Interview with Brian Ringland

by Simon Stewart for Mountain Views, 2 May 2004 in Clonmel.

MV> How long have you been walking?
BR> I started when I was 10 or 11 in the Cleveland Hills, N. Yorkshire.

MV> When did you start on the Irish 500 metre mountains?
BR> About 12 years ago, around '91 -'92 after doing all the summits in Claude Walls book [Mountaineering in Ireland, which has a list of the 2000 footers]. It's a great book that doesn't go into too much detail and lets you find your own routes. It describes the attractions - makes you want to go yourself.

MV> When did you finish the 500 metre tops?

BR> Depends on whose list you are using! On the Mountain Views list, I finished on Knockmeal (Knockmealdowns) at Easter 2004. On my list which has some more summits it was about a week later on the bumps north west of Knockanaffrin in the Comeraghs.

MV> The most interesting mountain you encountered?
BR> Hag's Tooth. This is the west side of Beenkeragh above the Hag's Glen and Eagle's Nest. It's the nearest to the Inaccessible Pinnacle [a summit requiring rockclimbing on Skye, Scotland] that Ireland has. Marvellous views.

MV> The worst experience you encountered?
BR> Well I never got lost. Once I was on the Sheefry Hills and was contouring around the north side when the ground became broken and so steep it was unsafe.

MV> Problems with landowners?
BR> None! I had a pleasant chat with McCabe ( a farmer near the east side of Ben Whiskin in the Sligo Mountains ) He wasn't unpleasant to me and told me that he didn't like big parties.

MV> Best experience on a 500 m walk?
BR> Coumcallee and east of that towards Knocknagantee. Lots of little lakes and wild, interesting country. Very tricky navigation in bad weather.

Coumcallee, from near Waterville in Dec 1999.
MV> Tell me about you latest project, visiting lakes in Ireland?
BR> While on the 500m project I saw so many interesting lakes in places such as Kerry and Connemara, nestling into the hillsides. I thought it would be a good idea to visit more, particularly high up where there are no access or agricultural issues. I visit each lake and walk around it. In contrast to summits lakes are more secluded and I have a greater feel of being in the hills. 
So far in May 2004, I have done about 120-130 of them.

MV> How many are there?
BR> About 900 on my list.

MV> !! Can you walk around every lake?
BR> So far yes, usually it's a question of finding a sheep track. I intend to take my time about the lakes project. I've brought the height of lakes I am going to down to 290m, to be sure of getting them all which isn't always obvious on the OS - this brings in another 30 or so.

MV> You mentioned you have walked in Scotland.
BR> I first went with the North West club to the Ullapool area around 1990 - I've made a point of going 2 to 3 times a year since then. I've done all the Munros [Mountains in Scotland over 3000', 914m] except one. But that was going too fast, so I've started on the "Corbetts" (2500'-3000' 760m-914) and the "Grahams" (2000' to 2500' 608m- 760). I'm running out of these too.

MV> So, no slacking in Scotland! Tell me about South America.
BR> I tried the Inca Trail in the Andes - overcrowded and lacking in facilities. There are better routes in areas like the Cordilla Blanca.
MV> Talk to me about the wellies. (Brian usually walks in wellies and while on the hills the previous day pointed out that "professional" hill visitors such as a hillfarmer we saw, wore wellies)
BR> I wear three layers of socks and my feet stay dry. I would not recommend all wellies. You need a good tread. I recommend "Nora" brand which comes from Germany. Get at least a half size too big for the socks. One variety I tried from B&Q lasted only about 6 months [remember Brian walks a lot], but the Nora boots last 2 years, which is far longer than boots.

MV> Grip of wellies on rock?
BR> I reckon that wellies are better than boots because they mould to the ground. Once I met a guy on the Cuillins [Skye, W. Scotland] with bare feet. He believed that he had far better grip than anyone wearing boots. I've been wearing wellies for 10 years. I wore out boots in 6 months.

MV> Other gear?
BR> I believe Goretex is over-rated and doesn't perform well at realistically low temperatures. I prefer not to walk in rain if I can avoid it.

MV> Other incidents?
BR> Once I was detained by the security forces in the North - it was about lake water. My car radiator was leaking, so I found three old bottles and filled them up with lake water. The security forces didn't believe it was water so I was detained for 6 hours in Fort George until they had determined that it was water. The problem was that the bottles stank from some previous contents so they were very suspicious. So that's one reason for not collecting water.

MV> Is your wife into this also?
BR> She's keen enough but not for every peak and every lake!

MV> [On the previous day Brian had demonstrated his skill at reading tricky terrain from a black and white photocopy of the map] Your comments on the OS 1:50,000 maps. 
BR> They are excellent. The exact contour lines are almost all that I need. I don't like other markings for example crags. Crags clutter up the contour detail. I prefer the colour scheme on the OSI (Southern) maps to the orange areas on the OSNI maps but I am not too bothered about hill-shading which is only useful for the first glance. Usually I use black and white photocopies in any case. I like the unshaded 1:50,000 British maps (Landranger series) but I don't so much like the British 1:25,000 maps because the contours are in orange and don't stand out.

   Interview with Brian Ringland at