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.
Keadeen copy.jpg

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

The tumbling cliffs of the South Prison.
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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.
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More granite.
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A bit more granite.
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Some more granite to chew on.
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Almost off the steep slopes of Lugnaquilla now, and a shot towards the Glen Of Imaal.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

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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…..
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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!
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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.
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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.

A Green Lugnaquilla

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

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

New things this day. I have never hiked to Lugnaquilla when the forecast was for 27°C! So, that was new. Also, my old 66 litre rucksack was damaged (I had used it for years) so that needed replacing, and I also treated myself to new hiking poles! I do spoil myself…. You can see me showing off my new pack in the cover image above. You will need a monitor at least 1920 pixels wide, mind. My photographs are intended to be viewed on larger screens (not tablets or phones). Here is a smaller version, hopefully it might be more ‘phone friendly’. I am overlooking the north prison here, and I checked with the Army Warden Service (near Fenton’s Pub) if I was clear to go here, and permission was given. Always check with the warden when doing this walk, the artillery range is extremely dangerous and has unexploded ordnance.
Me copy small.jpg

Some may wonder why I revisit this place again and again. It’s different each time, and there are many things to see here. The light is always different, the atmosphere always different. I try not to replicate photographs that I have previously taken (unless I am comparing the seasons), and this creates a challenge that I enjoy. It helps creativity and pushes me to explore just that bit further.

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

Many deer this morning! Even at this low resolution, you should be able to see them in the foreground.
Deer Lug copy.jpg

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

6.21 am, and I am nearing the final push up to Lug itself alongside the north prison rim. The sun is quite high already, it rose over an hour ago at this stage. The angle will soon be perfect for the shot I had in mind for the north prison. I had better bust-a-move on!
Sun copy.jpg

Beside the great cliffs of the north prison now, and in my peripheral vision I sense movement on the cliffs. A hare! I have never seen this before!
Super fast reflexes on my part to manually focus my (manual focus only) Zeiss 100mm lens and I managed to get a shot. Wow, a rare sight. It looked as if s/he was enjoying the view as much as I was!Hare copy.jpg

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

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

The view slightly west of north from where I leave the summit area to descend into the north prison (I only descended a small bit into the prison itself). Many of Wicklow’s summits can be seen from here. Tonelagee, Turlough Hill and Djouce are particularly prominent.
Wicklow Mountains copy.jpg

Found my spot in the prison, time for a sarnie I think. Ham & lettuce (my usual), followed by some grapes. Good snack!
This is the spot where I took the cover image, and below are a couple more shots (minus me) of the area. Expansive view here!
North Prison I copy.jpg

Look at that clear sky!
One might wish for clouds, for a bit of drama – but, Gah! Who cares. Sometimes it’s nice to be out in nice weather! It is quite rare to get such a nice day on a weekend day in Ireland. Especially at Lugnaquilla.
North Prison II copy.jpg

Tough work though, such a hot day and I carry so much gear. But great fun.
Heading back up now, and the next plan for the day is actioned. Hop on over to the great gully of the south prison.
But I took a short detour towards Cloghernagh mountain before this, I always enjoy the view back over to Lug from here.
Hanging off the cliffs near Lugcoolmeen here, a wide view of the south prison is revealed. To get a shot like this with a wide angle lens, you need to be at the precipice, proper. I got some funny looks when coming back up from here, let me tell you haha!
South Prison copy.jpg

A long range view now, looking down beyond the forested slopes of Corrigasleggaun, and over to Croghan Kinsella. Crogan Kinsella copy.jpg

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

A close up of one of the jagged rocks near the summit area.Jagged copy.jpg

At my spot now, peering down the great gully.
It’s possible to climb up here, very steep terrain though and not something you ought to be doing as a solo hiker (as I am).
Gully copy.jpg

A wider shot of the gully, with the surrounding mountains to the east on show.
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I sat here for a while, contemplating the views and drinking my third litre of water! I had brought 5 litres this day. And drank it all! It was super hot.
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After a while, I decided to head back towards the north prison, and begin my descent.
I had been on the mountains for six hours at this stage.
Passing the familiar ‘dice’ of Lugnaquilla, I paused for a shot. I always shoot this rocky outcrop!
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Descending now, and the view down to Glen of Imaal and the surrounding area is amazing from here. As the day is pressing on, the colours are coming alive a bit more.
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Look! Another animal! Bertie the beetle :-D. Enjoying a snack I see. Eating Lugnaquilla! hold up mate, don’t eat it all – I plan to come back here!
Bertie copy.jpg

My last photograph of the day – over 12 hours from the start of my day I might add! Yes, I was tired and hot and at this point I was CRAVING an ice cream. I must have needed the sugar and electrolytes. You have no idea how grateful I was when I stopped at the Glen Imaal store (I think there is only one shop in the glen) and they had my favourite – Cornetto King Cone! Words cannot express how heavenly it was. I think that hiking over 27 km’s in 20°C+ temperatures earns it!
Last copy.jpg

Please do remember what I said about checking in with the Army Warden when planning to approach (or walk in the vicinity of) Lugnaquilla or in the Glen of Imaal.

Thank you for reading!

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

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

A Frosty Log Na Coille

Another hike to Lug, yes! Another early start (5am), another late finish (6pm). I was on the mountains for roughly 11 hours this day (deducting car time). Nowhere else in Wicklow that I’d rather be though. This would be my second visit to the Monarch of Wicklow in the month of January 2017. Well, I might as well start as I mean to go on.
The weather at Lugnaquilla (Log Na Coille) is always going to be hit and miss. It’s in complete fog 3 days out of 5. Often it’s very windy and raining. In autumn/winter/early spring it is regularly covered in ice and snow. I was really hoping for a decent amount of snow, having not been out on the mountains all week previously (at least, not in the daylight – see this night shot of Glendalough I took on friday night), I did not know if the high ground had snow or not.
But with Lug, you can check all the forecasts in the world, but on the day you go, all bets are pretty much off. The forecasts might give you a rough idea. But that is all they can do. Sensible advice is to prepare for the worst weather and then not be ‘caught out’ if it occurs.
According to my sources, it was due to be foggy in the morning, and clear in the afternoon. So I was expecting to hike up in the dark to Camara Hill and see a fog covered Lugnaquilla.
This was not so:Log Na Coille Clear copy.jpg

Being what it is, a pleasant enough (calm) sunrise – this was not the most exciting one this photographer has witnessed. Perhaps sunset will reveal something more interesting- let’s find out!

Anyway, a long way to go yet. My iPod pedometer clocked up 21.4 kilometers before the battery died! I estimate I covered about 25km this day. Not too shabby, considering only a year ago I could not stand up without agony! Time is a good healer, but in my case, lots of physiotherapy might be an even better one!

Anyway, a cold day. But light winds meant that wind chill was not an issue. A frozen infant (near the source) ‘Little Slaney’ river on approach to the final slope of Lug.Little Slaney copy.jpg

Conditions, as you can see, were cold, overcast with high altitude clouds dominating the sky and light southerly winds. But not at all unpleasant. I did not take many photographs until I reached the summit area. Nice and frosty up there.Frosty Summit copy.jpg

Dropping down a little from the summit to the south prison cliffs, a wonderful view was in store.Log Na Coille copy.jpg

The quality of light was interesting. There was a thin mist (as opposed to fog) in the atmosphere which hampered long range views but muted the colours of the mountains in a pleasing way – at least to my eye.
The beautiful, tumbling cliffs of the south prison of Lugnaquilla.Cliffs of the south prison copy.jpg

An interesting story about these cliffs, I once witnessed a large fox frantically charging down nearby these cliffs to the valley below. I wondered what the fox was doing in this depopulated and exposed area. Surely there are better food scraps to be had in the populated valleys? Amazing to watch, and I was envious of the creatures agility!

Frosty!Frosty copy.jpg

One might question why I visit this place so often when I could jump on a plane and visit some of the grander mountains of the world. Well, I live only an hour or so drive from here for one thing. But really, I think from a photographic standpoint, it is quite a challenging subject. The shape of the mountain is not your typical dramatic peak. Some might argue that it lacks the excitement of the more ‘established’ photogenic mountains such as Kirkjufell, or the Matterhorn, for example. I suppose that Lug might lack an ‘instant gratification’ factor (that is so overwhelmingly prevalent in modern society) to some degree. Some mountains allow ‘easy wins’ photographically speaking because they are dramatic, or because they are naturally photogenic. I think Lugnaquilla has a certain quietness about it, a certain humble charm that doesn’t scream ‘photograph me, I am here and look how exciting I am’. Instead, I think it whispers ‘explore me if you wish, I have lots to offer’. Another thing to consider is that photographs of the more ‘traditionally beautiful’ mountains are literally ten a penny. I think there is merit in trying to create and do something different. Anyway, that is my logic I suppose.

The summit of Lugnaquilla is broad and flat, and to get really good views you do have to make some effort to identify the best places to stand. I am still working on that :-), but getting there I think!

A slightly different view of the south prison.
South Prison copy.jpg

Anyway, lots to see here: so I scooted off over to the north prison for a spot of lunch. I actually forgot (again) to eat my lunch at this point. I keep doing that, I get too engrossed in the views and the camera, and taking it all in. Not a good idea. I did have some yummy strawberries here though after I realised my error (and had packed my stuff away in my rucksack and decided to head elsewhere). At this point, I was actually grateful for the overcast skies because the shadows of the north prison rim here would have been too dark if the sun was out. In the distance at right we can see Glen Imaal with the Sugarloaf of West Wicklow rearing its pointy head above the forestry. Looks small from here!
North Prison copy.jpg

I identified, though did not shoot from, the optimal viewpoint of the north prison this day. I did not go there because I always have to be mindful of the distances I cover (due to leg/foot problems), but I know where it is for next time. I shall of course return, there is much work to be done here.
I was compelled however, to revisit the south prison as I saw some interesting sun beams breaking through the clouds in that direction.Sun beams copy.jpg

Worth the effort I thought. I also took a few more photographs of the view from the top of the south prison itself. Yes, a murky day, but a good one nevertheless. A view I always enjoy:From the south prison copy.jpg

I started to make my return journey at this stage, so I took a last glance over to the north prison (it’s almost on the way back anyway, plus it’s a tradition of mine now). It looks like some fog is potentially rolling in from the south now, visibility is getting poorer and the cliffs are getting hazier. It rolled in for several minutes, then started to lift as I was heading back down. Only to return again a small bit later.Fog copy.jpg

Boba Fett takes aim. You are no good to me, fog! You will be disintegrated!Boba takes aim copy.jpg

Star Wars nerdiness aside, heading back to the car now. Looking back over to Lug, a view I am very familiar with appears – and I can see that the clouds are again descending upon Lugnaquilla.Lug copy.jpg

Look! The sun came out! Lug Fog copy.jpg

Back at the first summit of Camara Hill now. A torturous (for me at least) descent awaits. I was carrying three heavy lenses (1kg each), the camera(1kg), the tripod (about 4kg), a whole bunch of clothing layers and lots of water on this trip (I took 3 litres, I have high water needs!). My bag total probably weighed about 15-20kg. That hurts man. But thank god for trekking poles. Anyway, the warning sign here states: “If a warning flag or lantern is displayed at this location, this indicates that the range is live, and that you are in danger.”.  No flag or lantern. Phew! Seriously though, you must always check that there is no firing in the artillery range before taking this route. Yep, the cloud is really clinging to Lugnaquilla now.Sign copy.jpg

Pausing for a rest on the descent now, taking the pressure off tired knees and feet. The colour of the sky is beautiful above the shoulders of Keadeen mountain and Spinans Hill.Spinans copy.jpg

I always enjoy this tree on the slopes of Camara Hill, particularly so in winter. Worth a rest break!Tree copy.jpg

Another sunrise to sunset hike at Lugnaquilla, another forgotten lunch! I did eat it eventually, just a bit too late! Foot bath time, I think. Now, where are my Epsom salts?

One last long exposure photograph (the sun had long gone down at this stage) looking over to Lugnaquilla as the fog rolls over it, tucking it into bed for the night!Lugnaquilla 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 Facebook here!

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