Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Dungarvan 10 Mile Run and A Swift Hike on Caherbarnagh

On Sunday February 10th I headed east to try my hand at running the Dungarvan 10 mile run. This is one of the most popular races in Ireland and this year 2500 souls ran the route. Now it's fair to say that I wouldn't be bothering any of the front runners but I was keen to try my hand at pushing myself for a long distance and since I have entered the Burren Marathon at the end of May this would give a reasonable indication of my current fitness levels.
I got the opportunity to get a race number (this race sells out in minutes) from a member of the running club (and yes I have joined a club) so for one day only "me name" Mike 😊.
The race starts at the very convenient time of 13.30 so I had plenty of time to relax in the morning before heading on the 90 minute drive to the start. I arrived about 40 minutes before the off and I easily found a spot to park in the town centre. It was a superb day for a run, dry and a pleasant 8 or 9 degrees with little breeze to help or hinder. I set off for the start about a kilometre away and warmed up with a gentle jog along the waterfront. More and more fellow runners materialised and by the time I got close to the start the size of the crowds was obvious. There was a great atmosphere building which both increased my anticipation and nerves. Soon the allotted time arrived and I found myself in the huge throng close behind the 70 minute pacers and ready for the off. Such was the noise I couldn't hear the starting gun and it was the slow shuffle forward of the crowd that indicated that the race had started.

I of course wanted to do a decent time but I also wanted to enjoy the experience so I determined that I would listen to the body as I went along and let it tell me what pace I should set. It took a kilometre or so for things to loosen out and I was able to set my own pace. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with the 70 minute guys but I used them as a guide for the first few miles and sort of kept them in a diminishing view. I knew nothing of the course but it was fairly flat with no big hills and it leaves the town and runs along a fairly narrow country road that rises gently as you head inland. I kept a good pace and felt reasonably good throughout. You are always surrounded by other runners but it was interesting and had a good atmosphere for the full route. Eventually we turned back towards the town and finally the home stretch arrived. It is fair to say I was glad when this arrived and the pain was eased when I saw that I had easily beaten the 75 minute mark and my official time was 72 minutes 52 secs. I was well pleased and enjoyed the whole experience. I might return ( if I could secure an entry).

On Sunday Feb 10th I had intended on getting in a good hillwalk but the forecast was for 60 kilometre winds to arrive late morning so I thought it would be a bit iffy to head to the mountains. Instead I enjoyed a lie in and just chilled at home. It was clear that the weather was better than promised so I eventually decided to head back to Caherbarnagh for a short excursion. I had been for a hilly 17 kilometre run the previous evening so this would loosen the legs nicely. I parked where the Duhallow Way enters the mountainside after its diversion along the road and I headed for the steep spur that descends from the NE top. I tried to maintain a stiff pace and it wasn't too long before I was standing on the broad boggy top. It was a cold breezy day and the frequent showers  were mostly of sleet and hail. Some snow dusted the higher slopes and it was invigorating to be out. The tops were under the clouds so the views were extensive, most especially towards the north. A short walk and I arrived at the main summit at 681 metres. Next up came the easy couple of kilometres as I crossed to Gortaveghy where the view to Claragh and towards home was lovely. I retraced my steps a little and then dropped easily back towards the car. As I said it is a short outing and is only around 7 kilometres and took me just 1 hour 40 minutes. Still, it filled the lungs with mountain air and loosened out the legs.

The spur is a bit steeper that shown here

To the west

The car is down by the houses

Icy fence and heading towards Gortaveghy

Towards Claragh and home

Showers were frequent but fleeting. Lovely

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Winter Walking on the MacGillycuddy Reeks

After the delights of Mayo last weekend I couldn't pass up on the chance of a decent winter outing on The Reeks so I forwent some sleep on Friday morning and left direct from work and headed West. Snow was still lying to pretty low levels and with the temperature hovering at just 1 degree as I left the car at Lisliebane it promised to be quite chilly on top. A substantial snowfall had occurred yesterday and I reckoned that all gullies would be deep wallow fests so I opted to climb The Bone and see what I felt like doing from there. The cloud hung pretty low on the mountains but the forecast was decent with the promise of better later in the day. I had crampons and axe on the bag but I wasn't over hopeful that they would be needed. I walked into the Hags Glen until I crossed at the outflow of Lough Callee and then the climbing started.

Looking promising?

A steepish start and add in the soft snow made it a little tougher than usual but I plodded on and reached the crest of the spur. Here I reached the first drifts of the day and they made for some less than elegant progress. The rocky bits made things a tad spicier and the rocks were nicely coated in rime ice. The Bone is a long route and once you pass the second rock section the slog is long and tiring. As I got higher the wind strengthened and the temperature dropped. At the summit of Maoláu Buí things were very wintry indeed. The wind was a hoolie and it was  loaded with spindrift and being in the cloud the visibility was at times literally zero. My watch was reading minus 4 and it felt much lower in the was thrilling and invigorating and just great. The goggles were on straight away and I set off towards Cnoc an Cuillan. There was some cornices on the ridge and drifting of snow so progress wasn't straightforward but enough visibility remained to make safe progress. Cuillan duly arrived and passed and when I dropped down to the next col things eased off wind wise and I got some views down to the valley. I climbed to the top of Cnoc na Toinne and headed towards the devils Ladder. A full snow covering on the flat top meant that at times visibility was zero and I had to stop and wait for some features to emerge. On the descent to the ladder emerged from the cloud and the stunning snowy alpine like vistas were delightful to see. Lastly I had the 300 metre slog to the summit of Carrauntoohil. Never easy, it was even more of a plod today but thankfully a lot of the snow was firm enough to bear my weight. Alas some cloud arrived at the top just as I arrived so the views to Benkeeragh were denied me so I settled out of the breeze (yes it was easier here) and actually got to enjoy my lunch (almost) in solitude. I decided to return via the Devils Ladder and this was a swift and easy snow gully which was lovely to descend. Back out to the car in the sun and I finished in 6 hours and 20 minutes..slow and definitely more tired than normal..just not used to the snow I guess. Beautiful and invigorating day. More please before the winter ends.
Approaching The Ladder and things clear


The Brida Valley and Mullaghanattin

Slieve Mish

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Run Along Killary Harbour and Gorgeous Mayo

Once again, taking advantage of my long weekend off work I headed to one of my all time favourite places...Mayo.

Sunday January 27th;

Rather than just do hillwalking on this trip I decided to start off with a run..and what a run. After perusing the maps I settled on a run along the shores of Killary Harbour. The decision to "just" go for a run today meant that I could enjoy a relaxing morning at home before setting off on the long drive to the west. Despite leaving at 10.30 it was still almost 13.45 when I finally parked the car just over a kilometre along the road that heads towards Lough Fee and Rinvyle. It had bee a very nice weather morning all the way up until I passed beyond Oughterard and then cloud settled on the mountain tops and a light rain began. I could see that it was falling as snow higher up and so it promised to be a bracing outing. I got changed and set off on my run in less than ideal conditions.
One of the advantages/disadvantages of starting where I did was that it was uphill for the first kilometre but at least I would be spared this at the finish. The road is quite and the scenery wild and wonderful and I was immediately enthralled. Nice and gently does it and soon I was on the main road (only for a few hundred metres) and then I turned onto the little bohereen that winds its way towards the shores of Killary Harbour. To say this is wonderful is to do it a disservice. It is easy running and the views are stunning. Across the water the bulk of Mweelrea rose into the mist and looked impressive and beautiful. Below was a little wooded glen that reached to the waters edge. Ahead a long winding track that stretched for another seven kilometres along the waters edge was a tantalising prospect.
For the next couple of kilometres the going is on a tarred surface but then it becomes a rough farm/green road before eventually a stony rocky trail. Some tricky footwork is required along here as the chances are you will be distracted by the views. Eventually the trail ends at a little pier and harbour and here you rejoin a tarred lane that runs around the little bay before heading inland. A substantial steep hill awaits and it was tough to just maintain a shuffle as I climbed the 90 metres. I had decided to head to the gorgeous beach at Glassilaun where I had swam many times in the past and this would add about three miles to the run. After the hill came the reward as I trundled downhill until I neared the shore. It was lovely to revisit this magic spot but I must confess that I was beginning to feel fatigued and I still had a long way to go to get back to the car. Out and back to the beach and then I shortly thereafter reached the "main " road. Easy running follows as you first run alongside Lough Muck, across which the Bencoonas rise and then you reach the shores of Lough Fee. The end was now in sight and I wasn't sorry. The next three kilometres were tough but I got there and once I had changes and warmed up I was delighted with my outing. Just shy of thirteen miles of invigorating scenery and weather was a delight and I was very pleased with the achievement and the choice to go for a run.

Roughly the start and first few kilometres
Second section..

Despite only being a few kilometres as the crow flies to the Delphi Resort it was nearly a twenty kilometre drive to get there. I was fairly spent after the efforts of the day and as I had booked into the newly opened Wild Atlantic Hostel for a couple of nights I was looking forward to settling in and having a shower and a bite to eat. After checking in I discovered that the hostel was all locked up. I returned to reception and they decided to put me up (at no extra charge) in one of the hotel bedrooms instead. I wasn't overjoyed as it meant I would have to buy all my food instead of cooking the meat etc I had brought with me. Still the room was nice and the view from the capacious balcony was stunning. A soak in the bath went a long way to restoring me and the rather superb fish and chip dinner was a lovely end to the day. A super quiet, peaceful night followed.

Monday January 28th;
Views from the room balcony

Today was forecast to be a cold day with showers of snow possible. I certainly dawned chilly but mostly clear and it was lovely to exit onto the balcony and soak up the view. With the belly bustin after an excellent breakfast I put on my outdoor gear and left the hotel. That is the beauty of staying here as you can literally start several hillwalks direct from the hotel. The route of choice today was to climb Mweelrea and do a circuit around to Ben Lugmore and return to the hotel. This is one of the finest outings to be had anywhere in the country and I was really looking forward to it. The last time I had done this route I included the nearby top of Teevnabinnea, which although it doesn't quite reach 400 metres in height it is a rough tough pull up over very wet ground to it's long summit ridge so I left it for today. Instead I aimed to head to the col under Mweelrea's south east spur. There are a couple of forest roads that stretch into the long glen and needless to say I picked the one that ended at a dead end about two thirds through the woods. I then "enjoyed" 20 minutes of twist and turn in ditch and bog as I struggled through the trees until I made for the light and emerged onto the track I could and should have taken. It was relatively easy to then reach the bleak pass where Killary Harbour (and more) came once again into view.

Final climb to Mweelrea

Next up came the 300 metre plus climb to climb to the summit of Mweelrea SE Top at just under 500 metres. As I gained height the views got more expansive. A near 100 metre drop follows before another near 400 metre climb brings you to Mweelrea summit (814 mtrs). Up here the wind was strong and winter held a firm grip. The spectacular drops had come into view as the cloud continued to lift. I was treated to fleeting summit views but it cleared completely as I set off towards the broad pass under Ben Bury. Here 200 metres below the summit there was no snow but the wind was very strong and I didn't delay before heading up the gentle but blessedly warming climb to the broad stony plateau like summit of Ben Bury (795mtrs). The views to the north and west were lovely and ranged from Clare Island across to Croagh Patrick and to the to the east the Sheefry Hills and Ben Creggan rose above Doo Lough. An easy stroll to the shallow col before setting off over the three tops of Ben Lugmore (803 mtrs) which form the rim of the massive and impressive coum that frames the landscape above Doo Lough. Airy in places and with amazing vistas along the entire length, it was with a little disappointment I reached the east top and started my descent. Normally I continue along the main ridge and drop to the exit of Doo Lough but today I continued easily along the southeast spur and near its end I dropped left towards the river in the valley floor. I followed the river out and across the boggy valley until I could head towards the hotel and I crossed the main river via a steel beam. A short stroll later I was back in my room and filling the bath. Just five hours to cover the 15 or so kilometres and 1200 metres of climbing..
Summit arrives

To infinity and beyond

Before starting up Ben Bury

Towards Croagh Patrick

Wonderful views into the Inagh Valley

Along the coum towards Ben Creggan

Down along the spur on the right and back to the hotel near the forestry..tomorrows walk on the top left
As a lovely finish to the day, when I went for a short stroll up the road from the hotel a little later I was delighted to see an eagle flying high in front of Ben Gorm and I watched it all the way until in landed about half way up Ben Creggan.

Tuesday January 29th;
It had rained quite heavily through the night but it was nice and clear, well a bit better, when I emerged this morning. The rain had fallen as snow higher up and things promised to be quite wintry on top, especially when the stiff wind was added into the mix. I was driving home today so I opted for a short outing and a circuit of Ben Creggan and Ben Gorm was the route I picked. Again I was able to walk directly from the hotel to the start of the route. Just a short walk up the road and I was able to enter the open mountainside. Now there followed a long steep 650 metre pull to the summit. The rain shower before I started had passed but more were likely and probably before too long. As I gained height the wind increased in strength and snow covered the ground. It was dry initially but I could see some weather coming from the northwest and it duly arrived shortly before I reached the 693 metre summit. I was engulfed by cloud and when you couple the wind..spindrift and cold I was in no doubt that I was enjoying a full on winter outing. It was exhilarating.
Snow to lower levels today

Straight up into the mist

Doo Lough showing the wind

Some weather coming but amazing views and light

I didn't delay on top and set off for the next top (Ben Creggan South Top 687 mtrs). A 90 metre drop is followed by an 80 metre climb and by now the squall had passed and I emerged into a wonderland. Even though I wasn't much above 2000ft winter had a firm grip all around. Thankfully the strong wind was to my back so it was a pleasure to make progress. Once I was over the south top it was straightforward walking down and up to the broad summit of Ben (Gorm 700mtrs), I had never been on these hills before and I found them a delight. As will come as no surprise, the views were stunning. Over towards the Twelve Bens was particularly beautiful but all around was a delight. Ben Gorm itself has some spectacular ground on its northern flanks. On reaching the summit I turned and made a direct descent towards the hotel. Some care is needed in places as it is fairly steep but it isn't too bad. Soon I was down at easier ground and again it was just a short walk back to the hotel and my car. Less that three hours all in and about 850 metres of climbing didn't make for a too taxing outing but it set me up for the journey home.
Doesn't really capture the ferocity of Ben Creggan summit

Easy walking ahead

Ben Gorm


Above Leenaun

Yesterdays outing.

All told it had been a short but super enjoyable trip in one of my favourite places, It is also such a pleasure to reach somewhere and be able to let the car untouched for a few days. The Delphi Resort is certainly a great place to base yourself and world class walking starts right from the front door. I'm looking forward to returning before too long.