Scaling the Heights!
I claimed I was no summit bagger but having done many of the County Tops, it was an irresistible challenge not to complete this list: 27 summits climbed over 3 years in all conditions.
The sight of Mweelrea glowering in icy majesty from Ben Bury was intimidating; surmounting it on a hot autumn day with exquisite coastal views: unforgettable. A case of carpe diem, we did Lugnaquilla from Glenmalure on snowshoes, summiting in Arctic conditions to a riotous sunset, descending under a sky of brilliant stars. Slieve Donard, also scaled in snow, gave crystal clear views of the icy Isle of Man. On Errigal and Kippure, we watched the vermillion orb of the winter sun slip below the western horizon and the full moon rise like a paper lantern. We were tested climbing Sawel in deep snow and nearly flattened by gale force winds on Mt Brandon.
Vivaldi’s Gloria captures the euphoria of gaining Benbaun. I was bemused to see joss sticks burning at the summit of mighty Carrauntoohil. But size isn’t everything. I loved exploring little Slieve na Calliagh’s megalithic tomb and meandering amid the whispering beech trees fringing Mullaghmeen. Slieve Foye was a steep pull from sea level, but oh, the views of Carlingford Lough and the Mournes! Corn Hill and Cupidstown posed no challenge: tracks led straight to them. Slieve Gullion was quickly scaled from a nearby car park where happily, thieves seem to be a thing of the past! The prize for a bog trot goes to burst teabag Moylussa. Trostan and Cuilcagh were worthy runners-up. Seltannasaggart SE Slope was a dull affair, aqueous Arderin (why on earth would someone cart a car battery to the summit?) and Slieve Beagh SE Top, wringing wet affairs. The sight of paragliders atop Mt Leinster was delightful, quad bikers on Knockmealdown was not.
For an edgy experience the Truskmores win, bagged at the fag end of a wet and windy summer’s day. The gate to the RTÉ mast access road declared the site off limits. We hurried up the steep and dreary tarmac way, convinced that any moment our butts would be full of buckshot fired by an irate farmer! Truskmore was a deflating experience, trig point marooned within a muddy building site. Truskmore SE Top nearby offered some consolation when the cloud rose revealing fine views of Yeats Country and not a farmer in sight! Most vile climb? Knockboy. In heavy rain I fell into bog, couldn’t get out, lost part of my walking pole and was bitten alive by horseflies!
Finally, high drama on Galtymore. In dense mist we found 2 women, ill clad, disoriented, mildly hypothermic - 3 of their group were missing. We got them into our emergency bivy and were brewing hot tea as 2 more walkers appeared, panicking about a missing friend. We had to call in Mountain Rescue. Galtymore was bagged whilst trying to find the missing walkers. Mountain Rescue was stood down 3 hrs later, all casualties safe. Yes, the County Tops have given me many great memories. Some I’d happily climb again, others no way!