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.

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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.

 

A Wintry Hike To Lugnaquilla

Yes, I know, I write about this walk a fair bit. But it’s probably my favourite, so it’s not surprising really. I spent about 11 hours in this area this day, from sunrise to sunset.

Checking in by phone call with the Army Artillery range at 5am that morning (I was surprised they were manning the phone at this time!) confirmed that there was no firing in the range for the whole week. Score!

On the whole, the mountains of Wicklow are quite gentle and not terribly dramatic. Lugnaquilla (for the most part) continues this theme to a certain degree – it has a broad, flat summit with no sweeping ridges. But if drama is what you desire then dropping down a bit to the north or south prisons is a sure fire way to get some! Lug is often underestimated, in clear weather it is beautiful, but in bad weather it has a real sting that catches people out. At least 3 out of 5 days Lug will be in complete cloud – in winter that means white out due to snow and ice on the ground. Combine this with high winds and sub zero temperatures and you’d better be prepared or Lug will punish you.

Another early start (as usual for me on my holidays!) meant leaving my car at the pub at Glen Imaal shortly before 5:45 am on the day after New Year’s Day. No, the pub was not open at this hour this time round :-). Probably a few sore heads were being nursed from New Years Eve no doubt! I wanted to wish my friend Lugnaquilla Happy New Year but the weather was quite inclement on New Year’s Day itself so I opted for the fairer day (the 2nd January).

Sunrise was at 8:39 am but I wanted to take it very slow heading up Camara Hill as I was expecting the (usually very) wet path to be icy. I was wearing many layers, so I also did not want to sweat too much. Sweating is all well and good when you are trying to workout and push yourself at the gym, but when you are in the mountains in winter at night time, hypothermia becomes a very real danger if you are damp from sweat.

So, giving myself plenty of time, I headed up Camara Hill with crampons attached (it was like an ice rink) slowly and purposefully. I am always amazed by how bright the stars are on clear nights in this area, away from the light polluted cities. I wanted to take a long exposure photograph of the starry night sky, but the strong northerly wind was never going to allow a 30 second exposure. Next time :-).

You can read about this route on my other posts (A Return To Log Na Coille, Lugnaquilla From Fenton’s Bar – The SequelLugnaquilla from Fenton’s Bar) so I won’t describe it in excessive detail on this post.

Pushing on, a lot of ground to cover today (came to a total of 23.2 km’s by the time I got back to my car)! Here was my view over to my target (Lugnaquilla) just as day was breaking. A long way to go yet.Dawn Breaking copy.jpg

Not a lot of snow on the ground here at this section (in the image above), but a decent amount of ice and frozen snow later. The crampons performed admirably. Some of this ground would have been very tricky without them. Look how mucky I am already!Crampons copy.jpg

Fang:Fang copy.jpg

Some time later, a familiar view opens up on the final push onto the summit itself. A lot of the ice on the lower slopes has melted already. Not a single cloud in the sky! Extremely rare.View to the south west copy.jpg

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – winter is the best season.Ice Grass copy.jpg

How I love this final rocky slope up to Lug.Slope copy.jpg

On the summit plateau now, the ground is frozen rigid here. I did not bring my anemometer this day but I would suspect (based on forecasts) that the temperature up here was – 4°C and -7°C with wind chill, or thereabouts :-). Nice!Frozen copy.jpg

For better or for worse, there are signs near the summit area describing the artillery range below you (and areas to avoid). I found it humorous that the army (or other persons unknown) took the trouble to scrape off the icy obstructions from only the portions of the sign that were deemed important!Sign copy.jpg

I wanted to overlook the south prison, but from here the north prison is closer – so a quick snap of that and then a short march over to the summit proper. The south prison was waiting for me! No sunlight in the north prison at this time of year, so an overcast day would be better for photographing this but it was a sight to behold for the eyes!North Prison copy.jpg

Cameras record light differently to how the human eye perceives light. I am not going to bore you all (whom I suspect, perhaps incorrectly, are mostly not technically minded photographers) with dynamic range and exposure value jargon but suffice it to say cameras deal with light and shade in a different manner to our eyes (and brain).

I headed over to the summit from here, and then dropped down to overlook the cliffs of the south prison. Careful now, icy here and a slip would be catastrophic. Looking over to Cloghernagh and Corrigasleggaun mountains from the cliffs of the south prison:Looking over to Cloghernagh and Corrigasleggaun copy.jpg

A nice frosty rock:Mono copy.jpg

Seems like a reasonable place to have a spot of (late) lunch. I forgot to eat, I was having so much fun. A bad idea really. My muscles and arthritic joints will pay for my negligence!
Chicken, lettuce and sweetcorn sandwich. Finished up with some grapes. Yum. Sheltered here on the south cliffs from those stinging northerly winds and nice sunlight to boot. Cliff copy.jpg

From here, the view to the south was hazy but not unpleasant at all.Looking South copy.jpg

The day is pressing on now and the sun is low in the sky, but a short detour reveals a pleasant view of the top of the south prison itself.South Prison copy.jpg

Heading back down now, and this cairn marks the track toward Slieve Maan – not the track that I wanted to take to get me back to my car but worth the detour for the photo opportunity!Cairn copy.jpg

Back on the Camara ridge now, not much left in the day in terms of sunlight but a truly beautiful day to be at the highest mountain in the east of Ireland.

Looking back over to the last light on Lugnaquilla and the north prison, fog is closing in and looks set to stay for the next 5 days at least judging by the forecasts!Last light on Lug copy.jpg

The sun setting over Keadeen mountain.Sunset copy.jpg

I always find this last forest track leg to the start point hard after being at Lugnaquilla. I was tired at this stage and the sun had gone down about 40 minutes previously but I thought this would make a good photograph.Twilight copy.jpg

The conjunction of the crescent Moon and Venus was particularly pretty as well. Not a bad days hike!Moon & Venus II copy.jpg

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

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.

Pottering About At Camaderry

The Proud Mountain, as the great J.B. Malone refers to it.
Camaderry (Pass Of The Oak Wood) is very well situated, nestled between the valleys of Glendalough and Glendasan.

Following up last weeks post about an amazing day at Lugnaquilla was always going to be tough. I rely very heavily on interesting weather and good light for my photographs and sometimes you just aren’t going to get either. You just have to try your best regardless! Quite often in Ireland, the days are damp, grey and windy. Well, the weather for this adventure was not damp, but it was grey and it became quite windy. One can not have it all though!

As I have mentioned before, the summits of the Wicklow mountains are quite often the least interesting area of a particular mountain, and Camaderry is no exception here. I have been to this one many times, but only bothered with the summit a handful of those times. That’s not to say that the summit is not interesting, or that it’s disappointing, I just think the views are much better on the steeper northern and southern slopes of the south east top of Camaderry than they are at the actual summit proper. Exploration of the Wicklow mountains will reveal this to hikers.

The journey starts with a familiar starting point, parking up at the (paid) Upper Lake car park of Glendalough. Guess who was first to park up here this day? Yeah, it was me, again! I always take a look at the upper lake of Glendalough at the start of this walk, as it’s very beautiful and never the same each time I look at it. Arriving at around sunrise, the winds are slack and the lake is calm.Upper Lake II copy.jpg

A lovely start to the day!Upper Lake copyb.jpg

Now, to ascend Camaderry from here I skirt around the upper lake and follow a forest trail to the higher ground. There is a nice steep track that you can go up (I believe the track is ancient, and possibly was used by the inhabitants of the valley during the times of St. Kevin – though I am not certain). I would not be taking the steep option today due to sore achilles so I opted for the gentler approach. The steep approach is fun though, big time, and highly recommended. Walk Start copy.jpg

The forest trail has much to recommend it though, it’s very colourful and not so tough on sore tendons. And very quiet and peaceful.
Forest Trail copy.jpg

I knew this day was to be a day of overcast skies (or a ‘no-sky day’ as I call it). Though not beautiful in itself, from a photographic point of view it can actually be quite helpful for some scenes. This will become evident later, but for now – back to the journey!

Above the tree line now, I like to descend a small bit on the northern slopes to take a look over at Glendasan and the broad hulk that is Tonelagee Mountain. Also visible are the large white spoil heaps of mining operations (for lead, mostly – in the 1800’s) on the shoulder of Brockagh Mountain. The road visible here is the R756 as it winds its way up to the Wicklow Gap, often impassable in winter due to snow and ice. Certainly not impassable this day judging by the roar of motorbikes emanating from it!Tonelagee copy.jpg

I did not linger on the northern slopes for long, as I really wanted to head to the southern slopes. This is where a cloudy sky helps – if the sun was shining, the whole view south would be very contrasty due to the lake being in shadow of the Spinc – the sun is in the south of the sky in Ireland at this time of year.
Descending a little further on the southern slopes now, this is very steep and not a terribly sensible place to be in all honesty. It’s pretty dicey. But I’ve been here many times and I know it well. Tough on the achilles here, but where else in Wicklow would you get a view like this? And I dare say that there are few photographs of the upper lake of Glendalough and the Spinc taken from this angle.Upper Lake and Spinc copy.jpg

Yes, I am fond of this tree, a Scots Pine. There are a handful of these scattered on the southern slope of Camaderry, which is quite unusual for Wicklow – usually the mountains are either barren moorland or covered in Sitka Spruce plantations. This is the final living Scots Pine before a drop off (cliff) to the ground some distance below.Scots Pine copy.jpg

OK I like trees!Trees copy.jpg

Looking down to Temple-na-Skellig (the ruins at right above the lake shore), located on the southside of the upper lake, below the cliffs of the Spinc. The church is accessible by boat across the lake or by climbing down the steep cliffs of the Spinc itself (experts only). Also visible, is ‘St. Kevins Bed’, (very small black square hole in the cliffs at left, just above lake). A small cave, man made according to my research – I wonder is this an ancient tomb?  There are also climbers visible in the middle area between these two items of interest just above the shore, though they are very small at this resolution unfortunately (I always downsample my photographs for online use). Temple-na-Skellig copy.jpg

Walking along a (presumably) narrow deer track now, and the view is extraordinary from this angle. The sun still mostly obscured by high altitude clouds.Upper Lake Wide copy.jpg

Always a contrasty affair the above shot, except in high summer but the vegetation is a killer in summer – you need a machete!

Another shot I took, a ‘detail’ shot where I focus in on the Glenealo river as it feeds into the upper lake. A much less contrasty scene. Wide angle shots are nice, but you need a good sky for them to pay off really. Sometimes I think the best approach is a ‘less is more’ attitude and focussing in on details can yield much more pleasing images.glenealo river copy.jpg

Best head back to the car now, the day is pressing on and my achilles are starting to complain a bit louder. Some of the terrain negotiated this day was of a poor quality. Steep inclines and descents and  dead orange bracken up to the waist. Not to mention the gorse bush I lost a fight to!

There are plenty of views on the way back down anyway.Crooked copy.jpg

I particularly liked the mood of this tree here. It has quite a peculiar form I think you’ll agree!Ruined copy.jpg

And here is a great view of the lower lake of Glendalough with the round tower in sight and the pretty village of Laragh beyond.Lower Lake and Round Tower copy.jpg

There are countless areas to visit at Camaderry, and I’ve only scratched the surface in this post. I would need repeated visits to do it justice.

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.

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

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Fancy Mountain from The Military Road

Fancy Mountain, or Luggala Mountain as it is widely known, is perhaps among the best known mountains in Wicklow. Fancy comes from Irish Fuinnse, meaning “ash tree”. One of the best viewing points of this mountain is available on the R759 road that can take you to Sally Gap from Roundwood. I would not be approaching the mountain from this road today, though it is a view I have seen (and of course photographed) countless times, and it always impresses! You can see one of my photographs from near this road here on my website.

I decided to approach Fancy Mountain from The Military Road, as it’s much gentler this way. I also love the ‘plunging’ sensation you are greeted with upon meeting the summit. After a couple of kilometers walking (more like dancing!) on wet, soggy, gently ascending bog moorland you are greeted with an extraordinary view near the summit, due to the fact that you are at the top of some large cliffs.

I wanted to do a few detours on the way to the summit along the tops of the cliffs that overlook Lough Tay (famously known as the ‘Guinness Lake’, due its black, peaty waters and the white sandy beach at one end – resembling a pint of ‘the black stuff’). So, as is often the case, I managed to turn a nice gentle walk into a taxing enough hike!

At the start of the journey, the weather did not look too promising. Looking over to the distinctive summit of Scarr Mountain here, one might think ‘uh-oh’. Weather not too promising copy.jpg

But I know Wicklow well, the weather can change very rapidly. In the blink of an eye really, especially in the higher ground. The colours in Wicklow are crazy at the moment, autumn is a wonderful season for photography. Colours copy.jpg

As many of you might be aware, the hit TV show Vikings and the film Braveheart have used the shores of Lough Tay as a filming location. I am not surprised, it’s such an amazing landscape here.

There is a beautiful lodge situated on private land below the tumbling cliffs of Fancy itself. The estate is owned by a member of the Guinness family I believe. From the edge of the cliffs, you get an almost aerial view of Luggala Castle. Who needs drones when you have cliffs and legs that can take you to them!Luggala Castle copy.jpg

Here is another shot of the castle, with a part of the cliff in shade – a plunging feeling alright! I have a ‘healthy’ respect for heights, and let’s put it this way – you do not want to slip here. The castle looks like a toy or model from up here.luggala-castle-cliffs-copy

A final photograph of the castle, and it’s surroundings. The two larger hills behind the castle are War Hill and Djouce – hidden by fog – as they were most of the day.Castle and its environ copy.jpg

There is a nice view of the Cloghoge river, which feeds into Lough Tay and then meanders its way from that lake down to Lough Dan.Cloghoge River Meandering copy.jpg

The spectacular cliffs of Fancy Mountain are a popular rock climbing area, but I did not see any climbers today.
In fact, I didn’t see another soul here at all today! The face of Fancy copy.jpg

The observant might notice the curious structure near the centre of the photograph above. This is in fact a small domed temple that was originally built in the 1740’s at Templeogue in Dublin. Possibly near to where I currently live! The monument was later relocated by the Guinness family to the shores of Lough Tay, where it stands today in a truly majestic location.The Temple copy.jpg

My route today skirted from the lower end of the cliffs towards the actual summit. From nearby the summit, the view really opens up. What a treat!Lough Tay copy.jpg

There were several ravens flying about the place near the summit, but I did not bring my 70-200mm lens today so 85mm was the longest reach I had with me. I did manage to capture one in flight above the lake though. What a view this fella would have had.Raven copy.jpg

The clouds are moving in again now, and the fog is descending on the hills. Probably time to leave.Clouds copy.jpg

Heading back now, back on the mucky, wet and slippy journey home. Thanking my leather walking boots today. Quiz time! Is this my left or my right foot? Mucky Boots copy.jpg

P.S. the other footprints are not mine.

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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!

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!