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!
Keadeen Twilight II copy.jpg

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!
Drifts Camarahill combined copy.jpg

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.
Lug sunrise copy.jpg

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 :).
2 copy.jpg

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.
Fog coming copy.jpg

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.
Rock Drift copy.jpg

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.
Fog Clearing copy.jpg

A winter Wicklow wonderland is revealed!
Winter copy.jpg

Looking south east to the pyramidal Croaghanmoira Mountain.
Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

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.
South Prison Footsteps copy.jpg

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.
Cold at Lug copy.jpg

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.
Frozen Post copy.jpg

Another world…
Frozen Rocks copy.jpg

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!
Adrian copy.jpg

Photographer in action:
tog copy.jpg

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:
Keadeen copy.jpg

Some of the drifts at Lower Corrig.
Drifts Of Corrig copy.jpg

The light started to get really interesting now, as the sun was dipping lower in the sky.
Drifts Of Corrig II copy.jpg

It enhanced the contrast on the drifts here.
Drifts Of Corrig III copy.jpg

The snow here started to take on a slight pinkish hue.
Drifts Of Corrig IV copy.jpg

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.
Pink Lug copy.jpg

Beautiful colours in the sky above Mount Leinster in this long range shot.
cover1024..jpg

The shoulder of Keadeen and a snowy Glen Of Imaal.
Shoulder Of Keadeen copy.jpg

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.
Lug last glance copy.jpg

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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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.