Decades ago, I learned winter hiking was about being fit, early starts, short routes & flexible plans. I had spent 2020 lockdown with a keen regimen of Zoom meetings, I was 10kg heavier. None of the Grumblers were available, so I summoned three youngsters- the oldest of whom was 15 years my junior, what could go wrong? I was collected by Voortrekker, a natural outdoorsman who had honed his craft herding Giraffes across the veldt. He arrived not in a Land Rover with Zebra camouflage, but a silver Corolla. We sped to Glenmalure to assemble the party. We were joined 45mins late by Mr. and Mrs. Fuzz, who had spent the early years of the century covered in fluorescent paint at 72h dance marathons in Ibiza. Eric Shipton never had these problems. We did the mask thing and left a car at a forestry entrance (Point E) before returning to the military Rd (
). By now it was nearly noon, two poor decisions in one morning. The third was the route: Fananieran ridge, Croaghanmoira, Ballinacor, back over to Carrickashane and down to car#2. We set off over the little bridge, and began up the rough trail to the ridge. Voortrekker sped off like a speeding bullet, with the stride of a man who could worry a warthog at 30 paces. Mr Fuzz was in hot pursuit. Mrs Fuzz, a yoga teacher, walked with me until she too wafted up the short climb. I could hear a sort of hissing sound -my breathing. With a heavy gait I reached the ridge. The youngsters looked they’d been discussing whether to put me out of my misery.
Rain and wind were in our faces now. We crested the North top, and made for Croaghanmoira proper, a glance at Carrickashane suggested a dull bogtrot. We fought the wind and pressed on. As the rain stopped, we decided on a late lunch below the summit on the North side, wonderfully sheltered. We were horribly late. Voortrekker offered me some Biltong that looked like Wildebeest droppings, I declined. Mr & Mrs Fuzz offered me their spicy homemade cake, I declined (last time I ate this I was found communing with mystical Celtic songlines-first good decisions today). As I drank my hot soup, I decided I wouldn’t collect four bad decisions. We decided to go to Ballinacor and find a route to the road. In low sun, we wandered faint trails to the NNE of Ballinacor and then a final 30m pull to the summit cairn. All was well, our next goal was the Ballycreen bridge. We should have taken a direct line (suggested elsewhere), but the siren call of a track in the valley saw us deviate to the W of the Ballycreen brook. Unfortunately, near the bridge, we met a deep transverse gully with slippery walls blocking our way, so we returned to the E bank and the semblance of a trail. At sunset we reached the road a mere 5.2km from our car. The sun set, a bright crescent moon, lit the road. It was a magical evening walk, we swapped tales to speed the journey, as I considered never walking with anyone under 40 again, to get fit and start early. Linkback: https://mountainviews.ie/summit/393/comment/21845/