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I’m back from a three day sojourn in south Kerry, walking 71 km in aid of cancer research. The format of the event this year was different from previous years, in that we were based in the same location for the whole weekend, with all walks terminating in Kenmare. We were brought to our starting point by bus from Kenmare each morning. (Kenmare is a smashing little town in south Kerry, a short distance from some of the most superb scenery in the country. If you are thinking about a trip to Ireland, it is an absolute must-see).

Moll's Gap

Moll's Gap

On Friday we travelled from Moll’s Gap to Kenmare. It was a relatively easy road walk, with the final few kilometers trudging through the hills above Kenmare. The distance was 17km, so it wasn’t too difficult. Conditions on the hills were very wet (no surprise given the rain of the last few weeks).

Lauragh to Kenmare

Lauragh to Kenmare

Saturday was the most challenging walk. We started out from Lauragh in the Beara Peninsula, and we had to overcome two hills and a long road-walk before we arrived, exhausted and footsore, into Kenmare about 8 hours later. The conditions were quite challenging, in that the ground underneath was either rocky, or very loose or sodden wet. Nevertheless the scenery was spectacular, the temperature was just right and the rain stayed away.

IMG_3322 - Old Road 1

Old Kenmare Road

Sunday was the last of the walks, from Torc Waterfall outside Killarney to Kenmare along the Old Road. This is an absolutely fantastic walk, although not for the faint-hearted. It’s a trek of about 21 km, but at times the scenery looks like something out of Disneyland. The most challenging part of the route was the end – a steep incline then decline on hard road, when my feet were shouting at me “no more”! Sunday was our wettest day. In Kerry they don’t get the kind of rain we are used to. They don’t do drizzle, or moist weather, or soft days. No, in Kerry it’s the Real Thing. From dry to drenched in 0.6 milliseconds.

IMG_3328 - Silver Bullets

All in all, a fantastic three days. I feel great from the walk, the company was great and I have to say that the organisation was fantastic throughout. I’ve had enough bananas and flapjacks to last me a lifetime.

If you would like to do something big for charity in 2010, or you just want a weekend to remember, this is the thing to do!

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On the day after Christmas Day, I climbed Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland.

Carrauntoohill

Carrauntoohil is located in Co. Kerry, not so far from the towns of Killarney and Killorglin. It is part of the Magilicuddy Reeks, the loftiest of the mountain ranges in Southwest Ireland.

To reach Carrauntoohil, you must first negotiate your way through the Hag’s Glen, a massive U-shaped valley strewn with ancient moraine. The most usual route to the top is via the Devil’s Ladder, a steep and now quite dangerous route.

Hag's Glen

We didn’t go that way. Instead we ascended via the far more impressive Shay’s Gully route. On the way up, you can see ahead of you the clear remnant of an ancient glacier now long disappeared.

Ascending Shay's Gully

It was a long slog, but we reached the mountain peak in good time. It was like a train station at the top! St. Stephen’s Day – what we in Ireland call the day after Christmas Day – is an incredibly popular day for mountain climbing. Literally hundreds of people take the journey, and there have been more than one casualty on this day, on this mountain, in the past.

At the top

It was absolutely freezing at the top, so we didn’t stay for too long. We descended via Heaven’s Gate: a steep yet manageable and highly picturesque natural stairway to the bottom of the valley.

Descending via Heaven's Gate

I took this picture of a sheep on the way down. And you think you’ve got troubles..

Sheep on cliff

A big thanks to Barry who lead us up and back down again. He was a great help to us particularly where we needed to negotiate steep rock walls on our way down.

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I took a trip to Purple Mountain in County Kerry this weekend. Purple Mountain is the highest in a small cluster of peaks directly across the lake from the town of Killarney.

Ash Tree in Gap of Dunloe

We started our trip by the tourist centre at Kate Kearney’s cottage. From there we walked through the Gap of Dunloe, a spectacular narrow valley cutting through Ireland’s highest range of mountains. A low cloud accompanied us for the entire distance. It was magical.

The fog lifts

As if on cue, the fog lifted just as we began our ascent. We spent an hour and a half climbing uphill beneath an unrelenting sun.

The view south of Purple Mountain

Dry blanket bog gave way to loose stone during the last few metres of the climb to the summit. The mountain is well-named: the old red sandstone gives the mountain a purplish hue from afar. While we were there, a helicopter flew through the Gap. You don’t see a helicopter flying beneath you every day.

Purple Mountain

We proceeded on to Tomies mountain where we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in all of Ireland. To the West rose the Magillicuddy Reeks and Carrauntoohil. To the North, the Dingle Peninsula swept into the sea. To our East was Killarney, Lough Leane and the mountains beyond. 

Thunder threatens

The sounds of thunder could be heard in the distance. Rain swept down in torrents near Mangerton. The rumbles began to get louder. It was time to go. 

That’s how I feel after I have had a long walk in the mountains! I managed to get in a 10 km walk in the Knockmealdowns in Co. Waterford today in the pouring, freezing rain, and I feel simply terrific after it all. So what if I couldn’t see anything with the fog and the rain? So what if I return to work tomorrow? So what if it is still the middle of winter with lots of bad weather ahead of us in the next few days? After days like this I can take on anything.

(Unfortunately no nice photos to show – my camera finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago after far too many knocks on hard surfaces. I’m getting a new one next week though, so stay tuned).

I managed another trip to the Galtees last weekend. This time we took a different route, ascending the valley by Lyreacappul (Ladhar an Chapaill), traversing the ridge of Monabrack and descending into the valley by Sliabh Cois na Binne: a gigantic horseshoe route that took over 5 hours to complete. Apart from the occasional rain-shower, it was a magnificent day. The views from the top were incredible. The entirety of the southern half of Ireland is visible from the summit. What was missing was a view of the sea: the Galtees are Ireland’s only inland mountain range.

Click on the photos to enlarge

Energetic stream in the valley

The Monabrack ridge from Ladhar na Chapaill County Limerick from Ladhar an Chapaill

Sliabh Cois na Binne Ancient wall on Ladhar an Chapaill

Sycamore grove

Last Sunday, I journeyed with a few like-minded souls to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains in Co. Waterford. The centrepiece is a corrie lake caused by glaciation during the last Ice Age. The corrie has a classic “armchair” shape: two gently ascending narrow ridges with precipitous drops on all three sides.

Overlooking the corrie

The journey upwards was quite difficult, compared to Galteemore. It’s a more challenging ascent due to the preponderance of rock outcrops and winding, up/down paths.

A rock outcrop

It took us about 2 hours to reach the top. Here’s a view of the ridge by which we ascended.

Our path upwards

The “summit” is pretty flat, owing to the fact that the Comeraghs are about 350 million years old. Significant weathering, not to mention a few Ice Ages thrown in for good measure, have reduced the mountains to a uniform boggy plateau around 700 metres high.

At the top

Coumshingaun lake is impressive – a mile long, dark, mysterious, fed by gently gurgling waterfalls. Strewn around it are tons of piled up debris from ancient landslides.

Coomshingaun

We completed the “armchair” circuit in good time, returning to the car park in just over four hours. Just the antidote for those Monday morning blues!

Yesterday I went on a walk to Galteemore, the highest inland mountain in Ireland, just over 3,o00 ft high and the smallest of Ireland’s 14 munro’s.

Galteemore

Galteemore is part of the Galtee range in South Tipperary. The mountains stretch about 20km in an East-West direction – roughly-speaking from Cahir to Mitchelstown. The main Dublin-Cork road skirts around its southern and eastern flanks. The Galtee’s are part of the same mountain building event that formed the extensive ridge-valley system of South west Ireland. North of the Galtees the sandstone ridges begin to disappear and the flatter terrain of the Irish Midlands begins.

Overlooking the Glen of Aherlow

I found the walk to the top quite easy, not to say picturesque. The col between Galteemore and it’s smaller sibling, Galteebeag, shows signs of ancient “bog bursts”, or landslides, where entire sections of peat seem to have fallen into the corrie lake below, exposing the solid rock base.

Galteebeag

From the summit of Galteemore it is possible to see an amazing amount of southern Ireland: Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary, Limerick: possibly even Kerry, Clare and Carlow. Unfortunately I was unable to see anything at the summit as quite a dense fog closed in.

Summit of Galteemore

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