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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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There is a curious plateau-type area known as Aska just east of Tonelagee south east top.
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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.
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Another interesting one here:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.