An Overcast Day At Lugduff

Who says cloudy days have to be dull!?
Yes, a walk I have done before, and yes, a walk I have written about before (see The Spinc & A Frosty Lugduff Gap). But it’s a great walk and I am able to park my car safe in the knowledge that it will be safe (which is important when hiking in Wicklow – especially in the spring/summer months). It’s a shame that ‘car safety’ is a factor in deciding where to hike, but I have had my car broken into multiple times in the mountains, so it’s something I carefully consider.
Anyway, car safety aside – I had wanted to do this walk this day, because I do enjoy it and it’s a good workout. Plus, I knew the weather was not going to be remarkable so the walk was more about exercise than photography per se.

On past walks here, I usually start by heading up beside the Poulanass waterfall but I opted for a different route this time, just for a change of scenery.
I wondered what cataclysmic event caused this! This tree has been in this condition for at least three years now, and I cannot say how this happened.Tree copy.jpg

After the ‘steps of the death’ (so called by myself because they kill your calf muscles!) that lead you to the top of The Spinc, I like to take a short detour from the track to perch my tripod on a (rather precarious – I might add) rocky overhang to obtain a completely unobstructed view of the western shore of the upper lake of Glendalough. Yep, got a few looks from passers-by at this spot. Worth it.
From here, we can the see upper Glenealo Valley, the Glenealo river and waterfall (left hand side, towards the top), some spoil heaps from the mining operations in the valley (the white ‘sand’ on the steep ground/cliffs at right and on the valley floor) and the white beachy shore of the lake itself. This is a view I particularly enjoy. I love the winding Glenealo river as it meanders its way down to the lake. Such a calm, peaceful day as well. Little to no wind. Glenaelo River copy.jpg

For me, resolution is king. If a landscape photograph I take is not sharp edge to edge, corner to corner then I do not keep it. For my 50mm Nikkor lens, I know I need to stop down to f/8 for this (experience is a valuable teacher) to overcome lens aberrations. In the dominant conditions in Ireland (overcast and dark), this means a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second at ISO 64 (my Nikon D810 has a base ISO of 64, which contributes to its high dynamic range). I cannot hand hold my camera with a 50mm lens at 1/60th of a second and get a sharp shot, my hands are not steady enough- again experience has taught me this. So that big, heavy and unwieldy tripod comes in handy! Most hikers I meet are always amazed at the amount of, and weight of gear that I carry. But I am uncompromising in terms of image quality. I have the highest resolution camera that Nikon sell commercially, so I am compelled to maximise its capabilities. Yep, ready for an upgrade Nikon ;-).

Here is a 100% size crop from the previous photograph, taken from the left hand side (a bit more than a third down from the top), a very small area of the whole image. So yeah, resolution rules. Here we can see the waterfall of the Glenealo river itself and the ‘zig-zag’ tracks that take you up (or down from) the Spinc. Look closely and you can see tiny people! At the first ‘elbow zig-zag’ as you go up, there is an orange jacket and a yellow one. So yeah, resolution rules!!! But to deploy that resolution, discipline and technique is required. It’s not a simple ‘point & shoot’ task.  Glenaelo River crop copy.jpg

Here is my lofty perch, BIG drop below and you do not want to slip here.Perch copy.jpg

As the seasons change the greens of the ‘Emerald Isle’ are making their return, as seen in the almost aerial view of the Scot’s Pines below. I took this from the cliffs of the Spinc.Trees copy.jpg

Whilst on the subject of the cliffs of the Spinc, here is a shot of a small patch of sunlight striking the northern aspect cliffs. That was about it as far as direct sunlight went on this day.Cliffs copy.jpg

Yeah, I did not see much sun this day. But I don’t mind, I just enjoy being out and about!
I opted to head for the top of the Spinc walk (as opposed to heading left at a junction to head straight for Lugduff gap) and then proceeded to hand rail a rather decrepit old fence!Fence copy.jpg

This fence soon expired and then I was relying on my navigation skills to avoid the steeper slopes of Lugduff south east top. I wanted a gentler approach, sore legs and feet always in my thoughts. This turned out to be a much gentler gradient than the main track up to Lugduff Gap actually, but of course the terrain was not as ‘easy going’. Tussocks of grass and some wet bog patches were the main problem. But I opted for this route as I had hoped to cross paths with some deer. Plus it offered a nice view of the Glenealo Valley and the surrounding hills (though a dull day unfortunately).Glenaelo Valley copy.jpg

Well, I did see some deer – though they were spooked by my presence and immediately departed hastily upon sighting me!Deer copy.jpg

A stealthier approach was required, and a longer lens (I had my 100mm Zeiss with me but not my 70-200 Nikkor). But I was not out specifically to shoot the deer this day, I just like to see them!

At the summit area of Lugduff south east now, and I like to head south from here as there is a small rocky outcrop where I like to eat and observe Lugnaquilla from its northern aspect. A murky day, but not an unpleasant one. Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

As shown above, the summit area of Lug was in cloud – as it was for most of the time I was at Lugduff. I estimate the cloud cover level to be about ~900 metres above sea level here.
Here, we can see (at left) the shoulder of Cloghernagh, also marked on EastWest Mapping’s wonderful maps as ‘Bendoo’. There are only two “Ben’s” (in physical geography, ‘Ben’ is commonly used as part of a place name for a mountain peak in Gaelic) that I know of in Wicklow, the other being Benleagh – which is shown in the above photograph on the right – the imposing looking cliffs above the tree line. Also visible is the Fraughan Rock Glen (or ‘Fraggle Rock’ as I like to call it!), almost dead center.
Lugduff translates to English as  ‘Black Hollow’ – though I am not certain what/where the ‘hollow’ is – perhaps the hollow referred to is the hollow of Fraughan Rock Glen, it certainly looked dark this day and if the sun were behind it (as is the case on a clear day in winter) then the glen most certainly would be very dark due to its northern aspect. If someone knows what the ‘hollow’ is, please correct me in the comments!
Then finally, that dark towering hulk that is Lugnaquilla itself – slightly left of center, rising up into the clouds.

A closer view of Bendoo and Lugnaquilla, with fog rolling off the cliffs of the south prison of Lugnaquilla. A great approach to Lugnaquilla itself is to start at the bottom of the Fraughan Rock Glen and follow the forest track (bottom right) up to the Fraughan Rock Brook and handrail the waterfall up. Tough work going up, even harder going down, it’s quite steep, wet and slippery in places. I must do that walk again soon, it’s amazing, but it is tough on weak/injured/overused/arthritic joints. From the Hollow Of Luqueer, at the top of the waterfall, swinging slightly north of west helps avoid some steep rocky terrace areas and then when on higher ground and past the terraces a heading south east will take you to past Cannow mountain and onto the Lugnaquilla plateau itself. Lugnaquilla 100mm copy.jpg

Starting to head back now, lunch had and exercise complete – the conical Croaghanmoira stands proud to the south east, with Carrawaystick waterfall visible near bottom right. Yep, I know Wicklow pretty well!Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

Back on the Spinc boardwalk now, and boy – it’s pretty busy! One of the things I find fascinating about walking in Wicklow, is that some places are completely deserted, while other places can be like Piccadilly Circus! As readers of this blog will know, I prefer the quieter spots.

Here is a view of the rocky area (my lofty perch) I was sat atop for my earlier images of the day, on the right hand side. At left we see the slopes of Camaderry, another regular haunt of mine! Phil's Seat copy.jpg

Back at the car and another great day in the hills. Time for an Indian take away when I get home I think (I love Chicken Madras!).

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Dad today!

Thank you for reading!

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

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.


The Spinc & A Frosty Lugduff Gap

A frosty morning.
I love these mornings the best, light winds, clear skies and widespread ground frost. It was due to cloud over later, and I was hoping it would.

Driving from my home to the hills on these frosty mornings, I am always mindful of the fact that the mountain roads are not treated for snow/ice so the best bet is to skirt the higher roads and avoid any potential nastiness in terms of getting the car stuck!

I had wanted to climb Lugnaquilla again this weekend, but a poor night of sleep coupled with the fact that I suspected it would be in complete whiteout for the day made me change my mind and so I opted to visit the Spinc walk at Glendalough and push on to Lugduff Gap. Plus, I have been to Lug a few times recently (see here and here).

This is a walk I have done many times, and I am surprised that it has not featured as a blog post yet. My bad, but here is one now :-).

Parking at the (paid) car park at the upper lake of Glendalough, I was (as is often the case) the first customer of the day for the toll booth!
There are so many trails in the Glendalough area, and I am happy to pay the toll to park my car here because it leaves me with the feeling that my car is safe and I can enjoy my time outdoors without worrying about returning to a smashed window from a car break in. It’s a sad state of affairs but parking in the Wicklow Mountains can be a bit dodgy due to break ins (it has happened no less than 4 times to me). I never leave valuables in my car of course. The thieves just take their chances.

Anyway, back to the walk! The Spinc (meaning ‘Pointed Hill’) and Lugduff (‘Black Hollow’) are well situated, the former giving wonderful views of the twin lakes (at some stage in the distant past – these two lakes were actually one lake) of Glendalough, and the latter revealing Lugnaquilla itself from potentially its most imposing aspect.
Nippy enough as I left the car, definitely a winter feeling in the air in the hills of Wicklow.Frosty Leaves copy.jpg

The start of the walk is a familiar journey, climbing besides the Poulanass Waterfall. I must have walked on this trail thousands of times, but it never gets boring. The Lugduff Brook is always pretty.Lugduff Brook copy.jpg

Pausing for a breather now. A tough climb ahead, ascending the ‘boardwalk of doom’ as I call it. Hundreds of wooden railway sleepers have been laid down here by the national park. I wanted to ‘de-layer’ a bit and take off my jacket as I wanted to minimise the sweat here. I knew it would be much colder up top. A soldier once said to me ‘if you are sweating, you are walking too fast’ – sound advice.
I turned around for a brief second, and look! A new friend!
Robin copy.jpg

Robbie the Robin!
I think he was after my sandwiches! But I needed those for myself :-). He was a friendly little fella, and was not at all concerned about my presence whatsoever.

Near the top now, and yes it’s frosty up here. The boardwalk I mentioned before does help make a rather nasty boggy hike a bit easier generally, but in ice/frost/snow it is actually quite detrimental I think. It becomes very slippery, and due to the nature of the structure itself heavy duty crampons are not a useful tool here. Frosty Boardwalk copy.jpg

However, I came prepared and I have faced this boardwalk in thick ice before. I have the perfect antidote – Trespass snow studs:Ice Studs copy.jpg

These are perfect for this scenario – just a simple attachment that you wrap around your shoe with small metal studs underneath. They really do help and they weigh nothing. You are no threat to me, treacherous boardwalk!Slippery Boardwalk copy.jpg

After the climb though, a delightful view of the lower lake of Glendalough is the reward. I was here not too long after sunrise, with the mountains behind me casting long shadows.Lower Lake copy.jpg

The lower slopes of Camaderry Mountain (I must do a post about this one soon, though I touched on it here) are beautiful in the early morning light, as is Scarr in the distance.Autumn Colours copy.jpg

Climbing higher now, and the higher slopes of the Spinc (on the left) and Camaderry Mountain come into view (on the right) as well as the upper lake of Glendalough itself. J.B. Malone (the pioneer of The Wicklow Way) refers to Camaderry Mountain as The Proud Mountain – I can see why. Upper Lake copy.jpg

I didn’t want to linger here too long, as this was not my main objective for today. Reluctantly (miraculously!) I managed to drag myself away from this beautiful place and soldiered on. I liked the frost on this rock. Though not a mountain to me, it certainly bore the resemblance of one. Frosty Rock copy.jpg

Ascending higher still, and the heather here is frozen. Time is a funny thing, it felt like only a few weeks ago that I was photographing purple heather at Cullentragh Mountain (see here), but this was 3 months ago! I must be getting old. Bleurgh.Frozen Heather II copy.jpg

Getting pretty cold now, but I was also getting hungry! This looked like a good spot to have lunch. It was sheltered at least, as the wind was picking up. And (out of frame) there was a dry enough rock to sit on. Ham & lettuce sandwiches never tasted so good let me tell you!Icicles copy.jpg

The Lugduff Gap is a high point on The Wicklow Way long distance walking route (I must do this walk one day, when my arthritis allows) and forms the saddle between Mullacor Mountain and Lugduff Mountain itself. An exposed section of the walk, but on a clear day the views are incredible, particularly looking over to Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen.

Watching the skies, the cloud cover is increasing now. But I was happy about this (for once). The sun is in the south at this time of year, and I wanted to shoot south from Lugduff Gap, so a clear sky would have made this a contrasty and ugly affair.

I have reached the Lugduff Gap now, and the view over to Croaghanmoira Mountain (I have a post about this one here) is particularly mystical at this time.Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

A wonderful day to be outdoors, Wicklow is magical at this time of year. I created a timelapse of this, to capture the movement of the fog – you can see it here on my Facebook Page. It’s worth watching – it’s beautiful.

The view over to Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen was equally satisfying, though different.Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen copy.jpg

I was wrong, the whole time I was here (which was a while, due to the timelapse) not once did Lug fog over. It looks like it would have been a great day for a Lug walk! A more intimate view of Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen. Cold up there, I’d say.Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen II copy.jpg

It was cold enough here!Here 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.