Kerry again today and decided that a circuit of The Gap of Dunloe would make a worthy exercise and give me another chance to get used to my Zamberlan Expert Pro boots before my trip to the Alps in late August. It is around 17 kilometers long and has 1500ish mtrs of ascent so it would help to try and gain some fitness as well. I went up Strickeen again and enjoyed the easy climb and long walk to Cnoc na Bhráca before turning to Cnoc an Tarbh and then dropped to the Head of the Gap before climbing Purple Mountain and finally Tomies and then dropping back to the road via The Chimneys at Tomies Rock. It was cloudy at the start but as the day wore on the cloud rose above the tops (except for the Reeks) and by the time I was down it was warm and sunny. The boots were fine and hopefully their next outing will be when they step onto the wonderful Swiss Alps.
Always a joy to be in The Gap

Towards Cnoc na Bhráca with The reeks beyond

Heading for the half way point

Tomies and Lough Leane

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Friday July 7th;

 A reasonable weather forecast coincided with a couple of days off work meant I was able to pack up my rucksack with all I needed for two days on the mountains and I opted to head for one of my favourite places, Mt Brandon. Traveling on a Friday meant I was able to avail of the once weekly bus service to the wonderful little village of Cloghane so I caught the 6.48 train to Tralee and easily hooked up with the bus and alighted in a slightly overcast but dry Cloghane at 10am.

Approaching Brandon Pier

Parias Mor peers through the cloud on the ridge above

Grand day for it 😃

For the first time in a while I felt really enthused about a trip and I was really looking forward to this outing. It also helps when you have an easy start as the walk takes you along quiet country lanes whose hedgerows are a riot of colour and fragrance with the sea and mountains on either side. Normally I'm not a fan of walking on tarmac but here is an exception. While here I daydream of retiring to a nice little cottage and whiling away my days walking and fishing and basking in glorious sunny days (well I did say it was a dream) ☺. Anyway after stopping for a coffee at Brandon Pier I walked up to the spectacular viewpoint of Brandon Head and here I left the road behind and entered open mountain ground. Alas, here I left the views behind as well because some very low misty cloud had drifted in from the ocean and I found myself walking over the broad boggy hills in dense fog. I wasn't too bothered as sometimes in the mist things feel very atmospheric and today with little or no breeze I was really enjoying myself. Eventually I arrived at An t'Sais which is such a spectacular place but today I was left to imagine the void below. As I reached the place where you descend towards the deserted village under Masatiompan the cloud lifted and I was once more treated to views of mountain and sea. I also came upon a large group of wild goats where interestingly about eight billies rested separate from perhaps fifteen nannies and kids. After descending the rough boggy ground to the village I paused for a drink and to fill up my water bottles and I set off up the long slog to the summit of Masatiompan. The broad wet boggy slopes were bathed in sunshine and I was soon sweating heavily as I trudged upwards, I was going to need them bottles 😆. By the time I reached the summit I was once again in cloud and that's the way things stayed until I reached my campsite that evening 😕.
Who you looking at

Masatiompan rises into the cloud

Benoskee across the bay

An t'Sais finally emerges

Up on the crest of the ridge there was a breeze and in the mist it was cool enough to warrant an extra layer but it wasn't bad. A thing I always enjoy when walking in fog is how things suddenly just loom in front of you. The tor of Piaras Mor looked spectacular as it suddenly soared ahead but it wasn't as steep as it first appeared and I was soon on top and reminiscing on my two previous bivvys here. It was still too early to stop for the day so I continued on. I knew the next possible place to camp was by the small lake about 100mtrs below the ridge but again that was quite nearby so again I opted to continue. For the next several kilometers there are no readily available watersources so I continued over Mt Brandon and Brandon Peak and descended from Gearhane to the boggy saddle above the 600mtr contour. After looking at the map I decided that my best chance of finding a good spot to pitch my tent would be near Loch na m'Ban about 120mtrs lower down on the eastern side. A farm track zig zags down and just before the lake I emerged from the cloud and also found a nice spot to call home for the night. It was now 17.30 and I had been on the go for seven and a half hours. I'd covered about 24 kilometers with around 1400meters of ascent so I was well pleased to drop the bag. There was little or no breeze here and I wondered if midges would be a problem but thankfully they never materialized and I was able to cook and eat in blissful, peaceful contemplation. My tent was on flat spongy springy turf and this coupled with my sleeping mat meant I was super comfortable and slept like a baby. Heaven 😴.
Finally emerging under the cloud

Home sweet home

Across to Slievanea and Pedlars Lake

Saturday July 8th;

Exiting my tent at 07.15 I was delighted to discover that the cloud had lifted  and the sun was shining on some low wisps of cloud in the valley below. It was food for the spirit as much as my porridge sustained the body. As usual it takes a while to get everything done and dusted so it was 08.20 by the time I was again on the move. A nice easy kilometer for starters as I traversed the slope to the pass under Ballysitteragh was followed by the 240mtr slog to the broad summit which got the blood pumping in the still, humid morning air. The cloud was bubbling up a bit and the views were somewhat obscured but I was in the sun as often as not and the views when they came were wonderful. The next few kilometers are easy going and I soon arrived at the Connor Pass which was busy with the usual tourists oohing and aahing at the views. I left them to it and crossed the road and slogged up to the wonderful viewpoint of Slievanea with its precipitous drops down to Pedlars Lake and across the valley towards Brandon it was a good place to have a wee rest. Some cloud was coming and going so the views were again somewhat restricted but it was glorious none the less.
I had a big grin on my face when I emerged to this view

And it kept changing

A bit misty but the only view I got to one of my favourite places..Ballyferriter and The Three Sisters

Brandon Massif

Nearing the Conner pass

Atmospheric cliffs atop Sleivanea

Next up was the long ridge that runs from east to west until it ends at Annascaul Lake. I was making good time and I revised my original target of catching the 15.45 bus to Tralee and I now thought I would be able to catch the 13.45 instead. I didn't have a lot of time to spare so I set off across the broad boggy saddle towards the next top An Cnapán Mór 649mtrs. As I crossed I was treated to stunning views of the wild rugged ground between this ridge and the hills on the north side that would be a wild and isolated place to explore. The cloud arrived on top when I did but it was transient and as I carried on towards Cnoc na Bánóige 641mtrs I was basking in sunshine once again. In fact the day was showing signs of improving and in the sun it was quite warm. The stiff 200mtr pull to this top passed quickly enough and realizing that time was tight I wasted no time in heading for what would be my last top of the day Cnoc Mulanane 593mtrs before I dropped to the valley and headed for Annascaul. When I reached the final top I scanned the farmland in the valley to try and spy a direct way to access the public road and sure enough I spotted a track running through some rough pasture which seemed to fit the bill nicely. I went quickly down the steep grassy slope and I was soon at the track and before long I was walking along a delightful lane that was alive with colour, insect and bird life. It was hot and sunny as well and it was a delightful end to the trip. I arrived in the pretty village with 20 minutes to spare and I was able to sit and enjoy a coffee while I waited for the bus. So todays jaunt was around 21kilometers and had around 850mtrs of ascent and it took me five and a quarter hours. A total of about 45 kilometers over 2200mtrs of climbing meant I was very very pleased with my couple of days. Good training for the Alps as well 😃
Benoskee and my ridge on the right. A beautiful remote(ish) valley

Green gully :)

Ever changing views

Back along the broad ridge. Sun and sea views

The final stretch before dropping down to the right

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A compendium...Bringing it up to date

Wow. It's been a tough old year to date. We have now lost both my wife's parents and watching them both die was a harrowing experience to put it mildly. I have tried to get out when I can as it allows me to somewhat clear my head and I find that exercise it something that helps to keep me sane. Paddy died in early May and straight away we were into the final days of Kathleen who died last week. Growing old is a bitch.
So here is a short account of the days out I have had.

I managed to persuade James Moore to come for an early morning jaunt on the Galtee mountains in mid May. James has been plagued by injuries for a fair while now and has gotten out of the exercise routine so I opted to head for Temple Hill as the route of choice. This is a sentimental route for me as it was actually my first ever mountain route. Back in the day a friend introduced a very overweight me to the mountains on a cloudy wet August day. We parked in the Pigeon Rock Glen that day and the couple of hundred steep meters that it took to exit the glen and reach the spur that rises to the summit nearly killed me. The cloud was down and we were soon in the mist and being lashed by rain. I was exhausted and soaked and I loved every minute of it. Today it was warm and muggy and the cloud was again down low but it was great to have James' company again and chat and banter flowed as we caught up on our news. Midges were a problem whenever we stopped and this ensured we plodded on and we weren't long in reaching the stony cairned summed. A bite to eat (always happens when I'm out and about) was enjoyed on top and we set off back down the same way we came up. About halfway back down the spur we dropped down early into the glen and followed the stream back to the car. A short outing to be sure and we had a dearth of views but it was enjoyable none the less. Hopefully more with James to come.

I returned a short while after that to The Cappagh of my favourite places. It was a pleasant June day with little wind and light cloud but the forecast was for rain in the evening but I was hoping to be down and home before that arrived. I parked up and set off in through the grazing sheep into the wilder part of the glen. I thought about climbing up Eskduff mountain on the right hand side of the glen first but this requires crossing the river and after a quick inspection showed that there was a fair volume of water in it after the recent rains I discounted that idea and instead for the north spur of Benaunmore. This gives some scrambling options and is the most direct way to the summit. As I reached the top the weather seemed to already be on the turn and a stiff wind carried the first drops of rain. I was somewhat dispirited and decided to drop into the back of the glen and possibly head home. The woods in the glen are always a delight and even though the day was promising to be short I was still glad I came back. Walking easily out alongside the river I came to a narrowing where I decided to go out on some rocks to take a picture back into the glen. I was surprised and delighted to see a "pont natural" over the river formed by a large slabby rock so I changed plans and climbed up the steep face of Eskduff from here. Some excellent little scrambly sections presented themselves and I even surprised a fallow deer on the way up. Once on top I turned south and entered the glen below the waterfalls from Lough Fineen and followed the river through the delightful woods and then left the glen. I was pleased that I had dome the extra bit of climbing and I felt the better for it. And the weather had stayed good as well..
Gaining some height..looking over Lough Guitane


I finally descended from near the rain drops :)

The summits may not be high but no less beautiful

Verdant rocky and wild

This is about as good as the weather got while I was in Connemara 😢

 Some thing of a heatwave arrived in early June and with a long weekend off work I decided on a last minute whim (and with the blessing of my beloved) to head to Connemara and hopefully enjoy this most gorgeous of places in blissful sunshine. I set off early on a warm sunny Saturday morning and "enjoyed" the long drive to the mid-west. Alas things started to cloud over a little as I neared Galway city and by the time I was driving through Recess I had my lights on and the wipers were going. The mist and cloud were so low that if you were a stranger to this place you wouldn't have a clue that there were any mountains round about. Still I was here now and I parked my car and opted to do the Glengoaghan Horseshoe on the Twelve Bens. This is one of the finest walks in the country but today I couldn't see a bloody thing. I entered the cloud just above the youth hostel on Ben Lettery and I didn't re-emerge until I was near the valley floor below Derryclare. I had kinda hoped that as the cloud was so low I might have broken through into the sunshine higher up but it was not to be. Still it was an excellent exercise in map and compass use so I guess it wasn't a complete waste of a day. I got back to the car after six and three quarter hours wet and tired and hopeful of better weather tomorrow. I went and camped in the excellent Clifden camping and caravan park which is about a mile outside the town on the Westport road. It has great facilities for cooking etc and is a place I will return to. I got up the following morning to discover that if anything the weather was worse today and drizzle and fog covered the landscape. Bloody typical that I would choose to visit the only corner of the whole country that wasn't enjoying the heatwave. I had hoped to go for a cycle today but fog made it too dangerous so I upped sticks and headed back the 245kilometers to home. It was 15 degrees as I left and 26degrees when I reached home. To be honest I wasn't settled being away so I was just as glad to be back.

Howling Ridge😀

One of the advantages of being home was that the weather was once again stellar and so on Monday morning I headed back to The Reeks and decided to climb Howling Ridge. After my trip to Snowdonia where I climbed like a gimp, its fair to say my confidence wasn't at an all time high as I headed to the start of the route. Also my right knee was again being troublesome as I had given it a strain (the opposite side to my medial ligament) in Snowdonia and I was wondering if climbing would make it worse. I did some warming up on the few rock steps as you head for the Heavenly Gates and all felt well, better that well actually. It was wonderful to put my hands on really warm super grippy rock. I started up the route and carefully but easily made progress. Once again I have to say that while it is a lovely exciting route it really doesn't merit the grade of VDiff and I would rate it as Moderate at best. Nowhere is there anything difficult and all steep bits are well supplied with super juggy holds so it is easy to maintain a sense of security despite the occasional exposed section. I passed a "guide" with a client who were pitching the route and I think the client was a little surprised to find someone soloing up past him. I suppose it took some of the "epic-ness"off the day. As I reached the end of the route some wispy clouds rolled in and this cooled the temperatures a bit. A relaxed lunch and I completed the day by crossing over to Benkeeragh and descending alongside the Hags Tooth. This is a steep abutment of rock that I feel sure offers some superb climbing and I feel certain that if it was across the water it would be busy with rock climbers most of the time, yet here I have never seen anyone giving it a go.
Carrauntoohil with my descent route in the foreground

Looking down at the top section of Howling Ridge


There must be some routes on this
Ruby's first wild-camp

A couple of days ago on something of a last minute whim I took Ruby back to Mangerton for a spot of wildcamping. It was a pleasant evening as I left the car with some cloud clinging to the tops but I was hopeful that it would clear and a nice sunset might be enjoyed. It is difficult to go walking with a dog in Ireland where the farmers hold total sway and they are reluctant to allow dogs anywhere on their lands. This is of course understandable as they frequently get grief from irresponsible owners who don't train or control their dogs effectively. I have witnessed these dogs chasing sheep in the past and I have no sympathy for those owners but my little Ruby is well trained and while on the hill she doesn't bother anything or anybody. I never keep her on a leash as I keep her under close control at all times and indeed she is very careful herself to keep me close by as well. She was in her element as we rose up the trail. Nosing and snuffling with her tail constantly on the go it was lovely to share this outing with her. A gentle breeze kept the midges at bay but as I got higher the breeze became a bit stronger and a little wispy cloud started to drift across below the summit. I decided to pitch up my tent near the "Devils Punchbowl" which nestles at the 700mtr contour around 130mtrs below the summit plateau. This is a lovely spot with great views across to The Reeks and over Killarney but alas by the time we got there all views were engulfed in thick mist. The breeze was a bit stronger as well and it was also decidedly chilly as it had swung around to the north. Poor Ruby wasn't too happy to have stopped and all she wanted to continue on the hike. I set up our home for the night and after sorting out dinner (for both of us 😃) we retreated into the tent to try and warm up. I hadn't expected it to be this chilly but I guess at 700mtrs in a stiff breeze with temperatures forecast to drop to 10 or 11 degrees it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. Poor Ruby definitely was feeling the cold until I draped her in my coat and she settled down to sleep. She was as good as gold all night and we both slept well. It rained for most of the night and well into the morning so it was an easy decision to snuggle in the sleeping bag and wait for things to clear up. Once it stopped we shared a sandwich, packed everything up and set off around the lake for the top. I had thought that a walk towards the Windy Gap and a return along the Old Kenmare Road might have made for a nice outing today but on the summit plateau the wind was quite vicious and the mist was super dense ( to the point of it being difficult to see Ruby when she was 10mtrs away) so we returned to the car. It had been a short outing but Ruby was well pleased and I must say so was I. Perhaps more overnight adventures await us in the future.
Orchids and Bog Asphodel

Over Lough Leane towards The Sleive Mish Mountains

I think its this way daddy

The views that were soon to be denied us.

RIP....Paddy and Kathleen