After following the weather forecast to see where we might get in a good winter climb, we settled on the Sperrins which, if the Met Office was to be believed, had apparently received some snow the day before (Fri 26th). Driving into Cookstown we caught our first real views of the Sperrins; they had indeed gotten a huge dump of snow that far exceeded our expectation. We took the first road right on the B 47 after Glenerin Bridge and just before the hamlet of Sperrin. This mountain track leads up towards the foothills of Sawel that was to be our objective for the day.
We were almost thwarted in our endeavour by the accumulation of snow on the road and not having a 4X4 and a car without its winter tyres meant it was difficult to find a place to park alongside the road where we wouldn’t get stuck. We found a turning about a kilometre up the road to park safely and walked parallel to Oughtnamwella Burn to
Sperrin Road, Sperrin
where a gate leads into a field that is bordered by a fence. This fence that runs up towards the summit can be used as an aid to navigation in inclement conditions.
The snow was much deeper than we had thought it would be and we regretted not having our snowshoes with us, which had propelled us rapidly up Lugnaquillia last month. The snow was well over a foot deep and on the lower slopes was quite loose and mushy. Between the peat hags, it had drifted and was waist deep making it hard going to maintain upward progress.
As we ascended the snow became more compact and easier to walk on, but the temperature began to plummet. Close to the summit the cloud closed in and the wind picked up, creating poor visibility in sub-zero conditions. We located the trig point, misshapen and contorted by ice, with the aid of our GPS. As we hopped the ice laden fence to bag the highest point in Tyrone, the sinking sun appeared through the swirling cloud as a watery orb, casting an eerie, pale apricot other-worldly hue over everything. It reminded me of the planet LV-426 in Alien!
As we were being severely buffeted by icy winds at this point and thankful that our winter kit was repaying the money we had dished out on it in spadefuls, we decided to make our descent. As we came through the cloud we were greeted by the sight of the rolling landscape bathed in the rose-coloured glow of the setting sun. As we feasted our eyes on this spectacle, the near full moon drifted up from behind Oughtmore and Mullaghsallagh.
Four hours later we arrived back to our car in the twilight. We might not have had the extensive views of the north of our island so eloquently described by other members of Mountain Views, but the winter and atmospheric conditions we experienced made this climb truly memorable. Linkback: https://mountainviews.ie/summit/144/comment/4454/