Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Muckish Mountain. 670 metres. Donegal. Ireland.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A zoom of Errigal from Muckish. At 752 metres, 2464 feet, Errigal is the highest peak in Donegal and is very steep sided with the summit path running up a ridge line composed of slopes of shifting quartzite scree. As we had climbed Errigal on one of our first trips over to Ireland a few years ago  the other distinctive mountain in the Derryveagh range was Muckish, 670 metres, 2198 feet, mainly due to its isolation at the end of the range and its vast plateau like summit seen from afar. The heights given are off a local map I have but its fairly old.

In this other profile and photograph the height of the mountain is given as 666 metres and is probably more up to date. Both a cairn and a cross can be seen on the summit ridge from the road when the weather is clear and we were drawn to it right away but Graeme had climbed it already not that long ago and wasn't that keen.
A group of four of us came over to Donegal at the invitation of Graeme and his girlfriend Marion and we always jump at the chance when he asks us. Ryanair of course, from Glasgow Airport to City of Derry Airport then hire car for a week, split 4 ways. Total cost including 4 days food at Lidl under £150.
We may be tight but we are keen. Of course without Graeme and Marion's hospitality it probably wouldn't happen so thanks again to them for putting us up... and putting up with us.

Derry/Londonderry is a lovely city with bags to do and see in it every time we have travelled over but this time it was a swift in and out via Fountain Hill, where this photo was taken, as we had big plans to visit a bit more of the republic taking in Donegal, Co. Sligo and Co. Mayo, including some spectacular mountains and coastal scenery. Given decent weather it would be an action packed four days activity.
The ascent of Muckish was not actually the first arrival day but I thought it was a better one to start with. This is Marion's son Nathan (who was with us on the Sperrin Mountains last time) Bob. R, Alex, Graeme, Marion, and myself taking the photo. Like many mountains in Ireland it has a small roadside shrine at the bottom.
It didn't take us long to set off up the hillside after meeting a local group of hill-walkers who were attempting to do the whole chain of hills across to Errigal, having climbed Muckish before we arrived. A tough undertaking. You can just see them on the faraway slopes in this photo above.
Large peat hags or turf, (once its cut) adorn the lower slopes and I can't see Ireland running out of this handy home heating fuel anytime soon, although seemingly this summer, with the wet weather, many of the cut stacks left out on the hillside to dry simply washed away to nothing rather than curing hard and firm in the wind and sun.
A view of the blanket bogs below and the turf cutting rows with stacks of white bags full of turf from the slopes of Muckish.
Young Nathan in the lead and full of energy heading up the hill.Everyone else trudging up slowly but with hard gained experience and sloth-like style.
Alex with Errigal behind in the distance. You can see the long haul and many summits and dips the local team have to negotiate before they get there. They were not young adrenaline addicts either but mums, dads and older age group types so they would feel the miles every step of the way.
Our winter ascent of Errigal and some other Irish trips can be found here.

The last section across the plateau came as a shock. I was expecting a grassy meander up easy slopes as that's the way it appears from a distance but it's actually a slog up broken shards of quartzite that requires some care as you wouldn't want to trip over and fall on this stuff. We ended up trending slightly to the right for most of it to get off the loose blocks and get back on the grass slopes again but the final summit push, seen here, couldn't be avoided. It feels a lot higher than 666 metres but is well named :o)
Marion at the top. She was quite chuffed as she is not a regular hill-walker in her spare time so it was nice for everyone to get such a good day up here.

You could even see a distant hazy view of Tory Island. A spectacular wild place with vertical cliffs falling into the sea and its own king. Not for the first time I found myself thinking that The Republic of Ireland seems similar to Scotland from 30 to 40 years ago in terms of its undiscovered frontier quality, lack of paths up most mountains, except for the really popular ones and wide empty spaces, even in summer. Most of the trips we go on here are amazingly spectacular yet free of tourists or other hill-walkers except for the occasional local adventurer.
Great video of sea cliff ridge climbing on Tory here but I'll save it to the end of the post.

A wide expanse of beach from the summit. Probably Sheep Haven estuary. Beautiful sands catching the sunlight.
The large cross at the northern end of the ridge.
A view to the west.
Late summer moon. Sad face period. Did you know the moon has different faces throughout the year?
A cracking day out. Here's an excellent short video of the traverse of Tormore Ridge on Tory. Undiscovered Ireland. A very bold and seldom trod mini version of the Wild Atlantic Way.


Linda W. said...

I love reading about treks in other countries. What a beautiful place! I'd love to hike here. Really enjoyed your post.

Kay G. said...

You know that part where you were walking and you found yourself on ...what did you call it... pieces of quartzite? Anyway, I know what that is like and you really do have to be careful!
Once again, wish I could do these walks/hikes!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
The best is yet to come- a traverse of the highest sea cliffs in the British Isles.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Kay,
Quartzite can be sharp but the most dangerous mountains I've walked over were Karst Limestone in The Picos De Europa in Northern Spain over bare rock slopes eroded into ten foot razor edges which would have sliced you wide open if you stumbled at any point. They were also the steepest gullies I've ever climbed to access summits.Great mountains but not for the fainthearted... including me :o) I only lasted a week there.

Neil said...

Excellent! Great to see what else is around in these Isles as I guess that I'll never visit now. Have been to Derry however and loved it, so much history.

Carol said...

Errigal looks monstrous - no other word for it - doubt I'd have the nerve for that one!

blueskyscotland said...

No, There is a good if narrow path all the way to the summit Carol and it's only the last 100 metres or so that is exposed in any way. A great peak.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Yes, it's a great place with so many surprises around every corner.

Carol said...

I think 330 feet of exposure at that height might well do for me!