Saturday, April 13, 2019

Winter to Spring 😎 Snow on the Galtees to climbing Howling Ridge..What I did in March

Having returned from a very enjoyable trip to the Scottish Highlands it was nice to get back out on my own hills once again. I had enjoyed wonderful spring weather in Scotland and the mountains  there were denuded of snow. So it was somewhat ironic that for a blast of winter I had to head to The Galtees.

 The spring weather basically left as I returned home and a cold snap followed. I headed around to the northside of the range and decided to do the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe. The mountains looked amazing in the clear crisp morning and I was really looking forward to the outing. Besides the chill wind, the first thing I noticed was the joy of moving with a light backpack. I set off up towards Cush first and once I reached the open mountainside it was great to look across the valley and enjoy the sight of the steep snow clad hills that filled the landscape. The slog up to the summit of Cush is always  tough but it doesn't last long and soon enough I was enjoying this tremendous viewpoint. Well, enjoying might be stretching it a bit as it was really windy and damm cold on top. I wasted no time in setting off for my next summit Galtybeg. Down into the glen and things warmed up nicely  (relatively speaking ) and the 400 metre climb that follows ensured I stayed warm. Once on the ridge I could see some cloud starting to form which was a harbinger of the thaw that was to arrive around noon. Not that it had arrived yet and it was bracing all the way to the summit of Irelands highest inland mountain, Galtymore. The wind and the chill on Dawsons Table was vicious and it wasn't a place to linger. Thankfully once I was lower send traversing above Lough Curra things were easier and I enjoyed myself until I passed Slievecushnabinnea when I was able to decend easily to the valley floor. An enjoyable stroll back through the woods saw me reach the carjjust 3 hours 20 minutes after I started. The thaw had really kicked in and as I drove back the snow was in swift retreat. It was a lovely morning.

What a view from Cush

I returned to the Galtees on the 20th for an overnight stay. I wasn't being a complete selfish numpty as my wonderful lady wife and me had had a very pleasant away stay in the excellent Sneem Hotel Apartments where I enjoyed a few runs in this wonderful area. After returning home and with a full moon and clear skies promised I made a last minute decision to head for the wilds again. I had hoped to camp up on the main ridge near Carrignabinnea where there is a lovely flat ledge where amazing views to the north can be enjoyed as well as watching the sunset and the dawn if you have a mind. As I said it was a last minute decision and I left it too late to reach the ridge before dark. I only reached the 650 metre level before I had to finally drop the bag and erect my tent. I then had to drop down a surprising amount to reach a water source and it was fully dark before I was finally all settled. I wasn't too disappointed because the weather was not as forecast and I was engulfed in cloud and a stiff breeze was also buffeting the tent. My hopes of expansive moonlit vistas were not to be. Nevertheless I enjoyed the night and in the morning I completed the climb to the ridge where I was fleetingly above the clouds and Dawsons Table could be seen in the sunshine. I completed the walk over Galtymore and Galtybeg and returned to my car well before noon. Not the ideal outing I had hoped for but is always a pleasure to camp in the mountains.
Looking promising but the cloud increased

Briefly above the cloud.

The meeting of the waters

Not all the magic is on the tops

I'm training for a marathon which is on at the end of May so I have been doing a fair bit of running to try and build up the miles. I had entered the Mallow 10 mile race and I was looking forward to it. On the day the weather was perfect, dry and cool with very little wind. I was not sure exactly how fast to try and run but if I equalled my time of just under 73 minutes at Dunvarvan I would have been happy. As I stood in the crowd before the start I made a last minute decision to try and stick to the 70 minute pacers for a bit and just see how I felt. Well I was running well and managed to actually pass the pacers and I stayed ahead of them for the first five miles. When they passed me I thought that was it but I managed to cling on to them for another mile or so. Then they drifted ahead a couple of hundred metres but by then I had the bit between my teeth and I decided to try to break 70 minutes. Try as I might I couldn't bridge the gap and I finished at 70 minutes 12 seconds. I was more delighted than disappointed...but still...
It is just mile three..I didn't looks as relaxed further on.
Spring had well and truly sprung when on a warm sunny morning on March 28th I headed back to the Reeks for a bit of scrambly fun. I had decided to climb Howling Ridge and take advantage of the great conditions but as I walked into the Hags Glen I decided to head first to the Hags Tooth and so extend the day and add an excellent grade 2 or 3 scramble. After you climb the rock band after the stream just head towards the base of the tooth, picking the most interesting outcrops of rock en route and once you reach the overhanging section you have a choice...right or left. If you go right then you reach an impasse when you have to thread the eye of a needle through the rock to reach the northern side in order to reach the summit of the tooth. This can be fun but it is less hassle and just as nice to pass the overhangs on the right and scramble to the top. Some serious exposure is "enjoyed" neat the top but there is nothing too difficult. After the top just drop to the top of the gully that heads down to the first level of Coumeenoughter. Next comes the climb to the heavenly Gates. I like to climb directly up the rock steps that lie below the old hut as this gives a flavour of what is to come. I enjoyed a brief rest at the gates and then just set off Howling Ridge is always a joy and it felt especially good today when the rock was warmed in the sun, I just relaxed (carefully) and made steady and enjoyable progress up the varying steps. All to soon I reached the final pinnacled section and then it was over. I continued to the summit and basked in the afterglow of having climbed a great route. After my customary bite to eat I headed for the East Reeks. I had hoped to cross the Cnoc na Peiste ridge but time constraints meant I only reached the summit of Cnoc na Peiste before heading down. It had been a super day and re affirmed my liking for doing some more rock climbing.
Always inspiring

A great view of the ridge

Looking down from the top of Howling

Caher and Coumasaharn beyond

Looking up to the Hags Tooth...takes your pick of the best bits

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