A Wicklow Winter Wonderland At Lugnaquilla

Short, sharp and sweet was the clearance of fog at Lugnaquilla last weekend (2nd Feb, 2019).
Leaving my home at 4 am, I was a bit concerned about the roads due to most of Wicklow’s high roads being impassable because of lying snow and ice.
Not a problem, if you start your hike quite low!
The roads were fine (I was mostly using national roads) until I arrived at Knockanarrigan, where it was a bit icy with some snow on the road banks.
I parked up at around 05:00 I think, and I got home around 20:30, from memory.
Long day!
The forecast was for clear skies all day except around lunch time, when some low cloud was forecast, so probably a whiteout at Lug. Ironically, this was the only part of the day (after the sun rose) where Lugnaquilla was actually clear! Well, a weather forecast is just that – a forecast – NOT a statement of weather!

Such a perfectly clear morning, a bit of wind but not horrendous down here in the glen.
Already some lying snow here, at the 200 metre above sea level mark. Lugnaquilla is 925m asl.

I took a couple of night sky shots, because it was so clear. Looking over to Keadeen with some obvious light pollution behind, presumably from Baltinglass.
Keadeen Twilight copy.jpg

I  managed to catch a couple of meteors in the below shot as well (near top right).
Looking upto Lugnaquilla just before dawn.
Lug Twilight copy.jpg

Ascending Camarahill now, and the snow on the ground is getting heavier, and in places has collected into deep drifts. Taken during ‘blue hour’ – the hour before sunrise, you can see where the name came from!
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No joke getting up here this morning, tough work. Some of the drifting here is knee level, or higher. The fresh north-westerly winds of the previous day have left their mark in the patterns of the snow here. They were not light at this moment either!
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Sunrise was soon, so at this point I pressed on up Camarahill a bit. It was tough going, the snow was deep and I was carrying heavy photography equipment (as always). I paused for quite a while for a breather (and some calories) at the top of Camarahill, where I was greeted by a (mostly) clear view up to Lugnaquilla.
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Here I was overtaken by two hikers who found the tracks I left in the snow a great help on their ascent! You’re welcome chaps!
It was their turn to pioneer snow tracks now :).
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Just after this, I met a follower of my blog who figured out I was who I am! Hi Jan, if you are reading this. Nice to meet you!

Oh no!
The fog moved in, just as I was ascending Lower Corrig. It looked temporary, so I took a shot and pressed on. The sun pretty much up now, the snow on the ground getting deeper still.
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The fog is getting thicker, and lower – Ballineddan is ensconced now (at left) and it looks as though Keadeen is about to become smothered too. Whiteout soon, I suspect.
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Just as I thought the whiteout was imminent, it cleared in an instant!

Here is a shot I took just after Upper Corrig (I took none there, because it was intermittently foggy). Pretty arctic looking up to Lug from this spot.
Arctic copy.jpg

I knew the fog could return at any moment though. It always does at Lugnaquilla!
And yep, it did! Just as I was ascending the final slope of Lug, it came in thick.
I decided to press on. Fortune favours the brave, I was thinking. It also favours the prepared. I had a map and a compass – and I know how to use them.
Whiteouts are extremely difficult to navigate in, impossible without navigational tools.

Here is the summit, I found it without difficulty in the whiteout ( a well rehearsed routine!).
Arctic Summit copy.jpg

Suffice it to say, it was quite a challenge to read the army information sign this day.
However, that was not my greatest challenge that day though!
You can just about make out the summit cairn in the background too, right of centre.

The snow here is less deep than on the way up, presumably the strong north westerly winds would have blown a lot of it off into the south prison (which is really south east facing). Still, it was pretty deep in parts where it had drifted.
Not much to see right now, but it’s probably about -14°C including wind chill at this point. I was not cold though, I had my winter gear on. Even still, I could not hang around here for many hours (as I do in summer!). It was about 10:45 when I got here. Operating camera gear with heavy winter gloves on is difficult, my hands and fingers are quite large, clumsy and inflexible. This was when I felt the cold, to remove the gloves to operate the camera settings. This is one of the reasons that touch screens don’t impress me!
I have a strategy for this though, I always pack a hand warmer in each glove, so that after putting the glove back on my hand heats back up fast.
Arctic Summit Cairn copy.jpg

Well, the fog showed some signs of clearing, so I headed over to a spot I love just above the south prison. Still in mostly whiteout conditions at this point.
Still very foggy.
Fog copy.jpg

I sat (I was wearing ski trousers) and ate my lunch now. I was hoping the fog would clear. The mountain tends to reward patience, in my experience.

Less than an hour later, it started to clear.
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A winter Wicklow wonderland is revealed!
Winter copy.jpg

Looking south east to the pyramidal Croaghanmoira Mountain.
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And then further, to Croghan Kinsella, beyond the Ow river and valley.
Croghan Kinsella copy.jpg

A shot down over to Cloghernagh and Corrigasleggaun. To those who are not familiar with this view, that is a LOT of snow down there.Cloghernagh copy.jpg

Skirting around an interesting cornice at the south prison.South Prison Cornice copy.jpg

Pretty arctic up here, and I have a strong (and cold) wind to my back. You wouldn’t want to be up here without appropriate clothing.South Prison Cornice II copy.jpg

I was having a great time with some of these compositions. The landscape up here is remarkable right now, almost lunar.South Prison copy.jpg

My footprints above the south prison.
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A (super) detailed shot of the tumbling cliffs of the south prison, taken with my 35mm Zeiss lens. The level of detail in this shot is pretty astonishing when viewed on a large monitor at high resolution.
South Prison Zeiss copy.jpg

So many interesting snow formations up here, I knew I didn’t have much time. I know how fast the fog rolls in up here. And I knew more would return.
South Prison Arctic copy.jpg

Another composition.
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Aw shucks. Just as I had anticipated, the fog came back in. Thick, rapidly and heavy this time.
I headed back to the summit now, figuring that the fog would be here to stay now. I was correct in this assumption, Lugnaquilla remained in fog for the rest of the day. I still had to get down though.

Although I was not worried, it pays to respect the mountain. And whilst I have descended Lug in whiteouts a few times before, always respect the mountain. Navigation skills are a must here.
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Another world…
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Descending the final slope of Lug now, and out of the fog (almost) and I bump into someone I have not seen for five years or so! Fellow landscape photographer and mountain skills guide, Adrian Hendroff.
Hello Adrian!
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Photographer in action:
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Another one.Adrian copy.jpg

I continued the descent with Adrian for some time but I wanted to shoot some long range shots and some snow drifts in the Corrigs whilst he opted to continue down to Camarahill. I would catch up with him later to shoot the sunset over the Glen Of Imaal.

Looking down to the artillery range with Lobawn rising above.
Lobawn copy.jpg

Such a clear day at this point. Perfect atmospheric clarity, cold winter days are best for that. Taken using my manual focus Zeiss Milvus 100mm – the resolution is truly outstanding at 100% on my large monitor here.

Looking over to a snowy Keadeen:
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Some of the drifts at Lower Corrig.
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The light started to get really interesting now, as the sun was dipping lower in the sky.
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It enhanced the contrast on the drifts here.
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The snow here started to take on a slight pinkish hue.
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A challenging shot to achieve, but the high dynamic range of my Nikon D810 helped me out a lot here. I had to push the shadows 2 and a third stops in lightroom here so that I could save the highlights of the sun at capture time. The latitude for pushing shadows on the D810 is wonderful and when you couple that with quality glass (such as the Ziess 35mm f/1.4 used here) you can capture shots that would be very challenging with other cameras (in a single exposure). The Nikon does this, with minimal/non existent noise or colour banding.Keadeen Sun copy.jpg

A glance back at Lug, before I look down to the Glen Of Imaal. Yep, still in fog.
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Beautiful colours in the sky above Mount Leinster in this long range shot.
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The shoulder of Keadeen and a snowy Glen Of Imaal.
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Looking over to Knocknamunnion. I captured the belt of Venus at the start of the day and at the end of the day this day!
Knocknamunnion copy.jpg

One last glance over to Lug.
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Now, for the descent of Camarahill. I always find this tough going after a long day at Lug. But at least I had some company this time! See you on the hills again sometime Adrian!
Adrian pointed out that I was the first on the hill this morning, and the last off it! Not unusual to be honest.

A beautiful day, but not without challenges :).

Fifteen and a half hours out on the hills (including driving) – time well spent if you ask me! It took about that much time to compose this blog post too!

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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The First Dusting Of Snow At Lugnaquilla

The first snow to fall at Lugnaquilla occurred last weekend – some of it whilst I was on my way up.
Howling winds and horizontal snow, with wind chill of -5°C in the morning – that’ll wake you up alright.
I have to say, I’ve been to Lugnaquilla many times but this day was the toughest that I recall. It was not purely because of the weather, I’ve been up in much worse – it was just a long day. I spent 12 hours out walking the area, carrying heavy camera equipment the whole time.
The Moon was slightly more than three quarters full, and on a clear, frosty morning illuminated the way enough that I barely needed my head torch – only in the forest was it dark enough to warrant its use.Moon copy.jpg

The sun not up yet, but it’s not far off. I can see that there is snow lying on the lug already and it appears that it’s getting a fresh batch of it.
Snowing on the lug copy.jpg

As I approached the north prison, the sun had risen and the winds were strong.
Northerly winds are cold too!
This was a very challenging shot, the wind was so strong that standing was a problem let alone trying to shoot a dimly lit landscape with a high resolution camera.
Camera movement ruins sharpness when using longer exposures – this was 1/30th of a second shutter speed – which sounds fast but really is not. Viewing the scene in live view, I could see how much vibration was being caused by the wind. My advice when shooting these scenes is either use a higher ISO (I don’t prefer this) or wait patiently for a drop in the wind and use a cable release (my preferred option). Obviously, sometimes you cannot wait – for example if it’s -5°C and howling winds you might not really want to stand around! Still, I managed to get a sharp shot at ISO 64 here, using a bit of patience and some grit!North Prison copy.jpg

Woohoo!
Some snow!
I wait all year for this!
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The summit, with a light dusting. This would not last long – the October sun would later prove to be too strong, despite the freezing temperature up here at present.
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The fog came in rapidly, and then blew past as suddenly as it appeared.
The sky was partly cloudy all day, with fast moving clouds, some low (hence the fog) and some higher – but all fast moving (due to high winds).Sun copy.jpg

It’s already apparent in the image above that the snow was not going to last long, the sun had been up for a couple of hours at this point and the temperature is just above freezing (though it did not feel like it with the wind chill!).

There is a rocky outcrop slightly north west of the south prison that I like to sit at for a snack sometimes, so I headed over that direction – I was pretty hungry. Starbar time. Yum!
Yeah, the fog came and went, this is really not unusual for Lugnaquilla. Climbing the mountain without basic navigational skills is really not something I would advise.
Fog copy.jpg

On the subject of navigation, an important point here is to not store your compass near a mobile phone. If you don’t know why, put simply – magnets will depolarise a compass and thus cause it to become inaccurate (usually, completely wrong) – smartphones contain magnets.

A long range shot now, looking down to Aughavannagh with some nice sun rays.Aughavannagh copy.jpg

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post about Lugnaquilla actually, but that’s not to say I have not been lately – I’ve actually been once or twice each month this year so far. This would be my second visit this month.

At this point, I decided that I would hop over the other side of the mountain, to look down the north prison to the Glen Of Imaal. It adds a few kilometres to the trip but I thought it would be worth it.
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I was glad that I did!
At this time of year, the sun never hits the cliffs on this side of the mountain, as is shown in the photographs above and below. The northerly winds were biting here.
North Prison 35 copy.jpg

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am quite the fan of rock formations, and it wouldn’t be a real visit to Lugnaquilla if I didn’t shoot at least one!
Rock copy.jpg

Another take.
Rock II copy.jpg

Beautiful autumnal light on this visit, although it was a challenge keeping the camera steady in the wind. Autumn and winter is where the good light really happens, everything else (other seasons) is just practice to my mind.

Where does the time go!?
Sunset was only a few hours away at this point and I had a lot of ground to cover to get back to the car. I started my walk at 06:00 and ended it at 17:48 – 22.94 km later! Taking lots of photographs to a high technical standard takes a lot of time, so it’s not that it took me 12 hours to walk 23 km – photography eats up a lot of that time.

So I started the homeward journey, along the cliffs of the north prison.Looking down the np copy.jpg

Another angle overlooking the great cliffs of the north prison a bit further down the mountain.
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I’ve always liked the view over to to the west from here with Keadeen sitting in the distance.
West copy.jpg

Looking down to the Glen Of Imaal. Long way back to the car!Glen Imaal copy.jpg

A wider shot, showing the distance I have yet to travel. The ridge leading to the middle of the image (from the left) is the Camarahill/Corrig ridge that is my return journey. Some nice light!
Glen Imaal 20 copy.jpg

Gonna feel this walk in my legs for a few days I think.
Off Lugnaquilla now, and it’s like a switch was flicked – no wind at all!

I once encountered an unwanted visitor here at this small pond – a deer tick had attached itself to me. Lovely!
Makes sense really, it was late summer and presumably this is a drinking hole for deer so that’s where I would hang out if I was a tick! The DEET spray did not protect me much here, it would appear! No harm though, I have a tool for removing them with ease.
tick pond copy.jpg

A nice skyscape.
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The sun low in the sky now, about an hour and a quarter until sunset. My journey back follows from left to right in this image, with Camarahill the brownish bump at right with the wall slightly off centre.
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As darkness comes nearer, I reach the top of Camarahill – the last descent of the day beckons. Taking one last glance over to Lugnaquilla – I was seeing a face in the shadow cast by the north prison of Lugnaquilla. It’s the BFG!
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The last shot of the day, sunset on the way down from Camarahill.
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A long day!

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 Trio Of Visits To Lugnaquilla

Spring was late this year. It is almost as if it didn’t happen.
We had snowstorms in Dublin up until 18th March – this is very unusual for Ireland.
Not that I was complaining, I love the white stuff!

We did not have many bright days though (until recently), there have only been two days (on the weekends, so not including weekdays) where I had been out walking and the sun was out for more than an hour. Two… in four months!
And this day, the first visit to Lug this year for me, on the 21st April – was one of them. And it was one of the most beautiful days I have ever had at my favourite place in Wicklow.

Usual drill, 03:00 hours start, camera packed, batteries charged, lunch prepared, starbar packed (important, this part) and of course thermals on. I suspected it was to be cold early in the morning, and I was right. Very cold in fact, because there was no cloud cover for insulation.

I have neglected my blog a bit recently, not deliberately – I’ve just found it tricky to find the time. It does take several hours to go through my photographs of a day out and then several hours to put it all together in a post. I’ve had a few issues this last few months – car trouble, camera trouble, among various other things that do not need to be shared here. A very busy year so far. Well, here is a long post to make up for that!

Anyway, back to the first walk….
Usual starting point for me, Fenton’s Pub down in the Glen Of Imaal – I choose this route for a couple of reasons but most importantly because my car has always been safe at the journey start. Car break ins in Wicklow are a real problem, and on the rise I am afraid. With the ever increasing popularity of hill walking, I fear it will only increase further. I have been the victim of break ins a few times and I do not wish for it to happen to me again.

This would be my first ascent of Lugnaquilla this year, though I have spent a lot of time in the South Prison and surrounding area – I had not visited the summit so far this year.

A predawn shot, showing the ‘Belt Of Venus’ glow over the Glen Of Imaal from Camara Hill. A nice warm glow on a cold morning.
Keadeen Belt Of Venus copy.jpg

I had not realised it at the time, but I did not take any photographs since the above one until I paused for breath part way up the final slope to Lugnaquilla itself. I was on a mission!
Looking back over the shoulder of Ballineddan and the Glen Of Imaal. Nice, warm light – but I was cold! The sun rises beyond Lugnaquilla from the direction in which I approached it, so it would be a while before the sunlight struck the slope I was on.
Ballineddan copy.jpg

Looking south now, over the shoulder of Slievemaan. Some very vibrant colours on display. Brilliant atmospheric clarity too, at this time. Early mornings often are the best for this sort of atmospheric visibility, also known as ‘seeing’ or ‘astronomical seeing’. When you shoot a high resolution camera with Zeiss lenses – the limiting factors in your photographs are the photographer, and the weather. Only one of these elements I can control!
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The final stages of the approach, and here is my old friend – the ‘dice’ of Lugnaquilla. I rolled a 6 weather wise this day!
Dice copy.jpg

It is often desirable to get everything sharp when shooting landscape photographs. But not always.
I think blur can be very beautiful and subject isolation is a strength of fast lenses. I took several versions of the above, some at wide apertures, others stopped down. I preferred the wide open shot at f/1.4 above ultimately.

The summit cairn at just after 08:00 in the morning. I was the first up here on this day, I believe. It’d be a lot busier here later in the day! And yes, that horizon is straight – I use a digital spirit level and my tripod analogue spirit level to level all of my photographs – I do not level my camera ‘by eye’ because that is not an accurate method when shooting in the mountains. Using a more accurate digital spirit level shows the lay of the land much more truthfully.
Blue skies!
Summit copy.jpg

Moving over to the South Prison area now, the heat of the sun has started to affect me now. I was cursing my thermals!South Prison copy.jpg

A similar shot, this time using my Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 lens. I had to climb down a bit, on some steep ground, to get the composition I wanted here.
South Prison 35 copy.jpg

A few words about the Zeiss 35mm lens. It’s a lens I have not owned for long and I am still in the process of making my mind up about it. It has some distinct advantages over any other 35mm lens I have used before but it also has some caveats. Like anything I suppose! It’s heavy (over 1kg) and expensive (about £1700). It is also manual focus only – not an issue for me as I manual focus every single landscape photograph I take but some might not like that.
However, it has almost zero chromatic aberration which is a major, I repeat MAJOR advantage over any other 35mm lens I have ever used. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has very large amounts of lateral chromatic aberration in the edges. This is contrary to the reviews of many ‘experts’ online who only shoot test charts when reviewing new lenses.
I do encourage those who are looking for absolute image quality to research thoroughly before buying new lenses and try to seek out (multiple) honest opinions rather than just reading a lens review based purely on shooting test charts.
I prefer to shoot lenses in the real world and discover their characteristics in a method that is applicable to my own style of shooting. I don’t spend my free time photographing flat charts on walls, so why would I test a new lens that way? I am fairly certain that I am not in the minority here…
Photographing test charts in a studio can only reveal so much about a lens and while it can be worthwhile in some cases, I think it sort of misses the point a bit.
Also, quite often these ‘expert reviews’ do not state on which camera body (and thus how many megapixels) they are testing the lens with. A good performance from a lens on a 20 megapixel camera might be a totally different story when shot on a 36 megapixel (or higher) camera.
A high contrast scene such as the above would totally reveal the chromatic aberration limitations of the Sigma 35mm. This can be removed in Photoshop of course, but at the loss of sharpness, acuity and contrast – and that loss can be significant. The Zeiss has no CA that is perceptible to my very critical eye.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sigma is a good lens – but there is a vast league between the performance of it and the Zeiss Milvus in the edges of the frame. Why shoot a high resolution camera if only the middle pixels are worth keeping?
Well, as always – my honest opinions are my own and based purely on my own findings.
And of course, I am just an amateur photographer in my spare time so I am not sponsored or endorsed by any companies – thus, you can trust my opinion! I own both lenses.
I come from a software engineering background – so I am a very technical photographer and maximising image quality is important to me.

Back to the walk!
There were a few areas I wanted to visit this day on the mountain, and I ended up walking 21.49 kms according to my step counter.
the views of the South Prison are covered in the two images above, but my main area of focus for this walk was an area above a location marked as the ‘Green Corner’ on my map. Reading the contours on the map suggested that this was an area of very steep ground, on the north east face of Lugnaquilla. I suspected the views from here over to Fraughan Rock Glen and Benleagh would be quite dramatic.
Looking North East copy.jpg

And again, trust me – the horizon is straight. At left of the image, in the distance – are the higher mountains in Wicklow, and the hills gradually wane in height as we look more eastwards (to the right in the photo) towards the sea.
A large number of the hills of Wicklow are on display here! The rocky area directly beneath my feet (foreground) is an area of steep, shelving ground. A great place to explore I imagine. Just beyond that is an area known as Lugueer. I don’t actually know how this translates to English but I suggest the ‘Lug’ prefix means ‘hollow’. Perhaps someone can let me know in the comments section!
The steep rock face at left is that of Benleagh, with Bendoo opposite, casting strong shadows. I will leave it to readers of this post to identify other areas/hills here! To regular walkers, it should be easy enough!

One of the reasons I get up so early for my visits to the mountain is that in spring/summer there are often warm, bright days with lovely sunshine but shooting around midday is really not the best for landscape photographs. Early morning and late evening is better.
When the sun is directly overhead, the light is harsh and the angle of shadows can be problematic. When you add heat shimmer/atmospheric lensing into the mix – shooting satisfactory images can be difficult. I took this one at 09:46. Already there was some atmospheric lensing at play here but it’s barely perceptible in the photograph. This is caused by temperature differential. I must get here earlier next time!

Another, detail shot of the cliffs of Benleagh. I used my 85mm f/1.8g Nikon for this shot. A lovely lens, and light! Lens weight is a big deal when you hike 20+ kilometres!
Benleagh 85 copy.jpg

I don’t tend to process my photographs much really but sometimes a tool is required for a certain situation.
So I added a small amount of saturation to this photograph, and used a small of amount of a ‘de-haze’ method I employ. The sunshine was a little hazy but I wanted to get as much detail as I could.

A wide angle lens of the same scene now, taken with my 20mm f/1.8g Nikon. Lovely blue skies. Amazing view here, much of the Wicklow uplands on display, including Tonelagee and Mullaghcleevaun.
That white patch at the right is a small patch of snow. It was due to be 20°C + in Dublin this day, so I don’t suspect it will last long (though it would be about 14°C here).
Looking North East 20 copy.jpg

A fine lens indeed, and light! I appreciate Nikon’s strategy of light, plastic lenses.
Heavy metal lenses might seem more durable, but drop a plastic lens – it bounces. Drop a metal one, something has to give. And as mentioned before, weight is a consideration when hiking.
F/11 – f/13 sees to be the optimal apertures for the 20mm lens, when there are close foreground subjects and detail in the distance. Choice of focus area is far more important though, and this is a point often overlooked by many photographers I speak to. Focus stacking is an option of course, but in Ireland the wind would be an enemy here and to be honest – I am not the gentlest touch when it comes to moving focus rings! For focus stacking, you need zero movement in the camera.

My new favourite trio of lenses for walks is the 20mm f/1.8g Nikon, 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss Milvus and the unrivalled (my favourite lens) 100mm f/2 Zeiss Milvus. But, the Zeiss lenses are not light.

After a snack (a banana), I opted to head out to the next location before midday struck. This location was about 500 meters to the west of my position here, at the rim of the North Prison.
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A portrait of the cliffs of the North Prison, with Keadeen looming beyond.
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An unobstructed view now, looking down from the heights of the North Prison to Lugatroch and onward to Glen Imaal. Still some large snow patches here. North Prison 35 copy.jpg

The mountain is truly more than a summit indeed.
A lot of work done this day, From here I then climbed back to the summit and decided to have lunch at the rim of the South Prison.

A view that I have shared here on my blog before, but a favourite of mine – looking over to Lugcoolmeen from the South Prison of Lugnaquilla.
Lugcoolmeen copy.jpg

A wider shot of Lugcoolmeen, with the foreground falling away below. I do like to shoot a scene with different focal lengths (and thus different fields of view), I find that it’s nice to have options later and also it can provide a lot of context about a place.
Lugcoolmeen 20 copy.jpg

And now, a narrower field of view using a portrait lens. You might be able to make out the small figures of people near the middle of the image! I wish I could upload higher resolution images but WordPress does not allow this unless you pay.
Lugcoolmeen 85 copy.jpg

Crikey, this is going to be a long post. Sixteen photographs in and I am still talking about the first of three walks!

Still above the South Prison here, this is one of my favourite lunch spots. Looking down to Aughavannagh now – a hazy view but pleasant nonetheless. Croghan Kinsella sits at the rear at distance with what appears to be the smoke from a (presumably) gorse fire at right of the image. Also visible here, at bottom right – is the forest track I took when I took A Stroll To The South Prison Of Lugnaquilla.
Aughavannagh copy.jpg

Time to start heading back to the car now, I had done a lot of work already this day and there was more yet to do!
I headed back to the summit then took a track above the North Prison heading south west to start the descent of Lugnaquilla.
I tend to prefer to descend slightly nearer the cliffs than most people do. It’s not easier, but the view is superb down to the Glen Of Imaal. It is quieter!
I’d like to mention here, all of the areas I have visited at Lugnaquilla I have done so ONLY after talking to the warden in the Glen Imaal Army Headquarters (near Fenton’s Pub). I have had many conversations with various Army Sergeants in here, so I am well aware of where I can and can’t go.
Please do not stray off of the approved routes when walking at or near Lugnaquilla/the artillery range.
From North Prison copy.jpg

Looking over to Keadeen and Ballineddan.
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Back at Lower Corrig now, and a quick glimpse back at Lugnaquilla.
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A wider view, showing more of the route and the great hollow that is the North Prison.
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The last stretch now, after the descent of Camara Hill. This is always torture. At this point in the walk – I am always exhausted and this rocky/potholed army road is killer!
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Until next time, Lug…
Little did I know, that in the next few weeks I would get two more visits to this place!

The 6th of May was my second visit this year, and the day before my 34th birthday. I am getting way too old for this.
Another early start indeed! And another glorious day. Very hot though. Tough work this day.
05:12 am, and this was my view partway up the army road, at Camara Crossroad. A calm, humid and foggy morning, no wind at all.
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A foggy morning indeed, at least here, in the valley.
Fog copy.jpg

Gaining height now, as the sun also begins to rise. As I ascend Camara Hill, it becomes apparent that the fog is hanging in the valleys/lowlands and that the hills are clear. I had suspected this might be the case because I have seen similar conditions before. Cool!
Fog Keadeen copy.jpg

The Belt Of Venus above a fog enshrouded Glen Of Imaal and Ballyhook hill emerging above the fog.
Belt of Venus copy.jpg

A similar shot, with the shoulder of Spinan’s Hill at left. What a morning!
Belt of Venus II copy.jpg

For this walk, I thought it might be a good idea to take the triple threat lenses of my Nikon 20mm, Zeiss 35mm and Zeiss 100mm. These are my favourite lenses and the above five photographs were taken with the 100mm. A flexible lens indeed, and my all time favourite.

A familiar tree to myself. This is where the real work begins – on open hillside now and the 20 minutes of purgatory that is the ascent of Camara Hill awaits.
Tree copy.jpg

Well, it took a LOT longer than twenty minutes to get up here on this morning. I was constantly pausing for photographs. It should be understood, that as a precise landscape photographer – the phrase ‘pausing for photographs’ for me means removing my heavy back pack, unstrapping my heavy tripod, setting up the tripod and possibly even taking out my metal lens case to switch a lens and then carefully composing my shot, dialling in my settings and taking an image. It is not a simple process of ‘point and shoot’. If life was that simple!
The Sugarloaf Of Imaal rising above the sea of fog. At right just beyond the tree is the command and control tower for the artillery range peaking above the fog.
Sugarloaf Of Imaal copy.jpg

At the summit of Camara Hill now, a quick shot down to Mount Leinster was worthwhile I thought.
Mount Leinster copy.jpg

And here it is, basking in the morning light – the target for the day. Lugnaquilla.
Lug copy.jpg

The fog did not last long, the May sun too potent. It started to break up at 07:45. A view back to the summit of Camara hill.
Camara copy.jpg

Ascending Lugnaquilla now, and the view south shows some fog still in the lowlands, and the Moon in the sky (near top right).
This photograph is interesting because it shows the nature of the final slope up to Lugnaquilla – a rock strewn affair. South copy.jpg

I did not pause much for photographs until I reached the point of interest – I had wanted to return to the location above the ‘Green Corner’. I was happy with the image I previously took here but I wanted to see it in earlier morning light. The atmosphere was much clearer. I was right to press on.Benleagh copy.jpg

My plan for this day was much the same as my previous visit two weeks prior. From here, I headed to the North Prison and then on to the South Prison.

The North Prison, on another beautiful day!
North Prison copy.jpg

The same, with my 35mm Zeiss. I particularly like the patterns of the water flows.
North Prison 35 copy.jpg

At the South Prison now, and my usual lunch spot facilitates. Miraculously, there is still a small patch of snow! Very hot at this moment in time.
Lugcoolmeen copy.jpg

A similar shot with the Zeiss 35mm.
Lugcoolmeen 35 copy.jpg

The tumbling cliffs of the South Prison.
Cliff copy.jpg

Walkers at Lugcoolmeen, with the peaks of East Wicklow beyond.
Walkers copy.jpg

Whew. What a day. Super hot too. It was around this time (about 11:00) that I was wondering why I had left my sun cream in the car. I know why. It’s because I am an idiot.
Luckily for me, I don’t burn too much – being of slightly dark complexion – but leaving the sun cream in the car was not cool.
Heading back now, usual descent route besides the North Prison and I paused for this almost aerial shot of Lugatroch.
Lugatroch copy.jpg

Inside the North Prison. I did a bit of scrambling to get this shot.
I always forget ‘arm day’!
Whew, getting really hot now in the midday sun. No shelter at all from it’s intense rays.
Inside North Prison copy.jpg

I enjoy rock formations, and rocks/boulders in general actually. I am not sure why. But I think it’s a metaphorical reason. I dislike change, certainly changes that are impactful that appear suddenly. I suppose that to me, rocks symbolize at least the implication of permanence – of course, nothing is permanent, including rocks. But within a persons short lifetime, rocks do not visibly change.
Rocks II copy.jpg

More granite.
Rocks copy.jpg

A bit more granite.
Rocks III copy.jpg

Some more granite to chew on.
Granite copy.jpg

Almost off the steep slopes of Lugnaquilla now, and a shot towards the Glen Of Imaal.
Glen Imaal copy.jpg

What? How is it now 15:00? I was having so much fun scrambling around the North Prison that I completely lost track of it!

Back at Camara Hill now, I always take one last glance back at Lugnaquilla.
Lug-2 copy.jpg

22.40 kms later! Time to stop off in the Glen Imaal store and buy myself a pre birthday treat of a giant cornetto! I believed that I had earned it!

P.S. I like trees too.
Tree-3 copy.jpg

May 19th was the date of my third visit.
A very early start. 01:30, to be precise. Yep, I am mad.
A beautiful clear night, and light winds. This would change as the day progressed – gales were forecast past noon. I always forget (living in the city) how clear the milky way can be seen out in the countryside away from light pollution. Even in this shot, light pollution is evident.
The planet Jupiter and (I can make out four) some of it’s moons above Keadeen mountain.
Jupiter copy.jpg

05:00 , twenty minutes before sunrise just below the final push up to Lugnaquilla. Yep, a nice rock formation!
Rock copy.jpg

First light over Keadeen.
Streaky clouds in the sky like this can be indicative of high winds in the upper atmosphere.
Keadeen copy.jpg

The first rays of sunlight strike the North Prison cliffs not long after sunrise.
Sunrise copy.jpg

Already starting to get windy now, glad I brought my windproof jacket (not optional in Wicklow!). The forecast for the day was warm, with clear skies in the morning but increasing cloud and wind by noon. I had intended to be off the mountain by that time anyway – due to my 01:30 am start!
Climbing up beside the North Prison, I had no real targets in mind this day. I just wanted to visit Lugnaquilla. I reached the summit just after 06:00, 41 minutes after sunrise. Somewhat surprisingly, I was the only one here! <joke>.

I decided to potter about near Lugcoolmeen, to over look the great cliffs of the South Prison.
South Prison copy.jpg

It was here, that I decided it might be a good idea to check out the great gully, labelled ‘The Big Troch’ on my map. Some scrambling awaited!

Winds picking up already, and it’s only 08:00. The beginnings of what appear to be lenticular clouds forming above Lugcoolmeen.
Lugcoolmeen copy.jpg

The direction finder on the summit of Lugnaquilla.
Direction Finder copy.jpg

To find the gully from here, the summit – is not that hard actually, though most visitors to the mountain never see it. Head south, gently descending until you meet a large granite outcrop. From here, strike out south east and the ground starts to descend steeply. The gully will be clear in front of you. This is a dangerous area, the ground is exceedingly steep and falls away abruptly. Care required and bring a map, always.Gully copy.jpg

A wider view of the gully, showing some nice context.
Gully 20 copy.jpg

I wanted to do some detail shots of the gully, using my Zeiss 100mm, but this meant doing a small bit of scrambling so I took this shot as a precautionary warning.
It’s called “Don’t Slip!”.
Don't slip copy.jpg

Lovely rocks.
Gully 100 copy.jpg

I loved this formation.
Gully 35 copy.jpg

Getting very hazy now, and super windy. It felt strange, contemplating the walk back to the car at only 10:00. but it must be remembered, I started the walk before 03:00 am!

Heading back to my descent route beside the North Prison now, yep – this means climbing back up Lug to head down the other side. Easier than the alternative, which would be to contour around the southern slope itself. This is covered with small mica-schist rocks and progress can be slow and awkward (I found this out the hard way, of course).
Very hazy now, long range photographs are not going to work at all now – as the below shot of Glen Imaal demonstrates.
Sugar Loaf copy.jpg

A final glance over to Lugnaquilla (as usual) from the top of Camara Hill, taken at 12:20 noon. It did feel strange to be leaving so early but at this stage I had spent 9 hours out here and still had an hour or so to go!
Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

This shot is interesting because it shows a large part of the journey between Camara Hill (behind me, not in photo) and Lower Corrig, Upper Corrig and Lugnaquilla itself – along with the rough track that expires at the top of Lugnaquilla (when you are likely to need it most in fog!).

Another hot day, another 22.32 kms!

So, see you in two weeks, Lugnaquilla?

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 White Lugnaquilla – Episode II

Ah!
The long awaited sequel (long awaited by me, that is!) to my earlier post – A White Lugnaquilla.
I’ve often said that Lugnaquilla is a hill in summer, but a mountain in winter – and I still maintain this view.
I am not going to lie, I found this day tough, it was very cold (high of -4°C, low of -8°C : not including wind chill), I was carrying a lot of gear and I was SUPER tired that morning!
For the last few weeks, there has been a reasonable amount of snow at Lugnaquilla – but the weather has been pretty poor on the weekends (nice in the week when I was at work of course!) and hill fog was the order of the day, until finally – a break!
High clouds were forecast, but few low clouds – I was not worried about overcast skies, but I was not interested in hill fog (low clouds).

So, taking my usual route – up Camara Hill, past the two Corrigs then up and onto Lug itself. A 05:00 start meant that I would have a reasonable amount of time on the mountains (sunrise was 08:30 and sunset 16:06). I think I got home (from memory) at around 18:30. A long day.
A route I have taken many times, and will take many more times – I love this route. It’s a constant climb all the way to the top, and I almost always see multiple herds of deer en route. There are many other route choices of course, and I have taken them all (except the technical ones) – but with this route you can usually drive to the start point regardless of the weather – the other routes require driving on the mountain roads. These roads are not treated in winter, and the typical advice is to stay away from them if there is snow and ice about. I am a proficient driver but I do not own a 4X4, and even then – it would appear that using a 4X4 only really gets you ‘further into trouble’ when the mountain roads are impassable due to snow/ice. I don’t like risks, otherwise I would play the lottery.

Heading up Camara Hill on this morning was a tough old slog. Lots of snow about, some ice as well. I was also super tired, due to a lack of good sleep the night before. My Dad refers to this ascent as 25 minutes of purgatory, but on this occasion it was more like 45 minutes of purgatory! Slow going. I had not done a walk greater than 10 kilometres for a few weeks, and this was most certainly felt on the ascent!
Near the top of Camara Hill now, and a pause for a pre-dawn shot of Keadeen Mountain was welcome.
Keadeen copy.jpg

At this point, I was overtaken by a ‘Lug regular’ that I had met a few times before, Kevin, and his mate – Simon. They both had ice axes and were aiming for the North Prison of Lugnaquilla. We chatted for a while, and then they moved out with haste! I would not have been able to keep up with them by any means – but, I was carrying about 5 times the weight of their packs I suspect!

A wider angle shot of Keadeen, just below the summit of Camara Hill.
Keadeen 35 copy.jpg

The sun still not up yet, but I was under no illusions – the overcast skies meant there was not going to be a lot of colour as the sun rose. At this point, I did not know the ‘fog’ status of Lug yet, i.e. was it in fog or clear. I had not seen it yet because it is hidden as you climb Camara hill, and it was dark at the time I was at the viewing points of Lug prior to the climb of Camara.

Finally, at the top of Camara now, and the ‘fog’ status is revealed. Yep, it’s in fog. Not unusual! It’s always disappointing though – after the purgatory of Camara Hill. I had faith, however, that the fog would pass.
The sun is up now, though not much a sunrise due to the cloud cover. The ‘blue hour’ is over now.
Camara Summit copy.jpg

Here, I saw a herd of deer running northwards over the saddle between Camara Hill and Lower Corrig. I often see a herd (or several) here, always moving north – near dawn. I found it curious that they always head this direction – north from there takes you into the artillery range. I suppose there would be no humans there at least!Deer Herd II copy.jpg

Frozen grass tufts between Camara and Lower Corrig.
Tufts copy.jpg

Shortly after the above shot, I turned to see a familiar Border Collie about 50 meters away. Another couple of ‘lug regulars’ – Damian and his dog! I walked back towards him, thinking to myself that he probably doesn’t recognise me in my new jacket! We walked and chatted from there up through Lower Corrig, and then up to Upper Corrig. He (like Kevin & Simon) also had designs on the North Prison, and came equipped with his ice axe. A funny coincidence, the last time I was in this area (a few weeks ago) I met both Kevin and Damian separately on ascent and ended up descending Camara Hill with the pair of them. On this day, I mentioned to Damian that Kevin was in (or more correctly, en route to) the Prison, and Damian started looking for footprints in the snow to follow! Lug regulars indeed.

Looks like Lug might clear of fog after all.
Lug Fog copy.jpg

Continuing on the journey now, as Lug clears. Damian pointed out a herd of deer over on the slopes of Slievemaan mountain. Thanks mate! My longer lens was left at home unfortunately, but I like the image my Zeiss 100mm delivered here. Oh! For a 400mm lens! Perhaps I should take more risks, and start playing the lotto!
Deer Herd III copy.jpg

Damian & Dog parted ways with myself just after Upper Corrig – he wanted to drop over to the North Prison, and my route took me up a much gentler incline (no ice axe required) – though still a steep one.Damian copy.jpg

Pausing for a breather, and some breakfast (a banana and a piece of shortbread), I liked the arctic feel of the rocks.Arctic Corrig copy.jpg

So tired! I was really feeling this hike this day. Punishing.
But I must press on, it’s so beautiful.

The final slope up to Lug is always a tough pull. But this day, it was something else. About an hour of quadruple purgatory, I reckon.
Breath pause halfway up, and a shot over to Ballineddan & Keadeen. B & K copy.jpg

Further up now, and the climate is a touch more arctic.
Frozen Rocks copy.jpg

The jumbled mica-schist rocks that lie about the face of this slope tell a story of high winds and freeze thaw conditions the previous day.

Almost at the summit now, and much gentler work ahead. Looking back over to Slievemaan, Ballineddan and Keadeen again, higher this time!
Frozen Dice copy.jpg

No shortage of snow alright! Just how I like it.
A hazy and overcast day, but very light winds. A beautiful day really. You don’t always want blue skies in the mountains, after all.
This military post, however, shows signs of some serious winds on the previous days!
Frozen Post copy.jpg

At the summit now, well worth the hard work!Frozen Cairn copy.jpg

A hazy view down to Aughavannagh from near the summit.
Hazy Aughavannagh copy.jpg

As I sit here scrolling through my images, and type this blog – I am reminded of the cold on this day! I am freezing! But I did not feel cold on the day. I have good clothing.
Time to turn the heating on, I reckon.

Brrr…..
Brrr copy.jpg

The cliffs of Lugcoolmeen. It had started to get a bit foggy shortly after this, not unusual, and not a great surprise.
Lugcoolmeen copy.jpg

I sat here (in my ski trousers) and decided to have a nibble. Yum! Starbar! I love these. I only seem to buy them for my visits to Lug, however, and it has become a part of my ‘Lug ritual’ at this point. No Starbar, no Lug – and vice-versa. At a push, a Snickers or Double Decker will do, but Starbar is where it’s at.

The fog was thin, and short lived – it cleared up rapidly. Great news!
To get the following shot of the cliffs of the South Prison, I had to stand in a ‘less than safe’ place – but it was totally worth it.
Lugcoolmeen II copy.jpg

A similar comment applies to this shot (i.e. standing in a dodgy spot!).
Lugcoolmeen III copy.jpg

But then! Disaster struck! The great scholars of the future will write legends about the following event for millennia…
I went to open my rucksack using the ‘ease of access’ zip on the front of the pack, but the puller mechanism must have frozen so when I pulled to close the zipper (it of course, opened fine), the slider just disintegrated as I pulled it!
Great, now my bag is going to be open at the front for the rest of the day!
Ok, so they may not write about this event – but at the time it felt cataclysmic! I was now going to be worried about dropping things out of my pack for the rest of the day. Paranoid glances behind me for ‘lost luggage’ after every rough patch of terrain were ubiquitous after this!

Heading back towards the summit area now, not a busy day for Lugnaquilla, let me tell you. I saw only a handful of people this day.
I wanted to start my way back to the car now, but en route I chose to head over the North Prison, and descend the slope of Lugnaquilla hand railing it, in case the fog came down again. I know Lug well, so I know to never underestimate it.

Only a couple of hours until sunset now, and I didn’t relish the thought of descending the steep slope of Lug in the dark (although I was equipped for such an eventuality – always be prepared!).
I took another shot of the frozen post, I found this very interesting.
Frozen Post II copy.jpg

Above the North Prison now, and the sky is getting darker. It looks like there is some fog moving in actually. Chances of a whiteout are high (this happened to me last year – A White Lugnaquilla).
North Prison copy.jpg

I love winter.
Winter copy.jpg

Some fog did roll in again now, but it too was short lived.
Heading down now, hand railing the North Prison. The views here were great.
Selfie!
Brrr cop1y.jpg

Yes, it has been pointed out to me already that I look like a ‘minion’ from ‘Despicable me’. The thought actually never occurred to me! I did not go to fashion school, clearly.
Say what you like about them, but these clothes kept me warm! Bright clothes are generally a good idea when hiking, especially if alone.

Looking down to Glen Imaal.
Looking down to Glen Imaal copy.jpg

Less than an hour until sunset now, and I am nearly at the bottom of the final slope of Lugnaquilla. Mount Leinster is prominent beyond Slievemaan in this photograph.Mount Leinster copy.jpg

I also liked this scene, with the two walkers heading over to Upper Corrig as they continue their descent from Lugnaquilla.
Scale-2 copy.jpg

The frozen Little Slaney river just below the source. Gentle tones in the sky, as the sun dips lower.Little Slaney copy.jpg

I didn’t stop for photos as I descended to Camara Hill because there was a spot I wanted to get to during ‘blue hour’, after sunset – and before it got too dark. I had planned to get a shot of the deer as they leave the artillery range and head south over the Camara ridge. It was just an idea I had – I suspected that if they travel north over the ridge at dawn, then perhaps they might travel south over the ridge as night fell (I had never witnessed this before, though).

My suspicion was correct!
I do hope they are visible at this resolution, WordPress does not allow high resolution photographs to be uploaded (unless you pay). They are just down and left of centre, three small dark figures.
Deer Lug copy.jpg

Getting dark, and much colder as I took this final shot. Now, for the descent of Camara Hill, which I always dislike after a long (though wonderful) day at Lug!

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.

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!
Lug from Seskin Bridge copy.jpg

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.
Seskin Road copy.jpg

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.
Ogham copy.jpg

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.
Lug from forest track copy.jpg

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.
Stay on route copy.jpg

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.
Drizzle Imaal copy.jpg

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!
Black Banks c.jpg

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.
Camenabologue Cairn copy.jpg

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.
Cloghernagh copy.jpg

The north-eastern slopes of Lugnaquilla, before they plunge down to Fraughan Rock Glen.
NE Lug copy.jpg

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.
Lobawn copy.jpg

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 Hot Day At Keadeen

Wow!
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!

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 White Lugnaquilla

OK, enough already! My next blog post will be about a different place.
Honestly

I just keep going back to Lugnaquilla as I want some photographs of Lug in proper snow and when I went previously (all 5 times!), there was none, or only a small amount.
Well there was some this day! Though the photographic fun at the summit was short lived. We shall see why later!

There is a lot to explore at Lug, most walkers climb up, and then back down. Some might venture off to look over the prisons, but many don’t. I do feel that those that just head straight back up and down miss out a bit. The views are better from the cliffs because the swell of the summit obscures the more interesting sights. I like to see views that are new, and I like to find different angles that might not have been explored before. I tend to drift off the beaten track and I had grand plans for this day.

But plan all you like, as a landscape photographer you are a complete slave to the weather.
The forecasts looked promising, so I set my alarm for 4am and decided that I would decide at that time after re-checking if it was worth going. I felt it was. But I know in my heart of hearts that when it comes to the weather on the highest mountain in Wicklow – roll the dice. Sometimes you might get a 6, sometimes a 4, but quite often (in my experience) a 2. Well I rolled a 3 this day. The weather was not awful, or terribly dangerous (there was no blizzard for instance, that would count as a roll of 1 on the dice) but you will see why it was a 3 from a photographic point of view soon. But I tried to make the most of it.

Soooo, another early start parking at the Glen Imaal bar, yet again I was first in the car park! Not a surprise really and not an unusual occurrence of late either. Making my way up Camara Hill in the dark (which I have done more times in the dark than in daylight!). A tough slog that morning, I was more tired than usual and the ground was frozen stiff. Light northerly winds as I reached the top of Lower Corrig meant I could do a reasonably long exposure. This was about 45 minutes before dawn, and the long exposure meant my camera could gather more light in the darkness. Lug pre dawn copy.jpg

I know many people are big fans of ultra saturated, hyper contrast photographs these days. Personally, I tend to stay away from that and avoid garish colours and unnatural contrast. These kind of photos might be popular on social media and get many ‘likes’ on Facebook and the like, but I like to try and reproduce exactly what I saw, how I saw it, how it was. Yes, sometimes I might decide that a particular image works better in black and white, and one could argue that (fortunately) my vision is not limited to black and white – but it’s all about the point of the image – the message. I suppose, I like a more subtle approach. If other people share the same opinion as me, then great! For me, the art is in the planning, and the taking of the capture – less in the post processing on the computer I think. But of course, that is just my opinion, and we are all entitled to those.

A lot of thought and planning goes into my work, not to mention the leg work! 25km again this day. I have been feeling that since (two days later now), let me tell you.

Anyway, moving on – both in subject and in motion – I took this one looking up to the Monarch (Lugnaquilla) from near my favourite bog pool just beyond Upper Corrig. This was taken just as the sun was rising, hence the colourful sky! Lug is clear of fog, so I wanted to press on! Lugnaquilla At Dawn copy.jpg

I felt a close up of the ice that had formed on the surface of the pool was worthwhile. Interesting patterns and subtle colours.Ice copy.jpg

Crunching through a frozen ‘Little Slaney’ river (in its infancy, near the source of the river) on my crampons, the final push upto Lug was ahead of me. I wanted to rest before tackling this, but I was excited because I could see there was a lot of snow up top.

Looking south over the shoulder of Slievemaan (look at those peat hags!). There was some lowland fog, and wonderful colours in the sky. What a morning.The Peat hags of Slievemaan copy.jpg
A small rest, and then back to work. Hiking up here is always a challenge. I mentioned before in a previous post about how the slope is strewn with mica-schist rocks with holes aplenty. I also mentioned how tackling this in deep snow would be a challenge. Well, I was right. Though the snow was not perilously deep, foot dexterity was necessary getting up here this day. A broken ankle here would be problematic to say the least. Slow & steady. Here is a shot of some of the drifting that I encountered higher up the slope. This is about 30 minutes after the previous image, look at how the colours have changed. It is obvious now why landscape photographers (such as myself) get up at crazy o’clock to take photographs.Small drift copy.jpg
On the summit plateau now. It’s a wonderful feeling being up here on such a nice morning.

Surprisingly, I saw only one set of footsteps in the snow on the way up here. It’s quite a nice feeling knowing that you are one of the first to leave your mark in the freshly laid snow on what is quite a popular mountain. My irregular and awkward footsteps (I have gait problems).

My footsteps copy.jpg

At the summit cairn now, which marks the top of the east of Ireland.
Not a soul around and look at those blue skies! Beyond the cairn to the right the snow capped summit of Tonelagee is prominent with its distinctively whale hump shape, just before this is Turlough Hill. Far right and rear, War Hill and Djouce mountain rear their white heads. They indeed look small, and very distant from here.Summit Cairn copy.jpg

Wanting to press on, as always, I dashed over to the south prison (the superior prison to photograph at this time of year when the skies are clear). Pretty close to the edge here, and we can see that the rim of the prison is corniced. This is basically an overhanging mass of snow at the edge of the precipice. Dangerous, as bearing weight on this would cause it to collapse, and down with it you would go. This is fine and easily avoided in clear weather. But if the fog rolls in, you better be on your game and steer clear of it, because visibility might be so hampered (as in the case of a whiteout) that you might not be able to tell that what you are putting your foot on is in fact a cornice.  South Prison Corniced copy.jpg

At this stage, you might be wondering why I scored this day as a 3 on the weather dice. well, bear in mind what I just said about fog. I was acutely aware of the fact the light northerly breeze had switched to a fresh southerly breeze. Still pretty gentle, but I was also thinking about the cold air (and the fog) in the lowlands immediately south of my position. Now, I am no meteorologist, but I do spend a lot of time out in nature and my situational awareness is quite high. My suspicion was that a ‘fog attack’ could be imminent, and to be honest, when you are at Lugnaquilla – you are on borrowed time before the winds bring in the fog!

Anyway, here is a shot of the rocky precipice of the south prison of Lugnaquilla with the lowland fog in the distance. I took this using my 85mm 1.8G on a Nikon D810 – a 36 megapixel camera (shot at f/5.6 – the sweet spot of the lens – using manual focus). The resolution is simply astonishing if I am honest. Most of the images I share on this blog are 800 * 534 pixels in dimensions but the Nikon D810 creates images of 7360 * 4912. So my originals are just over 9 times larger. If you have pixel level sharpness at that resolution, the level of detail is insane! South Prison and valley fog copy.jpg

Looking beyond a cornice here over to Corrigasleggaun mountain with the pyramid shaped mountain Croaghanmoira in the distance (at left). The fog indeed does seem to be rising up to the higher slopes. It really pays to pay attention to your surroundings.Solar copy.jpg

Another similar shot, showing what looks like a break in the cornice caused by someone (presumably) coming up the south prison. A braver person than I, let me tell you – it’s very, very, very steep ground below. This climb would require a set of skills that I do not possess, that’s for sure. And a real head for heights. I could not say for sure though, it could have been shaped by the wind, but I have seen people climbing up here with ice axes in the past.

Cornice Steps copy.jpg

I had wanted to sit above the south prison cliffs and eat my lunch here. A nice spot I think you’ll agree. I had skiing trousers on, so I was not worried about sitting in snow.Looking over to Cloghernagh copy.jpg

However, at this moment in time, I was becoming increasingly vigilant of the conditions. Ever distrustful of the mountain (or respectful, you decide). The Southerly wind was picking up, and it felt like it was getting colder (it was already about -4 °C). It’s good practice to try and know exactly where you are so that you can pinpoint your location on a map at all times. It may seem like a chore, but it really pays dividends when you later rely on that knowledge in the case that visibility is hampered and you need to plan your escape route and take a bearing. Imperative if you are solo hiking, as I mostly do.

Looking over to the south, I could see the beginnings of what I would label a ‘fog attack’. Aughavannagh mountain, Lybagh mountain and Ballineddan mountain were the first to succumb to the ruthless onslaught.Looking over to Croghan Kinsella copy.jpg

This was followed swiftly by the absorption of Slievemaan mountain. It was only a matter of time before the Monarch itself (Lugnaquilla) was in checkmate (I mean in fog!). Hiking in fog is tricky enough, but couple that with snow on the ground and you experience ‘whiteout’ conditions where visibility and contrast are severely reduced by snow – the sky is white and the ground is white. The horizon disappears completely and there are no reference points at all, leaving the individual with a distorted orientation. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, right? So yeah, it pays to know where you are on a map.

I decided to pause. Confirm my position (I had a very good idea of exactly where I was anyway), eat some grapes and a couple of bananas and rest my legs for a minute. Panicking and rushing around is a poor strategy – undue haste makes waste, or so I was told. After my snacks, I moved south – westerly so as to avoid any cornices of the south prison. Moving west, or north – westerly would have moved me too close to the north prison, and there was almost certainly going to be cornices there too. At this point the fog was not down, but it was coming, and I knew it.

Back at what I (coincidentally) nickname ‘the dice of Lug’ (purely based on its cuboid appearance) I enjoyed this view. This position is at the top of the final steep stretch up to Lug, south-west of the summit. Here in the distance, we can see Lybagh mountain being mercilessly consumed by fog. The poor chap. You can clearly see the ‘3’ on the upward face of the dice. Just kidding :-). Fog rolling in Stack.jpg

Looking back toward the summit now, yep the conditions were getting worse. These two lads had just arrived, at the wrong time! At least I got some clear weather. But that is the way with Lug, you roll the dice. I had about 30 – 40 minutes of clear weather at the top of Lug this day. I was hoping for much more, but it was a great day regardless. A good spot of exercise at least! Fog hikers copy.jpg

One final shot before the fog rolled in proper, looking down at another couple of poor chaps who just missed the clear weather window but who also had a steep rocky climb ahead of them. The fog was coming thicker and faster.Hikers copy.jpg

And in it came.Lugnaquilla Whiteout copy.jpg

I wanted to wait, and see if conditions improved. I was sceptical. I sat and waited for some time. But the days are still short in Ireland, so I was constantly aware of the time. The conditions were deteriorating and the fog was actually getting lower. I decided that I had seen the best that Lug had to offer this day so down I went. A shame, I had a lot of work I wanted to do this day.

Something about Lugnaquilla that anyone who wishes to climb it should know – it’s not a difficult mountain to climb up, but coming down can be a very different story.
I took this on my descent, I call it ‘void walkers’. Some of these fellas were heading up as I was coming down.Void walkers copy.jpg

Fog does strange things to light when a bright light source is behind it (i.e. the sun). I was hoping that I might see a fabled ‘Brocken Spectre’ – I once captured one at Lugduff mountain, but it was not to be this day. But what I did capture I thought unusual and worthy of sharing.

Solar Rocks copy.jpg

Off that steep, rocky slope now, back near the source of the Little Slaney river. Camera trigger finger itching. I decided to think outside the box a little bit. The visibility was poor (even down here) at this moment in time – but I was dying to shoot! I call this one ‘2’.2 copy.jpg

Heading back down to the ‘Corrigs’ and Camara Hill now. The fog has lifted from some of the lower ground before Lug, but Lug is perfectly content to be in whiteout for the remainder of the day I think.Lugnaquilla in fog copy.jpg

Another last glance from Camara Hill to the Monarch – still in fog! Not a great surprise, and somewhat of a relief – I was right to leave, no more photographs to be had up there this day.Lug in cloud copy.jpg

The last leg of the journey now, just a gate to cross then a gentle walk back on forest tracks to the car. I always shoot this tree. Each time I come here I try to shoot a different angle though. I am fond of this angle.Tree 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.