Hiking – A Galty Alternative

As my WordPress auto-renewal came and went, I made my annual resolution to try and post a little more on this blog. Many of my old hobbies, especially photography, seem to have fallen by the wayside in the last couple of years and some of that might be down to the fact that I’m not writing about it here and getting the feedback from people that were interested.

Eoin climbing

And so, by way of a gentle restart, I offer you the story of my day out in the hills yesterday with my w*rk buddy Eoin and his buddy Pat.
The weather in the west of Ireland has been dreadful for a month or more. The last ten days or so has seen strong winds and relentless heavy rain. The beech woods close to our house have been off limits due to the amount of falling branches (and whole trees) and the nearby turloughs, or seasonal lakes that only form in winter, have been higher than in recent memory, threatening properties across the county.

Shy Bull Hill

The three of us had made an ill-fated attempt to hike the northern flanks of the Galtee range in late-November. The conditions had not allowed us higher than 500m, before we were blown off our feet and chased down the mountain into the relative shelter of pine forestry. None of us liked the idea of a repeat, but we looked at enough weather forecasting websites to finally find a couple that agreed that our chosen day might actually not be too bad. It seemed the low-pressure was to clear and be replaced by a spell of clear skies and icy temperatures. We’d settle for that.

Galtymore looking imperious. Lough Corra below

The Galtee (or Galty) mountains are a range of 24 summits that run east-west along the Tipperary/Limerick border and form the highest inland mountains in Ireland. Galtymore is the high-point 918m, or just over 3000 feet. They are easily accessed from Limerick and Cork and so rightly popular.

The view from our lunch stop, back down our route up

There are some very popular routes up onto the ridge, including the Black Road from the south and the Ice Road from the north. Instead, we started from the King’s Yard on the south side of the range. It seems the king is actually a very decent farmer who charges €3 a day for parking, offers a vending machine for snacks, toilets and a shower and some no doubt accurate weather advice.

Pat on the ridge

Our route was taken from the Irish Peaks book, published by Mountaineering Ireland and began with us following an ancient track out of the farm, past forestry and out on the open moorland of the Glounreagh valley. We ignored the early sign for the route up to Galtymore and continued on to the ‘Slate House‘. This ruined structure sits beneath a trio of handsome trees, at the junction of a couple of noisy mountain streams. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect wild camping spot, and we made plans for a return.

Lyracappul summit cairn

Rather than dropping height to follow the Sligoch River, we stayed high and took a direct route toward the source of the water at the head of the valley. Progress was good and early rain cleared leaving us blue skies and icing sugar dusted wall of Cnoc Crogh above us.

The sun is coming out

We joined the ridge at the lowest point – the same place as the ascent from the Lough Corra via the South Gully hits it. The wind was strong and the snow, thicker here, had been blown into drifts. The ridge was busy with walkers heading up the high-point at Galtymore. We instead followed the ancient, but mostly intact stone wall that runs along the ridge to the east.

Pat on The Tit – a lost TRAIL magazine cover…

We rewarded our climbing efforts with an early lunch and a brew before continuing on to Lyracappul (825m), via Cornabinnia (823m). Here we retraced our steps (literally, in the snow) back to the shoulder at Bengower, before descending via The Tit (all names taken from the East West Mapping sheet of the area).

Our final climb of the day

After taking a photo opportunity on the Tit, there was one final drag up Cruckrin that was a steep as we’d climbed all day, but offered some of the best views over the route that we’d walked, and the parallel valley carved by the Black Rock River.

Cruckrin summit cairn

The final couple of kilometres gave us or only navigational challenge of the day, but nothing serious. And after a couple of welcome shortcuts, we were back in the car, heading home in the gathering darkness, with and endorphin buzz doing nice things to my legs.

All pictures taken using a water damaged Ricoh GR3

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