Slieve Gallion is a weather bell as seen from my home town of Antrim, across the expanse of Lough Neagh. A dusting of snow, a cap of cloud, a glint of sun are all sure signs of what the deepest of the Sperrins will hold.
Iniscarn Forest to the north is a favoured starting point, with parking, good forest tracks and access to the steep northern flank of Slieve Gallion.
This late autumn visit had most of the golden beech leaves carpeting the damp forest floor. A beautiful light touched the open hillside beyond the forest as the sun rose. Weather and time of year create an ever changing coat of colour on the steep northern slope and today was bright green and brown.
Leaving the shelter of the forest brings wet stuff until the angle of ascent increases. On these steep grassy slopes the hooves of sheep are better than the boots of man. Huffing and puffing huffing and puffing for every one of those 600 odd feet.
Stopping at intervals to draw in cool clear air, carried on an unstable NW flow. Towering shower clouds scattered across the huge sky, slowly making their way south and east, dropping their payload of hail. Super sharp views to the north bringing hills within easy reach - Knocklayd on the north coast, Slemish, Slieve Snaght on Inishowen.
The cairn at the NE Top is small reward for effort. The ever expanding views across Ulster are a bigger payoff. Walking easily on the mast service road along the backbone of the mountain, drinking in the approaching shower clouds gathering above the high Sperrins to the west and the blue sky reflecting off Lough Neagh and reaching to the sharp line of the Mournes on the eastern coast.
Following the old bog road away from the odd car taking the easier, confined and sterile route to the NE Top. Hopping, skipping and jumping along the makeshift watercourse which is the bog road. The first sting of hail, happy to get wet without the waterproofs, drying out quickly in the wind as the cloud heads off across the Lough.
Being able to sit outside the old shipping container watching the Lough, Mournes, Belfast Hills, Antrim Hills - warmed by a full sun and a mug of tea.
Short hop past bright top markers to Slieve Gallion trig point, becoming ever more precariously positioned as the weather eats away at its surrounds. Savour the panorama.
Rewind and done!