Monday, October 16, 2017

A couple of hikes in Kerry and a four day trip to Holland

Lovely Leiden
It was a great pleasure to have a hike with James again recently. Our work rosters and holidays have gotten in the way of getting together much but we grabbed the chance of an outing and headed back to the Capagh Glen on a fine Thursday morning. James wasn't sure if he had been there before but either way it is always a pleasure to visit this wild place. I decided that a climb of Crohane first would kick-start our outing. Fitness is slowly returning for James and we made steady progress up the hill. It made a nice change to have someone to bounce banter with and time flew by. We didn't delay on top but made our way down and along the boggy spur towards Crohane West top. All was going great until James took a tumble. As he slipped he grabbed a wire fence and in the effort of trying to stop the fall he managed to hurt his knee. Bugger and dammit but he is desperately unfortunate. He struggled on the descent to Lough Nabroda and we had to abandon the idea of climbing Benaunmore. On the plus side we got to enjoy the delightful wooded glen that leads down to the farmland. It was therefore a curtailed outing but nevertheless great fun. Here's hoping that it's just a blip for James and we can get out again soon.

Not a lot of hills to be seen in that neck of the woods but Margaret and myself enjoyed a very nice four days there at the start of the month. We stayed in the delightful city of Haarlem which is only a few minutes by train from Amsterdam. It was a delight to explore. We spent a day in Amsterdam itself but while we enjoyed it we found it very busy. We also went to The Hague and Leiden. The latter was lovely but covered in the litter and detritus from a major festival the previous days which detracted a little from its charm but we were delighted with The Hague which we found to be varied in ambience and architecture. We would heartily recommended it.
Just a flavour of what we found in Holland

Impressive mix in central Dan Haag

40 Floors

Boughil to Knocklomena. ..back in Kerry.
I took advantage of my only day off until I head off on my travels on the 21st to head to Kerry once again for a hike. It was a nice mostly clear morning and promised to remain dry until nightfall. I opted to do the Boughil to Knocklomena route as it had been a fair while since I was on the first one and a good ten years since I was on Knocklomena. As is often the case there was more cloud on the hills the further west I went but most of the tops were clear by the time I parked my car at Barfinnihy Lough. That is except for the ones I was going to climb. I also discovered I had forgotten my camera. No excuses to stop today 😯. Around the lake I went and climbed the steep slope to the summit. This 400mtr drag made a good start of purging the body of all those slices of Dutch apple pie and restaurant food from the recent trip. I was pleased to be feeling strong in body but alas there isn't much hope for the mind as I had also forgotten to bring a map and I set off in the wrong direction from the summit 😢 until I was under the mist and recognised my error. Thankfully that was the last of that sort of thing and the remainder was navigationally flawless, mainly because the cloud lifted😀. I continued on over Cnoc na gCapall and Bascadh and it's West top before descending to the wide gap under Knocklomena. I sat at the southern outlet of the lake and enjoyed some lunch before turning and climbing the southwestern skyline of the mountain. The south face offers superb scrambling of a high degree of difficulty but also superb quality but today there was a lot of wet black Rock in evidence so I headed for the easier ground. That being said the fare on offer here was also wonderful and if you chose to pick the best bits it can be very hard here as well. I picked my way up through the rock bands and tackled some wonderful rock steps that offered some steep quality scrambling. After two hundred metres of fun I reached the broad rather bleak summit. Again I didn't delay and I headed down the northern spur before heading to the narrow gap between the Black and Brida valleys. I even enjoyed the hour and fifteen minute walk back along the the road to my car. It was a lovely outing and I stayed dry but the wind was now getting quite strong so I was glad to be heading home.. Next up Les Alps Maritimes😃.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wild Camping On The Reeks

Kevin and myself were hoping to have an all too rare outing on Saturday by heading somewhere to camp overnight and hike on Sunday but our luck being what it is we had to cancel as torrential rain and strong winds arrived Saturday and washed away our hopes. As I had a long weekend off I decided to head away myself on Sunday and have a solo camp on The Reeks instead.

Always a delight

Bouldering heaven

Spectacular as they are, the Reeks is a small compact range and the options for making a two day outing while using just one car are quite limited. I had often thought to camp up on Knockbrinnea which has great views and a ready water-source but the problem (if it's a problem at all) is that one of the days is going to be very short. With that in mind I had a very leisurely morning on Sunday and I didn't arrive at Cronins Yard until after 1pm. The day was shaping up to be a beauty and the first thing I had to do was lather on the sunscreen😎. After letting the people them know I was going to be camping overnight ( so they wouldn't be alarmed to see the car there all night) I set off into the Hags Glen. The view towards Carrauntoohil as you leave the yard is I think the finest in the glen and seldom fails to excite. I was in no hurry and it was nice to just amble along at a leisurely pace. I left the main track and headed up to a large boulder on the right to have a goosey. I have never seen anyone climbing there and it is a real shame. It is quite large and imposing and is actually a split pair of rocks. To my untrained eye there looks to be lots of "problems" that would give people of all abilities a good workout and several overhanging parts are there for the very good. I climbed up the steep slopes of the northeasterly spur not far from "the Fingers" until I reached the easier ground that rises in a couple of stages until the final slopes of Knockbrinnea east top.

Even though I had taken my time it was still only just gone 3pm when I was on the top of the west top at 854mtrs. It was a little strange to drop my bag so early but I luxuriated in taking my time in choosing a good spot for my tent and once I decided on a place (lots of great options here) I just relaxed and watched the world turn for the evening. There was lots to maintain the interest throughout the evening with wispy clouds appearing and disappearing over the higher tops and all the main summits (except Caher) are laid out in front of you to admire. As if that isn't enough the mountains of the Dingle Peninsula stretch away to the northwest and the north Kerry plain lies to the northeast. As time went by and the light changed I was treated to a lovely sunset and fiery cloudscapes which I delighted in trying to capture with my camera. The forecast was for a calm night with the promise of extensive fog in the morning so I was hoping to perhaps experiment in the dark of night and try and capture a starry sky over the peaks. Here at almost 850 mtrs it was decidedly chilly and before I started cooking my dinner it was only 8 degrees. The breeze was light but it chilled so I had my insulating jacket and hat on from early doors. After dinner I watched the sun slowly set and I decided to retreat into my tent and settle into my sleeping bag for a while.

Good morning

Benkeeragh casting a long shadow

 As often happens I got snug and drifted off to sleep quite early. I woke up a little while later to discover that the breeze had strengthened a fair bit and my hopes of getting a steady long exposure of the night sky seemed to be dashed. Instead I stayed inside my bag and went back to least for a while as later in the night my lightweight sleeping bag didn't prove up to the job of keeping me warm and a somewhat restless/chilly night followed. The breeze was turning into a wind my the time the morning arrived so rather than try and warm up a brew I had a sandwich and some cold water (yum yum) and I packed up and was ready for the off just as the first rays of sun started to appear. A few more pictures and I set off up towards Benkeeragh at 7.30am. Starting so high and so early meant that I had reached Carrauntoohil before 9am and I decided to go as far as the Bone and head back down at that stage. I hadn't seen a soul since I stepped off the main track yesterday afternoon until I neared the Devils ladder where I met the first of the days hoard that headed for Ireland's highest top. It was cold in the wind that crossed the ridge so I didn't delay anywhere until I reached the Bone at 10.00am. A lengthy but easy descent followed and I was back at the car at 11.30am. Down low it was much warmer and nice and sunny and it felt a little bit of a cop out to be finished so early but I had really enjoyed the experience. I think I will need to take my warmer sleeping bag from now on.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Hags Glen Horseshoe.

I went back to The Reeks Friday to re-introduce myself to my local mountains after coming home from the Alps last week. I wanted to get in a decent outing so I opted for the Hags Glen Horseshoe. This offers about 15 kilometers and 1500 mtrs of ascent and would hopefully be a help in trying to retain any fitness I picked up while away.

 Leaving the car at a leisurely 10.30 I headed into the spectacular glen. It is always reassuring to still find your home hills beautiful even when you have come back from one of the most famous mountain areas on the planet. Different it certainly is and there was a wild feel to the day as I hot footed it away from the car. Even though the mountains of the Alps are three or four times higher the hiking trails have a tamer safer feel to them. I guess it's the marked trails with signposted junctions, coupled with good weather that make you feel safer while there. Here (and the same in Scotland) things have a wildness to match the weather. Before long I was immersed in the day and troubles and normal concerns are left behind. Not that things are totally rosy. Sloshing through bog and slogging up the slopes of Cruach Mor is an acquired pleasure but it is still a joy to be out. There was no thought of dressing in shorts and Tshirt today as the stiff northerly wind had the temperatures hovering in single figures up high and when you factor in the wind chill I was putting on extra layers instead. Mist slicked rock meant I forewent the delights of the ridge crest and I followed instead the path lower down, first on the right and then the left to reach Cnoc na Peiste. Cloud and rain arrived together so I hurried along and continued to Cnoc an Cuillian where I enjoyed my lunch.

The weather was picking up again and I was in great form as I continued towards the  Devils Ladder. It wasn't until I reached here that I met other walkers and once I had left Carrauntoohil behind I was again alone. The slog up to Carrauntoohil is never nice but I had it done in just 25 minutes which wasn't too bad and with cloud clinging to the summit I hightailed it towards Benkeeragh. I was moving well and before too long I had the climbing done for the day and I was heading for Knockbrinna .The descent went well and I reached the car at 16.15 so I had made good time. I really enjoyed the wonderfully different experience that my own hills offer. I'm lucky indeed to be able to experience and enjoy such diversity. Today had more than a hint of the coming winter about it and it was easy to imagine things being plastered in snow. Bring it on.