Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Mourne Wall pt2

Part one can be found -->>HERE<<--

When I woke there was some ambient light coming through the nylon and the pivotal question running through my head was whether the cloud inversion had remained intact or if the clouds had risen overnight. Unzipping the tent with the clouds below me was like waking up to on Christmas morning with virgin snow on the ground.

I rushed to get dressed, donning nearly all the clothing I had with me, grabbed my camera and tripod, and then made my way to the summit tor to enjoy the sunrise and get some snaps in.

I felt very privileged to watch the sun rise over the peaks of the Mourne’s, it was spectacular to say the least.

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Is a pink sky in the morning still a shepherds warning if you’re above the clouds?

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Cloud insion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Cloud inversion sunrise over the Mournes from Slieve Binian

Not a bad pitch in the end.

After having a very relaxed breakfast it was a rather swift pack up and a rather rushed descent where possible to meet up with my friend Jen and her dog Archie.

After passing the two large tors that summit Slieve Binnian it was time to say goodbye to the inversion and descend into the clouds. If luck was with me the clouds would stay at c. 650m and I would climb out of them while summiting the rest of the peaks. The descent gets a bit tasty in places and the poles came in quite handy for some of the larger drops.

Descendin Binian through the clouds

After passing a couple groups making the ascent up Wee Binnian and trying to reassure them that there actually was a clear view on top of Slieve Binian, I finally dropped through the cloud base to a rather drab looking Silent Valley. It was certainly understandable why my promises of a view were questioned just ever so slightly.

Archie loving the scenery

After meeting Jen and Arch on the base of Binnian it was time for them to retrace their steps and then a quick cup of coffee and a fresh food replen in the Silent Valley car park.

Leaving the ducks and primary school kids behind at the reservoir, we continued along the wall, leaving it at one stage to take a “shortcut” across some rough land that ended up being more bog than solid.

Reaching Slievenaglough was a rather uninspiring event with the top shrouded in cloud and nothing more exciting than a small cairn to look at. After a short lunch, Jen and Arch left for the comfort and warmth of a car and I continued to plod along the wall, with nothing much to look at other than bog and stone.

superb visibility

I usually ascend Slieve Muck from the West after passing the Spelga Dam and it is one of my least favourite ascents in the Mournes, so I was quite looking forward to climbing it form the South, however with the cloud closed in, it could have been anywhere and soon descended into the usual slog.

rocky ascent

Styles at wall junction on Slieve Muck

Cloud coverage on Muck was thick and visibility was down to 30 metres, its times like this that you really appreciate the network of stone walls that cross the Mourne’s which make it nigh impossible to get lost with any use of common sense.

Mourne Wall

Descending to the Meelmore/Bearnagh saddle

Slieve Loughshannagh, Meelbeg and Meelmore all passed rather uneventfully, but the clouds finally parted for a moment while descending to the Meelmore/Bearnagh saddle, opening views down into the happy valley and across to Slieve Beg. But as soon as the clouds opened, they closed back over extinguishing the views they had just allowed.

Descending to the Meelmore/Bearnagh saddle

After filling the platypus for the nights camp from a stream just below the Meelmore/Bearnagh style it was time to slog up the last and highest peak of the day, and keep some hope that the clouds would be sitting below the 739m summit.

Style at the Meelmore/Bearnagh saddle

As I had expected, it was not to be and after passing the summit tor’s of Bearnagh it was time to pitch up the laser, for a change in existing daylight. The wind was blowing hard but the wall created a very effective wind break and after pitching nice and tight to the wall, a minimal amount of wind made it onto the fly, no unwanted percussion would be supplied by the laser this night.

The next morning I woke to the sound of voices and opened the fly just in time to watch four men run past the tent chatting as they crossed the relatively flat plain that I was camped on. Must be nice to make the Mourne’s you’re morning stomping grounds!

The summit was still covered in cloud so a leisurely morning was spent drinking too much coffee and eating more pains au chocolat’s, before finally shaking a leg and dropping down Bearnagh and finishing off the Mourne Wall.

Looking down the Trassey Track

Looking down the Trassey Track

Hares Gap, Looking down the Trassey Track     Hares Gap

Sheephearding at Hares Gap

As I dropped to Hares Gap I was certain I could hear shouting but couldn’t see anyone, however I could see a line of sheep coming down the hill and eventually spotted the farmer and his sheepdog out to round up some of the flock. I always like to see a farmer out with his dog and had a wee chat with him before continuing on up Slievenaglogh and back into the mist.

From Slievenaglough looking at Bearnagh to the right and Ben Crom Resevoir in the centre

As with the majority of the second day I was stuck in the cold mist of the clouds, and it was rather uninspiring crossing Slieve Corragh before making the final ascent up Slieve Commedagh.

Dropping down Slievenaglogh

After summiting Commedagh to find yet more cloud coverage a quick descent was made to the Commedagh/Donard style before dropping to Donard forest and passing along the Glenn River. I really don’t enjoy the last couple miles down into Donard Park and find it a bit frustrating, especially when the legs are tired, but its a means to an end, and a pint of black wasn't too far off.

There aren’t many things better than coming off miserable hills and getting a couple pints in, and dropping into O’Hares in Donard Park always makes the last hour of descent a wee bit more bearable; a couple pints of Guinness, a packet of Tayto crisps and a large log fire, what more could you ask for?

I would recommend walking the wall to anyone and if you get the weather it really is a magnificent walk, although the constant climbing and descent make it rather challenging on the legs. You could cover the miles in one day during the height of summer if you were fit enough and kept the weight down, otherwise a lightweight overnighter should be easily attainable for most, you really do feel the extra weight when you are constantly on the climb and descent and my legs were definitely not loving the comfort gear I was carrying.

Even with the clouds for company for the majority of the walk it was an enjoyable couple days in the hills, however the inversion really did make it.

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

John Davis said...

What an amazing pitch! I'm gob smacked. The Mournes are often visible on the drive to work but I've never been. If the ferries aren't too dear, that will soon change. Some great photos.

Simon said...

Keith, photo number 6 is the best image I have ever seen from you. It's excellent!

Mac E said...

Agree with Simon, number 6 is my favourite but I had to go back and count them.


Martin Rye said...

Your skill with a camera got some truly great photos there. What a wonderful wild camp to remember.

Anonymous said...


Fraser said...

Outstanding! I'm still awaiting my first proper day...

Keith said...

Hi all, many thanks for the compliments :) Right place right time thankfully.

@John Davis, yep you should definitely make the visit, the Mournes are great compact range. Just hope not to be stuck in the cloud.

@Simon, cheers mate, it seems to be the most popular with anyone that have seen the pictures, and I also like it which is good :)

@Mac E, thanks Richard

@Martin Rye, not certain about camera skill, the mountains make taking bad photos pretty hard, just a very lucky boy! It was a great camping spot and one I think I'll return to.

@this teacherslife, thanks and cheers for the shout out.

@Fraser, just need to be patient, apparently the weather needs to be just right for an inversion to occur, got to be in to win, so its a great excuse to get out more! Happy inversion hunting!

Didi Baxter said...

Great piece on walking in the Mournes. Absolutely love the photos.. hope you don't mind, I shared the blog on our facebook page.
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