Camenabologue Via The Table Track

I have not visited Camenabologue for years, and never from this direction.
The last time I was here was way back on the 20th September, 2013. For that visit, I started from the valley of Glenmalure.
This time, I wanted to approach it from the Glen Imaal side, to see the views from the south western side of the mountain.

It’s one of the more remote spots in Wicklow, and I was expecting to see only a few die-hard walkers on this trip (my suspicions were correct! I saw only one group of four).

The weather forecast on the day was for calm winds and partly cloudy skies, with a chance of rain. So, in the hills of Wicklow – an almost certainty of rain!
The route started at a regular starting point of mine – Fenton’s Pub in the Glen of Imaal.
From here, I would walk a couple of kilometres on the road, past the entrance to Leitrim Graveyard, and the ruins of Leitrim Barracks and up to the forest track at “Tim’s Crossroad” – a crossroad near the Knickeen Ogham Stone of Imaal. You can see more information about this area on my post about a hike to Knocknamunnion. I would be following the same journey for the most part, but I would be going much further this day – following the Table Track up and on to Camenabologue itself.

This route is one of only two approved routes near/within the Glen of Imaal Army Artillery range (the other route being the route up Camara Hill to Lugnaquilla – one I know very well!), so it’s best to check in with the warden office before planning to take this route. And of course, it cannot be done when the army are using the range.

Camenabologue ( ‘step/pass of the bullocks’) rests in a magnificent area, an area I am very familiar with and find fascinating personally. Camenabologue forms one of the high walls that cut off Glen Imaal from its neighbouring valley – Glenmalure.

A short walk down from the pub, at Seskin Bridge (passing over the river Slaney), the first view over to Lugnaquilla presented itself. In fog – not unusual for a September morning!
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Autumn is just about here now in Wicklow, the leaves are turning all sorts of hues of gold and yellow but have not yet fallen at the time of this walk – but I am fairly sure the next winds will start to bring them down in earnest.
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Moving beyond the crossroads now, I took a short detour into the forest to take a quick snap of the Ogham Stone. This stone stands about 8 feet high, with an Ogham inscription reading “Maqi Nili” – I think this translates approximately to ‘Of the son of Neill/Niall’. Ogham is an ancient British and Irish alphabet, consisting of twenty characters formed by parallel strokes on either side of or across a continuous line.
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Leaving the stone now, there are a couple of kilometres to walk on forest tracks now, until we reach the first of two (rather rugged and worn) wooden footbridges.
From the forest track here, an interesting perspective of Lugnaquilla can be obtained. I used the equivalent of a 300mm lens for this long range shot of the cliffs of the north prison. A cloudy day, alright.
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After these bridges, a steep (though short) climb up the northern flank of Knocknamunnion brings you out onto open hillside.
At a junction in the trail at Knocknamunnion, you are reminded not to stray from the approved route.
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As the day unfolded, the weather showed small chances of hope in the form of clearing skies. However, it was drizzling over the Glen of Imaal as I climbed up the table track at Knocknamunnion. The view here is very pleasing, even in such gloomy conditions.
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The table track itself is an ancient path that connects the valleys Glenmalure and Glen of Imaal. The name ‘Table Track’ I assume comes from the fact that the path gives easy access to ‘Table Mountain’ – the nearest northerly neighbour of my target for the day (Camenabologue being my target).
I have also heard of the track being known as the ‘Black-Banks Road’ – presumably the black banks referring to the large black peat hags at the top of the road. I also read somewhere that J.B. Malone referred to this track as ‘The Stony Road To Imaal’. I can understand why – further up the track, the terrain gets a bit rougher and comprises of mostly stones and wet peat. Here, it is nice soft grass though. Look! The sun came out!
Table Track copy.jpg

Climbing higher now, and I have two choices. There is a junction in the track. I can head left and take the longer, less arduous approach to the high point of the track (between Table Mountain and Camenabologue itself), or I can take the stonier, steeper but more direct approach to the high point. Naturally, I chose the latter. I think the latter is probably known as the ‘Stoney Road’ and the former may just be a continuation of the Table Track itself.
As I reach the col between the two mountains, the name ‘Black Banks Road’ struck me as being a rather obvious choice for the track name. Place names in Wicklow often are purely descriptive as opposed to imaginative, it could perhaps be argued!
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Mullaghcleevaun looms beyond at left, and Tonelagee at right – Wicklow’s second and third highest mountains.
Looking north at the col between Table Mountain and Camenabologue, here is the ‘dog leg’ track that I opted to skip in favour of the slightly more arduous approach. I love the yellows here at this time of year.Table Track Elbow copy.jpg

From here, the summit of Camenabologue is only a short distance to the south, so on I went.
As I ascend higher, the sky is gaining an almost chrome-like, liquid metal appearance. The weather in Ireland is very changeable, and swift in its transformation – blink and you’d miss it!
Heavy rain was forecast for the evening, and I did not particularly want to get caught out in it – a sense of foreboding arrived with these skies though.
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Beyond the cairn in the shot above, sits Cannow mountain and Lugnaquilla itself.
Also visible from here, using a long lens is Cloghernagh Mountain and the Peat hags of Benleagh.
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The north-eastern slopes of Lugnaquilla, before they plunge down to Fraughan Rock Glen.
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Thinking about heading back now – back the way I came. Quite a walk back and the sky looks increasingly threatening.

Back at the col between the two summits now, and I take a shot looking over to the partially forested Lobawn and the Wexford Gap. I liked the rebellious trees that (presumably are self planted) sat higher up the slopes and chose to grow away from the ordered plantations below.
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Further down now, and it started to drizzle a bit. Also, Camenabologue itself became enshrouded with fog.
Back down the wet side of Knocknamunnion and crossing a footbridge, over Oiltiagh Brook, places you back at the Coillte forest track, near the start of the journey. Some of the forestry has been felled here, providing a nice view over to Lugnaquilla in this autumnal scene.
Lug Autumn-2 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 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.
Scarr Summit copy.jpg

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.
Sugar Loaf copy.jpg

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.
Cairn copy.jpg

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.

Sheep copy.jpg

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.

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.”
An Oige Plaque copy.jpg

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.
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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.
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A large number of the peat banks here were much taller than I am.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.

A Hot Day At Keadeen

Another beautiful sunny day on the weekend!
I am being spoilt.
Thank you Weather Gods!

Obviously wanting to return to Lugnaquilla (for my hat trick in 3 weeks), I decided not to at the last minute. My plan was to get up early and catch the sunrise on the slopes above Upper Corrig almost at Lug itself. But I was remembering how much pain my feet and legs had given me the previous week after my second visit in the last two weeks to Lugnaquilla. Not wanting to aggravate my Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis, I opted for a gentler hike this time.

I wanted to start early, but in all honesty – I just could not stir myself from my slumber this day. So a lie-in was had and I rolled (groggily) out of bed at 8am. Sacrilege!
I rarely lie in, but I obviously needed it. Anyway, on to the walk!

Parking just above the Dwyer-McAllister Cottage, I left my car in first gear with the handbrake firmly engaged (the parking area is on a steep slope). I am paranoid about car roll backs in my absence so I always place the steering wheel so that if the car were to roll, the direction of rollage would spill the car away from danger (ditches, roads etc.). Yeah, I am weird and worry about things like that.

Being an (almost) isolated summit in the deep south-west of Wicklow, Keadeen (‘flat-topped hill’ according to Mountain Views, ‘Fortgranite’ according to Google Translate) offers supremely commanding views over south Wicklow and parts of Carlow. It also offers an impressive view of the Lugnaquilla massif and the Glen of Imaal. I say almost isolated, as its twin peak – known as Carrig – stands less than two kilometers away and is less than one hundred meters shorter and so prevents the solitude of Keadeen itself.

Again, a walk I have done many times and will do many more times I suspect. It’s not a tough walk but it’s good for a calf stretcher. The last pull up to the flat summit can be a work out.

A layer of fog at the start of the walk, but my suspicion was that a combination of heat from the sun and the wind would dissipate this. Fog Trees copy.jpg

This area suffered an intense fire a year or so ago – perhaps more, I do not know exactly when it occurred, I did not witness it. I just came here one day and the ground was scorched. The vegetation is slow to heal (hence the tortured appearance in the above photograph).

As suspected, it looks like the fog is clearing now, revealing blue skies above:Fog Clearing copy.jpg

Oops, hang about, I was mistaken – it’s back again!Fog Returns copy.jpg

Ok, now it is clearing!Fog Clearing II copy.jpg

And now we can see the Monarch of Wicklow – Lugnaquilla – looming above Ballinedan and Slievemaan mountains.Fog Clearing III copy.jpg

And Lugnaquilla is unveiled:Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

Part of the north prison and the ridge of Camara Hill visible at left, to centre, in the photograph. From this angle, it looks a long walk to approach Lug from Camara. It is. I should know (See : Tranquility And Changing Seasons At Lugnaquilla, A White Lugnaquilla, A Frosty Log Na Coille, A Wintry Hike To Lugnaquilla, A Return To Log Na Coille, Lugnaquilla From Fenton’s Bar – The Sequel, Lugnaquilla from Fenton’s Bar, A return to Camara Hill, A Camera at Camara Hill – a glimpse of greater things – wow. I must approach Lug from a different route next time!).

Anyway, moving on and up – a small sapling caught my eye:Sapling copy.jpg

Taken using my new Zeiss Milvus 100m f/2. This is very quickly becoming my favourite lens. It is simply a joy to use, and a tool that is fun to use is a tool that will get used often.

The flattish ground just before the last pull up to Keadeen is very wet in parts, so some careful dodging of bog pools and sucking soft ground is required. Like a large proportion of the Wicklow Mountains really! I don’t mind, soft ground is good for arthritic joints.

Further up the final slope to the summit of Keadeen now, and a quick pause for a breath (and a quick snap of course).Lug II copy.jpg

Near the summit area now, and looking south to Mount Leinster. Some fog rolling clinging to the lower slopes.Mount Leinster copy.jpg

One wishes for a clear atmosphere AND sun but one can wish all one likes! Bring back bright and clear winter days please.
At the summit now, with the ordnance survey trig pillar and a large summit cairn beyond. A lovely bright day. And HOT!Trig copy.jpg

The origin of the cairn is a mystery to me – I have heard two accounts. One is that the cairn is a prehistoric burial tomb and the second account states that it was built by hill walkers. I like to think it’s a bit of both – that there was indeed a prehistoric cairn at this site, but it was damaged and has since been reconstructed by hill walkers. But I honestly don’t know – I stand to be corrected on this!

Quite a hazy day now, a thin layer of mist in the atmosphere. Hampering absolute sharpness on long range imagery but nearby views were acceptable. There was also atmospheric blurring occurring (Astronomical Seeing was poor due to a turbulent atmosphere). This can be critical when using long lenses for long range photographs, and will be a large factor that you cannot control affecting photograph sharpness and clarity. The effect would be missed by most, but a critical photographic eye will know it when they see it.

Windy up here, at the top. And quite cool too actually. Jacket time. Also snack time! YUM!!! These are my favourite walking snacks. Snacks copy.jpg

I also enjoy flapjacks and an occasional Lion Bar. If I am planning on Lug, I will treat myself to a Lion Bar!

From the summit cairn, the views are quite remarkable really. Looking to the west here there is low cloud in the far distance but closer lie Spinans Hill (right) and Cloghnagaune (left) and in the distance Baltinglass Hill.Cairn View copy.jpg

Spinans Hill is very curious and a place I plan to visit at some stage in the near future (I have not been yet). There is a hill fort (known as Brusselstown Ring) on the south east part of the hill and from Keadeen it looks most interesting. Apparently, it is Europe’s largest hill fort. Cool!Brusselstown copy.jpg

Looking northerly now, over Glen Imaal and towards Donard. What a view, and so green! Church Mountain at the back at middle, the slopes of Lobawn to the left and the Sugarloaf of West Wicklow at right. Also visible here is the Coolmoney army camp of Glen Imaal (slightly left of center).Glen Imaal copy.jpg

Another view over to Church Mountain.Fence copy.jpg

Time to head back now, I had left my sandwich in the car (accidentally) and I was starving! This is not the first time I had forgotten to take my lunch from the boot of my car whilst out hiking, and I dare say it won’t be the last!

Detouring a little from the path towards the east reveals a fine view of Lugnaquilla and the Camara Hill ridge.Lug 50mm copy.jpg

A view of Croaghanmoira and the forestry that I was handrailing on the way up during the fog. Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

Thank you for reading!

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Lugnaquilla from Fenton’s Bar

It has been a long time since I visited Lugnaquilla (8th Feb 2015, to be precise), the highest mountain in Wicklow and the highest point of land in Ireland outside of County Kerry. This would be my fourth visit to this amazing place.

I have been working very hard for over a year (since 19th April 2015, to be precise) to build my strength up and recover from a nasty Arthritic flare up of Plantar Fasciitis coupled with Achilles Tendonitis. For 2 months starting in April 2015, I could not even stand up in the shower without excruciating pain. Stretching, icing, heating, resting and swimming have all been the order of the day for many months since that dreaded April day. All with one goal in mind. Get up Lug.
If I pushed my mileage/intensity/speed too much too soon, I was rewarded with MTSS (medial tibial stress syndrome) – commonly called shin splints. Morton’s Neuroma is another frequent visitor of mine – I am currently suffering from this in fact. Life is pain, man. But after a year of training, last Sunday I felt that I was finally ready to adorn my heavy back pack along with my 24mm Sigma Art f/1.4, Nikon 50mm 1.8g (my lightest lens) and my Nikon 85mm 1.8g. And of course my Nikon D810. I was toying with bringing my 14mm prime lens as well, but it’s heavy and a tricky lens to use due to some dodgy field curvature and an asymmetrical frame. I didn’t want to faff about, I just wanted to get up Lug!

This day was about hiking. Less about photography, so I left the 14mm at home. I regretted this later. A 04:30 start gave me an arrival time at Fenton’s Pub of about 06:00. Curiously, there must have been a ‘lock in’ at the pub as there was still music and voices and laughter coming from within!

I took my first photograph overlooking the Glen of Imaal from Camara Hill at 07:18. The sun had not risen yet, and there were some nice fog patches in the Glen itself. I do love the early mornings.Glen Imaal fog patches copy.jpg

Looking south to Mount Leinster also rewarded a pleasant view that morning.Looking South copy.jpg

Lugnaquilla is a long way off yet.Lugnaquilla in the distance copy.jpg

But at least there is a clear way to go (initially at least).Follow The Arrow copy.jpg

Do not be fooled, the way up to Lug is not signposted! That would spoil the fun now wouldn’t it?! This is just one of a few posts I encountered on the mountains themselves. Presumably installed by the Irish Defence Forces to help prevent walkers from straying into the Glen Imaal Artillery Range to go ‘unexploded ordnance’ hunting! Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis would be the least of your worries if you stumbled onto the range!

I have a few logical checkpoints that I have established on the way to Lugnaquilla during my training and hiking rehabilitation regime. The top of Camara Hill is the first, the second is an area known locally as Lower Corrig (Corrig translates to ‘rock’ in English) not far from the summit of Camara Hill.

The third checkpoint is a high point on the Camara ridge known as Upper Corrig.
Nice Autumnal colours and a blue sky (a first in Wicklow!) at Upper Corrig looking over to the flanks of Slievemaan Mountain, Ballineddan Mountain and finally in the distance at right Keadeen Mountain. Colourful copy.jpg

After Upper Corrig is the final push onto the Lugnaquilla summit plateau. The summit is broad, flattish and quite featureless. The summit is also known as Percy’s Table, named after a local landowner (Colonel Percy) of the 18th century I am led to believe. What a fine dining place this would make!

In fog, navigation is a challenge as the plateau is surrounded by dangerous cliffs to the north and north west (The North Prison) and to the east and south east (The South Prison). There are further cliffs to the north, overlooking Benleagh and Fraughan rock glen (see my previous post here about this area). But I would not be going near this area today, I didn’t want to push my luck pain-wise and do too many kilometres.

There are ‘navigation hints’ that may assist you when in dense fog, but you need to know their meanings, where they are, and how they can help you. Here is a walker-built navigation cairn partway up the final slope to Lugnaquilla.Navigation aid cairn copy.jpg

The final slopes of Lugnaquilla has a tricky (but not too difficult) rocky section to negotiate. Here I am looking south west down onto Slievemaan and the ‘Muddy Floor’ of wet peat that separates it from Lugnaquilla.The Muddy Floor of Slieve Maan Wide angle copy.jpg

Even on fine days, Lug can be completely shrouded in dense fog. A statistic I heard from a local once was that 3 out of 5 days Lug is completely covered with fog. Mountain Rescue are frequently called out to Lugnaquilla to recover lost walkers. It is easy to see why. When in fog, the mountain can turn you around in a heartbeat. I had my map and compass at the ready! You seriously do not want to descend to the Glen Imaal Artillery Range, where unexploded ordnance might kill you. Does not sound too enticing huh!?

Almost there, I am now on the last stretch of the plateau to the summit. Looking over to the shoulder of Cannow mountain with Camenabologue mountain just beyond. Lower summits than my target, and already the fog is moving in.Fog rolling off Cannow copy.jpg

What is this?! A rare sighting! A Phil in front of the camera! Here I am at the summit. Boy am I glad to see you Mr Summit! In clear weather too! Phil Lug copy.jpg

This clear weather did not last long. Just enough time to set up the tripod and set the camera to self timer mode. I believe I was the first up here this day!

Anyway, I put myself back behind the camera – where I belong – and descended slightly to a spot I like to view the North Prison from. I had my much deserved lunch here. Given that the North Prison has North facing cliffs, the sunlight never directly touches them at this time of day and year.Lugnaquilla North Prison copy.jpg

The clouds we see here, are literally just above my head. Yeah, I kind of knew it was going to be time to get the compass ready soon.Fog incoming copy.jpg

Soon after this, the fog came rolling in, and danced its way down the steep slopes and cliffs of the North Prison like spectres from a forgotten world. Fog Spectres copy.jpg

Yep, I came here for the views!I came here for the views copy.jpg

I decided to wait, to see if the fog would lift. I was confident that I could find my way down even if the fog got worse. Plus, it was still early in the day, and at this moment in time I had this popular mountain all to myself. I took the opportunity to rest my legs and eat some rather tasty grapes. Yum :-).

I was right to wait, as there was a partial (and temporary) clearance. Here I am looking down to another good pal of mine, the Sugar Loaf of West Wicklow (you can read about this guy in my blog post here).Looking down to the Sugar Loaf copy.jpg

Here I am looking inside the North Prison after a partial clearance. I wish I had my 14mm lens at this point. So wide, is the corrie, that 24mm is simply not wide enough in this instance. My favourite 35mm lens certainly wouldn’t have been much use at this spot. But I will find a spot where it will work ;-).The North Prison copy.jpg

We are getting to that time now. It’s important to remember that we are merely visitors to these wonderful places. Ultimately we have to leave to return to the daily grind of our day jobs. Rock copy.jpg

Of course there are (as I often say!) always things to see on the way back down.Little Slaney copy.jpg

I shall return, and I will bring my 14mm lens next time!
The next time I visit, I will also take a detour to over look the South Prison – I didn’t do this on sunday as I did not want to ‘push my luck’.

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!

Give me some Sugar (Loaf)

I went for an evening stroll on Saturday as I wanted to catch the sunset over Glen Imaal. I opted for The Sugar Loaf Mountain in West Wicklow, another regular haunt of mine!Sugar Loaf Walk Start copy.jpg

A cloudy start to the walk, but I was led to believe that after a shower or two, the sky would clear and the sun would pop out. I was not misled, thank you!!!Hungry copy.jpg

As I spend so much of my free time in the outdoors, I always find it curious to see the slow transformation of the seasons. Out with the old and in with the new, so to speak!Seasons End copy.jpg

Of course, anybody who knows me well will be all too aware (due to my repeated declaration!) that winter is my favourite season of all. A nice bright winters day, with snow on the mountains is difficult to beat in my opinion.

The Sugar Loaf in West Wicklow (also known as Black Mountain) is one of three mountains in Wicklow that bear the name ‘Sugar Loaf’. They are called the Sugar Loaf (or loaves) due to their conical nature and resemblance to sugarloaf sugar.

The West Wicklow Sugar Loaf is the superior ‘Sugar Loaf’ by my reckoning, largely because of the seclusion it offers, which appeals to me greatly. But also because of the view it offers of Glen Imaal and Lugnaquilla.

Though West Wicklow is often seen as somewhat unspectacular compared to East Wicklow, I think West Wicklow is more interesting from a personal point of view. Most of the trails here are ‘off the beaten track’, and whilst the hordes swarm to the likes of The Great Sugar Loaf and Djouce Mountain, on any given sunny Sunday – you will probably only see veteran walkers (if you see anyone at all) in the isolated summits of West Wicklow.

Well I can safely say the gorse is alive and well on the lower slopes of the mountain!Gorse copy.jpg

I have been searching for some time now for the optimal view point of the North Prison of Lugnaquilla. The North Prison is a glacial corrie, carved out by a slow moving river of ice thousands of years ago. Lugnaquilla itself is a bulky mountain and Wicklow’s highest (I think I might have said that before!). It has a large plateau-type summit area, bounded on two sides by steep glacial corries called “North Prison” and “South Prison”. I have established the optimal viewing point for The South Prison, so that adventure is done for now, until Winter when the mountains in Wicklow come alive.
I am not sure why it is called a ‘Prison’ though, but my suspicion would be because shepherds might have trapped their sheep within the walls of these cliffs…. I’d love to be corrected on this if I am wrong :-), and please do feel free to correct me in the comments section below if I am indeed incorrect.

As is fairly typical for the Wicklow mountains, there is a lot more to the mountain than the summit, and superior views can be had on the southern slopes overlooking Glen Imaal and Lugnaquilla itself.Lugnaquilla & Glen Imaal copy.jpg

I quite often would spend hours at a chosen location, waiting for the light to be ‘right’. I am notoriously fussy, so much so, that I am rarely 100% happy with my work. I also have no qualms about visiting a location 1,000 times if need be.

At the end of the day when the Sun has sunk too low and it’s time to leave, I always find it very difficult to leave. Increasingly so as a matter of fact -probably because I am finding that I get to go out less than I would like due to various ailments. I just enjoy being out too much!

Lugnaquilla and the North Prison being suppressed by cloud.Lugnaquilla Suppressed copy.jpg

But this day I dragged myself away, not wanting to do the descent in the pitch black. Steep descents with a backpack full of heavy camera gear/lenses/tripod coupled with bad knees and a side dish of Anterior Tibialis pain (see my page about pains!) is something I wanted to avoid that evening.

Though higher than the other two Sugar Loaves (the Little Sugar Loaf and the Great Sugar Loaf), the slopes are a bit gentler on this mountain. Still, it is steep though, and descent is tough on my sub-standard arthritic knees!Descent copy.jpg

Anyway, there are always interesting things to see on the way back down.Heather copy.jpg

And the colours can come alive at this time of day.Clouds and the Moon copy.jpg

I do quite often end up walking under the light of the Moon, it’s a wonderful experience and I’d recommend it!Keadeen and the Moon copy.jpg

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my site where you can see lots more of my work!

For a larger shot of the North Prison and Glen Imaal, please visit my page here.

Thanks for reading!

A Purple Carpet at Cullentragh Mountain

I have been suffering from a bit of a ‘flare up’ this week – large amounts of pain in the Achilles tendons, lower back, knuckles of hands and various other areas. I spent a large part of the latter stages of last week and Saturday nursing this and resting. I put it down to the stress of everyday life!
Not cool, man!
Well, I wanted to go for a gentle walk on Sunday morning so I took my wife and my favourite little hiking buddy (Casper the Bichon Frise) to Cullentragh Mountain.

Casper copy.jpg

Lovely conditions for a hill walk, partly cloudy skies (nice to be in the shade on ascent!), only to be greeted by the warmth of the Sun at the summit, with a refreshing gentle breeze!

Cullentragh is not a place I visit often, which is a shame.
It’s a very gentle walk from the Shay Elliot car park just above Glenmalure, but for such little effort you are granted a decent reward. Especially at this time of year when the heather is a vibrant purple. I liken the Wicklow Mountains to a ‘Purple Carpet’ at this time of year!

Purple Carpet copy.jpg

The problem is, I always have more ‘exciting’ plans, so I tend to avoid coming here. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how remarkable the views are at the top. I had forgotten. 

You get a real feeling of being embraced by the Wicklow Mountains up here, with the Derrybawn Ridge to your north and the steeper slopes of Lugnaquilla and her retinue to the south west. To the south we have the pyramidal mound that is Croaghanmoira dominating the landscape (see my previous post about this wonderful place).Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

There are some sights I treasure more than the views in Wicklow (believe it or not). Here is my beautiful wife who accompanied me on adventures on Sunday. She is a trooper and very supportive of my passion for hiking and photography. I am a truly lucky man.

I am a person who tends to get obsessed by things, and hiking/photography have been an obsession for me for the last three years or so. She never complains when I take her to difficult hikes either :-). Here she is holding my best little buddy Casper the Bichon! Poor Casper is a very nervous dog and does not cope well with other people or other dogs, or any sort of ‘out of the normal’ situation. He loves the solitude of the Wicklow Mountains when I bring him out with me. He is rarely happier.

Hiking Pals copy.jpg

Thanks for the adventure guys!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my site where you can see lots more of my work!