Short, sharp and sweet was the clearance of fog at Lugnaquilla last weekend (2nd Feb, 2019).
Leaving my home at 4 am, I was a bit concerned about the roads due to most of Wicklow’s high roads being impassable because of lying snow and ice.
Not a problem, if you start your hike quite low!
The roads were fine (I was mostly using national roads) until I arrived at Knockanarrigan, where it was a bit icy with some snow on the road banks.
I parked up at around 05:00 I think, and I got home around 20:30, from memory.
The forecast was for clear skies all day except around lunch time, when some low cloud was forecast, so probably a whiteout at Lug. Ironically, this was the only part of the day (after the sun rose) where Lugnaquilla was actually clear! Well, a weather forecast is just that – a forecast – NOT a statement of weather!
Such a perfectly clear morning, a bit of wind but not horrendous down here in the glen.
Already some lying snow here, at the 200 metre above sea level mark. Lugnaquilla is 925m asl.
I took a couple of night sky shots, because it was so clear. Looking over to Keadeen with some obvious light pollution behind, presumably from Baltinglass.
I managed to catch a couple of meteors in the below shot as well (near top right).
Looking upto Lugnaquilla just before dawn.
Ascending Camarahill now, and the snow on the ground is getting heavier, and in places has collected into deep drifts. Taken during ‘blue hour’ – the hour before sunrise, you can see where the name came from!
No joke getting up here this morning, tough work. Some of the drifting here is knee level, or higher. The fresh north-westerly winds of the previous day have left their mark in the patterns of the snow here. They were not light at this moment either!
Sunrise was soon, so at this point I pressed on up Camarahill a bit. It was tough going, the snow was deep and I was carrying heavy photography equipment (as always). I paused for quite a while for a breather (and some calories) at the top of Camarahill, where I was greeted by a (mostly) clear view up to Lugnaquilla.
Here I was overtaken by two hikers who found the tracks I left in the snow a great help on their ascent! You’re welcome chaps!
It was their turn to pioneer snow tracks now :).
Just after this, I met a follower of my blog who figured out I was who I am! Hi Jan, if you are reading this. Nice to meet you!
The fog moved in, just as I was ascending Lower Corrig. It looked temporary, so I took a shot and pressed on. The sun pretty much up now, the snow on the ground getting deeper still.
The fog is getting thicker, and lower – Ballineddan is ensconced now (at left) and it looks as though Keadeen is about to become smothered too. Whiteout soon, I suspect.
Just as I thought the whiteout was imminent, it cleared in an instant!
Here is a shot I took just after Upper Corrig (I took none there, because it was intermittently foggy). Pretty arctic looking up to Lug from this spot.
I knew the fog could return at any moment though. It always does at Lugnaquilla!
And yep, it did! Just as I was ascending the final slope of Lug, it came in thick.
I decided to press on. Fortune favours the brave, I was thinking. It also favours the prepared. I had a map and a compass – and I know how to use them.
Whiteouts are extremely difficult to navigate in, impossible without navigational tools.
Here is the summit, I found it without difficulty in the whiteout ( a well rehearsed routine!).
Suffice it to say, it was quite a challenge to read the army information sign this day.
However, that was not my greatest challenge that day though!
You can just about make out the summit cairn in the background too, right of centre.
The snow here is less deep than on the way up, presumably the strong north westerly winds would have blown a lot of it off into the south prison (which is really south east facing). Still, it was pretty deep in parts where it had drifted.
Not much to see right now, but it’s probably about -14°C including wind chill at this point. I was not cold though, I had my winter gear on. Even still, I could not hang around here for many hours (as I do in summer!). It was about 10:45 when I got here. Operating camera gear with heavy winter gloves on is difficult, my hands and fingers are quite large, clumsy and inflexible. This was when I felt the cold, to remove the gloves to operate the camera settings. This is one of the reasons that touch screens don’t impress me!
I have a strategy for this though, I always pack a hand warmer in each glove, so that after putting the glove back on my hand heats back up fast.
Well, the fog showed some signs of clearing, so I headed over to a spot I love just above the south prison. Still in mostly whiteout conditions at this point.
Still very foggy.
I sat (I was wearing ski trousers) and ate my lunch now. I was hoping the fog would clear. The mountain tends to reward patience, in my experience.
Less than an hour later, it started to clear.
A winter Wicklow wonderland is revealed!
Looking south east to the pyramidal Croaghanmoira Mountain.
And then further, to Croghan Kinsella, beyond the Ow river and valley.
A shot down over to Cloghernagh and Corrigasleggaun. To those who are not familiar with this view, that is a LOT of snow down there.
Skirting around an interesting cornice at the south prison.
Pretty arctic up here, and I have a strong (and cold) wind to my back. You wouldn’t want to be up here without appropriate clothing.
I was having a great time with some of these compositions. The landscape up here is remarkable right now, almost lunar.
My footprints above the south prison.
A (super) detailed shot of the tumbling cliffs of the south prison, taken with my 35mm Zeiss lens. The level of detail in this shot is pretty astonishing when viewed on a large monitor at high resolution.
So many interesting snow formations up here, I knew I didn’t have much time. I know how fast the fog rolls in up here. And I knew more would return.
Aw shucks. Just as I had anticipated, the fog came back in. Thick, rapidly and heavy this time.
I headed back to the summit now, figuring that the fog would be here to stay now. I was correct in this assumption, Lugnaquilla remained in fog for the rest of the day. I still had to get down though.
Although I was not worried, it pays to respect the mountain. And whilst I have descended Lug in whiteouts a few times before, always respect the mountain. Navigation skills are a must here.
Descending the final slope of Lug now, and out of the fog (almost) and I bump into someone I have not seen for five years or so! Fellow landscape photographer and mountain skills guide, Adrian Hendroff.
Photographer in action:
I continued the descent with Adrian for some time but I wanted to shoot some long range shots and some snow drifts in the Corrigs whilst he opted to continue down to Camarahill. I would catch up with him later to shoot the sunset over the Glen Of Imaal.
Looking down to the artillery range with Lobawn rising above.
Such a clear day at this point. Perfect atmospheric clarity, cold winter days are best for that. Taken using my manual focus Zeiss Milvus 100mm – the resolution is truly outstanding at 100% on my large monitor here.
Looking over to a snowy Keadeen:
Some of the drifts at Lower Corrig.
The light started to get really interesting now, as the sun was dipping lower in the sky.
It enhanced the contrast on the drifts here.
The snow here started to take on a slight pinkish hue.
A challenging shot to achieve, but the high dynamic range of my Nikon D810 helped me out a lot here. I had to push the shadows 2 and a third stops in lightroom here so that I could save the highlights of the sun at capture time. The latitude for pushing shadows on the D810 is wonderful and when you couple that with quality glass (such as the Ziess 35mm f/1.4 used here) you can capture shots that would be very challenging with other cameras (in a single exposure). The Nikon does this, with minimal/non existent noise or colour banding.
A glance back at Lug, before I look down to the Glen Of Imaal. Yep, still in fog.
Beautiful colours in the sky above Mount Leinster in this long range shot.
The shoulder of Keadeen and a snowy Glen Of Imaal.
Looking over to Knocknamunnion. I captured the belt of Venus at the start of the day and at the end of the day this day!
One last glance over to Lug.
Now, for the descent of Camarahill. I always find this tough going after a long day at Lug. But at least I had some company this time! See you on the hills again sometime Adrian!
Adrian pointed out that I was the first on the hill this morning, and the last off it! Not unusual to be honest.
A beautiful day, but not without challenges :).
Fifteen and a half hours out on the hills (including driving) – time well spent if you ask me! It took about that much time to compose this blog post too!
Thank you for reading!
The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.