The Five C’s

Multiple prehistoric megalithic tombs, four mountain summits, a clear weather forecast and great company, what more could you ask for on a Saturday?

The “four C’s” is a circuit walk in the north Wicklow/Dublin mountains. It is more popularly known as the Kilbride Circuit but I prefer to refer to it as the “The Four C’s”.
This moniker originates in the names of the four mountains that the circuit navigates – Seahan (also known as Seechon), Corrig, Seefingan and Seefin.

I opted to do this walk clockwise, starting with an initial attack on Seahan/Seechon.
The plan was to then cross the boggy gap between Seahan and Corrig, cross another (even boggier!) gap from Corrig to Seefingan – the highest summit of the day – and finally descend to Seefin – in my opinion: the superior summit of the four (hence saving it until last!). These are all places I have visited many times for their own sake, except Seefingan – it is a bit ‘out on a limb’.
Being close to Dublin, Seefin and Seahan make for great evening walks in the summer time however.

There is lots of interest in these summits, certainly from an historical point of view at least. The mountains themselves are generally quite featureless (we shall see the exception to the ‘generally’ clause later).
Navigation can be tricky in this area in poor visibility, due to aforementioned featureless terrain and there is the danger of the Kilbride rifle range that must not be strayed into.

This is a great walk, and by the end of the day my pedometer clocked in a distance of 15km – I did make some minor detours for photographs and I believe that usually this walk is around 11km.

‘But Phil, why is the title of the blog post “The five C’s”?’ I hear you cry…
Well, because I had my best hiking pal Casper the Bichon Frise with me on this walk! He made up the extra ‘C‘! We shall hear more about him later. But I will say this about him for now – he is a Trooper!

Anyway, on with this day’s walk. The start of the journey involves a gentle climb through a gap in the (ever maturing) sitka spruce plantations. I remember these trees being much smaller back in ’13. They grow up so fast eh?!

Further up the trail, and the sky is looking a bit dramatic. The forecast had said sunny spells, but when in the hills of Wicklow – all four seasons in one day is the norm!
Sky copy.jpg

Further up the trail, there is a great view west, beyond the shoulder of Cupidstown Hill over to the plains of Kildare. Cupidstown Hill is the highest point in County Kildare (though it is small – only ~380m above sea level) and named after Oliver Cromwell’s gun, I believe. Nice, clear weather for the moment.
Kildare copy.jpg

From here, there is also a nice view over to the Poulaphouca Reservoir at Blessington.
Blessington copy.jpg

Please stay like this – weather!

So, the first summit of the day – Seahan. According to logainm.ie, the Anglicised name ‘Seahan’ comes from the Irish ‘An Suíochán’ – in plain English this translates to ‘The Seat’. This is a mountain I have had a long relationship with. It is one of the first mountains in Ireland that I had attempted to climb (the first I actually climbed was Djouce mountain and then Kippure mountain – both on the same day in fact).
But Seahan was the first one that I had visited, I just did not get to the top on that particular day. That first time that I went here, Seahan was covered in deep frozen snow. I have memories of deliberately sliding down the slopes here because it was easier than walking down! That was all the way back in March 2013!
Ah, to be young again.
Casper has also climbed this summit at least five times before – he is most definitely not a ‘lap-dog’!

Getting near the summit now, and the view beyond the Kilbride Rifle range to Seefingan (at left, the highest summit of the day) and Seefin (to the right of Seefingan, in shade – the last summit of the day) is great.
Seefingan Seefin copy.jpg

It looks like a lot of ground to cover, and the second summit (Corrig) is not even shown in the above photograph. But that’s the thing about hiking – the appearances of distances can be very deceiving.
The sky is looking like it could go one of two ways : clear up nicely, or get cloudier. We shall see what the Weather Gods of Wicklow have in store for us!

There are numerous memorial plaques in the hills of Dublin and Wicklow – and there is one just below the summit of Seahan/Seechon – dedicated to an ‘Alan Nolan’ here. I do not know who he was but this is a wonderful place for such a memorial.Alan Nolan copy.jpg

Switching to my favourite long range lens now (the Zeiss 100mm) and the view over to Seefin mountain is quite pleasing. The dark terrain feature slicing down the mountain is a re-entrant known as ‘The Slade’ according to my map (at centre). I whimsically refer to it as ‘The Slide’. But I am silly like that.  Rising above the top of the ‘slide’ is Mullaghcleevan, the second highest mountain in Wicklow and just right of that in the far distance is the Monarch of Wicklow herself – Lugnaquilla.
The small ‘bump’ at the top of Seefin is a large megalithic tomb. We shall see this up close later!
Slade copy.jpg

At the top of Seahan now, and atop one of the three (that I know of) burial cairns here is a rather battered looking Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station. Getting quite a bit cloudier, I fancy. It is warm though.
Seahan Trig copy.jpg

This cairn is about 2 meters high and 24 meters in diameter and all of the cairns on these mountains most likely date to the Neolithic period, more than 5,000 years ago. The tombs are believed to be the remnants of passage tombs, a type of burial tomb that appears as a large round mound of stones, encircled by large stones set on their edges to form a kerb structure. Parallel lines of upright stones created a passageway leading to a chamber which usually contained the remains the revered dead.
The view over the city of Dublin is notable from up here.

The other tomb (a shattered wedge tomb) lies a short journey to the west of here, but I did not take a photograph of it this day because it was unfortunately covered with the remains of some form of barbeque. Not terribly respectful of the local ancient ancestors I think you’ll agree.
The winds will blow it away, and the tomb will remain, I guess. I was not really in a position to ‘litter pick’ this day I am afraid as I was carrying a lot of camera gear and water for Casper and I. A shame though. I have taken many photographs of this tomb before, but I am trying only to share images I took this day on this post. There will be other posts about this walk in the future, I am sure :).

The first summit of the day for Little Casper! Seven years old and still rocking it! Top chap!
He is so fast but usually he opts to stay right behind me on these walks, he never leaves me – unless there is some good heather sniffing to be done of course. He might leave me then but soon realise that whilst he has stopped – I have not! At which point he frantically rushes towards me once I am more than 5 meters away!
Casper Seahan copy.jpg

Casper is a rescue dog, and as a result of his previous life experience, he has some anxiety problems. I would consider him sort of an ‘autistic dog’ if such a thing exists –  I do not know about that.
He does not like dogs that he does not know, he also does not like things that might be considered strange to a little dog, or things that disrupt his routine. Cyclists might be an example, loud noises or other ‘exciting’ things are also triggers for him. He has a habit of ‘stacking’ his anxiety, and doesn’t let things go easily. When the stack gets too high, it gets too much and he melts down.
He really loves hill walking though. When it is just me and him roaming the hills of Wicklow he really comes alive. He loves to barrel around the peat hags and he loves to sniff the heather, especially when it is in full bloom (wait another month for that, Cas).

A short distance to the east, is another tomb – this one is a passage tomb, over 21m in diameter, with a kerb of elongated granite stones. This one I find particularly provocative.
Seahan Passage Tomb copy.jpg

I could stay here all day, watching the light change on this tomb and the humps and bumps of Wicklow in the distance glow and dimmer with the passing clouds but Casper and I have a mission today.
From here, we need to head south east for a short distance to reach our second summit of the day – Corrig. It is only about 1km away, but the ground in the gap between Seahan and Corrig is awkward. It’s very wet and boggy and I once observed an abandoned army jeep stuck in the bog here. I imagine somebody was in trouble when they had to report back to HQ that they had managed to get the jeep stuck in the bog :-/.
“Not again, Private!”.

At this point, Casper and I were uncertain about what the weather was going to bring. My suspicion was for increasing cloud and possibly rain showers. Casper concurred.
We had hoped not, and I crossed my fingers, and Casper crossed his paws.
This would not be the first time that Casper and I had been caught out in the rain, and we have a strategy for this that I shall explain later.

Looking towards Corrig, with the pointy Great Sugar Loaf in the far distance and Kippure with its RTE broadcasting mast at right.
Looking to Corrig copy.jpg

Casper has a habit of pausing for heather sniffing opportunities as previously mentioned, but also for another reason.
He loves taking selfies!
He puts his camera on the tripod, locks it into self timer mode and then scampers over to his chosen spot for the selfie.
A clever little dog really. Here he is, in the boggy gap between Seahan and Corrig.
Casper Corrig Gap copy.jpg

Some of the heather that Casper enjoys on the eastern shoulder of Seahan. Not quite at it’s ‘purplest’ yet.Purple Heather copy.jpg

A curious find here between Seahan and Corrig, it is an old ‘War Department’ pillar, a fact revealed by the ‘WD’ inscription on it. I believe, though I am not sure – that this is a throwback to the British ‘War Department’ that used both this range and the artillery range at Glen Imaal before the Irish Defence Forces used them, as they presently do. These pillars were used to denote the boundaries of the Kilbride rifle range.
WD corrig gap copy.jpg

This particular pillar looks over to Glendoo mountain, Two Rock mountain (at right) beyond and Dublin Bay (at left). In the far distance beyond the sea is the Howth peninsula (slightly left of center).

At the summit of Corrig (‘Rock’ in English) now, summit two of the day. It really is the poorest of the four summits I am afraid to say. Not offering splendid views and having no megalithic cairns (that I know of). Not much to say about it really. I am sure that good views might be had by dropping down the eastern slopes, but that was not the mission for this day.
There is another ‘WD’ pillar here, resting in a boggy pool.
WD Corrig copy.jpg

Not much wind this day at all – hence the reflections in the still pool above.
Another Casper photograph, at his second summit of the day – Corrig. He looks pretty clean still, surprisingly so – after the wet ground we just crossed.Casper at Corrig copy.jpg

Casper is a small dog (really small!) so I basically have to lie down to get to his level whilst he patiently poses for me!
After a pause here, for some water and some snacks we must start the assault on Seefingan. The highest summit of the day. Not a steep hike from here but quite a long (feeling) ascent from the boggy gap between here (Corrig) and Seefingan itself.
A gentle reminder en route.
Reminder copy.jpg

Some really nasty wet patches on the way to Seefingan. Poor Casper is much lower to the ground than I, but he is well trained in the art of ‘bog dodging’, or ‘bodging’ as he calls it! Bog Pool copy.jpg

Seefingan, our target, is at left above. The fingers (and paws!) crossing has done the trick for now, and we have some nice warm sunlight hitting us as we negotiate our path through this marshy gap. However, it does look as if cumulonimbus clouds are starting to tower up. These can produce sudden, and heavy rain showers. Keep an eye out, Cas.

Yes, definitely getting much cloudier now as we start the ascent of the northern slope of Seefingan.

Casper in the heather.
Casper Heather copy.jpg

I shot this wide open (f/1.4) with my 35mm lens. Only the tip of his nose is in complete focus, depth of field (or zone of focus) is razor thin wide open at this distance. I like the effect of this, and it really helps make a subject ‘pop’.
I took another version of this shot but I focused on his eye instead (usually in a portrait photograph, out of focus eyes is a big no-no) but I actually preferred the ‘nose focus’ shot to the ‘eye focus’ shot – because his nose is nearer.
But that is why I took two shots with different focus areas- options are nice to have and in the field it may not be obvious where best to place the focus for the effect you want. Experience has taught me this.
As I say, usually the eyes win but every case is different and it costs nothing to ‘bracket’ the focus in digital photography.
He is starting to look at little bit muckier now!

Partway up Seefingan, and the view north shows our journey so far – Seahan (left) and Corrig (right). Beyond Seahan and Corrig lies the sprawling city of Dublin.
Yeah, time to put the waterproof jacket on I think. The sky is moody and threatening.
Seahan Corrig copy.jpg

The actual summit of Seefingan (“Fingan’s Seat”) is marked only with a ‘Wicklow Mountains National Park’ post.
Casper at the summit of Seefingan. Man, it is getting dark now – the clouds overhead are thick, dark and threatening.Casper Seefingan copy.jpg

Looking over to Kippure from just east of here reveals a rather desolate area of eroded peat hags. Pretty gloomy looking, but interesting I thought.
Kippure copy.jpg

A long lens shot of Kippure, with the communications mast visible at the summit and War Hill and Djouce in the distance at right. The mast itself is 127 metres tall, and sits at the top of Kippure mountain – itself 757 metres above sea level. Construction of the mast was completed in the summer of 1961.
Kippure 100 copy.jpg

Well, we cannot pick the weather on the weekends eh! Sun would have been nice, but if my photographs were always sunny that would be an inaccurate depiction if Wicklow. Most of the time, it is just not sunny.

A short detour from the summit to the west reveals another very impressive megalithic tomb. This one is over 25 metres in diameter and about 4 metres high. Visible on the top is another ‘WD’ pillar.
Seefingan Tomb copy.jpg

At this point in the walk it had started to spit rain, so Casper and I decided to move on towards the final (and superior) summit of the day – Seefin (“Fionn’s Seat”).

Descending the south-western slope of Seefingan, the sky looked ever more menacing – a downpour was imminent.
The view here is pleasant, despite the grey conditions. Sorrel Hill is prominent slightly up and left of centre, with the sprawling Poulaphouca reservoir just beyond (and also to the right – below Lugnagun).
Seefingan Descent copy.jpg

My usual strategy for downpours when I have Casper with me is to wrap the little chap inside my waterproof jacket (whilst I am wearing it) so that he does not get totally drenched. He does own a nice jacket himself but sometimes the rain is just so heavy that he needs more protection. That was the case at this point – the heavens truly opened!
We took shelter behind a large peat hag and decided to wait it out. We thought it was never going to end! Casper insisted on poking his head through my jacket, despite my advice not to – and as a result he did get wet. But we tried to minimise this!

The rain fell straight down in vertical lines, as there was almost no wind.
25 minutes later, or so – the shower stopped and we opted to move on. Roll out autobots!
The sky was not clearing though, and looked to be darkening again.

The gap between Seefingan and Seefin is less boggy than the previous two gaps (between Seahan – Corrig and Corrig – Seefingan). So the going here was much easier, especially for Casper. The route took us to the mouth of the re-entrant known as ‘The Slade’ (or slide as I prefer!). At this point, it was only a trench a few foot deep but Casper had great fun launching himself over it – go rocket dog!

Approaching Seefin now, and a quick glance back to Seefingan (at right) also shows the first summit of the day (Seahan, at left). It looks like the sky may clear up for us as we arrive at the favourite summit of the day. Fingers & paws crossed :).
Seefingan Seahan copy.jpg

The cairn at Seefin is a passage tomb, measuring around 25m in diameter and about 3m high. You can see a number of large kerb stones around the base of the tomb defining its outer edge. The tomb has a passageway that is roughly 10m long and opens into a chamber with five compartments. If you are small, you can climb through the doorway portal shown in the below photograph. However, I am simply not small enough!Seefin Tomb copy.jpg

Towering cumulonimbus clouds in the distance and above the Poulaphouca reservoir at right hint at thunderous downpours in that area – I think this is the remnants of what previously passed over Casper and I earlier – the wind was easterly this day and we are looking west here.

A rather poor looking Casper, at his final summit of the day. He is a bit wet from walking through wet ground here but I am not worried, it was a warm day and he is pretty used to walking with me in the rain.
I think if you ask any dog, would they rather go out for a walk (and possibly get a little bit wet) or stay at home (but be dry) the answer will always be the same!
Well done Casper!
Seefin Casper copy.jpg

A colour shot of the tomb, with the view west on display.
Seefin Colour copy.jpg

The doorway to a forgotten world:
Seefin Portal copy.jpg

Heading off Seefin now, it’s been a long day for Casper and our lift is en route from Dublin – so we must not make them wait for us after the generous chauffeuring!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

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Lough Ouler Via The Brockaghs

A long walk planned this day.
It has been a while since I overlooked the heart shaped lake ‘Lough Ouler’ that sits below the cliffs of Tonelagee. I had been wanting to return but I just never got around to it. I have been spending too much time at Lugnaquilla I think!

Due to the increasing (worryingly so) lack of car safety in the Wicklow Mountains (break ins/vandalism) the best bet is to park at a paid car park that has security. But it does mean that to get to different places, you have to walk further. This can pose a problem for me, because I have many niggling injuries that can be flared up if I push too hard (due to Ankylosing Spondylitis). I also carry a lot of heavy camera equipment. Tonelagee summit was the secondary (optional) target for the day, but the primary target was the view from the gap between the summit proper and the Tonelagee North East Top. The view of the lake is superior here than at the summit area, and the summit of Tonelagee itself was of little interest to me as I have been plenty of times.
The secondary objective was aborted due to time constraints (and mileage constraints!) but the primary objective was fulfilled!

It really is about time the authorities did something more to tackle the pillaging that is on going in the Wicklow Mountains car parks. On my drive home this day, I saw 11 freshly broken car windows glass littered at various car parks. A couple of weeks before there were no less than 7 cars broken into at another single car park (http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/seven-cars-broken-into-at-popular-spot-in-wicklow-mountains-795329.html). What times do we live in that a person cannot take a simple stroll around the hills without worrying about coming back to a vandalised car?
This was one of the reasons that I was worried about the increased popularity of hill walking in Wicklow (and tourism). Increased crime.
I don’t think the problem of catching the scourge would be too difficult. The authorities need only plant a car with dashcam/surveillance at any one of numerous car parks for a few hours on a sunny weekend afternoon and bang. Caught on camera. Now, I am not educated in the complicated nuances of the law but is this not feasible?
Rant over, on with the walk!

Wicklow is verdant at the moment – lots of rain and a fair bit of sunshine will do that! Plenty of colours about, lots of green indeed. But also purple from the poisonous foxgloves. At the time I took this, I was amusing myself with the idea of a husband fox asking his wife fox which gloves she’d like as a present.
Foxgloves copy.jpg

The plan was to head up to the Brockagh summits from the lower lake car park of Glendalough and head over each Brockagh summit towards Tonelagee south east top. From there I’d head up to the col between Tonelagee and Tonelagee north east top to obtain my view of Lough Ouler. Yeah, a long walk and a reasonable amount of navigation work required. I had to go back the same way and I had not been this way before. So I was excited!

The weather forecast was for dry, sunny intervals but partly cloudy. Well, it was mostly cloudy until the late afternoon but at that stage I had been in the hills for about 10 hours. So, yeah, I was tired.

The start of the walk follows The Wicklow Way up the slopes of Brockagh, I describe this route a bit more in my post A Circuit Of Brockagh East Top. This time however, I took a photograph of the gate lock which snapped down on my thumb on my previous visit. Villain! This did not happen again! Be careful with this device, there is no way of knowing who it will target next time and it could be anyone!
Gate copy.jpg

Ahh, the lush greens of Wicklow. Looking over to the face of Camaderry here.Camaderry copy.jpg

The Bracken was high here – above waist height. I would have been worried about obtaining a few unwanted friends in the form of ticks but I was prepared for this. I was not surprised about the bracken height and had anticipated it. Preparations to safeguard against tick attachments and the like included spraying myself (and parts of clothing) with bug spray containing deet and also ensuring that no exposed skin touched the vegetation. Lyme disease is no joke. Warm climbing up here with a jumper on. Must fight the urge to remove the jumper! Ticks are worse than a bit of heat!

More greenery, this time from a bit higher up the slopes of Brockagh south east top. Looking down to the forests of Glendalough.
Greens copy.jpg

Moving on, as the sky darkens with cloud, I reach the summit of Brockagh proper. Not a large amount of interest here – the actual summit of Brockagh is overshadowed by its smaller sibling (Brockagh south east top) as far as views go. I am sure there are good views to be had away from the summit area here – but I did not have time to explore this at the time. I wanted to head for the low point (the col) between the two summits ahead – just above centre in the below photograph. Two more hills in the way yet though, Brockagh north west top (at right) and Tonelagee south east top (almost dead centre). Brockagh Summit copy.jpg

Clouds thickening still. Looks like it might rain. I was hoping for sun this day! The heather is starting to turn shades of purple now. Usually August is a great month for purple heather – parts of Wicklow are just a purple carpet!
Scarr mountain is visible in the distance at right.Purple Heather copy.jpg

Onto the next summit now, I did not take many photographs here because I was in new territory beyond this point – I had not visited beyond this before. I wanted to scope the area out and look for potential shots for when the light is a bit more friendly.
A curious view of Turlough Hill Power Station and Lough Nahanagan is rewarded from here. Though dark and foreboding this day. The control tower above the cliffs has the appearance of some form of all powerful dark sorcerers fortress, reigning over his dominion. Imagination aside, this is not one of my favourite sights in Wicklow.
Turlough Hill copy.jpg

Quite a lonely place up here at Tonelagee south east top. I dare say it gets very few visitors. Not much of a track to follow and map reading skills are a must here. If the fog comes down, there are only a few navigational aids. Coincidentally, the only other walkers I saw the whole day were a small group who were undergoing a navigation training course. A great spot for it. Lots of feature recognition and contour identification opportunities here and the lack of a formal path would be useful (no cheating on the navigation course!). Here is a shot looking up to Tonelagee itself, as seen from the south east top. Yes, looks like the clouds are here to stay alright.
From Tonelagee SE copy.jpg

It looks like there is still some distance to cover – I wanted to be just below the large summit (Tonelagee) at left. I concentrated on the walk at this stage, so I did not take many photographs until I reached the primary objective. The col between Tonelagee and its north east top. From here, a remarkable view is revealed of the lovely Lough Ouler.

The nature of the ground changes when I reach this point – instead of just heather there are large peat hags on a rough stoney surface. Well, it wouldn’t be a walk in Wicklow without peat hags taller than a human now would it?! Peat Hag copy.jpg

Lough Ouler is not a name I know (or could find out) how to translate. From my research, I believe it may be an adaptation of the Irish ‘Loch Iolar’ which would translate to ‘Eagles Lake’ but I am really not certain about this so I would love to be corrected in the comments section below. Now, this is one of my favourite sights in Wicklow!
Lough Ouler copy.jpg

I have been here a number of times, but it’s always a treat. The heart shape is no photoshop trickery – get the right angle photographically and the lake is a true heart!
What a romantic place. It is, of course, even more beautiful if the sun is shining and the waters below are reflecting the light like little dancing diamonds.

Lunch time! Smoky chicken sambo. Nice. Some grapes (as usual) as well!
I wanted to sit here for a while, and ponder the view. Many of Wicklow’s humps & bumps on display here. I’ve been to them all :-).

Time to start thinking about the return journey. Always tricky to head back, especially if covering the same ground as the outward journey. However, the sun has moved and the sky is changing – opening up new possibilities.
Descending, back to the Tonelagee south east top. Some re-entrants to avoid here, so as to reduce the number of minor ups and downs. No point in wasting energy and effort when you are hiking about 30km with a heavy rucksack!

Here is a shot of Tonelagee SE top with Brockagh north west top beyond, followed by Brockagh proper. That was my return trip on this day. Cloudy skies and flat light did little to help my photograph here but it was great to be out!
Humps copy.jpg

There is a curious plateau-type area known as Aska just east of Tonelagee south east top.
Aska copy.jpg

Very marshy looking and it holds a small pond – ‘Aska Pond’ according to my map. Again, I am not sure about the translation but it may be from the actual Irish ‘An Easca’ – ‘The Easy’, or just ‘Easy’. I am not so sure about the ground there being easy, as I say – it looks very marshy. But it is flat enough so no ups & downs! I stand to be corrected on the translation again here. Aska Pond copy.jpg

Scarr stands proud beyond the rocks in the distance and the sun appears to be revealing itself for a fleeting moment.

Back at Tonelagee SE top now, and I noticed on my way up that the ground here is quite interesting in some ways. I made a mental note to explore this on my return journey. There are many scattered granite boulders, some with quite curious features.
Rock face copy.jpg

Another interesting one here:
Rock face II copy.jpg

I hope I am not the only one who sees the faces in the photographs above, if I am then I am obviously suffering from a case of pareidolia!

Another very curious feature, were the multiple tree trunks and roots I encountered here.
Tree root copy.jpg

In an area totally devoid of trees, I was surprised to find these. My guess is that these were very old ones brought up from beneath the bog (the whole area is an area of upland bog) by the elements of nature – erosion. It’s odd to see so many concentrated in one area. I had not seen any elsewhere in Wicklow, except on the plains between Knocknacloghoge and the Military Road.
Tree root II copy.jpg

Curious indeed!

Almost back at Brockagh NW top now and there is small cliff section nearby that affords a nice view over to Scarr (at right) and some ‘silver pines’. I think these are diseased and/or dead, as they have no needles. Look! The sun is making an appearance! At last!Scarr copy.jpg

Turning round, a long lens shot at Tonelagee. The light looks to be improving at last. Photographers will always complain about the ‘light’ and the ‘light not being right’. I am one of these people!
But I try to see it this way: I will work with what light I have at the time I am on location. I don’t have the luxury of picking my days of visits to these places (I work full time) so I only get to shoot one full day a week really. I sometimes get chance to head out after work, but my job is mentally tiring so I do not always have the energy. Upshot is : work with what I have.
Tonelagee copy.jpg

Back at Brockagh summit itself now, and yeah the light is improving alright. But I am so tired! Living with an inflammatory condition means that sometimes I can get bouts of exhaustion. And I think it’s fair to say that most people would have been tired at this stage of the day – condition or no condition! I had done over 20km at this point!
Wonderful view over Camaderry from here. Another good mountain lies further away – the triangular Croaghanmoira. At far distance at left is Croghan Kinsella. Camaderry-2 copy.jpg

Another shot, looking over beyond the Spinc to Mullacor. This one I took as I was descending Brockagh south east top. I prefered this one in black and white because it really shows the contrast in the light. Trees copy.jpg

Having battled through the waist high bracken again, I was now back on the forest track ready to rejoin the Wicklow Way. I was very tired at this point but I liked the colours of the trail here – in particular the foxgloves.
Trail copy.jpg

I have been increasing the distances I hike a fair bit recently. And there has been pain during the week after this, so I need to tone it down a small bit I think or I shall injure myself again. No thanks to that!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

A Green Lugnaquilla

Well, I did a blog post about a White Lugnaquilla in winter, and now that it is summer and the ‘Emerald Isle’ is particularly green at the moment, I thought I’d do a post about a green Lugnaquilla!
This would be my ninth visit to this wonderful place in the last 9 months. I had visited four times prior to that, but I had to skip it for a year whilst my injuries healed and I built up my strength/fitness. I’d like to try to continue my monthly visits, so injuries – stay away!
The usual drill, early start (before 3am), park at Fentons (who were locking up as I was also locking up my car, coincidentally) and then off I go, up Camara Hill and onwards to the highest point in the east of Ireland.

Readers of my blog will know that I prefer the winter months for photography. I like the snow and the ice, and the subdued hues of winter. The light can be better too, with the sun lower in the sky. I less prefer the vibrancy of spring/summer. But every season has its positives. In summer, the days are long and on a fine day, the colours are very, well colourful!

New things this day. I have never hiked to Lugnaquilla when the forecast was for 27°C! So, that was new. Also, my old 66 litre rucksack was damaged (I had used it for years) so that needed replacing, and I also treated myself to new hiking poles! I do spoil myself…. You can see me showing off my new pack in the cover image above. You will need a monitor at least 1920 pixels wide, mind. My photographs are intended to be viewed on larger screens (not tablets or phones). Here is a smaller version, hopefully it might be more ‘phone friendly’. I am overlooking the north prison here, and I checked with the Army Warden Service (near Fenton’s Pub) if I was clear to go here, and permission was given. Always check with the warden when doing this walk, the artillery range is extremely dangerous and has unexploded ordnance.
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Some may wonder why I revisit this place again and again. It’s different each time, and there are many things to see here. The light is always different, the atmosphere always different. I try not to replicate photographs that I have previously taken (unless I am comparing the seasons), and this creates a challenge that I enjoy. It helps creativity and pushes me to explore just that bit further.

Near the start of the day, just as I had arrived at the first summit of Camara Hill. The sun had just started to rise.Deer copy.jpg

Many deer this morning! Even at this low resolution, you should be able to see them in the foreground.
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My plan for this day was to skirt the north prison cliffs on my ascent, head to the summit and then enter the very head of the north prison itself. I then wanted to head over to the great gully of the south prison and finally make my return journey via the ascent route near the north prison cliffs. I cannot stress enough the importance of communicating your plans with the Glen Imaal Defence Forces Information Centre. There is a phone number on the Mountaineering Ireland website that you can call for information, or you can do what I prefer to do and that is – pop in and show them your plans on a map. I’d like to add that I cleared my plans for this day with the warden in the office. If you plan to do a similar (or a slight deviation of this) route then you must check in with the warden. I am not responsible if you do this route, then end up straying into the impact zone – that is your responsibility. All I can do is advise you that you must check in with the warden!

6.21 am, and I am nearing the final push up to Lug itself alongside the north prison rim. The sun is quite high already, it rose over an hour ago at this stage. The angle will soon be perfect for the shot I had in mind for the north prison. I had better bust-a-move on!
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Beside the great cliffs of the north prison now, and in my peripheral vision I sense movement on the cliffs. A hare! I have never seen this before!
Super fast reflexes on my part to manually focus my (manual focus only) Zeiss 100mm lens and I managed to get a shot. Wow, a rare sight. It looked as if s/he was enjoying the view as much as I was!Hare copy.jpg

From here, the view down the glen to the Sugar Loaf of West Wicklow is green, green, green!
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A very clear atmosphere this morning, I can pick out tiny details on the rocks of the glen floor, several kilometers away. Quite rare, especially at this time of year (winter often provides a less turbulent and clearer atmosphere).

More animals, this time – sheep – on the summit plateau – also known as “Percy’s Table”. Sheep copy.jpg

The view slightly west of north from where I leave the summit area to descend into the north prison (I only descended a small bit into the prison itself). Many of Wicklow’s summits can be seen from here. Tonelagee, Turlough Hill and Djouce are particularly prominent.
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Found my spot in the prison, time for a sarnie I think. Ham & lettuce (my usual), followed by some grapes. Good snack!
This is the spot where I took the cover image, and below are a couple more shots (minus me) of the area. Expansive view here!
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Look at that clear sky!
One might wish for clouds, for a bit of drama – but, Gah! Who cares. Sometimes it’s nice to be out in nice weather! It is quite rare to get such a nice day on a weekend day in Ireland. Especially at Lugnaquilla.
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Tough work though, such a hot day and I carry so much gear. But great fun.
Heading back up now, and the next plan for the day is actioned. Hop on over to the great gully of the south prison.
But I took a short detour towards Cloghernagh mountain before this, I always enjoy the view back over to Lug from here.
Hanging off the cliffs near Lugcoolmeen here, a wide view of the south prison is revealed. To get a shot like this with a wide angle lens, you need to be at the precipice, proper. I got some funny looks when coming back up from here, let me tell you haha!
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A long range view now, looking down beyond the forested slopes of Corrigasleggaun, and over to Croghan Kinsella. Crogan Kinsella copy.jpg

Next location – the great gully (also known as “McAlpine’s Back Passage” of the south prison. Autobots, roll out!
I always pause and take this shot, it’s one of my personal favourite views up here. Looking over to Cloghernagh (at left) and Corrigasleggaun (right). I wish my wordpress account allowed higher resolution photographs to be uploaded, but I believe you have to pay for that facility. But at the higher resolution version I have of this, the detail is outstanding. You can pick out every rock very clearly, and zoom right in for crazy details.
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A close up of one of the jagged rocks near the summit area.Jagged copy.jpg

At my spot now, peering down the great gully.
It’s possible to climb up here, very steep terrain though and not something you ought to be doing as a solo hiker (as I am).
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A wider shot of the gully, with the surrounding mountains to the east on show.
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I sat here for a while, contemplating the views and drinking my third litre of water! I had brought 5 litres this day. And drank it all! It was super hot.
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After a while, I decided to head back towards the north prison, and begin my descent.
I had been on the mountains for six hours at this stage.
Passing the familiar ‘dice’ of Lugnaquilla, I paused for a shot. I always shoot this rocky outcrop!
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Descending now, and the view down to Glen of Imaal and the surrounding area is amazing from here. As the day is pressing on, the colours are coming alive a bit more.
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Look! Another animal! Bertie the beetle :-D. Enjoying a snack I see. Eating Lugnaquilla! hold up mate, don’t eat it all – I plan to come back here!
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My last photograph of the day – over 12 hours from the start of my day I might add! Yes, I was tired and hot and at this point I was CRAVING an ice cream. I must have needed the sugar and electrolytes. You have no idea how grateful I was when I stopped at the Glen Imaal store (I think there is only one shop in the glen) and they had my favourite – Cornetto King Cone! Words cannot express how heavenly it was. I think that hiking over 27 km’s in 20°C+ temperatures earns it!
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Please do remember what I said about checking in with the Army Warden when planning to approach (or walk in the vicinity of) Lugnaquilla or in the Glen of Imaal.

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

A Scar Gained At Scarr Mountain

Scarr (‘Sharp Rock’) is a mountain that I have not visited often.
This is a shame.
It’s a great walk and it has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and hills.
It’s not a difficult walk navigationally, and I devised an interesting (though quite long!) route starting from the lower lake of Glendalough.
Following the Wicklow Way from here up through Brockagh forest, then descending the lower slopes of Brockagh East Top (still along the Wicklow Way) brings you down to the Military Road at Glenmacnass. From here I crossed the road and headed up to Paddock Hill, onto Dry Hill (ironically named, I might add) and from there I finally went on to the summit of Scarr itself.

I found this walk quite tough this day. It was very humid and there were widespread showers about. Very changeable weather, one moment sunny, another moment heavily overcast then the next moment – heavy rain showers. Pretty usual weather for Wicklow!

Anyway, near the start of the walk, along a section of the Wicklow Way within the Brockagh Forest, my attention was brought to the bracken growth. This stuff really shoots up, it grows almost as you watch it. Brockagh Forest Bracken copy.jpg

Further on up the Wicklow Way at Brockagh Forest, a particularly wonderful view of the valley of Glendalough opens up in through a gap in the woods.Gleno copy.jpg

Moving on, through the forest and a short descent takes you across a bridge over the Glenmacnass river and shortly after that I crossed the Military Road to start the ascent of Paddock Hill.

Partway up Paddock Hill, and the bracken is swarming here also. Nice blue skies to boot!
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Looking back over to Glendalough now, and the shoulder of Brockagh East that I walked from earlier comes into sight. Also, beyond that, the cliffs of the Spinc rise above the forestry.
The green fields of Wicklow!
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Using my long lens, Scarr does not look too far from here. But distances can be deceptive, and when using a long lens – space is compressed so that further away objects appear closer. This is not the best angle to photograph Scarr from, as it’s an interestingly shaped mountain. Though it’s curiosity is not completely apparent from this angle. A humpy ridge I would liken it to.
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At Paddock Hill, and between it and Dry Hill; there are quite a few large boulders (or erratics) lying about. Erratic copy.jpg

Definitely a change in the weather coming. Skies to the south in the above photograph look to be mischievous and the wind is blowing them this way!

A short shower now, but then the sky started to clear a small bit. So I took a couple of long range shots. The first, looking over to Tonelagee and Mall Hill with the waterfall of Mall Brook visible.
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This second long range shot, looks over to Lugnaquilla (mostly in fog) as it towers over the shoulders of Camaderry and Brockagh.
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Almost at the summit now, and the weather is fine at this moment.
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Shortly after this, I headed to the summit proper and took shelter from the winds and ate my lunch. Ham & lettuce sandwich. Decent enough. I had some grapes as well! I needed the fuel this day, I ended up doing about 26km!

Dropping down from the summit to the north east slightly, I obtained a nice view of Lough Dan and the cone of the Great Sugar Loaf in the far distance. This is a great part of Wicklow, popular too.
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It was here that the first ‘Scar’ in the title of this blog post occurred and reader caution: this tale takes a sinister turn now. I placed my camera down gently onto a jagged rock, so that I had my hands free to remove my back pack. It was not when putting the camera down that tragedy struck – it was when picking it back up.
I had picked it up using the hand grip but somehow the camera strap had got caught on a jutting out section of rock, and yanked the camera free from my hand. An almighty wallop was heard, probably as far afield as Wales. I frantically picked the camera back up and searched for wounds. It was scarred in the body just below the memory card door, the force had pushed the door open also – and now I could not get it shut tight. Oops.
I am so careful with my gear, but this is like 4.5k worth of equipment!
All is well though, I used a pair of pliers to gently bend the metal back into shape. Phew.
Sensor/lens mount alignment is fine, and the Sigma 35mm Art lens shows no signs of decentration after my week of testing. PHEW. Good gear costs money, but good gear can take a knock or two. Let’s not see if I am right about the ‘knock or two‘ part. No more accidents!!!

Another perspective on Lough Dan and the Sugar Loaf.
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Heading back to the summit of Scarr now, and midday is approaching. I can see temperature differential occurring now, so long range shots will be hampered by this – especially where the sunlight hits the ground (and thus heats it).

There is a cairn on a few of the multiple bumps of Scarr, this one I liked.
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From here, there is a great view of the Military Road itself, with a backdrop of humps and bumps – the largest one visible below being Mullaghcleevaun (Wicklow’s second highest mountain), slightly left of centre. Barnacullian to the left of it, Mullaghcleevaun East to the right and the rocky face of Carrigshouk below that. This would be a great shot at sunrise I think. Idea!Military Road copy.jpg

Heavy showers in the south now, and I can see they are heading this way.
I am returning to the car at this point anyway, and I have my waterproofs on in preparation.

Baahh!
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Bleurgh. Heavy rain until I arrived back at the car, and the camera remained safe from the rain in my rucksack for the whole 9km or so back from that last photograph. Not a bad walk though!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

A Circuit Of Brockagh East Top

I decided to leave the bigger hills alone this week, and instead opted to visit a much smaller hill, but a hill with very fine views of some of Wicklow’s beautiful valleys.

Brockagh South East Top is a hill I have visited many times, but I have not written a blog post about this place before, so I shall rectify that now!

Weather forecast was for light winds (westerly) and rain showers, some of which might turn thundery. Better pack the waterproofs (you should always pack these when walking in Ireland)!

According to Mountain Views, Brockagh translates to ‘mountain of Brocach or place of badgers’. I have never seen a badger here, mind.

My plan for the day was not to actually visit Brockagh Mountain ‘proper’, I opted instead to visit the South East Top only. The reason for this is that actual summit of Brockagh Mountain does not offer the wonderful views that Brockagh SE Top offers and I have often been disappointed by the views at Brockagh proper after the extra effort to get there. Instead I had wanted to spend more time at the superior SE top.

Anyway, starting at the car park at the lower lake of Glendalough (you have to pay in summer) I followed the Wicklow Way as it zig – zags its way up through Brockagh forest. After a short stretch, the Wicklow Way path heads south east, I departed ways with it here. Instead, I followed a forest track that heads north west. Forest Track copy.jpg

I had not taken this route to Brockagh South East Top before – usually I park in Glenmacnass or near the Brockagh Resource Centre, so I was curious to see how the views would be from this approach.

Just beyond the forest track in the photograph above, the forestry ends and a closed (closed when I was there) gate greets you along with a sign that says no mountain bikes/motor vehicles beyond this point. Walkers were welcome though. Walker code is to leave gates as they were found, so I closed the gate after passing through. It had a strange upward lifting bolt mechanism – one which I was not familiar with – I should have taken a photograph, actually. But, as I say, it was a mechanism I had not seen before and an unfortunate event occurred whereby as I closed the gate, the heavy bolt snapped down on my thumb. Ouch! Live and learn!

Leaving behind the gate, and its angry guardian, the route I had planned hits open hillside. Climbing gently, views over to the rugged north-eastern face of Camaderry are revealed.
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From this spot there are also fine views looking up to Derrybawn Ridge. This is an angle I had not viewed the ridge from before.
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Climbing a bit further now, and turning back reveals a pleasant view down to the lower lake of Glendalough and the surrounding hills. I knew there was a better to view to come so I did not want to wait for the sun to totally illuminate the view here. Time is always against you as a photographer! The clouds were building as well.
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A small bit further up and I took the opportunity to take a longer range shot of the lower lake with my 100mm lens. I really enjoy using this focal length for landscapes because it compresses the perspective only a small amount but allows closer views of details and interesting compositions.
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Nearing the summit of Brockagh SE Top now, and a curious perspective of Wicklow’s third highest summit come into view, here is Tonelagee (‘backside to the wind’). I must visit this mountain again soon, it has been a long time since I was up there, and it’s great! Tonelagee copy.jpg

Getting much cloudier now, as shown in the above photograph, and I think I can see rain in the distance. Better waterproof up!

Lego Batman always comes prepared, and he was ready for any rain. It rains in Gotham too! He did mention that he prefers the greens of Wicklow to the dark hues of the city of Gotham.
He was very grateful of the outing, but in the back of his mind, he was always aware that; should the signal be lit, he would have to return to fight criminals in the dark city. Jeez, talk about tortured soul… Can’t even enjoy a relaxing day out on the hills!Lego Batman copy.jpg

Coincidentally (or perhaps a little bit deliberately!), I saw the Lego Batman movie on the same day as this walk. It’s great fun and highly recommended. The same applies to the movie!

Back to the walk, a nice piece of sunlight illuminates the floor of the beautiful valley of Glenmacnass here, with the Glenmacnass waterfall at distance. The Military Road is also prominent on the valley floor itself, and on the right is a shoulder of Scarr Mountain known as ‘Kanturch’ I believe, or Scarr North West Top. This is the view from the northern slopes of the summit area of Brockagh SE Top. You do have to descend quite a bit to get an unobstructed view, as shown here.Glenmacnass copy.jpg

A wider shot of the valley taken a few minutes later. Woah! Everything got much darker all of a sudden! Yep, rain is definitely on the way! One angry looking sky….
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And the sky darkened further…
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Heavy rain shower now. I hope it will pass soon, but Batman and myself (and more importantly my expensive camera gear!) are waterproofed up. Batman and I fear no rain!

Heading over to the south side of the summit now, back to complete my compact and scenic loop and a wonderful view of the lower lake and the Spinc is revealed.  Lower Lake and Spinc.jpg

Some rain fog moving past my favourite trees of Camaderry, with the great cliffs of the spinc beyond. Plus a partially fog covered Lugnaquilla lurking behind.Cover Image copy2.jpg

Sometimes poor weather can help photographs I think. And the images above are very representative of the climate in Ireland. It rains a lot and it is totally overcast a lot of the time. Don’t be fooled by ‘postcard’ photographs!
I have been to this place in many weather conditions (still waiting for snow though). I would say 75% of the time I have been here, it has been completely overcast! Many mornings I have sat up here at sunrise, after a very early start, only to be disappointed by the clouds.

Here is the beautiful ‘Valley Of The Two Lakes’ – Glendalough. The lower lake at left and the upper lake peeping behind the shoulder of Camaderry. Even on rainy, cloudy days it’s a wonderful sight and this is one of the best views of it I think.Lakes 50 copy.jpg

Descending further, almost back to the forest line. A bit of light creates some drama on this boulder here. Look at the moody sky! Another downpour imminent, I think.Drama copy.jpg

I was right. Boy, did it RAIN! I did have some shelter from the forestry but wow!

Almost back at the car park, and the ‘Little Yellow Man’ of The Wicklow Way reassuringly points the way!LYM copy.jpg

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

Hazy Views At Mullaghcleevaun

A new walk this time.
A walk to (almost) the middle of the Wicklow Mountains.
I had not attempted Mullaghcleevaun from Ballynultagh Gap before, so I was excited about this one. It looked straightforward enough on the map.
I had been to Black Hill before (many times), as part of a walk to Silsean and Moanbane, and also on it’s own and I have also been to Mullaghcleevaun before (a few times).
A couple of times, I hiked to Mullaghcleevaun via Carrigshouk, Stoney Hill (Mullaghcleevaun East Top) and then onto Mullaghcleevaun itself – it’s a good walk and I think it’s probably the easiest route of the three I describe here. Car park safety below Carrigshouk is an issue though.
Another visit to Mullaghcleevaun was via a tough (the hardest of the three routes here), five summit hike from Sally Gap -> taking in Carrigvore, Gravale, Duff Hill (tough pull up from the col between Gravale and Duff Hill), Stoney Hill and then finally Mullaghcleevaun. That was a tough day, and upon reaching Mullaghcleevaun and sitting down for lunch – I realised I had left it in the car boot. OUCH.
Yep, that was a real sinking feeling alright. I had to head back the way I came, over four mountains, with an empty belly! There was a further surprise this day, and not one I was grateful for – when I finally got back to the car – it had been broken into (though presumably, not for my lunch – which was still in the boot – and had not even been tampered with). Parking anywhere north of (and including) Sally Gap, or on the Military Road itself for any length of time is ill advised these days – but it was not this way more than four years ago when I started walking. As the hills get more popular, I fear the crime will increase.

I have had some problems with my big toe joint on my left foot for about two weeks now, so I have been resting up a bit. Weight bearing and flexing is painful, in addition, a trapped nerve in my left foot, 2nd and 3rd toes) has also been playing up (Morton’s Neuroma). A painful condition, and I often say ‘unhappy feet, unhappy person’. It’s difficult to not be irritable when standing up and walking is painful. But the resting didn’t seem to help much so I thought it might be a good idea to do a bit of ‘gentle exercise’ and attempt Mullaghcleevaun and see did the exercise help. I suspect that a lot of people would probably not classify hiking up Wicklow’s second highest mountain as ‘gentle exercise’ but I had been wanting to return here for ages! My physiotherapist gave me the go-ahead, so I rolled the dice. We’ll see in a few days if it helped or hurt, but initial reports state that the pain is still the same – so no point in resting then! Readers of this blog will know how much I hate the word ‘rest’. My physiotherapist describes my left foot as ‘very complex’ and a ‘lifelong battle’. Joy! I do wear custom orthotics but there is still the outstanding issue of Ankylosing Spondylitis, which causes me pain and is no doubt the underlying cause of my lower limb/back pain. I would say surgery is in my future!

Anyway, negativity over with – a beautiful sunny (though hazy) evening and the second highest mountain in Wicklow beckons! On with the journey…
After getting a (very) generous lift to Ballynultagh Gap car park, between Sorrel Hill and Black Hill itself – I did my usual stretches, applied a ‘metatarsal pressure pad’ to both feet (I was hoping this would help with my left foot big toe joint) and gauged the journey ahead. It looked far. No problem, car safety not an issue this day.Looks Far copy.jpg

There is a nice path (most of the way) up to the top of Black Hill, so ascent is straightforward. Looking back over the shoulder of Sorrel Hill (at left) towards the Kilbride chain of summits – the four C’s (Seahan, Corrig, Seefingan and Seefin). Only Seahan, Seefin and Seefingan are visible in the photograph below, Corrig (the poor sibling for many reasons which I will document another time) is obscured – I must do that circuit again at some point. So many adventures to be had in Wicklow! 3 C's copy.jpg

Wow, I am already two photographs in and I have forgotten to mention the view over Blessington and Poulaphouca Reservoir. I am getting carried away! The reservoir itself is vast and (despite appearances) man – made. Poulaphouca translates as “the Púca’s hole”. A Púca is a creature in Celtic mythology – they can be bringers of both good and bad fortune, either help or hinder rural and marine communities. The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take on the appearance of black horses, goats and hares. I’ve never seen a live one, mind. Or MAYBE I HAVE! I have seen many black horses, goats and hares in my time in Wicklow!
The view itself from Ballynultagh Gap is vast, but in my experience does not translate to a good photograph. I took one anyway!
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The summit of Black Hill has no interesting features really, only a wet boggy patch and a ‘Wicklow Mountains National Park’ post. Nice views to Mullaghcleevaun though:Black Hill Summit copy.jpg

Looks like there is some ground to cover!

Descending the slopes of Black Hill now, heading in a south-easterly direction – a nice view of the Mullaghcleevaun massif is revealed.
Mullaghcleevaun is at right of center, at distance. Stoney Hill (the ‘East Top’), slightly left of that. Near center is a peat ditch, not really a path. Beyond that (towards the right hand side) is a labyrinth of peat hags – many of which were taller than me. Where the peat hags end, the final climb begins in earnest – a steep slope onto the broad summit of Mullaghcleevaun. Tough work going up, it was a warm evening. I was more concerned about the descent with my blinking left foot though! Trust me, that slope is steeper than it looks. Mullaghcleevaun trail copy.jpg

The trail I was following peters out in the gap between Mullaghcleevaun and Black Hill. The ground in the col itself is very wet, even under dry weather. Leather boots are a must!

Heading up the north-western shoulder of Mullaghcleevaun now, and there is a faint trail, one which I lost and then found again at various intervals. Not a trail that can be relied upon, so navigation skills are a must. I actually think Mullaghcleevaun can pose more problems than Lugnaquilla in some ways. It is much less frequented, so the trails are sparse and sporadic – and because you are less likely to meet other people here, if you do hit a spot of bother then help is not close at hand. The day I did this walk, I met nobody at Mullaghcleevaun. Not a single person. Granted, I did do the walk in the evening but it was a glorious evening. Some of the tortured and weathered peat hags you can expect to encounter if you do this walk:
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Looking over to Silsean and Moanbane beyond Billy Byrne’s Gap just before the last pull up to Mullaghcleevaun. Yeah, I took a rest break here and had a couple of bananas and oranges. I needed some fuel! Billy Byrne's Gap copy.jpg

Just over half way up the steep western slope of Mullaghcleevaun now, and some walkers have built a few navigation aid cairns. How precarious this one looked! I wondered how long it had been here, and how long until the gales blow it over. But it could have been here for years for all I know. Lovely blue skies.
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Finally! At the summit now, and standing on the second highest mountain in Wicklow. And I have it all to myself, on such an amazing evening. Tonelagee looms beyond the triangulation station in the photograph below.Trig copy.jpg

Because I know where many of the Trig stations in the Wicklow Mountains are, I always find it a fun game to ‘connect the trigs’ mentally. I am a nerd like that. Tonelagee has a trig and from this spot, Lugnaquilla was also visible this day, as was Djouce, Seahan, Keadeen and Kippure (which also have trigs). Connect the trigs! Try it, it’s fun!

Lots to see up here, and it is late in the day now. Only a few hours until sunset. No time for rest breaks. There are two memorials (that I know of) at the summit of Mullaghcleevaun, and a further one between Duff Hill and East Top, but I would not be going there this day.
The first memorial I visited this day was the An Óige plaque, attached to a granite boulder. This is dedicated to three Wicklow hikers who drowned at Clogher head. I composed this hoping that readers would be able to read the text, unless you are using a small phone screen! My blog is best viewed on larger screens, but if you are using a phone – the text reads:

“In perpetual memory of three Wicklow hikers who loved these hills so well:
Peter Purfield, Joseph O’Gorman, Matthew Porter – Drowned at Clogher Head July 17th 1945 R.I.P. – Erected by fellow hostellers of An Óige – 1945.”
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Another view of the memorial, with the view east – Duff Hill, Gravale, War Hill and Djouce prominent in the distance.An Oige copy.jpg

The second memorial, which I had not seen before but made an effort to seek out this day, is dedicated to a Pat Redmond:
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I have always thought the view from the summit of Mullaghcleevaun is a bit of a disappointment – it’s a large swollen hump of a summit. But (much like Lug, and Wicklow in general, really) good views can be had by dropping down to the steeper slopes of the mountain.
I opted to head to the steep ground above Cleevaun lough, nestled below the northern cliffs of Mullaghcleevaun. From here, the view north is expansive. I had wanted to drop down further – to get an undisturbed view of the lake, but mindful of my big toe pain, I opted against it. I also wanted to spend more time at the other side of the summit.
It is believed that Mullaghcleevaun (‘Summit of the Cradle’) acquired its name from the little lake:Lough Cleevaun copy.jpg

Another photograph of the lake, with the chain of summits leading towards Sally gap at right towards center. Some low clouds rolling in from the east coast (at distance). Light easterly winds this day, but the clouds were coming this way. I figured I’d be gone before they enshroud Mullaghcleevaun.
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Switching to ‘long range’ mode now, i.e. putting my Zeiss 100mm lens onto my camera – I liked the desolate and tortured ground near the lake shore.Lough Cleevaun Portrait copy.jpg

Desolation and isolation. I liked being alone up here.
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Heading back to the summit now, I wanted to find some views looking over to Tonelagee. Pausing for a photograph of a bird on some boulders against the hazy humps of Silsean and Moanbane (far right, tiny fella!).Hazy Humps copy.jpg

There was a layer of mist in the atmosphere, creating hazy views south. But I quite liked it, I felt it added ‘atmosphere’. Looking over to Turlough Hill beyond the scarred peat of Barnacullian. Turlough Hill copy.jpg

A view from the summit of Mullaghcleevaun, looking over to Tonelagee – the third highest mountain in Wicklow, and one I must visit again at some stage:Tonelagee copy.jpg

A similar shot, but with a different perspective. I think I like this one better. Most of my landscape photographs are taken using a 50mm or 100mm lens actually. Most people prefer wide angles (28mm or shorter) but I like to focus on scenes as opposed to ‘fitting everything’ into the shot.
Tonelagee 100mm copy.jpg

Thinking about heading back now, it is getting late. But it’s wonderful up here, and it feels much ‘wilder’ than other places in Wicklow. Not a soul to be seen. Mullaghcleevaun might be second in height to Lugnaquilla, but one might argue that it is first in terms of wilderness and isolation.

Hazy views down to the south as I reunite with the earlier photographed navigation cairn. One might be terribly grateful for the handful of these scattered about the slopes of Mullaghcleevaun if descending in thick fog.Cairn 2 copy.jpg

The return journey lies ahead – visibility in this direction is not perfect and the haze was getting worse as the sun dipped lower in the sky, but I actually like the presence of the mist and haze, it adds some atmosphere. A hazy view over to Black Hill and the Poulaphouca reservoir.Return Journey copy.jpg

It look like a long way to go! But first, this labyrinth needs to be solved.
Labyrinth copy.jpg

A large number of the peat banks here were much taller than I am.
Hag copy.jpg

Labyrinth complete, now on the shoulder of Mullaghcleevaun and a beautiful view down to Glenagoppul (with the Kilbride range in the distance) opens up. I enjoyed this view, and the large forestry areas really add a sense of scale.
Glenagoppul copy.jpg

Almost back at Black Hill now, and the sun is getting very low – this is the time that all landscape photographers love. During ‘Golden Hour’, as it is known (the hour after sunrise/before sunset), the landscape takes on a sort of reddish hue. Within the visible range of light, red light waves are scattered the least by atmospheric gas molecules. So at sunrise and sunset, when the sunlight travels a long path through the atmosphere to reach our eyes, the blue light has been mostly removed, leaving mostly red and yellow light remaining. Looking back to Mullaghcleevaun, we can see this reddish hue start to appear. P.S. the only ‘editing’ I performed on the below was to add my logo and website link.
Golden Mullaghcleevaun copy.jpg

It would be a rare hike that I don’t find a single lone Sitka Spruce tree, and I found one this day!
Tree copy.jpg

The final push back down Black Hill where my kind and patient chauffeur had returned, and was waiting to collect me. No car breaks in this day!
I do dread descent much more than ascent. You are tired, probably hungry and all the weight of your pack is keenly felt in your lower extremities. The pack always feels much heavier on the way down! At least there is a straightforward path!
Black Hill Path copy.jpg

Last light over a red Mullaghcleevaun. It was like a Martian scene. I did not ‘jazz’ this up in the digital darkroom, this is how it was.
Red Mullaghcleevaun copy.jpg

Now I will leave you all be, and go and ice my big toe!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

An Overcast Day At Lugduff

Who says cloudy days have to be dull!?
Yes, a walk I have done before, and yes, a walk I have written about before (see The Spinc & A Frosty Lugduff Gap). But it’s a great walk and I am able to park my car safe in the knowledge that it will be safe (which is important when hiking in Wicklow – especially in the spring/summer months). It’s a shame that ‘car safety’ is a factor in deciding where to hike, but I have had my car broken into multiple times in the mountains, so it’s something I carefully consider.
Anyway, car safety aside – I had wanted to do this walk this day, because I do enjoy it and it’s a good workout. Plus, I knew the weather was not going to be remarkable so the walk was more about exercise than photography per se.

On past walks here, I usually start by heading up beside the Poulanass waterfall but I opted for a different route this time, just for a change of scenery.
I wondered what cataclysmic event caused this! This tree has been in this condition for at least three years now, and I cannot say how this happened.Tree copy.jpg

After the ‘steps of the death’ (so called by myself because they kill your calf muscles!) that lead you to the top of The Spinc, I like to take a short detour from the track to perch my tripod on a (rather precarious – I might add) rocky overhang to obtain a completely unobstructed view of the western shore of the upper lake of Glendalough. Yep, got a few looks from passers-by at this spot. Worth it.
From here, we can the see upper Glenealo Valley, the Glenealo river and waterfall (left hand side, towards the top), some spoil heaps from the mining operations in the valley (the white ‘sand’ on the steep ground/cliffs at right and on the valley floor) and the white beachy shore of the lake itself. This is a view I particularly enjoy. I love the winding Glenealo river as it meanders its way down to the lake. Such a calm, peaceful day as well. Little to no wind. Glenaelo River copy.jpg

For me, resolution is king. If a landscape photograph I take is not sharp edge to edge, corner to corner then I do not keep it. For my 50mm Nikkor lens, I know I need to stop down to f/8 for this (experience is a valuable teacher) to overcome lens aberrations. In the dominant conditions in Ireland (overcast and dark), this means a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second at ISO 64 (my Nikon D810 has a base ISO of 64, which contributes to its high dynamic range). I cannot hand hold my camera with a 50mm lens at 1/60th of a second and get a sharp shot, my hands are not steady enough- again experience has taught me this. So that big, heavy and unwieldy tripod comes in handy! Most hikers I meet are always amazed at the amount of, and weight of gear that I carry. But I am uncompromising in terms of image quality. I have the highest resolution camera that Nikon sell commercially, so I am compelled to maximise its capabilities. Yep, ready for an upgrade Nikon ;-).

Here is a 100% size crop from the previous photograph, taken from the left hand side (a bit more than a third down from the top), a very small area of the whole image. So yeah, resolution rules. Here we can see the waterfall of the Glenealo river itself and the ‘zig-zag’ tracks that take you up (or down from) the Spinc. Look closely and you can see tiny people! At the first ‘elbow zig-zag’ as you go up, there is an orange jacket and a yellow one. So yeah, resolution rules!!! But to deploy that resolution, discipline and technique is required. It’s not a simple ‘point & shoot’ task.  Glenaelo River crop copy.jpg

Here is my lofty perch, BIG drop below and you do not want to slip here.Perch copy.jpg

As the seasons change the greens of the ‘Emerald Isle’ are making their return, as seen in the almost aerial view of the Scot’s Pines below. I took this from the cliffs of the Spinc.Trees copy.jpg

Whilst on the subject of the cliffs of the Spinc, here is a shot of a small patch of sunlight striking the northern aspect cliffs. That was about it as far as direct sunlight went on this day.Cliffs copy.jpg

Yeah, I did not see much sun this day. But I don’t mind, I just enjoy being out and about!
I opted to head for the top of the Spinc walk (as opposed to heading left at a junction to head straight for Lugduff gap) and then proceeded to hand rail a rather decrepit old fence!Fence copy.jpg

This fence soon expired and then I was relying on my navigation skills to avoid the steeper slopes of Lugduff south east top. I wanted a gentler approach, sore legs and feet always in my thoughts. This turned out to be a much gentler gradient than the main track up to Lugduff Gap actually, but of course the terrain was not as ‘easy going’. Tussocks of grass and some wet bog patches were the main problem. But I opted for this route as I had hoped to cross paths with some deer. Plus it offered a nice view of the Glenealo Valley and the surrounding hills (though a dull day unfortunately).Glenaelo Valley copy.jpg

Well, I did see some deer – though they were spooked by my presence and immediately departed hastily upon sighting me!Deer copy.jpg

A stealthier approach was required, and a longer lens (I had my 100mm Zeiss with me but not my 70-200 Nikkor). But I was not out specifically to shoot the deer this day, I just like to see them!

At the summit area of Lugduff south east now, and I like to head south from here as there is a small rocky outcrop where I like to eat and observe Lugnaquilla from its northern aspect. A murky day, but not an unpleasant one. Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

As shown above, the summit area of Lug was in cloud – as it was for most of the time I was at Lugduff. I estimate the cloud cover level to be about ~900 metres above sea level here.
Here, we can see (at left) the shoulder of Cloghernagh, also marked on EastWest Mapping’s wonderful maps as ‘Bendoo’. There are only two “Ben’s” (in physical geography, ‘Ben’ is commonly used as part of a place name for a mountain peak in Gaelic) that I know of in Wicklow, the other being Benleagh – which is shown in the above photograph on the right – the imposing looking cliffs above the tree line. Also visible is the Fraughan Rock Glen (or ‘Fraggle Rock’ as I like to call it!), almost dead center.
Lugduff translates to English as  ‘Black Hollow’ – though I am not certain what/where the ‘hollow’ is – perhaps the hollow referred to is the hollow of Fraughan Rock Glen, it certainly looked dark this day and if the sun were behind it (as is the case on a clear day in winter) then the glen most certainly would be very dark due to its northern aspect. If someone knows what the ‘hollow’ is, please correct me in the comments!
Then finally, that dark towering hulk that is Lugnaquilla itself – slightly left of center, rising up into the clouds.

A closer view of Bendoo and Lugnaquilla, with fog rolling off the cliffs of the south prison of Lugnaquilla. A great approach to Lugnaquilla itself is to start at the bottom of the Fraughan Rock Glen and follow the forest track (bottom right) up to the Fraughan Rock Brook and handrail the waterfall up. Tough work going up, even harder going down, it’s quite steep, wet and slippery in places. I must do that walk again soon, it’s amazing, but it is tough on weak/injured/overused/arthritic joints. From the Hollow Of Luqueer, at the top of the waterfall, swinging slightly north of west helps avoid some steep rocky terrace areas and then when on higher ground and past the terraces a heading south east will take you to past Cannow mountain and onto the Lugnaquilla plateau itself. Lugnaquilla 100mm copy.jpg

Starting to head back now, lunch had and exercise complete – the conical Croaghanmoira stands proud to the south east, with Carrawaystick waterfall visible near bottom right. Yep, I know Wicklow pretty well!Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

Back on the Spinc boardwalk now, and boy – it’s pretty busy! One of the things I find fascinating about walking in Wicklow, is that some places are completely deserted, while other places can be like Piccadilly Circus! As readers of this blog will know, I prefer the quieter spots.

Here is a view of the rocky area (my lofty perch) I was sat atop for my earlier images of the day, on the right hand side. At left we see the slopes of Camaderry, another regular haunt of mine! Phil's Seat copy.jpg

Back at the car and another great day in the hills. Time for an Indian take away when I get home I think (I love Chicken Madras!).

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Dad today!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.