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

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