Monday, 12 October 2009

Irish Four Peaks Day 1

While most people would have spent the week running up to the start date making sure everything was in order for a trip that relied heavily on timings, we chose to leave it to the night before. Except for the maps and some music, nothing else had been gathered for the next 2 days of non stop action, so at 10 O'clock it was off to Tesco's to buy all our calorific needs. Returning to Ryan's house the maps were finally un folded and routes up and down the mountains decided upon over a couple cups of tea. Last but not least was programming the GPS unit to navigate us across unfamiliar roads before crawling into bed for a grand total of 4 hours sleep.

Dragging ourselves out of bed at half five grabbing a bit of wheaten bread and then packing the car up before heading off to our designated starting place, the Albert Clock.

Start time at Albert clock 06:25 hrs, 09/10/2009

A group photo was taken with the days paper in front of the clock, but as my camera has went awol during the trip this is unavailable, but here's one from Aaron's camera. The clock had started so it was time to jump in the car, start the GPS logger and race down to Newcastle. A breakfast roll was picked up en route to Donard Park and scoffed before getting changed and packed for setting up the hill.

Arriving at Donard Park, Newcastle

Leaving Donard Park we took the familiar ascent up to Slieve Donard rising through the forest with the sound of running water not far off. Once leaving the forest if you’re lucky you will get a clear view of your objective, however with the sun still to rise fully, Donard was still incased in cloud. Instead we set our sights upon the Donard/Commedagh saddle which was free from the clouds. Within 25 minutes we reached the saddle and then the further climb to Donard began, climbing the large stone slab path on the North side to avoid the chilling wind. At 09:06 hrs we reached the summit of Donard, 850m.

On the way up to Donard
(Hawaiian shorts are soon to be a best seller for hiking!)

Mist obscures the peak from the Donard/Commedagh saddle.

The wind at the top of Donard was stronger than anything I’ve seen before and trying to get to the cairn that caps the summit for a group photo before the camera’s timer went was nearly impossible and pretty dangerous (again this photo is unavailable.) Falling over ourselves to get off the cairn and out of the wind we hid behind the shelter and sipped on our beers before deciding it best to start to descend before we cooled down too much. (It had been agreed prior to setting off that upon reaching each summit that a celebratory beer would be consumed, however I don't think any of us had fully thought this through with timings, none the less a beer was cracked open and consumed just after 9 O’clock in the morning.)

Returning down to Donard park, overlooking a choppy sea.

Aaron (Fish), Ryan and myself.

Descending down the hill, beers were consumed as quickly as possible, much to the relief of our hands which were starting to feel like they belonged to someone else. By the time we had returned to the saddle we had warmed up a good bit, from here the descent was taken quite conservatively until we crossed the river. During this time we realised that none of us had brought anything of nutrtional value up the hill except a can of beer, and that this should really be addressed the next time. With a gentle descent from here to the car park we decided to stretch out the legs and run back with the aim of getting up and down in 2 and a half hours. Returning just in time, we got changed and packed up the car and settled in for a six hour drive.

These google maps show the route taken as logged by my wee GPS logger, you can zoom in on them and check routes up and down the mountains if you're interested in that sort of thing.

View Irish 4 peaks 1 in a larger map

View Irish 4 peaks 1 in a larger map

Finally reaching Lough Doo after driving through the mountains.

10 minutes out from Delphi, our starting point for climbing Mweelrea.

By the time we arrived at Delphi, the strategically packed car of the early morn had become an admin vortex, and a good bit of time was taken trying to get everything sorted for the next ascent. It was here that I realized that my small camera, a Ricoh R8, was not where I thought it was and most probably either on the hills or Donard car park, however I chose to believe that it would be found later.

At 16:20 hrs we left the car park at Delphi Lodge and mountain resort to ascend Mweelrea. An optimistic base line of 4 hours for the climb and descent was given for each mountain, meaning that unless something supernatural took place we would be coming off an unfamiliar hill in the dark, great!

Forest tracks made for fine progress, until we became geographically unaware.

OSI decided not to publish the forest tracks on its 1:50 map of the area, so a bit of guess work on which one to follow took place. Unfortunately, we took the wrong one, ending up walking through a forest bog before following a fire break to a river which was then hand railed until we had a clear route to saddle above Blue Lough.

Looking back towards in the direction of the Lodge.

Unlike the path up Donard, which had been highly manicured with large stone slabs to make foot placement easy, the hills of Mayo were wild and untouched. Finding our own route through the long sodden grass led to slow progress once the forest track had been left. Looking back on our progress we could see the gap in the forest where the path we should have followed laid, a mental note was made to make for this on our return journey.

The river was used to aid our nav, sometimes it would be possible to follow a trail, but mostly we were trail blazing.

Our starting point was the left corner of the furthest forestry block.

As we climbed it became increasingly obvious that once again we would be making the summit in the mist, with very little to look at but each other and a cairn of stones. By the time we reached the saddle above Blue Lough, we were starting to enter the mist and visibility plummeted to around 20 meters. Thankfully navigation would remain relatively easy as all we had to do was continue going up and not fall off the side of the mountain; the contours suggested that going over the edge would really ruin your evening.

As we climbed and the sun went down the clouds started to close in on us.

The initial climb was really quite steep, and would be “interesting” to descend in the dark, but with any luck we would make it a good bit back down the hill before darkness would close in. We were all thankful when eventually the gradient leveled out about. Even with the lack of visibility, we realized that on a good day the aggressive ridge line would look pretty special.

Just before 7 O’clock we reached the top of Mweelrea, taking nearly 2 hours 40 to get up. With the wind picking up a couple layers were put on and after a group photo around the cairn we descended the way we came, drinking our beers as we went. Head torches were found before the light disappeared, but we descended for as long as possible without their use.

Finally reaching the summit of Mweelrea at 18:57 hrs

By half 7 the twilight had faded to darkness and for better or worse head torches were essential for any safe progress, thankfully we had passed the steepest of the descents by then. Delphi Lodge was all lit up in the darkness and made for easy navigation in the darkness. All that was needed was to try and judge the depth of descents and find foot holes in the ground. The long grass combined with torch light made this pretty tricky and falling over became a bit too common for our liking.

Returning down the hill via torch light.

Struggling through the long grass gave way to struggling through a clearing in a young forest. Trees weren’t a problem however the drainage ditches became a great frustration for all of us. We were all thankful when we finally left the long wet grass of the young plantation to rejoin the forest path from where we made a good pace back to the car.

Upon returning to the car park we got the stove going and boiled up some water while getting ourselves dried off and ready for another lengthily drive. With a brew made up and a couple portions of couscous prepared it was time to jump back in the car for the 4 hour drive to Kerry.

View Irish 4 peaks 2 in a larger map

The most technical tent availible, not!

It wasn’t until we arrived at Cronin’s yard that Fish decided to tell us that his tent wasn’t exactly waterproof and might let moisture from the damp grass in. Great I thought, not only will we be getting little sleep but we will be waking up soaked, with little benefit to my down bag.

Some soup and bread was consumed before bedding down for a cosy night in our single skin pop up tent.

5 comment(s) so far, add your thoughts -->>here<<--:

Catherine Ivey Jones said...

This looks like so much fun, I love the pictures!

Keith said...

Hi Catherine,
It certainly was good fun, but also rather tiring, a bit more sleep would have been nice!

The photo's are a mixture of mine and Aaron's. I was going to try and piece together a short video from clips on my R8, but this has went out the window as the camera is now declared lost :(

Stay tuned for the second installment...

Wandering Photographer said...

Good writeup! Shame about your camera - you never know though, it might find it's way back to you. I have a memory card that I've been trying to reunite with its owner and about a month back I dropped my phone on Slieve Beg and it was dropped off at my house the next day by the person who found it.

Great tent ...err ... not!

Alan Sloman said...

"the contours suggested that going over the edge would really ruin your evening."
Nice turn of phrase!

Keith said...

Cheers Simon, starting to get into the hang of it, I think.
I'm not going to hold my breath about the camera, but you never know. Not that it makes it any better, but I have to say I was quite underwhelmed with the R8's results, I think cannon will be seeing my custom again. This makes for interesting reading seeing that I'd be interested getting a compact that shooted in RAW whilst keeping both arms and legs.
Ah the tent, it's at least 6 seasons! ;-) It didn't even get pegged down, but served its purpose for a couple hours

Hi Alan, I hope that made you chuckle!