Lough Ouler Via The Brockaghs

A long walk planned this day.
It has been a while since I overlooked the heart shaped lake ‘Lough Ouler’ that sits below the cliffs of Tonelagee. I had been wanting to return but I just never got around to it. I have been spending too much time at Lugnaquilla I think!

Due to the increasing (worryingly so) lack of car safety in the Wicklow Mountains (break ins/vandalism) the best bet is to park at a paid car park that has security. But it does mean that to get to different places, you have to walk further. This can pose a problem for me, because I have many niggling injuries that can be flared up if I push too hard (due to Ankylosing Spondylitis). I also carry a lot of heavy camera equipment. Tonelagee summit was the secondary (optional) target for the day, but the primary target was the view from the gap between the summit proper and the Tonelagee North East Top. The view of the lake is superior here than at the summit area, and the summit of Tonelagee itself was of little interest to me as I have been plenty of times.
The secondary objective was aborted due to time constraints (and mileage constraints!) but the primary objective was fulfilled!

It really is about time the authorities did something more to tackle the pillaging that is on going in the Wicklow Mountains car parks. On my drive home this day, I saw 11 freshly broken car windows glass littered at various car parks. A couple of weeks before there were no less than 7 cars broken into at another single car park (http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/seven-cars-broken-into-at-popular-spot-in-wicklow-mountains-795329.html). What times do we live in that a person cannot take a simple stroll around the hills without worrying about coming back to a vandalised car?
This was one of the reasons that I was worried about the increased popularity of hill walking in Wicklow (and tourism). Increased crime.
I don’t think the problem of catching the scourge would be too difficult. The authorities need only plant a car with dashcam/surveillance at any one of numerous car parks for a few hours on a sunny weekend afternoon and bang. Caught on camera. Now, I am not educated in the complicated nuances of the law but is this not feasible?
Rant over, on with the walk!

Wicklow is verdant at the moment – lots of rain and a fair bit of sunshine will do that! Plenty of colours about, lots of green indeed. But also purple from the poisonous foxgloves. At the time I took this, I was amusing myself with the idea of a husband fox asking his wife fox which gloves she’d like as a present.
Foxgloves copy.jpg

The plan was to head up to the Brockagh summits from the lower lake car park of Glendalough and head over each Brockagh summit towards Tonelagee south east top. From there I’d head up to the col between Tonelagee and Tonelagee north east top to obtain my view of Lough Ouler. Yeah, a long walk and a reasonable amount of navigation work required. I had to go back the same way and I had not been this way before. So I was excited!

The weather forecast was for dry, sunny intervals but partly cloudy. Well, it was mostly cloudy until the late afternoon but at that stage I had been in the hills for about 10 hours. So, yeah, I was tired.

The start of the walk follows The Wicklow Way up the slopes of Brockagh, I describe this route a bit more in my post A Circuit Of Brockagh East Top. This time however, I took a photograph of the gate lock which snapped down on my thumb on my previous visit. Villain! This did not happen again! Be careful with this device, there is no way of knowing who it will target next time and it could be anyone!
Gate copy.jpg

Ahh, the lush greens of Wicklow. Looking over to the face of Camaderry here.Camaderry copy.jpg

The Bracken was high here – above waist height. I would have been worried about obtaining a few unwanted friends in the form of ticks but I was prepared for this. I was not surprised about the bracken height and had anticipated it. Preparations to safeguard against tick attachments and the like included spraying myself (and parts of clothing) with bug spray containing deet and also ensuring that no exposed skin touched the vegetation. Lyme disease is no joke. Warm climbing up here with a jumper on. Must fight the urge to remove the jumper! Ticks are worse than a bit of heat!

More greenery, this time from a bit higher up the slopes of Brockagh south east top. Looking down to the forests of Glendalough.
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Moving on, as the sky darkens with cloud, I reach the summit of Brockagh proper. Not a large amount of interest here – the actual summit of Brockagh is overshadowed by its smaller sibling (Brockagh south east top) as far as views go. I am sure there are good views to be had away from the summit area here – but I did not have time to explore this at the time. I wanted to head for the low point (the col) between the two summits ahead – just above centre in the below photograph. Two more hills in the way yet though, Brockagh north west top (at right) and Tonelagee south east top (almost dead centre). Brockagh Summit copy.jpg

Clouds thickening still. Looks like it might rain. I was hoping for sun this day! The heather is starting to turn shades of purple now. Usually August is a great month for purple heather – parts of Wicklow are just a purple carpet!
Scarr mountain is visible in the distance at right.Purple Heather copy.jpg

Onto the next summit now, I did not take many photographs here because I was in new territory beyond this point – I had not visited beyond this before. I wanted to scope the area out and look for potential shots for when the light is a bit more friendly.
A curious view of Turlough Hill Power Station and Lough Nahanagan is rewarded from here. Though dark and foreboding this day. The control tower above the cliffs has the appearance of some form of all powerful dark sorcerers fortress, reigning over his dominion. Imagination aside, this is not one of my favourite sights in Wicklow.
Turlough Hill copy.jpg

Quite a lonely place up here at Tonelagee south east top. I dare say it gets very few visitors. Not much of a track to follow and map reading skills are a must here. If the fog comes down, there are only a few navigational aids. Coincidentally, the only other walkers I saw the whole day were a small group who were undergoing a navigation training course. A great spot for it. Lots of feature recognition and contour identification opportunities here and the lack of a formal path would be useful (no cheating on the navigation course!). Here is a shot looking up to Tonelagee itself, as seen from the south east top. Yes, looks like the clouds are here to stay alright.
From Tonelagee SE copy.jpg

It looks like there is still some distance to cover – I wanted to be just below the large summit (Tonelagee) at left. I concentrated on the walk at this stage, so I did not take many photographs until I reached the primary objective. The col between Tonelagee and its north east top. From here, a remarkable view is revealed of the lovely Lough Ouler.

The nature of the ground changes when I reach this point – instead of just heather there are large peat hags on a rough stoney surface. Well, it wouldn’t be a walk in Wicklow without peat hags taller than a human now would it?! Peat Hag copy.jpg

Lough Ouler is not a name I know (or could find out) how to translate. From my research, I believe it may be an adaptation of the Irish ‘Loch Iolar’ which would translate to ‘Eagles Lake’ but I am really not certain about this so I would love to be corrected in the comments section below. Now, this is one of my favourite sights in Wicklow!
Lough Ouler copy.jpg

I have been here a number of times, but it’s always a treat. The heart shape is no photoshop trickery – get the right angle photographically and the lake is a true heart!
What a romantic place. It is, of course, even more beautiful if the sun is shining and the waters below are reflecting the light like little dancing diamonds.

Lunch time! Smoky chicken sambo. Nice. Some grapes (as usual) as well!
I wanted to sit here for a while, and ponder the view. Many of Wicklow’s humps & bumps on display here. I’ve been to them all :-).

Time to start thinking about the return journey. Always tricky to head back, especially if covering the same ground as the outward journey. However, the sun has moved and the sky is changing – opening up new possibilities.
Descending, back to the Tonelagee south east top. Some re-entrants to avoid here, so as to reduce the number of minor ups and downs. No point in wasting energy and effort when you are hiking about 30km with a heavy rucksack!

Here is a shot of Tonelagee SE top with Brockagh north west top beyond, followed by Brockagh proper. That was my return trip on this day. Cloudy skies and flat light did little to help my photograph here but it was great to be out!
Humps copy.jpg

There is a curious plateau-type area known as Aska just east of Tonelagee south east top.
Aska copy.jpg

Very marshy looking and it holds a small pond – ‘Aska Pond’ according to my map. Again, I am not sure about the translation but it may be from the actual Irish ‘An Easca’ – ‘The Easy’, or just ‘Easy’. I am not so sure about the ground there being easy, as I say – it looks very marshy. But it is flat enough so no ups & downs! I stand to be corrected on the translation again here. Aska Pond copy.jpg

Scarr stands proud beyond the rocks in the distance and the sun appears to be revealing itself for a fleeting moment.

Back at Tonelagee SE top now, and I noticed on my way up that the ground here is quite interesting in some ways. I made a mental note to explore this on my return journey. There are many scattered granite boulders, some with quite curious features.
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Another interesting one here:
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I hope I am not the only one who sees the faces in the photographs above, if I am then I am obviously suffering from a case of pareidolia!

Another very curious feature, were the multiple tree trunks and roots I encountered here.
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In an area totally devoid of trees, I was surprised to find these. My guess is that these were very old ones brought up from beneath the bog (the whole area is an area of upland bog) by the elements of nature – erosion. It’s odd to see so many concentrated in one area. I had not seen any elsewhere in Wicklow, except on the plains between Knocknacloghoge and the Military Road.
Tree root II copy.jpg

Curious indeed!

Almost back at Brockagh NW top now and there is small cliff section nearby that affords a nice view over to Scarr (at right) and some ‘silver pines’. I think these are diseased and/or dead, as they have no needles. Look! The sun is making an appearance! At last!Scarr copy.jpg

Turning round, a long lens shot at Tonelagee. The light looks to be improving at last. Photographers will always complain about the ‘light’ and the ‘light not being right’. I am one of these people!
But I try to see it this way: I will work with what light I have at the time I am on location. I don’t have the luxury of picking my days of visits to these places (I work full time) so I only get to shoot one full day a week really. I sometimes get chance to head out after work, but my job is mentally tiring so I do not always have the energy. Upshot is : work with what I have.
Tonelagee copy.jpg

Back at Brockagh summit itself now, and yeah the light is improving alright. But I am so tired! Living with an inflammatory condition means that sometimes I can get bouts of exhaustion. And I think it’s fair to say that most people would have been tired at this stage of the day – condition or no condition! I had done over 20km at this point!
Wonderful view over Camaderry from here. Another good mountain lies further away – the triangular Croaghanmoira. At far distance at left is Croghan Kinsella. Camaderry-2 copy.jpg

Another shot, looking over beyond the Spinc to Mullacor. This one I took as I was descending Brockagh south east top. I prefered this one in black and white because it really shows the contrast in the light. Trees copy.jpg

Having battled through the waist high bracken again, I was now back on the forest track ready to rejoin the Wicklow Way. I was very tired at this point but I liked the colours of the trail here – in particular the foxgloves.
Trail copy.jpg

I have been increasing the distances I hike a fair bit recently. And there has been pain during the week after this, so I need to tone it down a small bit I think or I shall injure myself again. No thanks to that!

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.

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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.