Sunday, 9 December 2018

Lough Duff Horseshoe In The Heart Of Iveragh

This morning I went back to the furthest reaches of the Black Valley to experience once again the wonderful and remote Lough Duff Horseshoe.Getting to the start of the route is a bit of an adventure in itself as you have to drive through the Gap of Dunloe before dropping down to the base of the valley and then another several miles on the narrow winding road along past the lakes until you cross over the river. Here there is a small place to park a few cars. It is a lovely spot in the shadow to the Reeks and the imposing east face of Broaghnabinnea looms ahead.
This is no easy start to the day as I set off up the track towards the old house before taking a direct line straight up the face. Normally I go up the gully in the middle but since it had been stormy last night (it was still pretty windy) and had rained heavily I opted to stay to the left and avoid a soaking. A steep 350 metres certainly gets the heart pumping and I wasn't sorry to reach the easier ground at the top. Not that the hard work was over as there is another 250 metres of climbing to reach the broad flat summit of Broaghnabinnea at 745 metres. The Reeks were shrouded in mist down to 800 metres but I was in the clear and the views were atmospheric and wonderful. The wind was buffeting but manageable and it was mostly dry. Some rain scudded around but it only added to the exhilaration of the day.
Starting out

Heading for the summit
The wind was at my back and the descent was easy to the wild gap under the rugged ridge that climbs gradually above Lough Duff. This is one of my favourite places, with glorious views into the Brida Valley and of course into the wild coum to the left. Today however the wind was vicious on the ridge and at times walking was quite difficult but thankfully things eased once I approached the higher ridge towards the summit.  Once on top of Stúmpa Dúloig 784 metres, the views were only better and now that the wind was easing it was a lovely easy stroll around and down from the summit ridge. I stayed on the ridge until I reached the summit of Knocknabreeda and once past this I made my way down to the valley. The next obstacle was to cross the swollen river and here I made good use of the walking poles. The waterfall was spectacular and I paused to admire it before heading down to the left and returing easily to the car. About 14 kilometres and 1200 metres of ascent in 4 hours 25 minutes. It was a lovely lovely outing.

In the heart of Iveragh

Got to have a little rain for the rainbows

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Mount Brandon via The Faha Ridge

The Reeks

Having returned home from Sneem and still with holidays to spend I went for a hike on the Reeks for the first time since before I went to the Pyrenees. Unfortunately the weather forecast was for cloud and some rain and as usual when the forecast is poor they got it spot on.
A new arrival at Cronins Yard

I started in Cronins Yard. It is a hive of activity here at the moment as they are expanding their facilities. It is great to see them making such a success of the business and it couldn't happen to nicer people. Even arriving at 09.15 on a dreary Saturday morning the carpark was nearly full, things are hectic on Carrauntoohil. After a chat with John I set off into the Hags Glen and decided that I would climb the NNW spur. The cloud was down to around 500 metres so there was nothing in the way of a view but navigation is easy. Once you cross the Black Stream then head slightly left and stick to near the stream coming from the coum above. Once at the lake take the right hand spur and after a slog you reach more interesting rocky ground that offers some nice scrambling. I was anxious to give my new Mammut boots a test and they coped very well on some small little placements. Higher up the ridge becomes more defined and in the clag the drop to the left was impressive. All too soon the fun is over and a short slog sees you reach the summit.
As is often the case I found myself all alone on the East Reeks. Right from once I reached the ridge all the way until I arrived at the Devils Ladder I didn't see a soul. I really enjoyed that section as the earlier drizzle had stopped and the wind was not too strong and to be honest, sometimes it is simply nice to enjoy walking in the clouds. From the Ladder to the summit of Carrauntoohil really doesn't have a great deal to recommend it. It is a long slog that gains over 300 metres and with no views then it is just a case of putting the head down and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I kept up a comfortable but solid pace and after 25 minutes I reached the busy top. It was breezy, chilly and noisy so I didn't delay in setting off towards O'Sheas Gully which I had opted to use for my descent. Once out of the wind I enjoyed a bite to eat before dropping down the quite badly eroded gully. The descent went smoothly and I arrived back at the car five hours after setting out. Hopefullly I will get the chance to experience some proper winter conditions on these mountains before too long.
Not a lot to see on the way in.

Howling Ridge makes a misty appearance

Clouds lifting..a little too late


I had toyed with the idea of making it a two day trip and heading from the Reeks as far as Cloghane and climbing Mt Brandon on Sunday but I must be going soft as the lure of home comforts was too strong. 
Jacob Richmond is a young guy who lives and works in Snowdonia. I had enjoyed his company on a lovely winters outing in the Carneddi in January 2016. He was enjoying his honeymoon in Glenbeigh and keen to climb Mount Brandon so I was delighted to take the opportunity to head back and accompany him. 
On the way up..looking across to Benoskee

Benagh Summit Views

We met at the church in the village and set off at 11.10. The cloud of yesterday was long gone and the whole range was on view in its complete glory. We set off up the Dingle way until we turned and headed for the grotto. After stopping for a decade of the rosary 😂 (Jacob wasn't sure if I was joking when I suggested this 😂😂) we followed the normal route until we could rise up onto the broad approach to Benagh (822 mtrs) and once on the crest the already great views just got better. One of my favourite things is when you accompany someone who is a new visitor to one of your favourite places. Jacobs pleasure and wonder was great to see, especially since he is well used to seeing beautiful mountains where he comes from. The slog up to the broad top seemed interminable but the chat flowed freely and we were both having a fine old time. Once on the top the full expanse of cliffs that guard the east face of Brandon and its outliers was revealed. It is fair to say that Jacob was impressed and he rightly likened it to something you would see in the best of Scotland. 
Some Ridge Views

Well that was fun

From here the fun begins. Easy at first, without too much exposure, you make your way along the arret. A few drops needed care on the slick rock on the shady side but it was more fun than stressful. Things get narrower and narrower until you come to the spot where, in order to avoid the final rock spur, you drop to the right. Super slippy rock and quite a bit of exposure meant care had to be taken on each move but once your head is okay it isn't difficult. A good but narrow track eases you past the final difficulties and we spurned the rock ridge (slippery rock) and climbed up the steep trail instead. One fabulous thing while we crossed the ridge was that some cloud had bubbled up in the coum to our right and  we were treated to perhaps the best display of Brocken Spectres I have ever seen. When we reached the main ridge Jacob was then treated to the fabulous views down to Brandon Creek, The Three Sisters and The Blasket Islands beyond. We turned and climbed the short distance to the summit of Brandon (952 mtrs) where we enjoyed a bite to eat. 
I made sure to nab the high ground 😊

Jacobs new wife was waiting for us (a baby on the way 👏😊) in the village and we were keen not to overextend our stay on top. We hot footed it along the path towards Brandon Peak (840 mtrs) and time just flew by. The 200 odd metre pull up to the peak was broken by a chat to a local landowner and once on top the ever increasing cloud mostly obscured the views. I decided that the best descent route from here would be to cross to Gearhane (803 mtrs) and descend the steep western spur around Loch an Mhónáin. This provided yet more spectacular ground but it does go on a ways as you lose over 600 metres in one go. Reaching the lake we joined the good track that soon reaches the road. An easy three kilometres follows and we were happy bunnies when we arrived at our cars five hours after setting off. A short final chat and we said our goodbyes with both of us hoping that if some good winter conditions arrive in Snowdonia then I will head over and we can renew our friendship. It had been a superb day and it was made all the better by Jacobs great company. Thanks my man 👍 
There are usually a couple of fine waterfalls back there

Evening Light

Monday, 3 December 2018

A November Holiday in Sneem

Given the fact that I'm working right through Christmas and having to use up the last of this years holidays we decided to finish off the trips for this year by spending four days in wonderful Sneem.

Sunday November 18th;

This bustling little village on the western fringes of the Iveragh Peninsula is one of our favourite destinations. The fact that the Sneem Hotel and apartments complex welcomes dogs means that Ruby can enjoy some "down time" as well😊. We were heading down on Sunday afternoon so I took the opportunity to have a run along the Kerry Way en-route. Leaving Margaret to finish the packing I took the train back to Killarney and started my run from the station. The first couple of kilometres is bustling and busy as you head out of town but once you enter the beautiful Muckross demense all traffic and noise are left behind. I followed the trail runs alongside the shores of Lough Leane for a few kilometres until I reached the point where it diverges from the Kerry Way and instead I turned and headed along the track that goes around Muckross Lake. Shortly along here I arrived at the first flooded part of the track. Not much but, eh, very refreshing as I splashed through 😨. At the yew wood there is an extension of the trail and I took that next. This is a lovely section of easy undulating trail that rounds a small lake before re-entering the oak woods and rejoining the main track near the "Meeting of the Waters". A couple of more substantial floods were wallowed through (you try running gracefully through knee deep water😤) before I finally completed the lake circuit and reached the main road.

Next up comes the rather dramatically named "heart attack steps " that rise quite steeply up the face of Torc Mountain. Here you gain nearly 400mtrs in height as you climb up through the trees and rhododendron. Views are at a premium until finally you reach the zenith and the trail traverses the mountain and heads for the upper carpark at the end of the Old Kenmare Road. This section is a delight. Not only because of the relief of finishing the steps but it is interesting and engrossing as you run downhill. Soon though you reach the turning near the carpark and rejoined the Kerry Way and start out along the delightful Old Kenmare Road.
The running is easy and flat for a while before a short but steep section sees you exit the woods and entering the wild, wide, boggy valley between Torc and Mangerton. I should perhaps point out that the weather was lovely with plenty sunshine and little wind. It was quite chilly but I certainly wasn't feeling that. Once out in the open the fine track undulates a bit before dropping gently to a wild area replete with a fine cascade. This is one of my favourite sections and it is always a joy to travel. The good track is now left behind as railway sleepers cut across the boggy ground before you enter a wooded glen before rising over the crest and once again running on the sleepers until you again reach the oak woods. Now it is mostly downhill through the woods on a good trail until you finally reached the little lane. NowI turned right and followed it until I reached Derrycunnihy Church and the end of  todays exertions. Around 14 miles and over 700 metres of ascent was a big outing for me but it is such a thrilling and varied run. It was 14.35 and Margaret wasn't due till around 15.00 so I decided to do plenty of stretches. This helped keep the chill at bay but by the time Margaret arrived at 15.30 (a combination of traffic and Sunday drivers😠) I was chilled to the core. Oh what a wonderful relief to change clothes and sit into the warm car. It didn't take long to reach the hotel and after settling in I enjoyed a long soak. Dinner in O'Sheas bar that evening and the delicious dessert were vital to replenish calories 😉😉.

Monday November 19th;

I wish I could say that I stuck to food the previous evening but in my defence,  re-hydration is important too😊. That said I wasn't going to waste the opportunity to get a hillwalk in while I was so close to some wonderful mountains. I left the apartment at 8am and after a short drive I parked at the end of a little lane and set out for Coomcallee. It was a lovely clear morning and it seemed that we were going to be lucky with the weather on this trip. I parked at the end of a little grassy lane near a picturesque derelict old cottage and decided to take a direct line for the steep ground on the left of the small hanging coum, that leads directly to the summit. I had been in two minds about taking this route instead of going into the main coum at Gortdromagh. The main coum is a wonderful wild place with huge boulders sitting in the floor that had come from the cliffs on the east side. It makes a grand sight but getting there is a long slog across very very boggy and rough ground so I opted for the more direct line. Well it's fair to say that the ground I covered was no bargain either.
Well worth pausing for a look. Wonderful light..across to Coomnahorna

Looking into the depth of the Iveragh Peninsula

After passing out the cottage I was immediately faced with having to cross about 400 metres of scrubby gnarly watery bog that was torturous to say the least. I had bought a new pair of Mammut boots and this was their first outing...welcome to the west of Ireland boys👀. Once past the initial difficulties I was looking forward to the easier, merely boggy ground. Easier it was but easy it certainly was not. The way is crossed by rock outcrops of varying sizes and more often than not half the hard won height gained on each was lost on the other side. On the plus side, my boots were behaving beautifully and they coped very well with some difficult scrambling. When the sun came up the landscape caught fire and the rusty russet hues of the surrounding hills made me stop and gaze in wonder...The excesses of the previous evening might also have had something to do with my rest periods. Once above the hanging coum with its small lake in the bottom there follows a long but gentle slog to eventually reach the indistinct top of Coomcallee 649 metres. A stiff breeze ensured that overheating wouldn't be a problem while I rested and soaked in my wonderful surroundings. In order to make it a horseshoe outing I set off for the wet boggy but easy descent to the gap under Coomnahorna. It felt great to just gambol along and with vistas like I had this morning my mood was buoyant. The 150 metre climb passed quickly enough and I descended due north to reach the valley floor. I followed the fledgling stream out of the coum and crossed over to join a green road that wend and wound its way right back to the car. It had been a wonderful morning and I had worked up a nice appetite for breakfast.

Sneem nestling below

The way up..the rock bands are clearly seen
Tuesday November 20th;

I had been very good last evening (NOT) but the prospect of another sunny morning was too good to miss so I was up in the dark and out into the pre-dawn to squeeze in another hillwalk this morning. Ice coated the car and the crisp chill air was just the ticket to clear the head. The route of choice today was Knocknagantee which again is only a short drive (or longish run 😃) from the village. At the roads end there is a track that passes through a farmyard and rises up the hillside. I have used this before but I prefer to avoid going near peoples homes and instead I parked about a kilometre short of the farm. I set off up the bog once I was past the forestry and after crossing a stream I took a more or less direct line towards Coomnacronia 639 metres, which lies just to the west of Knocknagantee and allows for a very nice loop walk. As it happened the direct line isn't the best idea as a stream has cut a deep glen down through the bog so I followed  the left side of this up almost into the main coum before cutting across once more level ground is reached.
Morning sun

Stunning colours and light

What a beautiful morning it was. Now that the sun was rising the mountains again caught fire and it was a privilege to stop and stare and enjoy the stunning scene. Next up came the near 350 metre climb to reach the broad top of Coomnacronia. I stopped often to gaze across the divide and wonder at the spectacular east face of Knocknagantee. I have never climbed the rock there but friends of mine have and it really looks to have some fabulous lines. As you would expect the views from the summit were great and I enjoyed a brief rest and soaked it up. Next comes the descent to the gap between the summits. This is actually quite tricky. Steep ribs of rock drop almost all the way down and require some care to navigate safely. Once down the going is a little torturous as you cross the rough ground before reaching the steep pull towards Knocknagantee. This can be as hard or less hard as you like and some fine scrambling options present themselves. The fun is soon over though and an easy pull across the broad summit sees you at the top. If the views across to Knocknagantee were good then the views back from the top are not bad either. What a lovely wild mountain landscape to be in and the chances are that you will find yourself all alone while there. From the summit it is an east thing to drop down the west side and reach the track and this I followed all the way back down. I even went through the farmyard and met the farmer. He was a delightful friendly chap who assured me that it wouldn't be any bother to use the track is the future and that I would be most welcome. It was a lovely end to the hike. Three hours car to car and maybe 650 metres of climbing but more importantly an big old dose of sunshine and mountain air. Result 😊
The wild and wonderful Iveragh Peninsula

Looking out along the coum. Knocknagantee offers some great rock routes

Across to Coomnacronia..whats not to like
In the afternoon we went for a drive around the Beara Peninsula and once again I was stuck by the stunning beauty of the area. It only gets better the further west you go and as we approached Allihies we stopped and wondered at the big waves as the crashed against the rocky shore. I wonder what the hundreds of Cornish miners made of the wildness of this place when they arrived here to work in the copper mines in the early 19th century.

Wednesday November 21st;

The road I drove in yesterday morning is a true delight as it enters the ever wilder scene. I have run in there several times and it is always a joy no matter the weather, indeed sometimes it is when the elements are at their worst that I enjoy being here the most. Even though I have run in here it has always been a straightforward out and back but today I was going to try the Fermoyle Loop.. would allowed me to return to the village via a different route and I was looking forward to it. The running is easy all along the road and the ever wilder scenery is like getting a hug from the mountains as they further envelop you. Finally, just short of where I parked yesterday I followed the little arrows and turned right onto another lane. After a kilometre or so this ends in the middle of a farmyard and you rise a little and cross some boggy ground. Before too long you drop a little and join a green road that eventually rises up through another farm and re-joins a road. As you run past a few houses the road rises steeply which made it a struggle for me to keep running. I just about managed it and once over the crest a long gradual descent made the next couple of miles a delight. Eventually I reached the village and the hotel. 14 kilometres and 600 feet of climbing...this holidaying lark is tough work😂.
To top things off a lovely stroll along Derrynane Beach and a brief explore of the nearby Abbey Island was the perfect end to the day. A heavenly spot..I was even tempted to go for a dip but common sense prevailed.
Derrynane Beach..some of it 

Abbey Island

Thursday November 22nd;

All good things must end and to be fair I felt I had packed in a fair old bit on this trip. As a last hurrah I went for a run along the Kerry Way from the village almost as far as Tahilla. I have done the section as far as Parknascilla before but it was nice to stretch it out a little bit this time. A mixture of lanes, tracks and open ground made it a delight and one I hope to further explore the next time I'm back there. Just over seven miles in total but a nice end to the trip. It is great to be able to enjoy running again.
The apartments on the left and some of the hotel on the right....a great facility

Sneem has so much to offer💖💖