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kernowclimber
2011-06-08 18:32:46
"Exhaustion creeping in!" from kernowclimber Contract pics
Picture: Exhaustion creeping in! (Contract pics)

Crossing Connemara’s Maamturks: Part Two
We slept fitfully due to the wind that gusted through the col that night. A watery sunrise and grey, chilly morning greeted us; Binn Ramhar’s top was wreathed in mist. We began the long haul up Binn Chaonaigh opposite. Close to the summit the cloud descended and an eerie silence enveloped us. With quartzite rock underfoot and the mist above, everything acquired a strange white luminescence. We plodded on along the gravely ridge leading to Binn idir an dá Log taking in Binn idir an dá Log SE Top en route.

The tricky descent to Lough Mhám Ochóige was an enjoyable challenge involving some mild scrambling. What a delight to see this indigo lake nestling it its corrie appear through the mist. And the immense serpentine coils of the Failmore River, sweeping verdant expanse of Gleann Fhada and the far section of the Maamturk Range beyond. Away to the left were Loughs Inagh and Lehanagh and the mighty Twelve Pins. Ahead, the brooding hulk of Knocknahillion lay in wait. We had completed half the traverse.

A steep pull brought us to the summit and this was followed by some pleasant airy walking across the quartzite ridge towards Letterbreckaun, taking in Cnoc na hUilleann North Top. Looking back at the magnificent landscape we had just crossed was humbling: deep corries gouged out of the face of white giants by glaciers that sliced through solid rock to create the deep valleys below. But the intense concentration required to negotiate the rocky terrain coupled with the exertion of carrying a heavy pack began to take its toll. We paused for something to eat and to treat more drinking water at Loughaunnagrevagh before summiting Letterbreckaun.

Fine scenery continued to ravish the eye: Loughs Kylemore and Fee and Killary Harbour, thin ribbons of indigo set in a sea of verdure hemmed in by mountains. But my heart sank when I saw the distance we still had to cover. The ridge of the NE Maamturks looked like a green tidal wave, threatening, insurmountable and in between, yet more ascent and descent, including the daunting prospect of the Col of Despondency.

How aptly named it is! With leaden legs I hauled myself ever upwards, digging deep into a reservoir of untapped resolve. The ridge was conquered, but ahead lay a gruelling descent over boggy ground to the Western Way and Leenane. The setting sun caught Mweelrea alight, the reddening skies as menacing as my mood. I cried with the fatigue and the pain and the sheer preposterousness of walking 25 km with over 2,500m of ascent carrying a 10 kilo pack.

As my aching feet hit the Western Way I wept with relief, to have completed the traverse; we were both down safely. I swore I’d never do it again. Ever. But never is a long time and half an hour later, sitting in a pub in Leenane nursing a creamy Guinness, smug with the afterglow of success, I’d already begun to forget the mental anguish and physical pain that had stalked me like the Grim Reaper in those mountains.
Connemara, Wilde’s.. by kernowclimber   (Show all posts)


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