Page 1

Routes! Glencree, Sawell & Dart, Luggala Valley, Crockauns & Hangman’s Hill...

Classic Brandon EASY KERRY SCRAMBLE

VIVA CUBA! WALKING FIDEL’S LAND

WINTER GEAR

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Gift Ideas For Walkers

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Galty Mountain Rescue!

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IS S N 0791-8801

Weekend walking in the Jura

99

GTJ - The Easy Way

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Comeragh Mountains, Co Waterford

Six Bens Good, Three Better I FEEL ashamed to admit this, but I baled out on a walk recently. It was the Twelve Bens - or at least, six of them; the Glencoaghan Horseshoe, one of the finest walks in Ireland. Together with two bold companions I took advantage of the new M6 (fantastic journey times, but takes a little of the romance out of distance), to cross the country and hit Connemara early. But not early enough, as it transpired. Enjoying views, company and sandwiches just a little too liberally, we reached the head of the valley, three peaks into the route, only to realise that we weren’t going to complete in daylight. Being responsible family men, we took the only sensible decision and headed for the pub. It was still a seven-hour walk, and the views were as fabulous from the bottom of the valley as from above, but three weeks later I still feel guilty, as though we let ourselves down in some way. We had a great day, but the element of challenge is part of the appeal of hill walking, and you can’t always switch it off. But as Derek Fanning (p12) confirms, and Andy Callan (p50) warns in this issue, winter walking carries inherent risk even when you do everything right, let alone when you don’t. So get out more, get out early and bale out when necessary.

Editor: Conor O’Hagan Consultant Editor: Martin Joyce Design: Grand Designs Technical Consultant: Andy Callan Environmental Consultant: Dick Warner Maps: EastWest Mapping Contributors: Judy Armstrong, Gavin Bate, Andy Callan, Zoe Devlin, Damien Enright, Helen Fairbairn, Michael Fewer, Denis Gill, Tom Hutton, Gareth McCormack, Dick Warner Photographers: Judy Armstrong, Eoin Clarke, Tom Hutton, Gareth McCormack, Richard Mills Published by: Athletic Promotions Limited, ‘Edelweiss’, Cushina, Portarlington, Co Laois. Tel: 05786 45343 Email: walkingworldirl@iol.ie ISSN No. 0791-8801 Printed by: W&G Baird Ltd Distributed by: EM News Distribution and Mailbag Cover photo: At the base of Fancy Mountain along the shores of Lough Tay, Co.Wicklow. Photo by Eoin Clarke


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Contents

Issue 99, November/December 2010

26

On The Cover 12

Rescue Me!

34

Red Breast

36

Cuba At the End of an Era

42

Walking in the Jura

For most of us Mountain Rescue is something you see on TV. For Derek Fanning it was real and on TV

We know the robin as the gardener’s friend. You certainly wouldn’t want one as an enemy. By Dick Warner

Denis Gill and his companions found beauty, charm – and Irish connections – in the Caribbean’s socialist stronghold

The Grande Traversée du Jura is the perfect overseas long-distance walk for weekend warriors, says Judy Armstrong

36

Routes 18

Classic Brandon Scramble

Tom Hutton traces an airy ridge up the mountain that inspired a saint

22

Crockauns & Hangman’s Hill

26

Circling Lough Tay

30

Sawel & Dart

Helen Fairbairn recommends a short but rewarding mountain circuit on the SligoLeitrim border

Denis Gill continues his exploration of Wicklow’s stunning and historically rich Luggala Valley

Helen Fairbairn enjoys the incredible views from the highest mountains in the Sperrins

Gear 50

The North Wind Doth Blow

…and when it doth, you’d best be prepared, says Andy Callan. Winter walking safety tips, plus tests of crampon-compatible boots and ice axes

30

18


WIN!

A Lowe Alpine Airzone Daypack worth €145 See Page 58

The Best of Ireland and the World On Foot

42

Regulars 8

News

11

Books

15

Subscription Offer

12

By The Way

33

Environment

58

Crossword by Zodrick

A sprinkling of events, announcements, people and places from around the walking world.

Dick Warner reviews two of the latest additions to our nature library

12

34

Subscribe to Ireland’s No.1 Outdoor Magazine at 22% off the normal price!

The Appalachian Trail International turns back the clock of geological time.By Michael Fewer

Ireland’s love of ruminants is a costly affair, says Dick Warner

7 Lowe Alpine Packs to be won!

Walking World Ireland is always pleased to receive articles, but publication cannot be guaranteed. The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos/slides submitted. Unsolicited articles will be returned only if accompanied by return postage. Guidelines regarding articles and photos are available for potential contributors on receipt of return postage. All photos/slides must bear the name of the sender on each photo/slide. Captions should accompany them. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the express permission of the editor or publishers, and even if such permission is given, the source must be acknowledged when used. This also applies to advertising originated by the publishers. Whilst every care has been taken to describe the routes and terrain accurately, the publishers and contributors accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained as a result of using this magazine. Mapping based on Ordnance Survey Ireland by permission of the Government. © Government of Ireland Permit No 7208.


News

Dublin Mountains Partnership Shows the Way The Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP) has launched the Dublin Mountains Way, a new 43km trail across the Dublin mountains from Shankill in the east to Tallaght in the west. The route offers stunning vistas of Dublin city and takes in a variety of terrain from forest, open mountain, lakes to parkland and a wealth of heritage from megalithic tombs to the the Bohernabreena reservoir. Through the close cooperation of the partners and over 300 volunteers, the route was developed and waymarked and new sections were constructed. The Dublin Mountains Way has been an objective in county development plans for over twenty years. The DMP, in cooperation with East West Mapping have also published a map of the Dublin Mountains, highlighting the public lands that are available for recreation use, access points, car parks and the various outdoor facilities such as orienteering courses, mountain biking trails, and historical features (www.eastwestmapping.ie). The launch took place at Ticknock Forest and was attended by all the Dublin Mountains Partners. The Dublin Mountains Partnership is a partnership of different organisations with the vision of managing recreation on the public lands in the Dublin Mountains and is made up of Coillte, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Dublin Mountains Initiative. At the event David Gunning, CEO,

Talking the Talk Renowned climber and adventurer Tim McCartney Snape is dropping into The Great Outdoors, Dublin on November 29th to give a free lecture in-store. On October 3, 1984 Macartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer were the first Australians to reach the summit of Mt Everest. They reached the summit, without oxygen, via a new route on the North Face (North Face to Norton Couloir). In 1990, McCartney-Snape became the first person to walk and climb from Sea Level to the top of Mount Everest which he wrote

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Coillte said : “The proximity of the Dublin Mountains delivers a wonderful amenity for people of all ages. The Dublin Mountains Way provides a challenging long distance hike for the serious walker, and lovely, shorter, day walks for families and casual walkers. This initiative shows what can be achieved when organisations with different mandates work together on a common purpose. All the partners must be complimented on their vision in coming together and delivering this important infrastructure in an innovative way despite the difficult economic situation”.

about in his book Everest: From Sea to Summit. Tim will be arriving in Ireland following his sell-out UK lecture tour and as one of the many notable guest speakers at the Everest-Pioneers presentation to the Royal Geographical Society, London. This is the one and only date he’ll be presenting his amazing lecture in Ireland so make sure you book your free seat(s) early. www.greatoutdoors On December 1st at 7.30pm, 53° North Blanchardstown, in association with Berghaus presents the Leo Houlding “Adventure Tour” In 2009 world-renowned climber Leo Houlding teamed up with award-winning film maker Alastair Lee to attempt his most ambitious project yet: to free climb the mighty NW face of Mount Asgard then BASE jump

BInt-Walk

from the summit in a wingsuit. Situated north of the Arctic Cricle on Baffin Island in Canada, Asgard is one of the most impressive and remote rock faces on the planet. In his show Leo describes the preparation for the expedition with training trips to some of natures most extreme playgrounds and introduces an international cast ‘nu-skool’ adventure seekers. Price: €10 (or €8 for tickets bought on line, MI Members, Students and OAP’s) www.53degreesnorth.ie


A World of Adventure! Mt Elbrus - Russia - £1390 Kilimanjaro - Tanzania - £1195 Everest Base Camp - Nepal - £1195 Mt Kenya - Kenya - £795 Africamp - Kenya - £1695 Mt Kinabalu - Borneo - £1250 Mt Aconcagua - Argentina - £2295 + Vounteering holidays in Kenya Charity Expeditions Youth Expeditions

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The hidden Canaries; 3 beautiful, unspoilt little islands 7-day Escorted Trips October-May ●

● Groups & Individuals Low cost flights from Dublin, Cork, Shannon

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Email: sdwtenerife@eircom.net Web: www.shane-gray.com

Ireland’s Leading Adventure Company www.adventurealternative.com Tel: RoI 04870 831258 NI: 02870 831258 E: office@adventurealternative.com

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News

Proving Their Meitheal on the Wicklow Way backgrounds, who undertake hands on trail projects on our mountains and in our forests with the aim of protecting the environment and promoting sustainable outdoor recreation into the future. MM’s objective is to counteract some of the pressures that are evident on Ireland’s mountains by working with the various landowners including, the National Park & Wildlife Service, Coillte and private landowners. MM also promotes the concept of sustainable recreation through the LEAVE NO TRACE message. Those interested in joining Mountain Meitheal or renewing their membership should contact Clíona Ní Bhréartúin at cnibh@eircom.net

OUR 100th ISSUE Mountain Meitheal have started work on a new project at Knockree Co Wicklow. MM will be working on the Wicklow Way, repairing a section of trail which is seriously eroded. The work will include the construction of stone steps, log steps, water

bars and bench cutting. There will be a Work Day on Sunday, November 28th, meeting at 10.30am. Volunteers are welcomed. Further details from www.pathsavers.com Mountain Meitheal is a group of volunteers drawn from a wide range of outdoor

Offering the walker/climber an ideal base from which to explore the Galtees and surrounding countryside. Kings Yard provides a full range of services, including: - Hot and cold drinks, snacks - Indoor seating area - Car Parking - Camping facilities - Toilet facilities

Tel: +353 (0) 25 84903 M: +353 (0) 87 657 3276 / +353 (0) 86 194 5585

10

WWI 100 - The 2011 Annual will be on sale from December 16. Don’t miss it!


Books By Dick Warner The Complete Field Guide to Ireland’s Birds By Eric Dempsey and Michael O Clery Published by Gill & Macmillan €19.99 Eric Dempsey is a professional ornithologist and bird guide and for many years now he has been producing books about the birds of Ireland, many of them in conjunction with the bird artist Michael O Clery. They’ve all been excellent books and one of their strong points is that they’re particularly good at describing the rarities and vagrants that excite all serious twitchers. But the previous books have had one drawback. None of them have been suitable for slipping into your pocket along with a pair of miniature binoculars or even for stowing in your day-sack. Their latest publication fills this gap. It is a genuine field guide, not only in its size, shape and lay-out but even down to the fact that it’s bound in water-resistant plastic covers. It’s also bang up-to-date. The world of wild birds changes quite rapidly with new species being introduced, or introducing themselves, and other species diminishing or even disappearing completely. All the latest news is here. This book is a must for any walker with an interest in wildlife. The Wild Flowers of Ireland By Declan Doogue and Carsten Krieger Published by Gill & Macmillan €29.99 I’ve only one tiny quibble with this book - I don’t like the title. It gives the impression that you’re getting a comprehensive guide to identifying wild flowers in Ireland. But there are around 1,000 species growing in this country and the book only mentions about 300. It also includes tree species, several ferns and even some mosses and lichens - none of which are wild flowers. What you do get is something completely different and infinitely better. Declan Doogue is arguably the finest field botanist in Ireland today and this is a collection of essays by him. The first half dozen deal with general aspects of Irish botany, past and present. The next twenty are about specific habitats and the plant communities they support. His choice of habitats is original and engaging - he starts with a chapter on the weeds in your garden and progresses through various urban and suburban locations to the more predictable rural ones, ending with the Burren. The essays are immensely knowledgeable and very readable to the extent that I found myself unable to stop turning the pages in the early hours of the morning - which is close to unique for a book on botany. It’s also a large, heavy and extremely beautiful book lavishly illustrated with Carsten Krieger’s astonishing photographs of plants and plant communities. I recommend that you buy two copies - one to give as a Christmas gift to someone you really like who is interested in the Irish countryside and likes beautiful books. Keep the other one for yourself.


Rescue Me

T

he Galty Mountains are the highest inland mountain range in Ireland and their name is thought to have come from the Irish ‘Sléibhte na gCoillte’ which means ‘Mountains of the Forests’. These mountains are a high ridge rising from the surrounding plains for about 15 miles. The highest peak is Galtymore, the seventh highest mountain in Ireland at 3018 feet. Glaciers during the ice age carved out three dramatic cirques or corries in the Galtys which have cliffs hundreds of feet high. At the bottom of these cirques are small lakes. One day in June last a friend of mine, Keith, and myself drove into the Golden Vale, and parked in a forest on the lower slopes of the Galty Mountains. From our car Keith and I walked for two hours up a beautiful valley to the shore of

Lake Muskry, a foreboding and atmospheric area with ravens circling about the mosscovered green and black cliffs. The cliffs themselves cannot be climbed apart from three long fissures. These fissures, or gullies, were carved out by streams and I had climbed all three before. We entered the far left gully and started ascending. Soon we were having to use our hands and we climbed a hundred, dangerous feet without mishap. Then we came to the crux of the gully. It looked worse than I remembered it - grassy and wet. The climbing was really poor and very dangerous. Up I went for thirty feet and was just about to reach the safety of a ledge when I slipped. If I had reached that ledge then I would have been over the worst of the climb and into easier terrain. I fell for thirty feet down the cliff and

bounced a couple of times on the way, coming to a stop on a ledge on the lip of another drop of 20 feet. I looked at my lower right leg. It was obviously broken. I hadn’t felt it break nor was it very painful; on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain imaginable it was about 5 or 6. The bones thankfully hadn’t penetrated the skin but from the break down my leg was completely useless and lying at an unpleasant angle. Keith came over to me. We were both remarkably calm. After a while I began to shake and asked to hold his hand. I wasn’t sure that these weren’t my last moments on Earth, before I ascended to heaven. Sometimes broken bones can penetrate major arteries and there can be massive internal bleeding.

Rescue Me! For most of us it’s something you see on TV. For Derek Fanning it was real and on TV.

A South East Mountain Rescue training exercise, Co Waterford

12


We called 999 and waited. After an hour we could see the rescue vehicle of South Eastern Mountain Rescue driving very slowly up the long valley. The SEMRA jeep couldn’t go any faster because the track was so bad. Eventually the jeep reached the lake and two figures got out and began climbing towards us. At the same time a Shannon Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter came into view. It hovered over us and flew around the valley four times. Finally it remained hovering over us. By this stage the two climbers had reached us. They were Cork men and the first thing they did was take the boot off my broken leg. They then secured my leg in a splint, put a brace on my neck and placed me lying down on a spinal board. The winchman from the helicopter had now joined us. Thankfully there was no wind; if the weather had been bad and windy then it would have been too dangerous for the helicopter, which was flying very near the cliffs. The three men strapped me securely onto the spinal board, the winchman stood on, and we were winched up into the helicopter -a very exciting experience! Once safely in the helicopter the winchman offered me entonox via a tube which I sucked on. Entonox is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen and after 30 seconds I felt its effects. I couldn’t feel any pain in my body and my mind was filled with a sense of bliss. If someone had said to me You are going to die in two minutes, I’d have replied, That’s grand - I wouldn’t have cared. I looked upwards blissfully through a window at the rotor blades and the blue sky beyond. Our fuel reading was low so we flew to the nearest landing strip, which was Waterford

city. Here I was transferred to an ambulance and taken the ten minutes to Waterford Hospital. I couldn’t see what was happening around me because my head was locked in a brace; I could hear people talking around me and saw them when they came into my vision. The rescue services had been magnificent. South Eastern Mountain Rescue is a voluntary organisation and the most common injury it has to deal with is lower leg fractures, which is what happened to me. Shannon Coast Guard were very professional and also friendly. The pilot was highly skilful. I was wheeled on a trolley into Accident & Emergency. There I was surrounded by several nurses and doctors. One nurse stroked my forehead which was soothing. A kind doctor with a sense of humour in his eyes took over. He administered morphine, cut my trousers and re-bound my leg. I was scanned to ensure there was no internal injuries. Having ascertained there were none, I was taken upstairs to an orthopaedic ward. There were five other men in the ward and I got to know them quite well over the next three days. One of them was in his thirties and worked as a carpenter. He had injured himself while working on the first storey of a house. He fell from the scaffolding and broke both his heels, which is a very painful injury. Tom had been there for a week and couldn’t be operated on until the swelling decreased in his feet. There was Jim, also in his thirties and a motorcyclist. Jim had been in an accident and had broken a couple of toes and his lower leg. And Richard, an Englishman in his sixties, who suffered from diabetes. I hadn’t realised

that diabetes could become such an unpleasant disease. Richard had already lost his right leg and now it was possible that he could lose the left. He was a cheerful, sociable man and was quite mobile on his artificial leg. Every couple of hours the nurses would come in and give me morphine, and after a few hours the consultant turned up. He gave me two options: a cast above the knee for six weeks, which would be very uncomfortable; or else they would open the leg and place a long slender pin beside the broken bone. I went for the latter as it seemed the best choice. My operation took place next day. Although Jim said he had opted for a local anaesthetic, which renders part of the body insensitive to pain but doesn’t affect consciousness, the thought of being awake during the operation didn’t appeal to me, so went for a general anaesthetic. Two inhalations and I was unconscious for three hours! When I awoke the surgeon told me that it had been a bad break but that the operation was very successful. Over the next six weeks I would be largely confined to my bed. I reading 15 books during that period including the beautiful poems of Emily Dickinson and the philosophy of Plato. In the ward I sometimes chatted with the other patients or else joined them for a cigarette outside. The physiotherapist visited me and gave me a pair of crutches. She showed me some basic exercises for my leg and how to use the crutches. She said I would notice big improvements after six weeks and after three months; and this was how things turned out.

13


Rescue Me The two Cork men from SEMRA visited me in hospital on two occasions and on the second gave me the details of a producer in RTE, who was making a series of TV programmes on the rescue services in Ireland. I contacted RTE a few weeks later and they interviewed me for three hours. A film camera had been on the Sikorsky helicopter and it had recorded the whole rescue. My recovery has been slow but constant. Being able to walk, to use our two legs, is a vital part of what we are, and it’s something that we take for granted. When it’s taken away we realise what a great loss it is and dream of the day this great blessing will be restored. I now go for two or three hour walks in the woods but still have to use my crutches, though for short journeys of a couple of hundred yards I don’t need them. I am dreaming and planning of climbing Mount Ararat in Turkey and Mount Damavand in Iran, and of once again being able to ride my horse. An American Poet once wrote, ‘Horses give my soul wings,’ and I know exactly what he means. However my climbing is going to be confined to just walking, and I am going to avoid cliffs! I go hillwalking for many reasons and one of them can be found in the philosophy of pantheism. Pantheism believes in a mysterious and numinous unity, infinite and eternal, underlying all things and sustaining them. Pantheism believes that this mysterious and numinous unity can be felt in the works of nature whether they be woodlands, the sea or hills.

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The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers, For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

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Subscribe NOW for our BEST EVER VALUE OFFER and Glenveagh National Park. Three kilometres north of Kilmacrennan take a left turn onto the R251, signposted for the national park. Follow this road for about twenty kilometres until you see the cones of Aghla Beg South and Aghla More rising above a forestry plantation on the right. Go slow as you sweep down onto a long stretch of straight road with Sand Lough down on the left. Look out for a track entrance on the right where there is parking for two cars (GR: B 953 205). The route starts and finishes here. If there is no room to park, drive on for 800m to the formal car park at the foot of Errigal, and return to the track on foot.

The Aghlas

The Walk Set off along the track, which heads straight across the bog towards the eastern shoulder of Mackoght. Follow it around a large hairpin and then up to a shallow col. Soon the track begins to descend steeply along the west side of a small valley, and

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then swings north, crossing a stream and descending through a series of switchbacks towards Altan Farm and the eastern shore of Altan Lough. It is tempting to shortcut the hairpins, however the ground is so rough that you probably save energy by sticking to the track.

“There is a small river crossing at Altan Farm that can be tricky after heavy rain, so gaiters and walking poles are recommended.” The track peters out on the southern bank of a small river that feeds in to Altan Lough. Altan Farm is on the opposite bank with the imposing southern flanks of Aghla More rising steeply behind. There are some good stepping stones in place,

at the End of an Era

CLASSIC BRANDON EASY KERRY SCRAMBLE

Galty Mountain Rescue!

Denis Gill and his companions found beauty, charm – and Irish connections – in the Caribbean’s socialist stronghold. Photos by Denis Gill

View across Altan Lough, with Altan Farm on the far left

WINTER GEAR

★ Crampon-Compatible

Gareth McCormack samples a challenging outing across three often-overlooked Donegal summits.

Boots, Ice Axes

Photos by Gareth McCormack

T

he Aghlas are a trio of graceful conical summits situated just northeast of Errigal in County Donegal. Their proximity to such a justifiably popular mountain means that they are often ignored and seldom visited by walkers. However they are certainly worth the considerable effort required to make the round of all three tops from Altan Farm. It’s a route full of character and variety, and despite the modest height of the peaks themselves, still packs in over 900m of

vertical ascent and descent. This approach from the south is the hardest route on the Aghlas, but with the shorter northern approach from Procklis currently complicated by poor access, the Altan route is now preferable. Although there is a defined track all the way to Altan Farm, it can be very wet in places. There is also a small river crossing at Altan Farm that can be tricky after heavy rain, so gaiters and walking poles are recommended. I’ve taken the liberty of renaming the highest summit in the Aghlas as Aghla

Beg South. On the OS map it is unnamed, and the name Aghla Beg is given to a slightly lower summit to the north. Aghla More is itself 19m lower than Aghla Beg South. One explanation offered for the apparent mislabelling of summits using ‘beag’ and ‘mór’ is that those applying the original names were more interested in acreage than in height.

Getting to the Start Most people will be approaching the Aghlas from Letterkenny. Take the N56, signposted for Kilmacrennan, Dunfanaghy Altan Farm, with Aghla More behind

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23 Crockauns

Crockauns & Hangman’s Hill

Helen Fairbairn recommends a short but rewarding mountain circuit on the SligoLeitrim border. Photos by Gareth McCormack

VIVA CUBA! WALKING FIDEL’S LAND

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and when he fledged he became the first Donegal-bred golden eagle to be fitted with a satellite transmitter. Extensive satellite coverage of his movements confirmed that by December he had established a territory centering around Crockauns and Hangman’s Hill, and several walkers were rewarded with sightings of him soaring overhead. Sadly, Conall’s last live reading came from Truskmore on 16th February 2010. Within days he was found dead, poisoned by toxic meat bait left out by a farmer to control crows and foxes. Though not the only case in recent years, Conall’s death prompted Minister for the Environment John Gormley to confirm that new legislation was being prepared to strengthen the regulations on poisoned bait. Meanwhile the reintroduction programme is continuing, and the area has at least proven itself suitable eagle territory. We can only hope that Conall’s peers fare rather better, and future walkers may again be able to experience the thrill of seeing such a charismatic bird of prey in the vicinity of Crockauns.

Getting to the Start The route starts and finishes along a narrow lane just south of Crockauns, around 10km northeast of Sligo town (GR: G 764,403). To get there from Sligo, take the N16 towards Manorhamilton. Around 3km beyond the edge of town, you come to a sharp left-hand bend. Turn right onto an unsigned minor road that leads off from the apex of the bend, and continue for roughly

4.5km.Towards the end of the road the tarmac surface turns to gravel. Shortly beyond this, both verges open into grassy lay-bys, providing space to park three cars. If you need more room, further space can be found back along the verges west from this point, though please take care not to impede access to any fields.

The Walk Before you start walking, take a moment to examine the cliffs of Crockauns that lie just north of the starting point. You will finish the circuit by dropping around these from the west, and it’s worth getting your bearings at the outset. Begin the route by following the track east, heading towards the cliff-fringed hill marked on the map at 374m. Keep left at two forks and pass over a rise, where the track dwindles underfoot. A ruined stone farm now comes into sight, nestling in a hollow to your right. Continue along the track for roughly 80m beyond the rise, where you draw close to a stream on the right. Cross the fence and stream, then turn left and follow the bank east. Within long you’ll need to pass through a metal gate, then follow the fence line as it climbs south towards the col on Keelogyboy Mountain. The ascent is steep and continuous, crossing a mixture of tussock and short grass. At the top of the col, turn left and complete the final ascent to Keelogyboy’s northeast top. As you emerge onto the plateau, it comes as a shock to

99

Dear Santa...

T

hough short enough to fit into a winter’s day, this circuit visits an impressive variety of scenery. An expanse of limestone pavement, a fine viewpoint across the dramatic Glencar valley, and three summits of distinctly different character are just some of the treats on offer. Crossing back and forth across the SligoLeitrim border, the modest height of the hills allows fine views without too much upward toil. This is a wild and little-visited corner of the country however, and the grassland can be rough underfoot. The route’s only cairn lies at the top of Crockauns, though the distinctive topography makes navigation easy enough. Be wary of walking in poor visibility however, because there are numerous small cliffs that could be hazardous. Apart from the views, the main attractions of the area are its natural features. All of the land visited on the Sligo side of the border is a Natural Heritage Area, due to the richness of the bog. In geological terms, it’s the limestone bedrock that provides most interest. Amongst various sink-holes, the northeast top of Keelogyboy Mountain is particularly interesting, holding a fragment of karst landscape reminiscent of the Burren. The area has also been in the news in recent years thanks to Conall, a male golden eagle chick. Conall was reared in the wild in Glenveagh National Park in 2009, as part of the project to reintroduce golden eagles to Ireland. Conall hatched in late April 2009,

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Limestone pavement on Keelogyboy Mountain

View to Crockauns from Hangman's Hill

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When Mountains Were Young The Appalachian Trail International turns back the clock of geological time. By Michael Fewer

W

hat have Dylan Thomas, global warming and the Appalachian Trail got in common? Well, it’s a long story. North of the cliffs of Slieve League in west Donegal, Slieve Tooey thrusts westwards towards a coastline of iridescent blue sea and gleaming surf. The mountain lies at the centre of one of Ireland’s last fragments of true wilderness, an area so wonderfully remote that the American painter and writer, Rockwell Kent, who enjoyed working in isolated and undeveloped places, rented an abandoned cottage there for a few months in 1926. Inspired by the vast moorland and dramatic seacoasts, he produced a large volume of fine

By The Way 16

work during his stay. A few years later the poet Dylan Thomas spent a while in the cottage to write and avoid the temptations of drink: it was more then 3 km from the nearest road, and 20 km from the nearest pub. He wrote to a friend describing his location as ‘a wild unlettered and un-Frenchlettered country, too far from Ardara, a village you can’t be too far from’. Slieve Tooey is made up of a great mass of quartzite lying on a bed of limestone formed when this part of Ireland lay under a shallow sea in the southern hemisphere. Recently, between the quartzite and the limestone, a layer of glacial till, stones, gravels and clays deposited during a great ice age, was discovered. The discovery has attracted a frisson of interest among geologists as it

provides evidence of a period of massive global climatic change 700 million years ago, before Slieve Tooey was formed. The evidence suggests that during this particular ice age, icefields from the North and South poles expanded until they reached as far as the tropics. Long before that, this area of west Donegal landmass was a small part of a much vaster area when parts of north America, Brazil, Morocco and western Europe were joined together in one landmass, an ancient continent called Rodinia, which at the time was located in Earth’s southern hemisphere. As geological time passed by, Rodinia moved north, and a global rift occurred that ripped it apart. The two main parts were separated by a sea that


eventually became what we know as the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern part fragmented even more, and became parts of other land masses in what is today Morocco, Ireland, Britain, France, Greenland and Norway. Today the ancient bedrock of the much of the western part lies under the mountains that run from the state of Georgia up the east of North America as far as Newfoundland. The Appalachian Walking Trail, at 3,500 kilometres the longest continuous footpath in the world, was established in the mid 20th century following that spine of mountains, and in recent years it has been extended through Canada and Nova Scotia. Since 2002, local enthusiasts have been laying out the route in Newfoundland as far as its Belle Isle northern shores. A couple of years ago someone, who it is not certain, came up with a remarkable idea: why shouldn’t the Appalachian Trail in North America ‘connect with’ and continue

to trace its ancient geological origins this side of the Atlantic? It was a notion that seemed to inspire a number of interested parties here and in Britain, and there was a flurry of activity, examining the potential of such an idea. A series of meetings among an ad-hoc grouping were held here in Ireland to discuss whether the whole thing was a bit mad or whether it had real possibilities, and after much discussion a decision was taken to grasp the opportunity and run with it. The tourism potential of the concept was certainly a driving force: the Appalachian Trail is enjoyed by four million hikers every year, and completing the Appalachian Trail International might become the 21st century version of completing the 283 Scottish Monroes. Greenland and Scotland committed enthusiastically to the concept early in 2010. At a meeting on the fringes of the Adventure Travel World Summit in Aviemore in Scotland in October, Ireland, England, Wales, the Faroes and Scandinavia threw in their hats. Currently, the Irish Trails

Office is planning an ATI route, linking sections of existing routes, which begins at Slieve League in Donegal and hopefully will connect to a Northern Ireland route that will terminate on the Antrim coast. There was a movie many years ago called ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’, and although this is the phrase that will come to some who read this article, there is no denying that the concept, if it can be well carried through, has enormous possibilities. Have a look at www.internationalat.org to get a more complete picture.

Dylan T

“The Appalachian Trail is enjoyed by four million hikers every year, and completing the Appalachian Trail International might become the 21st century version of completing the 283 Scottish Monroes.”

homas

“Honey…we’re going to need a bigger map.”

17


Brandon Mountain

Classic

Brandon

Scramble

Tom Hutton traces an airy ridge up the mountain that inspired a saint. Photos by Tom Hutton

B

randon Mountain is the highest peak in the land away from the Reeks; and like its neighbours on the other side of Dingle Bay, it tops out way above the 3,000ft (917m) mark, making it one of Ireland’s 14 unofficial Munros. But other than this, the two Kerry massifs have little in common, with the high mountains of the Reeks forming a tight cluster of jagged and rather imposing rock, huddled around a series of complex, hidden cooms; while St. Brendan’s Mountain is really just the highpoint of a lengthy north-south ridge that dips its toes in the ocean at its northernmost tip, and swings east above Dingle in the south. What it lacks in drama however, it more than makes up for with far reaching views, especially over the ocean, which is no doubt what inspired the

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“It’s always a good idea if the most confident scrambler goes first and then aids the others where necessary.” saintly voyager. The linear nature of the ridge makes it awkward to find good circular walks, and the best way of exploring the whole massif is to start in the north and follow the undulating crest south, eventually finishing in Dingle. But for a shorter, sharper and considerably more exciting ascent, the mountain’s eastern ridge can be traced from the car parking area at Faha. This isn’t a route for the faint-hearted though, and after a comfortable walk-in that follows the main trade route past a picturesque grotto, the ridge narrows and steepens, eventually forming a vertiginous knife-edge arête that

requires some airy scrambling both up and down. The most logical descent route follows the well-marked Faha path – a far easier prospect – and this could also be used in ascent by anyone of a nervous disposition.

Getting to the start The car park is at the head of a narrow lane that leads west from the coast road between Cloghane and Cappagh; on the western shores of Brandon Bay (Q493119). This is easiest reached by following the N86 west out of Tralee and then sticking to the coast to follow the N560 through Castlegregory towards the Connor Pass. Where this bears


The Walk The start of the trail is well marked from the car parking area. Go through the gate and follow the clear track out onto open ground, crossing a couple of stiles before arriving at the tranquil walled grotto. Continue along the main track until it levels and starts to contour around the hillside . Now bear right, away from the track, and head up the steep grassy hillside to gain the rounded crest of the East Ridge. If nothing else, this deviation from the main trade route offers a brand new vista – this one over Faha Grotto the magnificent rock-strewn slopes of the Owennafeana Valley. A tumbledown wall runs along the top of the ridge. Bear left to follow it uphill with plenty of visual distractions to the north.

Keen eyes will spot the remains of an aircraft on the rugged hillside. These belong to a German warplane, which crash-landed here when it ran out of fuel in WWII. Miraculously, the crew survived. Eventually you’ll leave the wall behind and continue along the crest until you reach the spot height of 822m, where you’ll be able to make out the ramparts of an old fort - undoubtedly impregnable in its day. Ahead of you now is the daunting knifeedge arete. Drop down into the next saddle and then follow the faint path as it weaves between pinnacles and outcrops, always with steep drops to either side. Braver travellers may want to run the gauntlet with the more exposed spine of the ridge but for those who prefer terra firma, the path bypasses most of the obstacles. You’ll eventually come to a huge tilted slab that forms a real knife-edge and prevents further progress along the crest.

Munster

left, inland, stay on the coast road and continue towards Cloghane.

North Top, Brandon from the Faha Ridge

19


Brandon Mountain route but not yet. Continue, now steeply, up to the summit, which is adorned with a cross and a trig point, as well as plenty of places to shelter if you need a rest. The views are truly breathtaking – perhaps the finest in all Ireland – and it’s easy to see why it’s commonly believed that it was from this vantage point that St. Brendan found his inspiration to sail west. The walk could be ended here simply returning back down the main path; but having come up this far, it’s definitely worth extending things a little by dropping into the broad col to the south and then making the rather cruel 130m of re-ascent to the top of the neighbouring Brandon Peak, which also offers stunning views, these mainly eastwards towards the Connor Pass as well as back towards Brandon Mountain. Whatever you decide, the descent starts from the summit cross, where you need to head back down the path you climbed earlier and then bear right to follow the steep zigzags all the way down to the valley floor. Once down, you can find your way around the lakes by following huge yellow arrows painted on rocks. Eventually you’ll leave the coom behind and traverse around the hillside, still on a very clear path that actually climbs slightly – an unwelcome development for tired legs. Stay with it, enjoying the views eastwards to the sea, and south across the lakes to the Connor Pass, and you’ll eventually crest the rise and start to drop, still with stunning views ahead. Shortly, you’ll reach the tumbledown walls where you left the main path on your outward journey. Continue easily now back to the grotto and from there, it’s just a few minutes on to the car park. Looking towards Brandon Peak and Gearhane from the summit of Brandon

This is avoided by a couple of fairly steep and exposed rock steps that you need to descend. The second of these is the crux of the whole traverse and whilst it’s steep and often greasy, there are plenty of holds. It’s always a good idea if the most confident scrambler goes first and then aids the others where necessary. From here, continue along the foot of the tilted slab to its end where you keep ahead, making a few more easy scrambling moves, until you reach a deep notch beneath a jagged rocky ridge that climbs the final steep slope onto Brandon Mountain. Cross the col and keep to the right of the ridge to follow a steep but stepped grassy path to Brandon Mountain’s North Top (891m). Bear left here and enjoy an easy walk around the head of the coom to eventually meet the main trade route coming up from the paternoster lakes. This will be your descent

FACT FILE BRANDON MOUNTAIN Distance: 15km/9 Miles Ascent: 900m Time: 6-7 hours Maps: OSi; 1:50,000 sheet 70

20


"Braver travellers may want to run the gauntlet with the more exposed spine of the ridge but for those who prefer terra firma, the path bypasses most of the obstacles."

19


Crockauns

Crockauns & Hangman’s Hill

Helen Fairbairn recommends a short but rewarding mountain circuit on the SligoLeitrim border. Photos by Gareth McCormack

Limestone pavement on Keelogyboy Mountain

22


and when he fledged he became the first Donegal-bred golden eagle to be fitted with a satellite transmitter. Extensive satellite coverage of his movements confirmed that by December he had established a territory centering around Crockauns and Hangman’s Hill, and several walkers were rewarded with sightings of him soaring overhead. Sadly, Conall’s last live reading came from Truskmore on 16th February 2010. Within days he was found dead, poisoned by toxic meat bait left out by a farmer to control crows and foxes. Though not the only case in recent years, Conall’s death prompted Minister for the Environment John Gormley to confirm that new legislation was being prepared to strengthen the regulations on poisoned bait. Meanwhile the reintroduction programme is continuing, and the area has at least proven itself suitable eagle territory. We can only hope that Conall’s peers fare rather better, and future walkers may again be able to experience the thrill of seeing such a charismatic bird of prey in the vicinity of Crockauns.

Getting to the Start The route starts and finishes along a narrow lane just south of Crockauns, around 10km northeast of Sligo town (GR: G 764,403). To get there from Sligo, take the N16 towards Manorhamilton. Around 3km beyond the edge of town, you come to a sharp left-hand bend. Turn right onto an unsigned minor road that leads off from the apex of the bend, and continue for roughly

4.5km.Towards the end of the road the tarmac surface turns to gravel. Shortly beyond this, both verges open into grassy lay-bys, providing space to park three cars. If you need more room, further space can be found back along the verges west from this point, though please take care not to impede access to any fields.

Connacht

T

hough short enough to fit into a winter’s day, this circuit visits an impressive variety of scenery. An expanse of limestone pavement, a fine viewpoint across the dramatic Glencar valley, and three summits of distinctly different character are just some of the treats on offer. Crossing back and forth across the SligoLeitrim border, the modest height of the hills allows fine views without too much upward toil. This is a wild and little-visited corner of the country however, and the grassland can be rough underfoot. The route’s only cairn lies at the top of Crockauns, though the distinctive topography makes navigation easy enough. Be wary of walking in poor visibility however, because there are numerous small cliffs that could be hazardous. Apart from the views, the main attractions of the area are its natural features. All of the land visited on the Sligo side of the border is a Natural Heritage Area, due to the richness of the bog. In geological terms, it’s the limestone bedrock that provides most interest. Amongst various sink-holes, the northeast top of Keelogyboy Mountain is particularly interesting, holding a fragment of karst landscape reminiscent of the Burren. The area has also been in the news in recent years thanks to Conall, a male golden eagle chick. Conall was reared in the wild in Glenveagh National Park in 2009, as part of the project to reintroduce golden eagles to Ireland. Conall hatched in late April 2009,

The Walk Before you start walking, take a moment to examine the cliffs of Crockauns that lie just north of the starting point. You will finish the circuit by dropping around these from the west, and it’s worth getting your bearings at the outset. Begin the route by following the track east, heading towards the cliff-fringed hill marked on the map at 374m. Keep left at two forks and pass over a rise, where the track dwindles underfoot. A ruined stone farm now comes into sight, nestling in a hollow to your right. Continue along the track for roughly 80m beyond the rise, where you draw close to a stream on the right. Cross the fence and stream, then turn left and follow the bank east. Within long you’ll need to pass through a metal gate, then follow the fence line as it climbs south towards the col on Keelogyboy Mountain. The ascent is steep and continuous, crossing a mixture of tussock and short grass. At the top of the col, turn left and complete the final ascent to Keelogyboy’s northeast top. As you emerge onto the plateau, it comes as a shock to

View to Crockauns from Hangman's Hill

23


Crockauns

“This is a wild and littlevisited corner of the country, and the grassland can be rough underfoot.”

The lane beneath Crockauns

discover an expanse of limestone pavement stretching out ahead. The change of landscape is so abrupt that it’s hard to resist pausing a while to explore the intricate formations beneath your feet. Continue east along the northern edge of the plateau, enjoying fine views of the Leitrim hills to the southwest. Here you pick up the line of a tumble-down limestone wall. Follow this eastwards to a corner, then cross to the northern side of the wall. You can now begin the descent northeast to the col beneath Hangman’s Hill, though you’ll need to arc to the right on the way down to avoid a band of low cliffs. Negotiate a short section of marshy ground in the col itself, then make the short, steep climb to the top. Now follow the ridge of Hangman’s Hill as it curves northwest. The most arresting view is westwards over Sligo Bay, whose shoreline is guarded by the distinctive profile of Knocknarea and Queen Maeve’s Grave.

FACT FILE crockauns Distance: 8km/5miles Ascent: 400m/1310ft Time: 4 hours Maps: OSNI 1:50,000 Sheet 16

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From the northwestern prow of Hangman’s Hill, make a steep descent north to reach an expanse of long grass below. Head west across this, aiming for the gap between the two eastern rises of Crockauns. The gap itself holds a stream, wall and fence. Climb along the left side of the wall, following it diagonally uphill towards the mountain’s northern edge. A dramatic scene now opens up to the north, with Glencar Lough sheltering beneath the sheer cliffs that fringe the Benbulbin Plateau. The prominent RTE mast opposite marks the top of Truskmore. At the northern edge of the mountain, turn left. Continue climbing westwards until you reach the small limestone cairn at the summit. This is

a wonderful lookout and a fitting finale to the route. Glencar lies 400m below to the north, while Lough Gill can be seen to the south. It’s also interesting to note an abrupt change in the landscape just west of Crockauns. Rather than short grass, the surface vegetation changes suddenly to thick peat and heather, marking a shift in bedrock from limestone to sandstone. Turn sharply south at the summit and descend across several hummocks. A fence must be crossed before you reach the top of the cliffs that fringe the mountain’s southern slopes. These are the cliffs you saw from the starting point. Head west along the cliff top until you locate a steep, grassy corner at the western end of the main cliff face. Descend this with care, then sweep east below the rock wall. The access road now lies directly below you to the south. Pick your way carefully down the steep slope, aiming for two metal gates that allow access to the road roughly 100m west of your start point. The long grass is interspersed with old, twisted hawthorn trees, which have been contorted into fantastic shapes by the wind. Once at the road, turn left and walk the short distance back to the start.


Competition Results

September/October issue Craghoppers Fusioneer Crossword Competition Results

S L I EVECARRAN L E I U O O O ACRE GAS COR F U M A H T S G O I LHEATER BEECH U E V E I R O N EWY E A R A R A L OU T A R I O G B A Y EGO B U L RU S H R S T U L G T ASCOT HORS E SHOE N L E N G R DWE L T L E I F A I R O F O L N L N TUR LOUGHH I L L

,

e, o. ain, ouise ois, ary d

Congratulations to: Meabh Ni Bhuinneain, Castlebar, John Kenny, Castleknock, Dublin, Pauline McClelland, Portadown, James McBride, Cookstown, Michael Cahill, Ballyclough, Co Cork, Kieran Day, Castlebar, Lucinda Patterson, Dunmanway, Co Cork, Michael Joseph Miley, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow, Jean Montgomery, Dublin 14, Brid Murphy, Ballymore Eustace, Eoin McLernon, Downings, Co. Donegal, Colin Fair, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, David Horkan, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, Padraig O Sabhain, Leitir Moir, Co. Gaillimhe, John Hayes, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork, Louise O'Neill, Oola, Co. Tipperary, Bill Harrahill, Rathdowney, Co Laois, Pilib O'Duinn, Ceapach na bhFaoiteach, Co Thiobrad Arann, Mary Brennan, Ballinteer, Dublin, Betty Dowd, Lismore, Co. Waterford

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Lough Tay

Circling

Lough Tay Denis Gill continues his exploration of Wicklow’s stunning and historically rich Luggala Valley. Photos by Eoin Clarke

Denis Gill continues his exploration of Wicklow’s stunning and historically rich Luggala Valley. Photos by Eoin Clarke

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Leinster

View of Lough Tay and Luggala from The Barr

O

ur second walk in this trilogy crosses the seldomvisited western flank of Djouce Mountain to approach the Cloghoge Valley from above the dramatic crags and boulder fields on Fancy Mountain.

Getting to the Start From the east of the mountains follow the M50/M11 to Kilmacanogue to turn at the flyover onto the R755. Drive via Rocky Valley and Calary Bog for nearly 11km to turn right at a filter-lane onto the R759 at a signpost to Sally Gap. Continue uphill for 4km until beyond the forest there are clear views on the left across to Fancy Mountain. Crest the hill and descend to the first car park on the right with a signpost for the Wicklow Way. GR: O169.075 From the west of the mountains take the N81 to Hollywood and turn onto the R756 to enjoy the drive across the Wicklow Gap to Glendalough. From Laragh follow the R755 Dublin road via Annamoe into Roundwood, just beyond the village fork left for 2km to an offset crossroads to turn left and follow as above.

Route From the back of the car park, follow the

Wicklow Way markers on a forest road, soon turning left at a stile to emerge from the forest and climb a boardwalk up a small hill to view what is surely one of the most magnificent panoramas in Wicklow. This hill, aptly named The Barr, is a watershed between Stoney Pass Glen and the Cloghoge River Valley. The vista from the platform on its summit into the enormous hollow that encloses Lough Tay as it nestles below the majestic cliffs of Fancy Mountain, which is our eventual goal, will take your breath away. Notice at the base of a nearby boulder a memorial to J. B. Malone, the pioneer of the Wicklow Way, who, when he stood on this hill many long years ago, was inspired to write: A great revelation of height and space comes when you look west from this place, for now before you, beyond the huge cleft of Luggala, splendid mountains sharp with crag and abrupt slope rise to the sun and beyond them, still other giant forms, the true backbone of Wicklow from Kippure to Lugnaquilla above the heather deserts of Cloghoge…six thousand acres of loneliness! It is with enormous pleasure that I quote J. B. Malone, as it was his articles long ago in the Evening Herald newspaper which gave

me a lifelong love of walking in Wicklow. Continue to follow the boardwalk on a gentle uphill along a spur running southwest from the summit of Djouce. As height is gained, views open up to the east across Vartry lakes and the Irish Sea beyond. After crossing a stile onto White Hill, leaving the trees behind, continue on the boardwalk for 50 metres before turning hard left at a post to follow a narrow trail through the heather, Where the trail forks, tend left to the corner of the now clear-felled Ballinastoe forest to pick up our route once again, on what may once have been an old green road skirting the western flanks of White Hill and Djouce Mountain. When the green road eventually narrows and disappears into the heather, continue over a crest on rough ground until the col between Djouce and War Hill is off to the right and the TV mast on Kippure Mountain is directly ahead. Notice in the depression below three broad sweeps of reeds that are the headwaters of an unnamed stream on the Osi maps. Begin a descent across broken ground of heather and tussocks of sedge, keeping to the right of the reeds to reach the headwaters and follow Freestone Brook downstream. If visibility is good, look behind to notice, amid a scattering of rocks above the col on the northern slopes of Djouce, a massive

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Lough Tay oblong boulder silhouetted “A great revelation of height and space comes when you look against the skyline. This is the west from this place …six thousand acres of loneliness!” Coffin Stone, sometimes referred to as a portal tomb but J.B. Malone more likely an erratic deposited by prehistoric glacial activity. Continue to follow game trails by the brook, holding the left bank for the easiest route, to reach tarmac at the attractive cut granite; Sheepbanks Bridge. Turn right to follow the road, which is safer than turning left as in 1834 this would have led to…The Murdering Pass at Luggalaw! Continue on tarmac for 500m to reach a second, more modern bridge that is purely functional and does not have the visual appeal of Sheepbanks Bridge! Leave the road to follow downstream the right-hand bank of another stream, unnamed on the Osi maps but which is At the J.B.Malone Memorial boulder with views of Lough Tay White Sand Brook, to a sheltered hollow beyond two lone trees offering a pleasant lunch to the right of a grove of deciduous trees and surrounded by deciduous trees is the stop before reaching the exposed mountainside. perched on the edge of a steep drop into the fairytale Luggala Lodge, built in 1787 and Carry on downstream to the junction with valley. As the trees fall behind, tend towards extended in 1805 by the La Touche family. Luggala Stream/Cloghoge River to cross with the edge of the precipice to locate a narrow In 1937 Ernest Guinness bought Luggala the aid of a small island. Follow the stream’s trail that leads all the way to the summit of as a wedding present for his daughter right-hand bank for a short distance Fancy Mountain (598m). Oonagh, on her marriage to Lord Oranmore and Browne.  Alas, the house downstream, before beginning to traverse While climbing above the crags and was burnt down in 1956 but was rebuilt to onto higher ground, walking parallel to the buttresses to the summit, the most wonderful its original gothic design with the clever use river but always climbing through trackless views are revealed, as immediately below the of old photographs. The house is still heather towards the north-eastern shoulder of cliffs is a sandy beach by Lough Tay next to owned by Garech Browne, a member of the Fancy Mountain. Your immediate goal is well beautiful parkland where deer graze. Close by

On the slopes of Fancy Mountain with Djouce and White Hill in the background

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Tarmac road leading away from Lough Tay and up to Pier Gates

Guinness family and many famous people have stayed there, including Mick Jagger, John Huston and Michael Jackson. My invitation was lost in the post! Hidden among the boulders below are rock shelters that were used as hiding places by members of the United Irishmen during the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion, when the rebels under the command of Joseph Holt and Michael Dwyer continued to fight a guerrilla war against the forces of the Crown here in the mountains. In 1937 a musket from 1798 period was found in one of these caves. The summit of this ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ mountain is soon reached; to the west is the Doctor Jekyll side: a gentle plateau of blanket bog stretching across to the Military Road (the tourist route to this peak) while to the east is the wild and dangerous Mr. Hyde side, plummeting down to the windswept surface of Lough Tay. Continue on a long downhill to the southeast following a well used trail that descends all the way to the valley floor. Cross a stile before turning left to a bridge over the Cloghoge River beside a copse of trees, to enjoy a gentle stroll before beginning an uphill trek on tarmac to escape the valley at the Pier Gates. Along the way, climb to the left of double electric gates using a set of steps that could be quite at home in a castle turret. On the final push to the Pier Gates, old maps show there was a police barracks to the right of the road; one wonders were our Wicklow ancestors an unruly lot? From even a casual reading of the history of Wicklow…the answer has to be a resounding yes!

FACT FILE CIRCLING LOUGH TAY Distance: 15km Ascent: 540m Time: 5-6 hours Maps: OSi Sheet 56 EastWest Mapping Wicklow Mountains West

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Sawel & Dart

Sawel & Dart

Helen Fairbairn enjoys the incredible views from the highest mountains in the Sperrins. Photos by Gareth McCormack

On a track beneath Sawel Mountain

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in the heart of the valley. The lay-by is located on the southern side of the road, around 500m east of Sperrin village crossroads. There is plenty of parking here for at least eight cars.

Ulster

T

he two highest peaks in the retaining water, and walkers will appreciate Sperrin Mountains provide gaiters in wet conditions. the quintessential walking If you don’t have the time for the full experience in the area. From circuit, consider an out-and back trip as far a vantage point on the as Dart Mountain, starting from the road at Tyrone-Derry border, the summit views the top of Sawel Pass. This 9km alternative encompass most of Ulster. Route-finding is still involves 600m of ascent, so will need at relatively simple thanks to a clear access track least four hours to complete. and the guidance of fences across the high Getting to the Start ground. Little wonder then that together, The route starts and finishes at a lay-by 678m-high Sawel and 619m-high Dart are along the B47 in the Glenelly Valley (GR: H the most frequented peaks in the range. 639,944). The valley can either be accessed The route also offers a good taste of the from Draperstown to the east, or from terrain that typifies the Sperrins as a whole. Plumbridge to the west. From both towns, Though the Irish name Cnoc Speirín head along the B47 towards Sperrin village translates as ‘pointed hills’, the title is something of a misnomer. The Sperrins are part of the great Caledonian range that was created around 500 million years ago, during the collision of the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Subsequent plate movement means the range is now split between Norway, Scotland, northwest Ireland, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. At the time of formation, the mountains may well have reached as high as the Himalayas. Some 400 million years of erosion have taken their toll on the peaks however, leaving just the roots of this once massive chain. Rather than towering ridges, the range is now characterised by broad shoulders and rounded summits, with Sawel and Dart typical examples of such topography. Cairn at the summit of Dart Mountain One of the main causes of erosion was glaciation, and the last ice age had a particularly large impact on the Sperrins. Geologists believe that the huge ice sheet that covered the north of Ireland was at its thickest in this area. Glaciers persisted here long after they had retreated elsewhere, carving many of the landscape features visible today. Indeed the entire Glenelly valley owes its shape to the glacial period, and is one of the longest such valleys in the country. The peaks themselves are now covered by a thick blanket of peat, which supports a range of plants associated with montane heath. Most of the upland section of this route crosses thick grass, interspersed with occasional marshy patches and peat hags. The peat does a good job at On the ascent to Sawel Mountain

The Walk From the lay-by, head east along the B47. Though traffic is not generally heavy, vehicles do travel quickly along this road, so care is needed. After 500m the road drops steeply to cross Glenerin Bridge, then climbs again and passes a small conifer plantation on the left. Next on the left is a farm, and 150m beyond this is the point where you leave the tarmac behind. Look out for a

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Sawel & Dart

Sawel and Dart above Glenelly Valley

track and metal gate, set at an angle to the road. Pass through the gate and begin climbing along the track. The track is overgrown with tussock grass for the first couple of kilometres, through it is still obvious enough to follow. Climb gradually past fields and around the slopes of Oughtvabeg, passing through several more gates on the way. After 2km the track descends slightly to the Glenerin Burn, located near a farm shed. In low water, it is a simple matter to cross the boulders and reach a metal gate on the other side. In higher water, simply head left for 20m and cross a concrete bridge, before returning along the opposite bank to the gate. The gate gives access to a firmer, more established track. Follow this gradually uphill, soon passing a ruined stone cottage on the right. The summits of both Sawel and Dart can now be seen to the east. Continue along the track until you reach the road over Sawel Pass. Cross over the tarmac, veering 10m to the left to avoid crossing any fences. This is where the real hillwalking begins; you now have 360 vertical metres to climb in a little over 2km. Begin by following the fence that makes its way uphill to the west. The ground underfoot consists of rough grass interspersed with occasional wet and peaty patches. Where another fence crosses your line of travel, cross the fence to your right and continue climbing. The fence acts as a guide rail, leading you virtually all the way to the summit of Sawel. Where it finally veers away to the left, continue ahead for another 100m to reach the trig point itself.

FACT FILE SAWELL AND DART Distance: 14km/8miles Ascent: 650m/2790ft Time: 5-6 hours Maps: OSNI 1:50,000 Sheet 13 or OSNI 1:25,000 Activity Map ‘Sperrins’.

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Having reached the highest point in the Sperrin Mountains, it is worth taking some time to appreciate the views. The panorama extends for 360º, taking in most of Northern Ireland as well as Counties Donegal and Sligo. On a clear day, notable landmarks include the Mourne Mountains, Lough Neagh, the Atlantic Sea beneath the cliffs of Binevenagh, Errigal and Muckish in the Derryveagh Mountains, and Benwiskin in the Sligo hills. There is also a clear view of the next part of the route to Dart Mountain. Begin by descending southwest, again following along the right side of a fence. Fortunately the peat hags in the col are not as awkward as they appear from above. Another steady ascent brings you past the rock outcrops that decorate the top of the mountain. As before, you must leave the safety of the fence for the final few metres to the large summit cairn.

When you’re ready to descend, retrace your steps eastward until you reach a fence View to Dart from Sawel junction on your right. Now turn south and follow the left side of another fence, heading down the shoulder between Garvegh Burn and Oughtmane Burn. A long, gradual descent over rough grass brings you to another fence boundary. Pass through a gate on the left, adjacent to a small conifer plantation. Continue directly ahead from the gate, where a track materialises underfoot. This soon consolidates into a charming green lane; follow this down through several gates to reach the B47. Turn left here and complete the final 2km of tarmac back to the start.


Environment

Gas Guzzlers Ireland’s love of ruminants is a costly affair, says Dick Warner

A

few weeks ago the EPA released figures for 2009 on Ireland’s performance in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The report was mostly good news. We are creeping closer to our target for reductions, although this has more to do with the economic downturn than any environmental good works. But there was one area in which the news wasn’t so good. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture now represent 29% of our national total, by far the biggest sector. And in the agricultural sector livestock account for 70% of all emissions. The problem is ruminant animals. Cattle and sheep are ruminant animals; pigs, poultry and humans are not. Ruminant animals have a peculiar digestive system that has evolved to allow them to break down very fibrous food full of cellulose, such as grass, and get nourishment from it. The freshly swallowed food passes into a special stomach called the rumen. From there it is regurgitated several times to be re-chewed; this is ‘chewing the cud’. The cud then passes back into the rumen where it is broken down by specialist bacteria that can live without oxygen. These bacteria produce a lot of methane gas. The animal has to get rid of the gas and apparently, because the rumen is at the front end of the digestive tract, 95% of it is vented by eructation rather than flatulence - in other words, contrary to popular mythology, the environmental danger is posed by cow burps not cow farts. The problem is that methane is a particularly virulent greenhouse gas, probably around 30 times as damaging as carbon dioxide.

There are just under six million cattle in the Republic, considerably more than there are human beings. And the greenhouse gas emissions from these cattle now exceed the emissions from the entire transport sector. Cattle numbers are decreasing, but only very slowly (down 1.5% in the 12 months 2008 – 2009). There are also scientific efforts being made to reduce the amount of methane produced by each animal, but as long as we continue to feed our cattle grass and silage it’s hard to see how these will make much difference. Of course, it’s not just an Irish problem. The United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation produced a report estimating that there are 1.5 billion cattle worldwide and that they contribute 18% to global greenhouse gas emissions. But the problem is particularly acute in Ireland, where we’ve been carrying on a love affair with ruminant animals for millennia. And it’s a problem that could end up costing us huge amounts of money from 2012 onwards, when we will have to start buying offsets to compensate for any failure to meet our emission targets. One of the key planks in the government’s plan to get us back to economic growth is an expansion of the food production sector and we all know how powerful the farming lobby is in this country, so it seems unlikely that this problem will be resolved by a sudden reduction in the national herd of cattle and sheep. But it does look as though someone has done the sums wrong and that our livestock could end up not making money but costing money.

“There are just under six million cattle in the Republic, and the greenhouse gas emissions from them now exceed the emissions from the entire transport sector.”


Nature

Red T breast We know the robin as the gardener’s friend. You certainly wouldn’t want one as an enemy. By Dick Warner

here’s a wood that I walk in quite often and, because I use it for school nature walks, I’m usually accompanied by about thirty children and a couple of teachers. As our crocodile winds through the oldgrowth deciduous trees, feet scuffing up the deep layer of leaf mould, we are invariably followed by a robin. It perches on branches and then darts down to the ground, capturing some small morsel uncovered by our shoes. The children like the robin; it’s one of a very small number of bird species that they can all recognise, and they associate it with Christmas. The Christmas connection dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, like many of our other Christmas traditions. In the 1840s the British established the first official government postal service, the Royal Mail. Soon afterwards the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards and presents through the post developed. The livery of the Royal Mail was pillar-box red and the first postmen, who even delivered on Christmas Day, wore scarlet waistcoats and were called Robin Redbreasts. Redbreast, or a dialect version of it, was the original name of the bird. Later the human Christian name Robin was added alliteratively, in much the same way as pied wagtails in rural Ireland are usually called Willie wagtails and that daws came to be called jackdaws. Some time afterwards the original redbreast was dropped and the the birds became simply robins. Redbreast is an odd name for a bird whose breast is obviously orange and not red. But it’s an ancient name and it appears that the colour orange was not recognised in the English-speaking world until some time in the sixteenth century - before that it was just regarded as another shade of red. Orange became a colour when the first orange fruits arrived on our shores. At about the same time the first orange carrots arrived - before then most carrots

34


had been purple, with some black or white varieties. Both these events were connected to the activities of plant breeders and importers in the Netherlands, and of course the Dutch royal family came from the House of Orange, and also gave us one third of our national flag - which is all very fascinating but has little to do with robins. The tameness of robins is also rather intriguing. The species is distributed over most of Europe, western Siberia and bits of north Africa. It is only tame in Britain and Ireland. Throughout the rest of its range it is a shy bird, skulking in the depths of forests and avoiding people. There seem to be two reasons for this anomaly. The first is that in much of its range, particularly it southern Europe, it has traditionally been hunted for food. This still goes on to some extent, despite EU conservation laws, and has given robins over there a natural distrust of humans. The second reason is that over most of its range the robin has a habit of following forest animals, particularly wild pigs, and picking up food items uncovered by their scraping and rooting. It appears that when much of the forest and all of the wild pigs were exterminated in Britain and Ireland, robins transferred this activity to humans and learnt to lurk in the vegetable garden and pick up scraps revealed by the garden spade. But the real robin is a very different bird to the cheeky gardener’s friend and the Christmas card icon. The real robin is one of the most vicious and ruthless creatures in our countryside and this was first revealed by one of the unsung heroes of ornithology, an Irishman named J.P. Burkitt. Burkitt was an odd duck. He was born and reared in Killybegs in Co Donegal, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He spent most of his adult life as the county engineer for Fermanagh and, when he wasn’t working, he read the Bible and studied birds - robins in particular. He was outside the mainstream of contemporary ornithology, he didn’t belong to learned societies and published very few

papers but, perhaps because of this, he revolutionised the science in the 1920s. Instead of studying the skins of dead birds in museums, he captured live ones, put distinguishing rings on their legs, released them and studied their behaviour in the wild. Nowadays this is done by putting rings of different colours on the legs of the birds, but Burkitt was colour blind, so when he invented the technique he had to use rings of different shapes. His robin studies established the importance of territoriality to many bird species. He “The robin is only tame in Britain and discovered how big a robin’s territory was, how Ireland. Throughout the rest of its range it is it defended it and how a shy bird, skulking in the depths of forests vital it was to its and avoiding people.” existence. He also did pioneering work on the so alike that it seems as though the robins longevity of birds. Robins themselves sometimes get it wrong, with suffer from high infant mortality and so the males mistaking amorous females for average lifespan is only 1.1 years, but if they invading males and attacking them. survive the difficult early months they can live When they do eventually get it together, a quite a long time. Burkitt recorded a female pair of robins don’t actually construct a nest, still breeding at the age of 11. They find a suitable hollow, like a ledge, tree But his most startling discovery was the absolute ruthlessness with which a male robin fork or sometimes a hollow in the ground and line it with soft material. Sometimes they pick will defend his territory. The first defence is incongruous places like flower pots, old with aggressive song. The second defence is watering cans, welllington boots or hats to nest puffing up the feathers and displaying that orange breast to the rival. If both fail, there is in. Four to six eggs are laid and when the young hatch they are speckled brown birds, a fight. This fight quite often leads to the totally unlike adult robins and often mistaken death or fatal wounding of one of the for another species. The male does most of the contestants, which is very unusual among birds. A relatively common result is blindness rearing of them while the female incubates a second, and sometimes a third, brood. caused by both eyes being pecked out, which Adult robins are basically ground feeders is a death sentence. It is estimated that specialising in small to medium sized approximately 10% of robin deaths are invertebrates, though they will switch to seeds murders by other robins. and fruit in winter and are quite frequent The females are pretty feisty too, defending visitors to bird tables. It has also been shown their own territories for at least part of the that they have an unexpected ability to hover year. Both sexes take territory so seriously that they will sing all year round, which is also very over water and can dive to catch small fish. There are estimated to be about two million unusual among Irish song birds. They will breeding pairs in Ireland, which makes them sometimes sing at night (they are actually one of our more common birds. distant relatives of nightingales) though research has shown that this nornally only They may be quite common, but the more occurs in places, like city centres, which have you delve into the private lives of these high levels of ambient noise during the day. popular little birds, these symbols of The two sexes are impossible to tell apart Christmas, the more fascinating and unless you dissect a dead specimen. They are mysterious they become.

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Cuba

at the E

Denis Gill and his companions found beauty, charm – and Irish connections – in the Caribbean’s socialist stronghold. Photos by Denis Gill


he End of an Era


Cuba

I

n 1958, when he came to power as leader of the Cuban Revolution which overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s U.S.-backed dictatorship, Fidel Castro became ‘El Presidente’ of this beautiful Caribbean island. Fidel is now an old man, having outlived most of his allies and adversaries, is seldom seen in public and has passed the reins of power to his younger brother Raul Castro. What will become of Socialist Cuba after the death of Fidel is anyone’s guess! Our own journey brought us to Cuba for an eight-day sponsored walk on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland; a unique opportunity to experience Cuba at the end of an era! Our plan was to trek south from the central highlands to the coast, and our excitement mounted as we prepared for the adventure. Our group even included a member of the Lynch clan – a name with great resonance in Cuba, as I will explain later! Leaving the vibrant capital Havana behind, we journeyed down the coast, firstly along the Malecón, an 8km seawall abutting the Straits of Florida, where in rough seas, the waves crash high over the seawall, soaking strollers and traffic alike - definitely not the time and place to be cruising in one of Havana’s iconic open-top Cadillacs! After passing the 16th century Spanish fortress of El Morro on the headland guarding the entrance to the harbour, we diverted inland to follow the Soviet-built and almost traffic-free six lane Autopista Nacional motorway, with its lane markings unpainted and its slip roads ending in sugar plantations, while turkey buzzards circled lazily on warm thermal winds as we headed east into Villa Clara Province. Before turning south into the mountains, we stopped on the outskirts of Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum and museum, located in a great square overlooked by a large bronze statue of ‘Che’. In the mausoleum below, there is an eternal flame and stone carved niches dedicated to the other guerrillas killed alongside ‘El Comandante Che’ in Bolivia in 1967. Intriguingly, Ernesto (Che was his nickname) Guevara had an Irish grandmother, Anna Isabel Lynch who was born in west Co. Galway. After emigrating to South America she met a man called Guevara and they had a child they named Ernesto - Che’s father who was to explain his son’s restless nature thus; “in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels!” The rugged 90km-long Sierra del Escambray, the highest mountain range in

38


central Cuba, offering wonderful opportunities for trekking and our base for the next three days, was by the shores of a vast manmade lake; Embalse Hanabanilla, nestled among the rolling wooded foothills of the mountains. According to local folklore, Fidel Castro while hiding in the mountains from government forces in the 1950s, used to swim in the lake, whose native name means ‘cup of gold’ and he resolved to develop this isolated and beautiful area with an hotel. Our first trek began directly from the gardens of this hotel, following single-file trails climbing among wildly undulating hills into a shaded jungle of trees, vines, cacti, palms and bamboo, all the while accompanied by bird song from the dense undergrowth, with the ubiquitous

vultures circling lazily overhead. As we gained height, wonderful views opened up of the lake, revealing its immense size as it weaved its way between the hills into countless bays and lagoons, seeming to come to an end, only for more of its tranquil waters to be revealed from the next summit, while the provinces of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos shimmered in a distant haze. After a steep descent to the edge of the lake, where the trees ended as the water began, we made a pre-arranged rendezvous with two old launches which may well have begun their careers as gunboats, for a leisurely cruise back to the hotel and into the sunset. Two days later, as the early morning mist drifted across the bay, we again boarded the two old boats to cruise to a dam at the furthest reaches of the lake to begin the trek to our next base in Sancti SpĂ­ritus province; the town of Topes de Collantes, which at 771 metres is the largest settlement in the mountains and was only founded in 1937 by Fulgencio Batista as a health resort, where the dictator kept a summer residence. Because of the nature of the terrain around Topes de Collantes; i.e. dirt roads rising and falling over steep hills, with potholes big enough to swallow a potbellied pig, all transport was by enormous ex-Russian army trucks and a white-knuckle ride was guaranteed. Hidden among the surrounding hills, deep within forested gorges are some of the most wondrous waterfalls, splendidly named; El Nicho, Vegas Grandes, Salto del Caburne and El Rocio, where cool mountain streams cascade over rocks into swimming holes, plunging

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Cuba into chasms where only macho locals dare to dive. Beneath a welcome canopy of forest we trekked on narrow trails to explore these waterfalls that thankfully provided welcome opportunities to cool off in crystal clear pools. Always visible within the forest was the national tree of Cuba; the Royal Palm; these majestic trees reach up to 40 metres high and are easily identified by their tall trunks reaching for the sky with fishbone fronds blowing in the breeze. Reptiles are common but rarely seen, as is the national bird, the Cuban Trogon, which sports the red, white and blue of the Cuban flag. As an added and unexpected bonus while trekking, deep within the forest are large coffee plantations where the old Spanish haciendas are now restaurants providing delicious food for weary travellers. At Hacienda Codina, the pork marinated in citrus juice and freshly roasted over an open fire is, as they say, to die for! Bidding adieu to Topes de Collantes and trekking to the edge of the mountains for a wonderful vista down across the coastal plain to the blue Caribbean ocean shimmering in the distance, our final walk was descending, mostly through scrub and farmland, following a river past the excavated ruins of 19th century sugar mills that were destroyed during the wars for independence, to finally stumble down the cobblestone streets into Trinidad de Cuba. The old town of Trinidad was founded in 1514 but was then only a rural backwater and a haven for smugglers and pirates. It prospered during the mid-19th century, when

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the area produced a third of Cuba’s sugar, but the industry fell into decline during the two wars for independence and Trinidad, cut off from the rest of Cuba by the mountains of the Sierra del Escambray, slipped into economic isolation with no development, its streets and buildings remaining rooted in a bygone age. Trinidad today is an open-air museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its Spanish colonial architecture, majestic palaces and plazas and pastelcoloured houses with elaborate wrought-iron grills. Strolling along its cobblestone streets, exploring its museums and churches is a journey back into a bygone age. We left Trinidad for the short journey to the coast to kick off our boots for the last

time to wiggle our tootsies in the sand before plunging into the warm blue waters of the Caribbean Ocean. Absolute Bliss! Our trekking over, we returned along the Autopista for some well-deserved leisure time


Before turning south into the mountains, we stopped on the outskirts of Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum and museum, located in a great square overlooked by a large bronze statue of ‘Che’. in Havana. From its outskirts to the crumbling apartment buildings of Centro Habana, to the restored colonial palaces of Old Habana, it is the Caribbean’s largest and most vibrant city. The writers Ernest Hemmingway and Graham Greene made it their home, while Anais Nin exclaimed: “All my sadness and apprehension fled the moment I caught sight of Havana!” Its music and atmosphere, its museums, churches, art galleries, bars and open-air restaurants, captivated the weary travellers as they explored trafficclogged streets, skilfully avoiding big-winged Cadillacs, dodging Buicks and Pontiacs. These cars aren’t just magnificently restored collectors items but are also an economic necessity; try to spot the ones with modified tractor engines while you sip a minty mojito or a Cuba libre in a pavement café. Enjoy!

Cuba File........

Getting There: By KLM via Amsterdam or by Air France via Paris. Visas from the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, 2 Adelaide Court, Dublin 2. T: 01-4750899 Currency: Cuban Convertible Pesos exchanged for Euros. Do not bring US Dollars. Trekking; While Cuba has wonderful trekking potential, the walkers right to roam is restricted by the lack of good maps, poorly marked trails and need for a guide in some areas.

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Walking in the Jura

Walking

Mt Blanc, from the summit of Cret de Chalam

Jura in the

The Grande TraversĂŠe du Jura is the perfect overseas long-distance walk for weekend warriors, says Judy Armstrong. Photos by Judy Armstrong

On the steps

gh a sunlit ing throu e Easy walk ute to La Guienett ro forest, en

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Descending Cret de Chalam

of the chape

l at Ca rich

e


apel a t Caric h

L

e

ong-distance walking offers a special freedom. It’s difficult to put a finger on it, but I think it comes from the release from routine, the frisson of the unknown or, at least, the unexpected, plus the well-being won by constant, gentle exercise. The problem is, it also demands time. Lots of it. The ‘long distance’ part is the giveaway: most of these trails take weeks veering toward months. And most of us don’t have that luxury: we have the intention, but not the ability, to take great wads of time away from Normal Life. So, I’ve been investigating walks where small chunks can be tackled, in periods as short as a weekend. Eventually, given enough dedication, you could complete a long distance route over several years by marrying your holiday time with different sections. This hinges on ease of access. It’s important to be able to parachute in (metaphorically, obviously: hurtling landward with a rucksack on your back has all kinds of implications, the main one involving gravity) [and where would the parachute go? Ed.] and slip away again. Also, it needs to be seasonally kind, able to be enjoyed at any time of year. The good news is, I’ve found an ideal candidate. The Grande Traversée du Jura (GTJ) is a waymarked footpath along the eastern side of France. It stretches for 400 kilometres from Mandeure to Culoz, linking the regions of Franche-Comté and Rhone-Alpes. While many walkers have traversed the entire length since its inception in 2002, the GTJ is equally popular with ‘weekenders’. This is partly due to easy access: the route follows the high points of the crescent-shaped Jura mountains, but it is also within wandering distance of train stations. Consequently, it is possible to walk a linear or circular route for two or three days, a week or more. There is also a version for mountain bikers (sharing some of the footpath tracks but generally separate), and road cyclists. Plus, there are slightly shorter versions for cross country skiers and snowshoers in winter. To cap it all, there is a comprehensive network of hotels and B&Bs which offer baggage transfer, so you can travel as light as you like. What could be better? I set off to test my theory with my friend Wendy. I guess you could call us classic weekenders: we have snatched a couple of days and made our way to Lajoux, a village in the Parc Naturel Regional du Haut-Jura. Lajoux is home to the park’s headquarters, built in 2006 in traditional style and clad with wooden tiles. Inside are audio-visual projections and hands-on displays showing life within the park. It’s an inspiring approach to ecology and sustainable tourism, and the perfect way to start a walk in the park. Evelyne Muller, who works for the park and whose passion for the GTJ is like mine for chocolate, outlines a two-day hike that takes in the best of the local scenery. First, we join her on a walk around Lajoux, using hand-held GPS units rented to visitors by the park. These are multi-media audio guides with touch screens and a translation in English. It takes us on a three-hour walk through the Foret de Massacre, explaining about the flora and fauna, and how the forest is managed. As she walks, Evelyne sighs. “I wish I could come with you tomorrow! Last weekend I walked up the Cret de la Neige, the highest point in the Ain department.” She points across the valley to a series of peaks forming a barricade between us and Geneva. These are the Monts Jura, which can be walked as one of the GTJ’s many alternative itineraries. “But, I have to work. I am envious… have fun!” So, Wendy and I make our way through early evening to our first night’s halt. Le Trappeur, a hotel run by several generations of the Gruet family, is among a handful of houses scattered over fenceless meadows. It is cosy, with good food and a bar full of locals. At night, there is utter silence and we sleep like the dead. In the morning, we’re excited to start walking: despite sunshine, the ground is crunchy with frost. Marie shrugs: anything can happen with the seasons. “The snow melts in May or June, but it never gets too hot in summer because of the altitude,” she says. Leaving our bags to be transferred, we set off with small rucksacks, map and guidebook. This is an aspect of GTJ that we definitely appreciate: travelling light leaves more energy to enjoy the place. We quickly discover another bonus: our route is so well signposted that even complete novices could find their way. The waymarks prompt us through forests, across meadows, past cows and isolated

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Walking in the Jura farmhouses. The views are beautiful, across the Valserine valley to the Monts de Jura. It isn’t alpine, more soft, inviting and encouraging. It’s confidence-inspiring and we feel relaxed and happy as we stroll in the sunshine. Mid-morning, we reach a small wooden chapel. Despite a heavy religious presence around the nearby abbey of St Claude, there are few churches here. This chapel at Cariche, built in 1936, is an exception, to the point of being a major landmark. It is firmly locked, but we peer through a keyhole to see a wood-lined interior, simple bench pews and altar. We make our way south, following pleasant tracks through sun-lit forest, arriving in early afternoon at La Guienette.

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The yurt,La Guienette

This is a typical Jurassien house: wide and high, clad in wooden tiles with zinc sheeting on the weatherfacing side. Owned by Francois and Francoise Casagrande, it is a traditional restaurant with dormitories (popular with GTJ walkers) and a Mongolian yurt in a field. Fending off a battalion of hissing geese with our trekking poles, we climb to the yurt. I have a rucksack but Wendy drags a wheeled case, which lurches over cowpats and rocks. I find this hilarious but it’s slow enough to encourage attack from the geese, so I am forced into rearguard defence. From the outside the yurt looks unloved and tired but inside, with carpets, sofas and squishy cushions, it feels a world away from reality. Later we light the woodburning stove and, as the kettle boils and a stained glass lantern swings in the heat, we pretend we’re on the Mongolian steppes. Before that, it’s time for dinner: jambon au foin, huge joints of ham smoked in hay, the speciality of the house. Francois serves the meat, which is lean and succulent, with potatoes drenched in cream and Comté cheese. It is preceded by Francoise’s special aperitif: white wine, white rum, lemon, sugar and mystery spices, potent and refreshing after a day in the open air. In the morning, we dash past the geese and set off into bright sunshine. Our initial target is the Borne au Lion, a stone erected in 1613 at the head of a narrow valley. It marked the border between the French kingdom (with a lily insignia), the kingdom of Savoie (a cross) and Franche-Comté (a lion). At the time Franche-Comté was Spanish, although it became French in 1678. Above this historical stone rears Cret de Chalam, known locally as the Sugarloaf. We follow a narrow footpath up a rocky streambed and through woodland to a shoulder below the summit. Here the view opens south to the plain that eventually holds Geneva. To our delight, it extends to a shimmering monster of snow and ice: Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, almost close enough to touch. We climb wooden steps to the

pyramidal peak. Cret de Chalam is just 1545 metres above sea level but feels higher. At our feet is the Valserine river; above it a chunky cliff face supports the Monts de Jura. Beyond them are more blue ridges and mountain chains, leading to the glistening glaciers and satellite peaks of Mont Blanc. It’s Sunday, and there’s a party atmosphere with couples and families picnicking. Wendy and I chomp into our ham sandwiches but feel out-catered by the wine, bread and cheese displayed on one family’s blanket, and the champagne being shared by another. “The French sure know how to picnic,” Wendy says, reluctantly sipping water. Turning our backs on Mont Blanc, we descend the steep face of Cret de Chalam and head for La Pesse. Following a waymarked detour, we climb a small peak and get lost in a forest before eventually finding the village. La Pesse comprises a clutch of old farmhouses and new ski chalets (for cross country skiers in winter), a bar and a zinc-clad church with a bell tower topped by a cockerel. A museum of rural life and a co-operative selling cheese lead to a bison (yes, bison) farm and restaurant. It is also home to La Renouée, a B&B in traditional Jurassien style. Chantal Grenard welcomes us into a haven of pine and crisp linen, before showing us around her home. The first house was built in 1776 by her husband’s great great grandfather, with a second, La Renouée, alongside it in 1832. Chantal and Dominique recently decided to give it new life as a chambre d’hotes or B&B: “Our motivation was to restore the family house and to share our passion for the region,” says Chantal. Their visitors love it, with words like charming, adorable and idyllic scattered through the guestbook. Dinner is a communal affair, with Chantal and Dominique plus fellow guests Ian and Cristal. It includes local cheese – heavily veined Bleu de Gex, Morbier with a


“Eventually, given enough dedication, you could complete a long distance route over several years by marrying your holiday time with different sections.” pale blue central stripe, dense, creamy Mousseron made near La Pesse, plus hard Comté. Dominque explains how his father used to carry the milk churns on his back to the village, where the cheese was made, then says, sadly, that then there were 37 farmers in this area and now there are five. We reflect on how, throughout Europe, times are a’changing. But in a way, this has a two-pronged effect. To visitors like us, the Haut Jura feels

Striding out above Borne au Lion with Cret de Cha lam behind

timeless, unchanged, tranquil. In the same breath, the changes – you could call it progress – allow us to dip in by train, car or plane to walk for a weekend or a week. By being ‘easy come, easy go’ we can experience that recharge of the batteries that only comes with gentle effort and exploration. Shrinking long distance walks to short snippets of time has become a reality: La Pesse may have lost dairy farmers, but it’s gained a whole new family of walkers.

WALKING THE GRANDE TRAVERSÉE DU JURA Length: 400km Northern point: Mandeure Southern point: Culoz Altitude: between 350m and 1720m Markings: the GTJ footpath uses Grande Randonnée markings (red and white stripes) and Grande Randonnée de Pays (yellow and red stripes)

Best months: May to October

Average daily distance: 20-25km Guidebook: La Grande Traversée du Jura… à pied (pub. FFRP, ISBN 2-7514-0090-6) includes topographic maps

Where to stay (open year round, option of baggage transfer for GTJ walkers): Le Trappeur (Les Molunes) Tel: +33 3 84 41 21 26 http://hoteltrappeur.com An immaculate family-run hotel with restaurant, a short walk from Lajoux.

It is easy to organise your own trek along the GTJ, but there are many organisations that can do the leg-work for you. See the GTJ website (www.gtj.asso.fr) for details. There are also GTJ routes for cycle tourers and mountain bikers, and cross country skiers and snowshoes in winter.

Auberge La Guienette (Bellecombe) Tel: +33 3 84 41 65 82 www.massifdujura.com/laguienette Forget a roof over your head: sleep in a yurt! Sleeps six, with a wood burning stove.

More information:

La Renouee (La Pesse) Tel: +33 3 84 42 75 35 www.chambres-hotes-larenouee.com A cosy B&B with fantastic food and the possibly the warmest welcome in France.

Grandes Traversées du Jura 15-17 Grande Rue 39150 Les Planches en Montagne Tel: +33 3 84 51 51 51 www.gtj.asso.fr

How to get there:

Judy crossed to France with P&O Ferries (www.poferries.com) and drove to Lajoux (9 hours from Calais). The Jura is well served by train, with a TGV station at Bellegarde (3.5 hours from Paris). The nearest international airport is Geneva, with a Swiss train connection to Les Rousses (near Lajoux).

La Chandoline (Lajoux) Tel: +33 3 84 41 21 26 www.lachandoline.com Unique, eco-friendly B&B with organic/locally sourced food and knowledgable guides.

Tourist office: La Maison du Parc du Haut Jura 39310 Lajoux Tel: (Fr) 3 84 34 12 27 www.parc-haut-jura.fr

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ChristmasGear

Stocking Fillers What do you give the walker who has everything this Christmas? A few ideas... GoPro Hero from €199

True Utility Skeleton Pro

€9.95

Lifesystems Survival Whistle €6

Silva Ranger 3 €23

Black Diamond Half Dome

€59 Coleman F1 €55 The North Face Pamir Windstopper €45

Lifesystems Thermal Blanket

Sigg Retro Heritage

€25

€5 Petzl MyoRXP €90

Led Lenser P7 €55 Lifesventure Micro Fibre Trek Towel

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€35


Garmin Forerunner 310XT €378

ThermaRest Prolite Plus

€110

Silva ADC Ridge Altimeter €65

Regatta Boot Bag

€8

Leatherman Skeletool CX

€79.95

Barts Zinaida Scarf

€30


ChristmasGear

Bushnell BackTrack

€85

Lifesystems Mountain First Aid Kit

€35

The North face Reversible Lombard Beanie

€25

Helly Hansen Womens Ice Crew

€50

The North Face Cat's Meow

€149

True Utilty Compact MiniLite

€14.95 Princeton Tec Byte €25 Beal Edlinger 10.2mm x 60m €117

Leki Sierra FS €60

PodSacs Airstream Lite Compression Sack €20

Victorinox Champ

€55

Vango Storm Shelter 200 €25

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Advertising Feature

Fitting the Bill

When it comes to walking or hiking boots, getting them fitted correctly is the single most important thing you can do, says Adam King of 53 Degrees North Few things can ruin a day on the hills quite as effectively as ill-fitting boots. Everyone has a story of the pair that felt fine in the shop and were the same size as the last pair that gave no trouble, but yet murdered their feet when it came to the acid test. It’s just not a simple proposition, finding the fit that’s going to work as well on loose scree as it does on boardwalk. Good boots are the sine qua non of hill walking. They’re also likely to be your biggest single investment in the sport. And given that without the right fit they’re at best seriously compromised, at worst useless, it follows that getting the right fit is one of the most important day’s work you’ll do. Adam King is 53 Degrees North’s ‘fitting guru’, with over eight expert years experience in matching boots to feet and an Anatom Academy Fitting Certificate under his belt, he has wide experience across a range of mountain sports and extensive knowledge of every aspect of boot design and technology. At 53 Degrees North, Adam and his team are happy to give the necessary time, guidance and advice to customers. Recognising that time spent advising customers on fit is time invested in a long-term relationship, the team at 53 Degrees North go to impressive lengths to employ science, experience and a huge range of quality footwear to ensure the right fit. “The first thing is to talk to the customer about the type of activity he or she is most interested in; obviously there’s a big difference between the needs of an occasional rambler and a regular hiker. Of course, someone with years of activity already under their belt will have a much clearer idea of what they want, but even so they may still need advice on fit. "It’s pretty well known that an individual’s feet vary in size, normally by half a size. In eight years of fitting shoes and boots I think I’ve only once seen a person with two feet exactly the same size! "Using a Brannock Gauge, we precisely measure the customer’s foot. There is a lot more to foot size than toe to heel length, and to make sure a boot fits really well, we have to take into account all of these aspects:

• • • •

Length Width Arch length Change in length from weighted to unweighted

"We then pick out 2 or 3 boots that suit the customer’s type of activity. At this point we may already be guiding the customer’s choice, based on their foot type. By taking out the insole of the boot and getting the customer to stand up on it gives us a good idea of how the boot is going to fit the customer in terms of length and width. "Next, we try the boot on and lace it tightly but comfortably. We recommend angling the foot upwards slightly before tightening the midfoot as this allows us to ‘lock’ the customers heel in place without over-tightening around the ankle. This process is designed to eliminate heel lift whilst keeping the fit of the boot as comfortable as possible. "With the boot properly laced, we ask the customer to stand on an incline board that simulates up and down hill walking. Going up, there should be no ‘lifting’ of the heel inside the boot, and going down, the toes shouldn’t touch the front of the boot. "At that point, if the boot feels comfortable and well fitted, we introduce the customer to Superfeet insoles. A premium quality insole like Superfeet will always be a huge improvement on the standard manufacturer’s insole. Superfeet insoles support your arches by giving your feet a better foundation and they greatly improve your natural shock absorption, which can turn a good fitting pair of boots into a great fitting pair of boots. "Socks are a significant element in correct fit. Modern technical socks are a massive improvement on traditional thick wool socks as they are anatomically shaped and fitted. The quality of material varies from pure Merino Wool to fully synthetic. Choosing the correct sock weight for your desired activity is also very important, we recommend you always wear a ‘tester’ sock, when getting your boots fitted, that is the same weight as the sock your intend to wear during your activity.” The technology being used in a modern hiking boot is light-years ahead of the stiff leather, steel capped boots of old. Most boots are fitted with a Gore-Tex lining to make them fully waterproof yet breathable and Vibram soles seem to be the norm as they are extremely durable and lightweight. 53 Degrees North’s selection of footwear is very impressive. They stock boots and shoes for every activity imaginable and their range of top quality brands like Lowa, Scarpa, Brasher, The North Face and Merrell leaves you spoilt for choice.

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Gear

TheNorthWind Doth Blow …and when it doth, you’d best be prepared, says Andy Callan. As the season of mellow fruitfulness draws to a close and all the forecasters who watch dolphins, examine acorns - or whatever - are promising another hard winter, it’s time to put away your lightweight summer kit, bring out the long-sleeved baselayers and check all your gloves and hats. Winter implies shorter days, worse weather and the need to have all your ‘stuff ’ sorted, i.e. be sure your gear is up to scratch and you’re fit enough to carry the extra kit required. It’s also a good time to make sure your hill skills are up to date, maybe even sign up to that course you never got around to last year. All this becomes even more important when you’re dealing with snow-covered terrain on our higher hills where the risk of being involved in an accident is potentially higher than in summer. People may look askance when they spot someone carrying an ice-axe in Ireland, but such equipment is necessary at times and when you recall the extended cold snaps of winter ’09 – ’10, wouldn’t it have been foolish not to carry one? Planning is particularly important in winter; hill goers should “adopt a progressive approach to adventure and develop their skills incrementally by building on past experience” (Mountaineering Council of Scotland). Planning Checklist Preparation is crucial, check the forecast – wind speed and direction are especially important, it may be easier to do your route the other way around. Is your route realistic in these conditions? • Make sure you can complete your route in daylight. If things are tight time wise it’s better to start in the dark when you’re fresh than finishing in it when you’re knackered. • Always have an alternative route option. This applies not only during the day but also for the day as a whole. • Develop the skills needed on less serious terrain. Practice your night/micro navigation in an area where you can park up, practice and be off the hills in 2-3 hours. The area chosen should have some large unmissable features to allow you navigate back to the car easily, especially important when you’re feeling only developing your skills. Important skills to work on include taking/following a bearing, pacing over a variety of slopes and developing a feel for the contours as you travel over steep ground. Lastly, do you have the skills/know how/equipment to deal with any problems that may arise? If not, find someone who does – check out mountaineering.ie for a list of qualified trainers/ instructors. • Make sure someone knows where you’re going and at what time you’ll be back. Include instructions on what to do if they haven’t heard from you by a given cut off time. Be sure to ring them as soon as you get down especially if you’re stopping off before going home.

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• Winter Kit Checklist

• Boots – stiff soled, must be crampon compatible – see panel. • Crampons, if necessary. These must be compatible with your boots. • Ice axe. No point in carrying it if you don’t know how to use it. When I go to Scotland with my mates we always include one skills session in our first day on the hills just so everyone’s up to speed. • A decent set of waterproofs. The jacket must have a good, helmet friendly hood and large pockets, trousers must be donnable while wearing crampons, so full length side zips are a must. • Gaiters, essential for keeping snow etc out of your boots. • Spare layer. I always work on the principle of carrying an extra fleece or insulated jacket in addition to what I’d normally wear in the prevailing conditions. The insulated jacket is ideal if you can get it on over your waterproof when stopped for a break. If not, think about carrying a duvet jacket. • Hats and gloves. At least 3 sets of each – one on, one spare and one drying out inside your clothing. Spare socks are a good idea too. • Map + compass and watch – don’t carry one without the other. • Goggles. A real necessity when dealing with spindrift hail or windblown snow. • Headtorch and spare batteries. Even better, carry a spare torch. • Food and drink. I always aim to have at least one spare sandwich on my return to the car. Remember to insulate your bladder’s drinking tube and a small, well-protected flask is another good idea. • Survival bag or group shelter. • Personal First Aid Kit.

Remember

A mobile phone won’t stop an accident but it might make it easier to get help. Don’t gamble on it working when you most need it. Are your mates equipped as well as you? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, make sure everyone’s “bought into” the plan for the day and don’t let someone turn back alone from a remote location. Winter mountaineering is definitely challenging, it can be very rewarding and great fun but you’ve got to be prepared to play rough. Don’t rely totally on someone else’s experience and ability – get out and develop your own!

Boot and Crampon Compatibility

The easiest system of matching boots with crampons grades boots from 1-3 (boots graded 0 are unsuitable for use with crampons) and crampons similarly graded 1-3. It follows that similarly graded boots/ crampons are compatible or that boots of a higher grade can also be used with a lower grade crampon. The reverse is not true; never use a higher grade crampon with a lower grade boot!

Boot Grades

Gear

BO boots are unsuitable for crampons lacking sufficient lateral/ longitudinal rigidity. These boots ate made for comfort with a soft leather or fabric upper which would compress under crampon straps, causing discomfort and cold feet. BI boots, suitable for crossing short stretches of snow or ice rather than a full day’s use with crampons. They have reasonably stiff flexing soles and the uppers provide enough ankle and foot support for traversing relatively steep slopes. B2 boots use a ? or full shank midsole with supportive uppers (i.e. 3mm leather). Suitable for 4 season mountaineering they can be used all day with crampons, ideal for summer alpine or easy Scottish winter climbs. B3 boots, technical mountaineering/climbing boots considered to be “rigid” as regards both midsole and uppers, intended for mountaineering and ice climbing.

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Compatibility at a glance Crampon Grades

C1 crampons are a flexible walking crampon attached to the boot by straps, thus allowing a certain amount of flex in the boot. May range from 8-10 points, with or without front points. C2 crampons are articulated multi-purpose crampons with front points. Can be attached via either straps or a combination of front straps and a heel clip - probably the easiest system of the lot. C3 crampons are articulated climbing or fully rigid technical crampons attached via an “automatic” fully clip-on system of a toe bar and heel clip. Front points may be traditional horizontal or modular vertical for climbing frozen water ice.

Boot B0 B1 B2 B3

Crampon - C1 C1, C2 C1, C2, C3

Without going into specifics, if asked what crampons to buy as a first-timer, my recommendation would be a 12 point C2 crampon – provided your boots are suitable of course. These are sufficient for most situations from general winter walking up to easier graded ice climbing. Obviously they’re a bit more expensive than C1 models but give you a bit more of an overlap, rather than buying a cheaper model and then finding out that they’re not really up to what you’re doing when you inevitably start to push things out a bit.

Boot Tests Brasher Kanaga

?170/£155

Berghaus Kibo

£190/?269.95

Firmly established as a brand known for its comfortable brown boots, Brasher have struggled in the recent past to move themselves further up the mountain so to speak, with a couple of aborted attempts at a crampon compatible boot. The Kanaga should therefore have plenty of R+D behind it and be flaw-free as a result. It’s certainly an attractive boot, if a bit traditional in style, without the plainness of other Brasher leather models. With a Gore-Tex lining, memory foam collar and full rand circling the boot over a Vibram Foura outsole, the Kanaga ticks all the boxes for a general-purpose hillwalking boot, plus its B1 rated for winter use. As such, the bit of flex allows an easy walking action rather the clumpy feeling that comes with stiffer models. It’s relatively light too; weighing 1604g for a pair of size 9’s and attached to a set of fully strapped C1 crampons handles occasional stretches of snow and ice with ease. As for fit, it’s reasonably broad which should suit most wearers. After a series of discreet flops the Kanaga is likely to become another mainstay of the Brasher range, combining comfort with a reasonable level of performance for year round hillwalking and a bit of scrambling, all at a reasonable price.

Gear 52

Recommendation Unsuitable Occasional snow Full day snow, easy climb Technical mountaineering

A boot that’s been around for a few years now without any major changes, the Kibo uses almost all synthetic uppers with the exception of some suede and leather in around the tongue; this makes it a very hard wearing boot with a substantial rubber rand and a Gore liner. The stiff uppers and supportive, well padded ankle cuff make it good for crampon work and the fully stiffened soles are great for step kicking in snow. The Kibo is well padded and insulated so it’s comfy and keeps your feet nicely warmed even if standing around in the hard stuff. However the sole unit is fairly flat which inhibits a natural walking action, if you have to travel any distance on metalled roads it’ll be hard work! Its fit is on the generous side, too broad for my feet especially round the mid foot and heel which meant I had to crank the laces tight. Having said that, I’ve a friend who swears by his Kibos and won’t wear anything else on a Scottish winter trip. This is a B2 rated boot with a nice positive ledge at the heel for the clip common to a lot of crampon designs, but it will work with other attachment systems too. Not the lightest (about 2100g for a pair of size 9?) or most technical boots on the market but a solid performer for general winter walking or easier mountaineering routes.


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?250/£200.00

Scarpa’s Cristallo has an interesting lineage, replacing the Pro Ascent which replaced the Mescalito, both models favoured by mountaineering instructors looking for a teccie scrambling boot. Like its predecessors it has lacing that extends all the way down to the toes and a stiff outsole, but now it has much more substantial uppers and a sole unit also suited to more general mountaineering. The uppers are a combination of leather and synthetics with a Gore liner and a high, nicely padded ankle cuff. Despite its B1 rating, Scarpa say that its good in temperatures down to -7.5o , I can’t comment on the veracity of this claim since the temperature didn’t get anywhere near this during the test. It excels as a scrambling boot though with a sole unit stiff enough for smaller holds and a lug pattern deep enough for general use. A pair of size 42’s weighs only 1300g so they won’t be hard on the feet either. Well worth a look if you’re only crossing the occasional snow patch but need a boot that will get you into the base of your scramble, up the route and back again, so it’s probably more of a summer alpine rather than Scottish winter boot.

Mammut Monolith GTX ?240/£195.00 Formerly known as Raichle a brand which always had a small but loyal following in Ireland, their takeover by Mammut has seen an exponential growth in their sales. The Monolith model has been around since 2009, a B2 category suitable for either full-strap or heel clipped crampons, and with the Gore lining that seems de riguer by now. At first glance it looks like a big clunky boot, but once you slip them on they’re actually quite light – about 1600g for a pair of 9’s. The fit is a bit narrower than usual, this suited my foot but might not be to everyone’s liking and sizing is also an issue. Don’t be surprised to go a half size larger than usual; this may be down to the narrow toe profile rather than a shorter last. These boots are stiff but have a nice rolling action in the sole and the smooth “climbing zone” at the toe is good for scrambling on small holds. Not as warm as some of the other 4-season boots tested, but this maybe an advantage in terms of getting more use out of them right throughout the year. They’re certainly ideal as an alpine boot but you may need to try a different type of sock for Scottish use since it tends to be wetter, colder work.

Meindl Matterhorn Extreme ?320/£260

Gear 54

Doing their utmost to be different Meindl don’t use the B1, B2 etc., grading for their boots but the Matterhorn is definitely a B2 model with a substantial ledge suitable for heel-clipped crampons. It’s also unusual in that it’ll take a Grivel GSB binding crampon. This has a front-mounted peg which fits securely into a slot at the boot’s toe. This is one of the most secure and quickest systems around and appeared on Scarpa boots in 2008, but seems to have been phased out elsewhere. It’ll also work with normal strapped crampons too. This is an out and out winter boot with stiff uppers and a high, well padded ankle cuff for loads of support when you’re kicking steps or teetering on front points. The Matterhorn is a medium volume boot so it should suit most users unless you’ve exceptionally strange feet; it even accommodates my weird ones comfortably. The sole unit is good with an aggressive lug pattern for better grip and a low ride height which gives you a much more “feel” for what’s beneath. Yes the Matterhorn’s are expensive but you get that Meindl “straight from the box” comfort and build quality. This isn’t the most technical boot tested but as all-rounder’s mountaineering boot its superb, if a little on the heavy side at 1760g for a pair of 8’s.

Gear

Scarpa Cristallo


Gear

La Sportiva Trango Extreme Evo ?290/ £355

Bringing out the big guns, the Trango Extreme Evos (I’ll refer to them as Extremes from here on) is a B3 technical winter boot weighing 1730g a pair (8’s). Based on their excellent Trango Evo’s the Extremes have a layer of Duratherm insulation added to the uppers along with a fully stiffened sole unit. This means you can wear any type of crampon you want including C3 technical models. The Extremes uppers are completely synthetic so no care is really necessary apart from cleaning them after use and drying them properly. As regards volume etc, they’re slightly narrow underfoot with a nice roomy toe box, a perfect combination for me and I suspect this will also suit most users. I’ve had a pair of Extreme’s for the last 18 months or so (I also have a pair of the ordinary Trango Evos) and they’re one of the best winter boots I’ve worn. Some boots are good on the steep stuff but hellish on the walk-in, but the Extremes work brilliantly whether you’re winter walking, mountaineering or technical ice climbing. The extra layer of insulation is just enough to keep the feet nice ‘n’ cosy without interfering with how the boot feels or making it “clunky” and the 3Dflex ankle is not only good for mixed winter climbing but helps the normal walking action. A friend wore his ordinary Evos to Scotland a couple of years back and suffered because the uppers couldn’t handle the pressure from the crampon straps, I’ve never had any discomfort with mine, unless wearing them while it was unseasonably mild. Simply put, the Trango Extreme Evo is probably the best all round winter boot available at the moment and well worth the initial expense for what you get.

Asolo Alpinist GV ?250/£200

Gear

Weighing in at 1780g for a pair of 8’s Asolo’s Alpinist is a Gore-lined C2 boot suitable for either strap or heelclip crampons. Its uppers are completely synthetic with the exception of some leather in the well padded tongue, so care and cleaning is very easy. Their fit is fairly narrow which won’t suit everyone, but I found the skinny toe profile makes for precise footwork while still giving me just enough room in the toe box. An aggressive sole pattern helps step kicking in hard snow and crampon fitting was straightforward with the big positive heel ledge for the popular heel clipped models. Of all the boots tested, the Alpinist fit my feet best and remained comfortable over a long day. My only niggle is the lacing, Asolo should ditch the loop above the locking cleat and replace it with a speed lace; this would make things a lot simpler, especially with cold hands. Other than that the Alpinist is ideal for winter mountaineering or easier graded climbs and won’t have you cursing on the walk-in either, very good value at this price too!

55


ice axes & crampons As a rule I’d recommend general purpose mountaineering axes rather than either walking or technical models which have limited functionality at opposing ends of the spectrum. Look for a model with and inclined “Alpine” pick, with a headset that fits comfortably into the hand. Axes come in a variety of shaft lengths, when held by the side the axe’s spike should be somewhere between your

ankle and bottom of the calf. Lightness has become the great god in all things outdoors but I like my axe to feel as if it could “do a bit of damage”, it’s going to take a lot of abuse so it needs to be up to the task! Check the top of the shaft, you’ll either see a B or a T, T-rated shafts can be used to make a belay, B’s can’t but tend to be lighter in weight.

Petzl Charlet Summit ?140/ £110

A B-rated axe available in 3 lengths the summit is designed for classical mountaineering but with a few modern twists. Rather than a traditional straight shaft, the summit is curved on the upper section, this gives you more clearance when climbing and swinging it overhead. It also gives a bit more leverage if you need to use it for self arrest should you fall over. The head fits neatly into the hand, and the shaft has a textured rubber covering for better grip and insulation. Depending on shaft length, the summit weighs between 495-570g and is ideal for less technical mountaineering routes.

Grivel Brenva SA

?95/£75

Designed with “Scottish winter mountaineering in mind” according to the blurb, the Brenva has a T-rated shaft so it’s suitable for roped belays should the need arise. Its shaft is curved but you’d have to look twice to notice, and the lower section has a textured rubber handgrip. Available in 3 lengths from 58-74cms, the 58cm version weighs 574 with the supplied leash. (As an inside, it’s a good idea to make your leash easily removable when zigzagging up a slope - it gets in the way otherwise). This is a well made axe that sits comfortably in the hand and the leash is an added bonus, the fact that it’s also T-rated makes it a really handy mountaineer’s tool.

Petzl Charlet Vasak Leverlock ?149/£125

Gear 56

Available in a variety of bindings to suit a range of boots, the Petzl Charlet Vasak crampons tested had a lever lock binding – a plastic ring at the toe and a heel clip at the rear, connected by a strap. The Vasak is a 12 point general mountaineering model suitable for everything from winter walking up to mixed (snow/rock/ice) climbing. Adjusting the crampon is easy, pull up the spring loaded pin and slide along the link bar until you get to the right size (the crampon should stay on the boot with the straps etc, undone) and snap the heel clip onto the ledge at boot’s heel. The heel clip is locked in place by a strap that goes through the plastic ring at the toe and then through a simple, glove-friendly buckle. I’d suggest that once you get the sizing right you mark the bar with a splash of paint to make life easy thereafter. The Vasaks come complete with anti-ball plates, these stop snow gathering between the crampons and boots sole which could make things unstable. Points are arranged to give maximum grip whether in ascent, descent traversing or front-pointing, making the Vasak a true all rounder.


2011 Free Events Listing Club Secretaries! Send us details of your 2011 activities for a FREE listing in the Walking World Ireland Annual Email your details or complete and return a copy of this form by fax or post to reach us no later than Monday, December 6th. If you have more than one event, please use a separate form for each listing. Bookings are now being taken for adverts on the 2011 Walking Festival Calendar - Contact us now!

Event Name:_______________________________________________________________________________ Location:__________________________________________________________________________________ Date / Time: ________________________________ Details: ___________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ Contact Person: ____________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ Club Name: _______________________________________________________________________________ Address (for publication): ______________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ Tel: ________________________________________Fax:___________________________________________ E-mail: ____________________________________________________________________________________ Event open to non-club members: Yes [

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Crossword by Zodrick

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ACROSS 1 5 9 10 12 13 14 18 21 23 24 25 26 27

Straddles Fermanagh & Cavan border at 665 m. (8) Perhaps it is rare to see this jagged mountain range in Spain (6) Transferred a file to another computer (8) Would you go barn dancing here in Co Down? (6) Town - either in the Rockies or Aberdeenshire (5) Sounds like Mother’s angry here near the Maumturks! (4,5) ‘Hill of bones’ is in the Knockmealdowns at 655 m. (12) There’s a huge loony oaf at this glacial Connacht lake near Maumtrasna (5,7) It lies in the SW corner of Phoenix Park (5,4) Lightweight wood used for rafts and floats (5) Shed containing beehives (6) Glenveagh is one of our six ___ Parks (8) Hemingway .. or the importance of being him! (6) Not getting adequate food so refunded! (8)

DOWN

Name ................................................................................................. Address ............................................................................................. ........................................................................................................... Tel: ....................................... Email ................................................ Post your entry to: Lowe Alpine Crossword Competition, Walking World Ireland, ‘Edelweiss’, Cushina, Portarlington, Co Laois.

A photocopy is acceptable. No faxed or emailed entries. One entry per family. Closing date: 22 December. No cash substitute for prizes.

58

1 Slightly fat .. buxom .. pleasingly plump! (6) 2 Landmass such as Inishboffin, Dursey or Achill (6) 3 Small garden bird with chirping song (9) 4 It flows from Connacht’s Devilsmother to join the Eriff River (12) 6 Old Testament father of Jacob and Esau (5) 7 Limited to a particular area .. territorial (8) 8 Scratchy, rough or harsh .. wears things down! (8) 11 Could a maniac turn on this at 588 m on the Mourne Way (4,8) 15 Near Mullaghcleevaun and Silsean - home of the big lender! (9) 16 Did you have a hot passion for this previous love? (3,5) 17 Custodian or protector (8) 19 ___ __ Imaal - home of Co Wicklow’s mountain rescue service (4,2) 20 Narrative poem or song (6) 22 Enclosed grounds where they turn around drays? (5)


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WWI Issue 99  

Walking World Ireland Issue 99 (November/December 2010) COMPLETE

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