Friday, December 29, 2017

Curve Gully on Carrauntoohil. Winter Grade1 Climb

I went back to The Reeks this morning in the hope of getting a winter route done. There had been a lot more snow on the Kerry mountains over the past few days than on The Galtees so I was hopeful that something might have been in condition. As is so often the case the weather hadn't played ball and heavy overnight rain had stripped much of the snow cover away and the temps were well above freezing as I left the car. Nevertheless I took an axe and crampons but ultimately they weren't needed. As things looked so stripped I had resigned myself to going up O'Sheas Gully to the summit of Carrauntoohil and come down the Devils Ladder. I'm still struggling a little with a lingering flu and I was puffing away as I walked into the Hags Glen. It is of course possible that my overdose of sugar hasn't helped matters either but the new year will put paid to all those excesses. I climbed up into the first level of Coumeenoughter where I reached the first of the slushy snow and things stayed just as soft when I reached the second level. I toyed with the idea of climbing the bottom section of Curve which was still nicely banked out but I feared it would have been a desperate wallow so I climbed into the third level and decided to join the gully higher up.
Most of the snow gone but still very pretty

High in the gully and looking very good. I was tempted to put on the crampons here

Looking down

Final slopes..a bit steeper that it looks here..About 40 degrees on top

A party of four were up ahead and I was hoping that I would be able to enjoy using their steps in the soft snow and indeed I was until I reached the first rocky step before the gully narrows. Here the rocks were covered in snow-ice and the party decided to stop and put on crampons. The snow-ice was pretty soft and was taking a good step so I left the hardware in the bag and continued on up. Things weren't as bad as I had feared and while I had to wallow the odd time, I was able to make more pleasant progress for the most part. Once I reached the final 100mtrs or so of the gully things were actually quite nice and I was even tempted to put on crampons for the final semi-icy difficult step. I got over it easily enough though and enjoyed the final few metres to the summit. It had felt like a proper winter outing with occasional spindrift slides and rime ice still clinging onto the frozen ground. If there is a frost tonight then tomorrow the conditions would be very nice indeed. The summit remained clear of cloud throughout the day and it was nice to be able to enjoy wintry views as I ate my lunch. I returned to my car via the Heavenly Gates and even though I ached a bit and was tired it felt great to have had a proper winter climb. Hopefully there is much more to come this winter (either here of abroad 😊 ).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Clydagh Valley Horseshoe in The Galtees on Stephens Day

Grand day for it
It's official....I'm a pig. Turkey-ham-trifle-sweeties-biscuits-drink,,,oh dear, and that's just yesterday. I have been eating voraciously all sorts of rubbish of late and unfortunately it's showing. My normally "robust" physique is quickly turning to rotund therefore a day out on the hills was badly needed. With that in mind I got up pre-dawn and headed for the Galty Mountains and en-route I decided to do the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe. This offers a nice outing of around 13 kilometres and approx 1000mtrs of ascent.
It was a pleasant morning with clear skies and a light chill breeze and the temperature hovered at around the two degree mark as I drove down. I was delighted to see that a nice dusting of snow covered the hills above the 600mtr contour and I found myself really looking forward to getting out. I left the car at 09.40 and walked up the road as far as the stile that allowed access to the open mountain. I had decided to do the walk in a clockwise direction as this means that a nice easy descent from Slievecushnabinnea ends the outing, always a plus in my book. The flu/cold/chest infection is still clinging on a little and I was huffing and puffing a bit as I climbed up the shoulder of Cush but I was able to maintain a decent pace and I was soon enjoying the splendid views of the range that are to be had from this summit. I was now also in the first of the snow and the breeze had become a wind here so it definitely felt like proper winter. It was great. I descended to the col under Galtybeg and faced into the long slog to the summit. This climb really has little to recommend it except for the improving views that are to be had, especially over Lough Borhee and towards Greenane. As I got high on the slopes of Galtybeg there was some icy patches of snow around and if it had been a little colder then crampons might not have been a bad idea. As it was progress was straightforward and I was soon on the pleasingly narrow summit crest.
Climbing Galtybeg with the Knockmealdowns in the distance

Wisps of cloud appear on Galtymore

A wintry Galtymore summit
It was now clear that the bad weather that was forecast was soon to arrive so I pressed on towards Galtymore. Once down at the col there was again considerable evidence of icy stretches where the snow had melted and refroze and as I rose up the slopes above the cliffs over Lough Diheen some care was required. I was okay in my good mountain boots but a couple of people on the way down were finding the going a little tougher. As I got high on the slopes of Galtymore the first snow arrived but it wasn't too bad and visibility remained reasonable. I crossed a wintry Dawsons Table and dropped down to the broad boggy plateau above Lough Curra. Now the wind that had been coming from my left suddenly switched and was coming into me from the right. It is strange sometimes how the wind reacts to mountain terrain. I continued onto Slievecushnabinnea and descended easily the heathery slopes. Soon I was back in the forestry and hotfooting it back in the light rain to the car. I arrived back at 13.05 so it had taken not too much over three hours. A nice warming cup of coffee and a turkey sandwich (what else :) ) set me up for the drive home. More snow please...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Bone to Carrauntoohil..Fickle Winter

It has been cold here recently but frustratingly it hasn't quite managed to get cold enough for decent winter conditions to arrive on our mountains. Rain has stripped The Reeks of nearly all of their snow cover and while the east and north of the country have experienced temperatures down to -8, cloud cover and fleeting frosts have been the norm down here. I had been hopeful that this weekend might provide a reason to break out the ice axe and crampons as some snow had fallen on high and frost was forecast but alas it was not to be. A slight frost had formed when I left home this morning but it was raining and 7degrees at Lisliebane when I parked my car so once again the hardware was left behind. I had hoped to perhaps climb Curve Gully and maybe break out left onto the "Grey Area" but a walk would have to do instead.
All looking a bit bare

Starting to look and feel a bit more wintry as I got higher on The Bone

Easy walking towards Cnoc an Cuillan

I wasn't overly despondent as it is always a pleasure to get out on the hills and I also hoped that it would be just the medicine I needed to try and dislodge a chest infection from the system. I opted to climb The Bone and head from there to Carrauntoohil and descend via the Heavenly Gates. It would therefore offer a decent outing but not be overly taxing and should I struggle because of the infection I could easily cut things short. I tried to set a good pace and I was pleased to find I didn't feel too bad. That nasty burning you get in the chest when the breathing becomes deep wasn't too prevalent so, once I set a sensible pace I was fine. Even though the temperatures were above freezing it was still chilly in the breeze once I reached the sparse snow cover. Some of the turf was frozen which made it all the more disappointing that the promised frost hadn't transpired as I fancy the Grey Area might have offered good sport. Once on the ridge the walking was very easy all the way to Cnoc an Cuillan  except for the nasty shower of rain on the way. The track down towards Cnoc na Toinne was full of snow so that was also super easy. Unfortunately the cloud now cover Cnoc na Toinne but a brief clearing gave a nice view to Broughnabinnea. Next up was the slog to Carrauntoohil, which I took nice and handy and eventually I was able to sit and enjoy a bite to eat on top. On the way down it was great to run into Terence Hoare who was leading a group down after bringing them up Curve Gully. I made good progress after that and reached the car surprisingly fresh at 14.10 after a five hour outing.
Sometimes a little magic happens

 Please Santa bring some winter conditions...pretty please 🙏🙏

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Fine Round On The Galtee Mountains

Proper cold weather has arrived over the last few days and I'm hopeful that this coming week will see snow and ice on the hills. I was hoping that the Galtees would have a decent covering but when I got there it was plain that there had been just a dusting so the ice axe was left in the car. I parked once again at the excellent Kings Yard where toilets, changing facilities and snacks are available and it still costs only €2 to use the carpark. I was keen to take advantage of the fine chilly morning by having in or around a six hour day so I decided that I would include Temple Hill in the route which would stretch things out a bit. In order to make the outing a bit different to my normal ones I decided that I would head towards Temple Hill first. There had been a frost overnight so it was nice not to be sinking into the normally boggy ground and of course the going is therefore a little easier.

Heading in to Glounreagh

The views getting better

From the yard I followed the trail up and into Glounreagh until I reached the footbridge where I crossed the river and set off up the punishing 300mtr climb to my first summit of the day Monabrack at 630mtrs. Any lingering chill I felt quickly disappeared as I rose up the steep grass and heather slope. It eventually passed and I was able to then enjoy the easy descent to the saddle to its northwest before descending steeply to the ford at the Blackrock River which is one of my favourite places in these hills. Next up I faced the equally steep 350mtr climb to my second summit Knockaterriff 692mtrs which passed slowly but surely. It was a glorious morning to be out with no wind to drive the chill into the bones and great views to be enjoyed all about. I next turned from the rather featureless summit and headed for the boggy saddle under Temple Hill 785mtrs which is one of my favourite mountains. Normally it is a rather torturous affair to cross this area but this morning I was able to literally walk on water 😇 as I crossed the frozen ground. It was here that the first breeze of the day arrived and made it feel a bit more wintry.

Temple Hill
The near 200mtr climb to the summit wasn't too bad but none the less I was delighted to finally reach the snow dusted summit cairn. This is one of the best viewpoints on the whole range and I paused a little while here to soak in the fine views. I returned back to the saddle and set off up the long slog to my next summit Lyreacappul 825mtrs some 230mtrs above me. I had the bulk of my climbing for the day done when I reached here and by now the breeze was actually quite stiff so I just put the head down and pressed on. Once I reached Carrignabinnea I found a nice sheltered spot and enjoyed a nice spot of lunch as I looked over the large plain to the north. As I ate, a little lenticular cloud formed over Galtymore (919 mtrs) and it was fascinating to see just how quickly it changed and suddenly the summit was shrouded in mist. I guess this was a harbinger of the change promised in the weather forecast and sure enough by the time I reached the summit of the highest mountain in the range, the wind was buffeting and Dawsons Table was definitely no place to linger. I dropped directly south from the summit cairn and headed to the lovely meeting of three little rivers between Knockateenatoung and Knocknagalty and from there I walked the 2.5 kilometres back to the car. It had been a super enjoyable outing with around 18 kilometres covered and about 1400mtrs of climbing all in six hours. Here is hoping that some proper snow and ice arrives soon. My winter hardware is getting restless 😵😵.
From the summit of Temple Hill towards Lyracappul and Galtymore

Towards the Ballyhouras


Lunch spot
The way down

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Mount Brandon and The Reeks. Getting Wild in Kerry

Last week my good wife and myself went to Prague for a few days luxury city living. As usual I overindulged in just about every way so the I was badly in need of a couple of days in the mountains in order to start to purge myself of the excesses. With a decent weather forecast (for this time of year anyway) in the offing I decided to head west on Saturday afternoon with a view to finding somewhere to camp that night and have a hike on Mount Brandon the following day and I would then stay around Killarney Sunday night and have a climb there on Monday.

Full moon over Tralee Bay

I didn't have anywhere in particular in mind for a campsite so I just winged it and drove into the beautiful spit of land that that juts into Tralee Bay. It is larger than you might think and quite varied in landscape with everything from a golf course, wild sandy dunes, agricultural land and of course salt marshes to be found. It was around 4pm as I drove along and all of the caravan parks were closed so I ended up driving right to the very end of the land where there is a small pier. Just beyond a low wall and a gate (that helpfully had a "no overnight camping" sign) I parked and found an ideal spot about 100mtrs beyond said gate 😁. There was a stiff breeze here as I was exposed completely to the open sea but it was manageable and mostly dry so I was well pleased. I had the tent up in no time and I settled down for the long night ahead. I was toasty warm in my new Rab down sleeping bag and good music and a good book passed the time It was lovely to be lulled off to la la land by the sound of waves breaking a mere 20mtrs from the tent. The atmosphere was added to by the ghostly beauty of a full moon lighting up the night sky. Who says winter camping isn't fun :).
Misty morning

There were some passing squalls in the morning but I managed to pack up in the dry (always a plus) and I set off for Cloghane in good spirits. My hopes of a bright day were in vain and lots of misty showers drifted across the hills and all the tops were covered but as I have said I needed the exercise to clear the system after the holiday. Cloghane was quiet as I parked and strolled through and I set off up along the Dingle Way until I reached the road where I turned and walked to the carpark and joined the normal route from Faha. Usually when I'm here I cross the Faha Ridge but today I stayed on the normal route that contours around Benagh 822mtrs and goes through the wild rough ground into the coum below Mt Brandon. In the mist it was actually quite nice and height is actually gained quite easily until the final tough 100mtrs until you gain the main ridge. Now the wind and rain came with vigour so I wasted no time and headed to the summit. Water dripping onto my sandwich from my hood sort of defined the summit dining experience so again I wasted little time and pressed on. Next came the pull to the summit of Brandon Peak where I briefly emerged above the cloud into lovely sunshine but it was an all too fleeting so I continued over Gerhane and dropped southwest to the boggy saddle at the 600mtr contour where I decided to turn and drop into the back of the valley at Mullaghveal.

Coum below Beenbrack

I must definitely visit in there

Normally I continue along the ridge as far as the Conner Pass but there didn't seem much point when there was nothing in the way of a view to be seen and down in the valley would be somewhere that I hadn't been in many years. The ground on the way down was pretty dry and I made good progress and soon I was under the clouds and enjoying the misty atmospheric views of the impressive coum under Ballysitteragh and Beenbrack. As I normally walk above this area it was something of a revelation to see just how impressive the area was. I really should explore it soon. I reached the road by the farmstead and turned and set off on the final six kilometres of todays walk. This quiet little lane cuts easily through the very very wet ground and the only things besides myself using it today was a sheep and lots of Fieldfares who were busy stripping the holly bushes of their berries. After a couple of kilometres I was walking past the spectacular coums and waterfalls on the east side of Gearhane and Brandon Peak. Once again it struck me that I had never been in this way (there used to be access issues in the past) and I resolved to put that right the next time I'm down this way. I know there is a nice scramble up Brandon Peak but in the mist the ridge that splits the two coums looks worth a look as well. I continued on the road and entered the village of Cloghane once again where I got changed out of my wet gear and set off towards Killarney. It had been a worthy outing of around 20 kilometres with approx 1200mtrs of climbing thrown in. I was certainly looking forward to a hot bath in the B&B in town later on.

After a comfy nite and a full Irish breakfast I was keen to get out and about this morning. The wind of yesterday was missing but there was still some cloud about but it promised to be a decent weather day. I wanted to have a reasonable outing to round off the trip but I wanted to stay away from my usual haunts if possible. I decided to do the Lough Googh Horseshoe as this time of year it isn't too problematic to drive through the Gap of Dunloe now that my friends "The Jarveys" are in hibernation. It is always lovely to go through The Gap and this morning was no exception. It is a truly spectacular place to be. I parked down at the church and set off up the slopes towards Drishana. Wet and boggy underfoot it surely was but the delicious views more than compensated. From Drishana I followed the broad undulating spur to Cnoc an Tarbh and then to Cnoc na Brácha. After this I was entering the wispy clouds that clung to the beautiful  east northeast ridge  of Crúach Mhór. It was a delight to climb and made all the more so as the sun was trying to break through and I was hopeful of that rare wonder, a temperature inversion happening. It almost did but not quite but I was still occasionally in the sun and I had occasional views.

Always a joy to be in the Black Valley

More blue sky today

White rainbow

The Cnocnapeasta Ridge

The exciting Grade 1 scramble that stretches all the way from the summit to Crúach Mhór (988mtrs) is usually a joy but with the rock being super slippy I decided to just follow the path. First on the right hand side and then the left after the summit of An Garbh (The Big Gun). Soon enough I was on the top of Ireland's fourth highest peak but with the cloud clinging stubbornly to the top I carried on and started to drop towards Febrahy. Some care was required here as it is fairly steep and quite slippery but I made it down without any slips. Instead of dropping down to Lough Googh at the saddle I turned instead towards the lake that sits under Brassil Mountain. It is a straightforward descent that gets progressively wetter until I reached the stream tumbling out of the lake. I followed this (with some care) down to the road and then walked easily the couple of kilometres back to the car. Not a super long outing but it made up for any shortcomings with the spectacular scenery. All in all about 13 kilometres and 1200mtrs of climbing. Home for a feed :).

Journeys end