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.

Advertisements

The Five C’s

Multiple prehistoric megalithic tombs, four mountain summits, a clear weather forecast and great company, what more could you ask for on a Saturday?

The “four C’s” is a circuit walk in the north Wicklow/Dublin mountains. It is more popularly known as the Kilbride Circuit but I prefer to refer to it as the “The Four C’s”.
This moniker originates in the names of the four mountains that the circuit navigates – Seahan (also known as Seechon), Corrig, Seefingan and Seefin.

I opted to do this walk clockwise, starting with an initial attack on Seahan/Seechon.
The plan was to then cross the boggy gap between Seahan and Corrig, cross another (even boggier!) gap from Corrig to Seefingan – the highest summit of the day – and finally descend to Seefin – in my opinion: the superior summit of the four (hence saving it until last!). These are all places I have visited many times for their own sake, except Seefingan – it is a bit ‘out on a limb’.
Being close to Dublin, Seefin and Seahan make for great evening walks in the summer time however.

There is lots of interest in these summits, certainly from an historical point of view at least. The mountains themselves are generally quite featureless (we shall see the exception to the ‘generally’ clause later).
Navigation can be tricky in this area in poor visibility, due to aforementioned featureless terrain and there is the danger of the Kilbride rifle range that must not be strayed into.

This is a great walk, and by the end of the day my pedometer clocked in a distance of 15km – I did make some minor detours for photographs and I believe that usually this walk is around 11km.

‘But Phil, why is the title of the blog post “The five C’s”?’ I hear you cry…
Well, because I had my best hiking pal Casper the Bichon Frise with me on this walk! He made up the extra ‘C‘! We shall hear more about him later. But I will say this about him for now – he is a Trooper!

Anyway, on with this day’s walk. The start of the journey involves a gentle climb through a gap in the (ever maturing) sitka spruce plantations. I remember these trees being much smaller back in ’13. They grow up so fast eh?!

Further up the trail, and the sky is looking a bit dramatic. The forecast had said sunny spells, but when in the hills of Wicklow – all four seasons in one day is the norm!
Sky copy.jpg

Further up the trail, there is a great view west, beyond the shoulder of Cupidstown Hill over to the plains of Kildare. Cupidstown Hill is the highest point in County Kildare (though it is small – only ~380m above sea level) and named after Oliver Cromwell’s gun, I believe. Nice, clear weather for the moment.
Kildare copy.jpg

From here, there is also a nice view over to the Poulaphouca Reservoir at Blessington.
Blessington copy.jpg

Please stay like this – weather!

So, the first summit of the day – Seahan. According to logainm.ie, the Anglicised name ‘Seahan’ comes from the Irish ‘An Suíochán’ – in plain English this translates to ‘The Seat’. This is a mountain I have had a long relationship with. It is one of the first mountains in Ireland that I had attempted to climb (the first I actually climbed was Djouce mountain and then Kippure mountain – both on the same day in fact).
But Seahan was the first one that I had visited, I just did not get to the top on that particular day. That first time that I went here, Seahan was covered in deep frozen snow. I have memories of deliberately sliding down the slopes here because it was easier than walking down! That was all the way back in March 2013!
Ah, to be young again.
Casper has also climbed this summit at least five times before – he is most definitely not a ‘lap-dog’!

Getting near the summit now, and the view beyond the Kilbride Rifle range to Seefingan (at left, the highest summit of the day) and Seefin (to the right of Seefingan, in shade – the last summit of the day) is great.
Seefingan Seefin copy.jpg

It looks like a lot of ground to cover, and the second summit (Corrig) is not even shown in the above photograph. But that’s the thing about hiking – the appearances of distances can be very deceiving.
The sky is looking like it could go one of two ways : clear up nicely, or get cloudier. We shall see what the Weather Gods of Wicklow have in store for us!

There are numerous memorial plaques in the hills of Dublin and Wicklow – and there is one just below the summit of Seahan/Seechon – dedicated to an ‘Alan Nolan’ here. I do not know who he was but this is a wonderful place for such a memorial.Alan Nolan copy.jpg

Switching to my favourite long range lens now (the Zeiss 100mm) and the view over to Seefin mountain is quite pleasing. The dark terrain feature slicing down the mountain is a re-entrant known as ‘The Slade’ according to my map (at centre). I whimsically refer to it as ‘The Slide’. But I am silly like that.  Rising above the top of the ‘slide’ is Mullaghcleevan, the second highest mountain in Wicklow and just right of that in the far distance is the Monarch of Wicklow herself – Lugnaquilla.
The small ‘bump’ at the top of Seefin is a large megalithic tomb. We shall see this up close later!
Slade copy.jpg

At the top of Seahan now, and atop one of the three (that I know of) burial cairns here is a rather battered looking Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station. Getting quite a bit cloudier, I fancy. It is warm though.
Seahan Trig copy.jpg

This cairn is about 2 meters high and 24 meters in diameter and all of the cairns on these mountains most likely date to the Neolithic period, more than 5,000 years ago. The tombs are believed to be the remnants of passage tombs, a type of burial tomb that appears as a large round mound of stones, encircled by large stones set on their edges to form a kerb structure. Parallel lines of upright stones created a passageway leading to a chamber which usually contained the remains the revered dead.
The view over the city of Dublin is notable from up here.

The other tomb (a shattered wedge tomb) lies a short journey to the west of here, but I did not take a photograph of it this day because it was unfortunately covered with the remains of some form of barbeque. Not terribly respectful of the local ancient ancestors I think you’ll agree.
The winds will blow it away, and the tomb will remain, I guess. I was not really in a position to ‘litter pick’ this day I am afraid as I was carrying a lot of camera gear and water for Casper and I. A shame though. I have taken many photographs of this tomb before, but I am trying only to share images I took this day on this post. There will be other posts about this walk in the future, I am sure :).

The first summit of the day for Little Casper! Seven years old and still rocking it! Top chap!
He is so fast but usually he opts to stay right behind me on these walks, he never leaves me – unless there is some good heather sniffing to be done of course. He might leave me then but soon realise that whilst he has stopped – I have not! At which point he frantically rushes towards me once I am more than 5 meters away!
Casper Seahan copy.jpg

Casper is a rescue dog, and as a result of his previous life experience, he has some anxiety problems. I would consider him sort of an ‘autistic dog’ if such a thing exists –  I do not know about that.
He does not like dogs that he does not know, he also does not like things that might be considered strange to a little dog, or things that disrupt his routine. Cyclists might be an example, loud noises or other ‘exciting’ things are also triggers for him. He has a habit of ‘stacking’ his anxiety, and doesn’t let things go easily. When the stack gets too high, it gets too much and he melts down.
He really loves hill walking though. When it is just me and him roaming the hills of Wicklow he really comes alive. He loves to barrel around the peat hags and he loves to sniff the heather, especially when it is in full bloom (wait another month for that, Cas).

A short distance to the east, is another tomb – this one is a passage tomb, over 21m in diameter, with a kerb of elongated granite stones. This one I find particularly provocative.
Seahan Passage Tomb copy.jpg

I could stay here all day, watching the light change on this tomb and the humps and bumps of Wicklow in the distance glow and dimmer with the passing clouds but Casper and I have a mission today.
From here, we need to head south east for a short distance to reach our second summit of the day – Corrig. It is only about 1km away, but the ground in the gap between Seahan and Corrig is awkward. It’s very wet and boggy and I once observed an abandoned army jeep stuck in the bog here. I imagine somebody was in trouble when they had to report back to HQ that they had managed to get the jeep stuck in the bog :-/.
“Not again, Private!”.

At this point, Casper and I were uncertain about what the weather was going to bring. My suspicion was for increasing cloud and possibly rain showers. Casper concurred.
We had hoped not, and I crossed my fingers, and Casper crossed his paws.
This would not be the first time that Casper and I had been caught out in the rain, and we have a strategy for this that I shall explain later.

Looking towards Corrig, with the pointy Great Sugar Loaf in the far distance and Kippure with its RTE broadcasting mast at right.
Looking to Corrig copy.jpg

Casper has a habit of pausing for heather sniffing opportunities as previously mentioned, but also for another reason.
He loves taking selfies!
He puts his camera on the tripod, locks it into self timer mode and then scampers over to his chosen spot for the selfie.
A clever little dog really. Here he is, in the boggy gap between Seahan and Corrig.
Casper Corrig Gap copy.jpg

Some of the heather that Casper enjoys on the eastern shoulder of Seahan. Not quite at it’s ‘purplest’ yet.Purple Heather copy.jpg

A curious find here between Seahan and Corrig, it is an old ‘War Department’ pillar, a fact revealed by the ‘WD’ inscription on it. I believe, though I am not sure – that this is a throwback to the British ‘War Department’ that used both this range and the artillery range at Glen Imaal before the Irish Defence Forces used them, as they presently do. These pillars were used to denote the boundaries of the Kilbride rifle range.
WD corrig gap copy.jpg

This particular pillar looks over to Glendoo mountain, Two Rock mountain (at right) beyond and Dublin Bay (at left). In the far distance beyond the sea is the Howth peninsula (slightly left of center).

At the summit of Corrig (‘Rock’ in English) now, summit two of the day. It really is the poorest of the four summits I am afraid to say. Not offering splendid views and having no megalithic cairns (that I know of). Not much to say about it really. I am sure that good views might be had by dropping down the eastern slopes, but that was not the mission for this day.
There is another ‘WD’ pillar here, resting in a boggy pool.
WD Corrig copy.jpg

Not much wind this day at all – hence the reflections in the still pool above.
Another Casper photograph, at his second summit of the day – Corrig. He looks pretty clean still, surprisingly so – after the wet ground we just crossed.Casper at Corrig copy.jpg

Casper is a small dog (really small!) so I basically have to lie down to get to his level whilst he patiently poses for me!
After a pause here, for some water and some snacks we must start the assault on Seefingan. The highest summit of the day. Not a steep hike from here but quite a long (feeling) ascent from the boggy gap between here (Corrig) and Seefingan itself.
A gentle reminder en route.
Reminder copy.jpg

Some really nasty wet patches on the way to Seefingan. Poor Casper is much lower to the ground than I, but he is well trained in the art of ‘bog dodging’, or ‘bodging’ as he calls it! Bog Pool copy.jpg

Seefingan, our target, is at left above. The fingers (and paws!) crossing has done the trick for now, and we have some nice warm sunlight hitting us as we negotiate our path through this marshy gap. However, it does look as if cumulonimbus clouds are starting to tower up. These can produce sudden, and heavy rain showers. Keep an eye out, Cas.

Yes, definitely getting much cloudier now as we start the ascent of the northern slope of Seefingan.

Casper in the heather.
Casper Heather copy.jpg

I shot this wide open (f/1.4) with my 35mm lens. Only the tip of his nose is in complete focus, depth of field (or zone of focus) is razor thin wide open at this distance. I like the effect of this, and it really helps make a subject ‘pop’.
I took another version of this shot but I focused on his eye instead (usually in a portrait photograph, out of focus eyes is a big no-no) but I actually preferred the ‘nose focus’ shot to the ‘eye focus’ shot – because his nose is nearer.
But that is why I took two shots with different focus areas- options are nice to have and in the field it may not be obvious where best to place the focus for the effect you want. Experience has taught me this.
As I say, usually the eyes win but every case is different and it costs nothing to ‘bracket’ the focus in digital photography.
He is starting to look at little bit muckier now!

Partway up Seefingan, and the view north shows our journey so far – Seahan (left) and Corrig (right). Beyond Seahan and Corrig lies the sprawling city of Dublin.
Yeah, time to put the waterproof jacket on I think. The sky is moody and threatening.
Seahan Corrig copy.jpg

The actual summit of Seefingan (“Fingan’s Seat”) is marked only with a ‘Wicklow Mountains National Park’ post.
Casper at the summit of Seefingan. Man, it is getting dark now – the clouds overhead are thick, dark and threatening.Casper Seefingan copy.jpg

Looking over to Kippure from just east of here reveals a rather desolate area of eroded peat hags. Pretty gloomy looking, but interesting I thought.
Kippure copy.jpg

A long lens shot of Kippure, with the communications mast visible at the summit and War Hill and Djouce in the distance at right. The mast itself is 127 metres tall, and sits at the top of Kippure mountain – itself 757 metres above sea level. Construction of the mast was completed in the summer of 1961.
Kippure 100 copy.jpg

Well, we cannot pick the weather on the weekends eh! Sun would have been nice, but if my photographs were always sunny that would be an inaccurate depiction if Wicklow. Most of the time, it is just not sunny.

A short detour from the summit to the west reveals another very impressive megalithic tomb. This one is over 25 metres in diameter and about 4 metres high. Visible on the top is another ‘WD’ pillar.
Seefingan Tomb copy.jpg

At this point in the walk it had started to spit rain, so Casper and I decided to move on towards the final (and superior) summit of the day – Seefin (“Fionn’s Seat”).

Descending the south-western slope of Seefingan, the sky looked ever more menacing – a downpour was imminent.
The view here is pleasant, despite the grey conditions. Sorrel Hill is prominent slightly up and left of centre, with the sprawling Poulaphouca reservoir just beyond (and also to the right – below Lugnagun).
Seefingan Descent copy.jpg

My usual strategy for downpours when I have Casper with me is to wrap the little chap inside my waterproof jacket (whilst I am wearing it) so that he does not get totally drenched. He does own a nice jacket himself but sometimes the rain is just so heavy that he needs more protection. That was the case at this point – the heavens truly opened!
We took shelter behind a large peat hag and decided to wait it out. We thought it was never going to end! Casper insisted on poking his head through my jacket, despite my advice not to – and as a result he did get wet. But we tried to minimise this!

The rain fell straight down in vertical lines, as there was almost no wind.
25 minutes later, or so – the shower stopped and we opted to move on. Roll out autobots!
The sky was not clearing though, and looked to be darkening again.

The gap between Seefingan and Seefin is less boggy than the previous two gaps (between Seahan – Corrig and Corrig – Seefingan). So the going here was much easier, especially for Casper. The route took us to the mouth of the re-entrant known as ‘The Slade’ (or slide as I prefer!). At this point, it was only a trench a few foot deep but Casper had great fun launching himself over it – go rocket dog!

Approaching Seefin now, and a quick glance back to Seefingan (at right) also shows the first summit of the day (Seahan, at left). It looks like the sky may clear up for us as we arrive at the favourite summit of the day. Fingers & paws crossed :).
Seefingan Seahan copy.jpg

The cairn at Seefin is a passage tomb, measuring around 25m in diameter and about 3m high. You can see a number of large kerb stones around the base of the tomb defining its outer edge. The tomb has a passageway that is roughly 10m long and opens into a chamber with five compartments. If you are small, you can climb through the doorway portal shown in the below photograph. However, I am simply not small enough!Seefin Tomb copy.jpg

Towering cumulonimbus clouds in the distance and above the Poulaphouca reservoir at right hint at thunderous downpours in that area – I think this is the remnants of what previously passed over Casper and I earlier – the wind was easterly this day and we are looking west here.

A rather poor looking Casper, at his final summit of the day. He is a bit wet from walking through wet ground here but I am not worried, it was a warm day and he is pretty used to walking with me in the rain.
I think if you ask any dog, would they rather go out for a walk (and possibly get a little bit wet) or stay at home (but be dry) the answer will always be the same!
Well done Casper!
Seefin Casper copy.jpg

A colour shot of the tomb, with the view west on display.
Seefin Colour copy.jpg

The doorway to a forgotten world:
Seefin Portal copy.jpg

Heading off Seefin now, it’s been a long day for Casper and our lift is en route from Dublin – so we must not make them wait for us after the generous chauffeuring!

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 Circuit Of Brockagh East Top

I decided to leave the bigger hills alone this week, and instead opted to visit a much smaller hill, but a hill with very fine views of some of Wicklow’s beautiful valleys.

Brockagh South East Top is a hill I have visited many times, but I have not written a blog post about this place before, so I shall rectify that now!

Weather forecast was for light winds (westerly) and rain showers, some of which might turn thundery. Better pack the waterproofs (you should always pack these when walking in Ireland)!

According to Mountain Views, Brockagh translates to ‘mountain of Brocach or place of badgers’. I have never seen a badger here, mind.

My plan for the day was not to actually visit Brockagh Mountain ‘proper’, I opted instead to visit the South East Top only. The reason for this is that actual summit of Brockagh Mountain does not offer the wonderful views that Brockagh SE Top offers and I have often been disappointed by the views at Brockagh proper after the extra effort to get there. Instead I had wanted to spend more time at the superior SE top.

Anyway, starting at the car park at the lower lake of Glendalough (you have to pay in summer) I followed the Wicklow Way as it zig – zags its way up through Brockagh forest. After a short stretch, the Wicklow Way path heads south east, I departed ways with it here. Instead, I followed a forest track that heads north west. Forest Track copy.jpg

I had not taken this route to Brockagh South East Top before – usually I park in Glenmacnass or near the Brockagh Resource Centre, so I was curious to see how the views would be from this approach.

Just beyond the forest track in the photograph above, the forestry ends and a closed (closed when I was there) gate greets you along with a sign that says no mountain bikes/motor vehicles beyond this point. Walkers were welcome though. Walker code is to leave gates as they were found, so I closed the gate after passing through. It had a strange upward lifting bolt mechanism – one which I was not familiar with – I should have taken a photograph, actually. But, as I say, it was a mechanism I had not seen before and an unfortunate event occurred whereby as I closed the gate, the heavy bolt snapped down on my thumb. Ouch! Live and learn!

Leaving behind the gate, and its angry guardian, the route I had planned hits open hillside. Climbing gently, views over to the rugged north-eastern face of Camaderry are revealed.
Camaderry copy.jpg

From this spot there are also fine views looking up to Derrybawn Ridge. This is an angle I had not viewed the ridge from before.
Derrybawn copy.jpg

Climbing a bit further now, and turning back reveals a pleasant view down to the lower lake of Glendalough and the surrounding hills. I knew there was a better to view to come so I did not want to wait for the sun to totally illuminate the view here. Time is always against you as a photographer! The clouds were building as well.
View to Glendalough copy.jpg

A small bit further up and I took the opportunity to take a longer range shot of the lower lake with my 100mm lens. I really enjoy using this focal length for landscapes because it compresses the perspective only a small amount but allows closer views of details and interesting compositions.
Lower Lake copy.jpg

Nearing the summit of Brockagh SE Top now, and a curious perspective of Wicklow’s third highest summit come into view, here is Tonelagee (‘backside to the wind’). I must visit this mountain again soon, it has been a long time since I was up there, and it’s great! Tonelagee copy.jpg

Getting much cloudier now, as shown in the above photograph, and I think I can see rain in the distance. Better waterproof up!

Lego Batman always comes prepared, and he was ready for any rain. It rains in Gotham too! He did mention that he prefers the greens of Wicklow to the dark hues of the city of Gotham.
He was very grateful of the outing, but in the back of his mind, he was always aware that; should the signal be lit, he would have to return to fight criminals in the dark city. Jeez, talk about tortured soul… Can’t even enjoy a relaxing day out on the hills!Lego Batman copy.jpg

Coincidentally (or perhaps a little bit deliberately!), I saw the Lego Batman movie on the same day as this walk. It’s great fun and highly recommended. The same applies to the movie!

Back to the walk, a nice piece of sunlight illuminates the floor of the beautiful valley of Glenmacnass here, with the Glenmacnass waterfall at distance. The Military Road is also prominent on the valley floor itself, and on the right is a shoulder of Scarr Mountain known as ‘Kanturch’ I believe, or Scarr North West Top. This is the view from the northern slopes of the summit area of Brockagh SE Top. You do have to descend quite a bit to get an unobstructed view, as shown here.Glenmacnass copy.jpg

A wider shot of the valley taken a few minutes later. Woah! Everything got much darker all of a sudden! Yep, rain is definitely on the way! One angry looking sky….
Glenmacnass 35 copy.jpg

And the sky darkened further…
Rain copy.jpg

Heavy rain shower now. I hope it will pass soon, but Batman and myself (and more importantly my expensive camera gear!) are waterproofed up. Batman and I fear no rain!

Heading over to the south side of the summit now, back to complete my compact and scenic loop and a wonderful view of the lower lake and the Spinc is revealed.  Lower Lake and Spinc.jpg

Some rain fog moving past my favourite trees of Camaderry, with the great cliffs of the spinc beyond. Plus a partially fog covered Lugnaquilla lurking behind.Cover Image copy2.jpg

Sometimes poor weather can help photographs I think. And the images above are very representative of the climate in Ireland. It rains a lot and it is totally overcast a lot of the time. Don’t be fooled by ‘postcard’ photographs!
I have been to this place in many weather conditions (still waiting for snow though). I would say 75% of the time I have been here, it has been completely overcast! Many mornings I have sat up here at sunrise, after a very early start, only to be disappointed by the clouds.

Here is the beautiful ‘Valley Of The Two Lakes’ – Glendalough. The lower lake at left and the upper lake peeping behind the shoulder of Camaderry. Even on rainy, cloudy days it’s a wonderful sight and this is one of the best views of it I think.Lakes 50 copy.jpg

Descending further, almost back to the forest line. A bit of light creates some drama on this boulder here. Look at the moody sky! Another downpour imminent, I think.Drama copy.jpg

I was right. Boy, did it RAIN! I did have some shelter from the forestry but wow!

Almost back at the car park, and the ‘Little Yellow Man’ of The Wicklow Way reassuringly points the way!LYM copy.jpg

Thank you for reading!

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

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

A Snowy Day Above Glendalough

Another hike, another blog post! Jeez, I get out too much.
Somewhere different this time, as promised.

I was expecting the weather to be cold, windy and rainy (or snowy, at higher elevations). This indeed was the case, but I am jumping ahead of myself now!

To start, I parked my car at the Upper Lake car park of Glendalough – the start of so many adventures! I think €4 is a decent enough price to pay to park, knowing that my car will be safe from potential break ins/vandalism. Up bright and early, I planned my route for the day. Well, I say bright, but not once did I see the sun this day so perhaps ‘bright’ is not the correct adjective. But we can have fun without the sun!

So my plan for this day was to head up to the miners village and from there follow the zig zags up to the Glenealo footbridge. From here, I planned to deviate from the boardwalk track (which takes you up to the Spinc) and instead I wanted to get to a rather ‘tricky-to-get-to’ spot that I know that overlooks the Twin Buttress, a section of cliffs on the southern face of Camaderry mountain. Now, I have done this walk several times and you basically have to follow a ‘less steep’ set of contours with very steep contours both above and below you. Navigation is tricky enough here, and there are sheer cliffs about. I was expecting visibility to be poor this day, so I had the map & compass at the ready.

I also knew this day was going to be challenging for photography. There is only so much you can do when it’s constantly raining or snowing and I have to protect my gear. My Nikon D810 is ‘weather sealed’ but I am not prepared to push exactly how ‘weather sealed’ it is by shooting for extended periods of time in torrential rain or blizzards!

Still dry at this stage as I make my way up to the miners village.
Caution! Goats Crossing!
Caution Goats Crossing! copy.jpg

Yeah, mountain goats can be a rare sight in Wicklow, but early starts are your best bet. I have often seen them here on approach to the miners village though.

The dry weather was not to last though. It rained shortly after this and then the whole way up the zig zags until I hit the 250 meter above sea level mark. Here the rain had turned to a sort of sleet/snow/graupel mix. At the Glenealo footbridge (~370m asl) it had turned to actual snow, a development of which I was most delighted! Now, I just need it to stick…..

I took a small rest at the footbridge, checked in with my map and plotted my attack route. Mountains are never about summits for me really, I’ve noted before that the views are often superior on the slopes up to the summit, or in the nooks and crannies that others might not have explored.

Snowing still, not that I minded at all. I was sheltered from the strong winds courtesy of the cliffs above me. Near my chosen location now (not named on any map I have seen, otherwise I would share). I’ve been spotted!Deer copy.jpg

These two were a bit troubled by my presence here. I am guessing that this is sort of their safe haven, a location where few (if any) walkers venture. But it’s good to be off the beaten track I think. Beyond the rocky outcrop, and the deer, is the Spinc (Spinc comes from the Irish ‘An Spinc’ and means ‘pointed hill’). The hills and mountains in Wicklow are often named after obvious features – and this one is quite apparent from this angle!

It would appear that they wanted to engage in a game of hide and seek. Game on! Nobody can win at hide and seek against me! It must be my turn to hide now!Deer II copy.jpg

After a few hours in hiding though, I decided that perhaps they couldn’t find me and that I was simply just too good at this game. I wonder where they were?
Well, I gave up and thought it best if I got on with some photography now :-).

Perhaps not the greatest place to sit (especially as it was snowing), but I opted to seat myself atop the cliffs overlooking the valley of Glendalough with steep ground all around me. Here is a pal of mine, Bob the Boulder I know him as, though he has many names. You can see the snow falling all around him. He is an ancient chap, and I am not sure how many hundreds of years he has left before a freeze-thaw event plunges him deep to the valley below. But he is enjoying his time for the moment, and when quizzed about it he replies coolly “if it’s my time, it’s my time”. I guess we could all learn a thing or two from old Bob.Bob The Boulder copy.jpg

But what about the views Phil? Well, I’d be lying if I said they were the best views I’ve had. They just weren’t. The weather was relentless in its precipitation. But not all days are going to offer stunning views, the best thing to do is to try and work with what a day can offer rather than lament ‘what could have been’. Photography is about opportunities and compromises. I only get certain days where I can go hiking (I work full time, 5 days a week) so I have to just take the chances that I can get, and work with what I am given. In a way it helps my photography I think – it forces me to think about what I capture, rather than just racing to a spot I know that has a great view and snap away. It allows me the opportunity to discover pieces of the landscape in isolation as opposed to the sweeping vista as a whole. It’s more about being out in nature and recording things that I like to see. If something amazing happens, like an inversion at Lugnaquilla, then great – I am ALL over that, but if not – I will work with what I have. Landscape photographers cannot control the light or the weather. In short, just get out there and shoot is my advice. And just enjoy it. Plus, a little bit of hardship never hurt anyone!

The weather did not let up this day, it snowed the whole time I was up here in my spot – I was patient and I did wait a few hours, but it was getting very cold and the day was pressing on. Time waits for no man (or boulder!). Ok no more jokes now.

Hikers might often find that they are not cold at all whilst moving, but sit down for an hour, or maybe two – then you will feel the real temperature.

Well this was the best view I had this day, and to be honest it’s really not too shabby. The snow was still not really sticking at this point, plus the ground in the valley is lower than I am here – so most likely the snow was falling as rain there. But it was still snowing where I was sat. On the left we can see the Twin Buttress itself, a regular route for rock climbers and beyond that is the spoil heaps from the mining operations. At right is the Upper Lake of Glendalough with the Spinc lurking beside it and Derrybawn mountain (silhouetted) at distance behind.Glendalough copy.jpg

I took this using a 20mm Sigma Art f/1.4 lens. It’s a pure joy to use and it’s really in a league of it’s own in terms of speed and sharpness at f/1.4. To get a shot like this with a 20mm lens, you need to get to the edge of the cliff. Not close to the edge, you need to be at the edge.

But I did have to get my first copy of this lens exchanged. It had two small scratches on the front element inside, and fog formed inside the lens under certain conditions. Very bad. I usually carefully inspect each new lens I get, but I sort of forgot to do my tests with this lens (busy modern lifestyle) and only noticed a month later that there was an issue. One very simple test I like to perform on any lens I am inspecting is to point a torch through it (or point the lens to some other bright light source) whilst the lens is not attached to the camera and visually inspect both the rear and front elements. The bright light shows any (internal or external) scratches on the lens. Now, a minor scratch here or there is not going to affect image quality drastically, but it does affect resale value – and this was a brand new lens. So back it goes. Amazon really sorted me out though, they sent me a replacement that arrived the very next day! That is customer service –  thanks and way to go Amazon!

A closer, moody shot of the Twin Buttress:Twin Buttress copy.jpg

Must head back to the car now, a long way to walk back. It’s still snowing.
Gah! I’ve been spotted again! I must work on my stealth skills.
Deer III copy.jpg

Not the original two deer I was playing hide and seek with earlier (well, presumably – I mean there are four here!). Heaven knows where the original two went! I think they probably thought I was hiding up at Lugnaquilla again.

Yup, still snowing but not really sticking. It’s amazing how a flurry of snow can make anything seem magical. Maybe it’s just me, but I do enjoy a (Mc)flurry! Sorry, I am in a strange mood today. Still Snowing Grass copy.jpg

The visibility was getting poor again, but I liked the moss on these rocks.Still Snowing copy.jpg

I also had another friend that I had planned to visit this day, behold! Brian the Boulder! He’s been through some tough times let me tell you. He likes to remind me of this each and every time I visit as well – “These cracks didn’t come fer free ya know!”.Brian the Boulder copy.jpg

There is also a lone human at distance (at right) in this photograph. I like his presence here, it adds some scale to the cliffs of the Spinc beyond him. But this photograph was about Brian and he will hear no different!

Yeah, visibility was getting very poor now. Here is the silhouetted north facing cliffs of the Spinc. Snow was coming down thick and fast now. How exciting! And no, that is not digital camera noise – that is snow flakes falling.Spinc Cliffs copy.jpg

Descending further now, but the snow has turned to just boring old heavy rain. So away went the camera and on I plodded!

Well I couldn’t leave without taking a shot of the Upper Lake now could I? I always take a shot of the lake!
Upper Lake 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!

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

A Dark day on Derrybawn

A short ish walk this weekend. There has been some pain in the lower limbs, so I gave myself permission to chill a bit and only did a 10km hike to Derrybawn Mountain. Plus the weather forecast was to be what I would describe of as ‘naff’.
I am not sure if Derrybawn truly is a mountain in fairness, as it is not higher than 500m above sea level (it’s just shy at 474m ASL), but it’s an enjoyable hike nevertheless. It is listed as a mountain in multiple sources, so we will go with that!

Wicklow does have a lack of truly spectacular ridges, having only two – Derrybawn being one and Fananierin being the other. The walk I chose to do starts at the Upper Lake car park at Glendalough and involves following a section of The Wicklow Way (Ireland’s first waymarked long distance trail – 132km) beside the Poulanass waterfall.
Follow the ‘Little Yellow Man’ signposts for The Wicklow Way.LYM copy.jpg

Unfortunately, there has not been a significant rainfall event within the last few days, so the Lugduff Brook that feeds the Poulanass waterfall was not in spate. It is still worth a shot or two.

Poulanass I copy.jpg

The name Poulanass is taken from the Irish ‘Poll an Eas’ which translates to ‘hole of the waterfall’ I believe. It is easy to see how it got the name!Poulanass II copy.jpg

A little further on The Wicklow Way, we pass some majestic Scots Pine trees, native trees of Ireland. These are beautiful trees, and make a great change from the armies of Sitka Spruce plantations (there are many such plantations in Wicklow).Scots Pines copy.jpg

Without a full view of the sky at this point, one would be forgiven for thinking that this day was going to be a beautiful sunny day. But I knew better, I knew this was possibly the last piece of warm sunlight I would see before the clouds come marching in to ruin my fun! Yep, here they come!Clouds marching in copy.jpg

Still, a wonderful place to be even if the light isn’t great. I control everything on my camera, every setting. I use only manual focus (for landscapes) so I have absolute power over my tool. But I have no power over the weather. I am as feeble as this tree!Tree copy.jpg

Anyway, it’s always great to be out in the fresh air. Get a bit of exercise and enjoy nature. The journey today involves dropping The Wicklow Way after a switchback, to climb through a forest of Scots Pine trees. A rough enough track takes you straight up to Derrybawn itself.

Sometimes bad weather can really make great photographs – we will see this in winter when the higher summits in Wicklow have their snowy hat on! But for now, here are some grey skies and the top of Tonelagee (3rd highest mountain in Wicklow) in fog. Tonelagee remained in this state for the whole time I saw it today, not terribly unusual unfortunately.Grey Skies copy.jpg

A few small patches of warm sunlight break through over the flank of Camaderry Mountain. And yep, Tonelagee is wearing his fog hat. I prefer it when he wears his snow hat, but he won’t listen to my pleas.Pieces of sun copy.jpg

The view from near the summit of Derrybawn is impressive. On a clear day it is wonderful. From here you can see the Spinc (slightly left of center), Camaderry (beyond the lake) and the Upper Lake of Glendalough. Overcast copy.jpg
I created a timelapse at this spot today, quite challenging actually as it was pretty windy! I was hoping that the sun may pop out. It didn’t. But I do like how the clouds are whizzing past overhead – it’s kind of relaxing to watch! You can see it here on my Facebook page.

Time to return now. Derrybawn is a popular spot, which is a shame in many ways, the trail is very badly eroded and pretty mucky in places!Mucky copy.jpg

I was starving on the way down, but I was not tempted by these fellas. I would have no idea if they were safe to eat or not. I hate mushroom anyway! Don't eat! copy.jpg

Some nice views on the way back down. Nice view copy.jpg

Thanks 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 Zig Zags of Glenmalure and Jim’s High Rock

Glenmalure is the longest glacial valley in Ireland and Britain.
A valley filled with rich history both of the human kind and the natural. A truly fascinating area, and one that I really should spend more time in. But there are so many amazing places in Wicklow, and I am just one person who does this in his spare time!
Weather wise, the forecast had stated ‘a few bright spells, but mostly cloudy with locally heavy showers’. So, a typical day in Ireland really!

When the red flag is flying, the military are firing!Red Flag copy.jpg

This flag means firing is ongoing in the Glen of Imaal artillery range, so access to the mountains immediately in that area is prohibited. I would be going nowhere near this area today, but the place I intended to visit is a popular approach to Lugnaquilla, Lug itself being partly in the range – hence the warning here. My plan was to head up the Zig Zags and swan on over to Jim’s High Rock.

Immediately upon leaving the car, a wonderful sight comes in view – a quaint little cottage tucked away below Carrawaystick Waterfall.Carrawaystick Waterfall copy.jpg

To get to the Zig Zags you need to walk beside the cottage itself, beside Carrawaystick Brook – but that proved to be no hardship!Lovely Cottage copy.jpg

Shortly after this, I needed to cross Carrawaystick Brook itself.

How convenient! A handy bridge has been constructed by volunteer organisation Mountain Meitheal (who aim to conserve mountain areas in Ireland).Carrawaystick Bridge copy.jpg

I wanted to walk up the Zig Zag track on the steep north-eastern slopes of Cloghernagh Mountain, itself a high eastern spur of Lugnaquilla. This track is old, and owned privately by a local sheep farmer who kindly grants access to walkers on this track. Historically, the track was used by the Parnell family as a hunting track in the 1800s, and according to this sign – no dogs are allowed. Which is fair enough really, given that the landowner has sheep on the hillside.Zig Zags signpost copy.jpg

As you travel up the Zig Zags on the steep slopes of Cloghernagh, and gain height, a wonderful view opens up of the fertile valley floor of Glenmalure below.Valley Floor copy.jpg

A tricky scene to capture actually. Even the impressive dynamic range of my Nikon D810 was not able to cope with the dark shaded valley floor and the bright sun light shafts and sky. Exposing to keep the highlights of the bright sky would yield a very dark valley, and exposing for the dark valley would result in a ‘blown out’ overexposed sky. There are some options for scenes like this. You can bracket your shots (take multiple images at different exposure levels to compensate for the high contrast) and later merge them in software on the computer (known as HDR merging) OR you can use a graduated neutral density filter. These days I typically prefer to use the filter as it means I can get it almost correct with one shot, in camera. In my experience it also yields a ‘more natural’ result, and I do generally (there are exceptions, of course) like to keep my photographs representative rather than overly ‘creative’ in terms of post processing. To me, photography is artistic in the idea of the photograph itself (the subject), the composition and the vital ingredient – the light, not the ‘post processing’. It is not by accident that I ‘stumble’ onto amazing places in Wicklow, it is through careful examination of maps, scouting trips and preplanning. Anyway, I like to limit my time on the PC, as I work as a computer programmer full time so 40 odd hours a week at a desk in front of a PC is more than enough for me thanks!

Moving on, it is time to start climbing again. The views really start to open up as more height is gained on the Zig Zags. Here are some nice (almost) autumnal trees.Trees copy.jpg

Autumn is perhaps a little late here in Wicklow, we have not really had a proper frost yet so the autumn colours are not at their peak just yet. A couple more weeks I think. But the colours are still quite remarkable regardless.Colours copy.jpg

I am not sure that this is the absolute best place to stand for grazing?Sheep copy.jpg

The final leg of the Zig Zags now, looking over to the steep slopes Lugduff Mountain. A small patch of sunlight too! Nice!Last leg copy.jpg

From here, we break out onto open hillside. This is where the fun begins! A friendly reminder that we are now heading for mountains, and to be prepared.Warning copy.jpg

A key point to note here on the sign is ‘appropriate clothing’. I endured no less than three thunderous downpours of rain this day. It was also very cold with a biting northerly wind. Definitely thermal jumper, two fleeces and winter waterproof jacket weather!

Yup, here comes the rain.Rain coming copy.jpg

I had to hunker down a bit here, the rain was very heavy. I needed to waterproof my rucksack with my camera gear tucked safely inside. I do not use the ‘rain shield’ that comes bundled with outdoors rucksacks, as I find them to be next to useless in proper rain. A little hiking tip here – I use large bin bags! I secure my pack inside this, and once the rain stops I shake the rain off the bin bag, dry it off as much as possible and then fold it back into my pack inside another (completely dry) bin bag (to prevent my pack getting wet from the inside) so that it is mostly dry in the event I need it later – it would defeat the point if I then put a completely wet bin bag inside my pack! This strategy works well for me, and it’s something I have been doing for years. Your Mileage May Vary of course. I sat and ate my spicy pasta (yum) and grapes (yum!) and waited for the shower to pass. It’s funny, food always tastes better when you are hiking!

I always love shooting after the rain, the light on the landscape changes dramatically.After the rain copy.jpg

Getting higher still now, and the rain seems to have passed, for the moment at least. Looking down to Glenmalure beyond Carrawaystick Brook gives hint that this is indeed not the last shower for today!Looking down to Glenmalure copy.jpg

I do love trees, and all of nature really.
Backlit Forest copy.jpg

I am approaching my destination now, Jim’s High Rock.
I do not know who Jim is (or rather, was) unfortunately, and I could not find any information about him in my research – but he has a splendid view over to the cliffs of Benleagh Mountain from his rock!Vicinity of Jim's High Rock copy.jpg
Here is a small section of Jim’s High rock, not a great place to be ‘hanging around’ (sorry), given that there are sharp and high cliffs beyond that crag.Jim's High Rock copy.jpg

I am afraid I am going to have to cheat a little bit here, and use an image I took on a previous trip to this place to show you Jim’s High Rock itself. I wouldn’t normally do this but I had to head for home (due to time constraints) shortly after the above photograph so I did not manage to get to the best spot for the shot. I do like to document an area based on a particular visit but I really wanted to share this image. Anyway, here is one I made earlier (on a much nicer day too!).Jim's High Rock cheat copy.jpg

In clear weather, as you can see, the view is very impressive in the vicinity of this ancient granite crag.
Time to return to the car now. Back the way I came. The rain had started again, and with it those biting northerlies. I took one last look back at the upper slopes of Cloghernagh, where I was earlier- quite steep in parts, with wet rock and soggy peat – far too easy to slip on. The fog was getting lower too.Looking back to Cloghernagh copy.jpg

Back on the Zig Zags again, much harder coming down that going up in my opinion. I have always found descent much trickier than ascent. My knees are getting too old for it!

The bracken here is most colourful! The Avonbeg River on the valley floor of Glenmalure is also visible at distance in this photograph.Bracken copy.jpg

A close up photograph of the dying bracken. Yep, autumn is coming!Bracken decaying copy.jpg

And finally, I return to the Carrawaystick bridge I crossed earlier.Carrawaystick Bridge II copy.jpg

A good days hike!

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!

Knocknamunnion

Today, as a last minute decision, I took a hike in the mist and rain (it rained most of the weekend here, a huge amount yesterday). I needed some fresh air!Forest Mist copy.jpg

I opted for a new adventure today, and observed on my map an ‘engine room/army shelter’ which I believe was built by the British Army in the Glen of Imaal. There is a lot of history in this valley, and each time I visit, I find something new.
As you may remember or know the Glen Imaal is currently used by the Irish Defence Forces (Irish Army) as an artillery range – so I needed to check with them if I could use this route.
Clearance was granted so off I went!Oiltiagh Bridge copy.jpg
The route itself is 90% gentle, and on forest tracks mainly but there is 10% of the route which is really quite nasty, especially after so much rain. Walkers copy.jpg

A short steep climb (thanking my hiking poles today, I had to come back down this way!) then onto the Table Track.

The Table Track runs from the end of the Glenmalure Valley and passes within a few hundred metres of the summit of Table Mountain. This track is very old and was used historically as an access route between Glen of Imaal and Glenmalure. I’d imagine many a rebel would have used this track moving between the Glens to avoid capture by the British. Something I found odd about the Table Track was the colour. It was bright green and grassy and stood out ominously in a desert of brown/purple heather!Table Track copy.jpg
Anyway, onto the shelter itself…. Well, it’s in a pretty sorry state and clearly not used/maintained by the Irish Army.
The roof has collapsed on one half and the second half looks to be set for the same fate in the next few years or so. Glad I went now! I am not sure when I would be able to visit this again.
It’s almost invisible from the side I approached it – it has the appearance of a small grassy lump, so a quick check in with the map was necessary.
The views from here were impressive though, and I must revisit in clearer weather.Ruined Army Shelter-2 copy.jpg

Lugnaquilla was in cloud of course, 3 out of 5 days it is in this condition I believe. Lugnaquilla in cloud II copy.jpg

One final point of historical interest is the Ogham Stone near the start of the walk. Knickeen Long Stone is a standing stone that features Ogham writing. This megalith 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. An evocative monument to encounter indeed.Knickeen Ogham Stone copy.jpg

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my site where you can see lots more of my work!