SERIOUS MESSAGE. This is a dangerous route and should not be attempted. It is uploaded as an example of poor map reading and appaling judgment. If you want to use this track, go up the way I went down.
There's always an excuse for getting into a difficult situation. So you might as well hear my attempt to explain the inexplicable. I had been out on the gentle western Knockmealdowns in the morning. Things had gone very well in the late December frost and sunshine. That would have been the time to quit while I was ahead. Then I remembered that I had one single Vandeleur Lynam left to do in the Galtys, having completed all the Arderins and VLs there except Lough Curra Mountain. It was two-ish, I think. The Galtys are on the same OSI map as the KMDs so they must be about 15 minutes away? No actually, more like 50. As I came around the "back" of the Galtys ( the north side) I noticed that the bright winter sun was dipping below the ridge, casting a rather lenghty shadow. I pulled up in Rossadrehid and pored over the map. I would head up a narrow road on the eastern side of Cush, abandon the car wherever I could, walk to the end, reach the open mountain and contour upwards, so to speak, to Lough Curra. A short romp, with a fast turn around.
The early omens were mixed. I passed a car park full of Mercs and Beamers with Cork registrations under a sign saying that the rest of the road was unsuitable for cars. I ploughed on, until I eventually spotted a group of locals chatting near a house. I asked if I might have permission to park somewhere, and a most gracious couple invited me into their "drive" to park. I was so anxious to get going that I left my walking poles behind. As I power walked towards the farm at the end of the cul de sac (burning up my fading reserves) it occurred to me that the Galtys were so busy that walkers must constitute a total pain in the rear for the hardworking locals. What reception might I expect from them? As I was in sight of the farm, I heard the rumble of a jeep and sheep trailer behind me. I flagged the vehicle down and begged for permission to cross farmyard. I'm sure the couple were a bit afraid of me because I was rambling on about "my last mountain..." "Off you go, no problem. Mind yourself lad".
And minutes later I was on the open mountain.
It felt strange to be without the walking poles which are the equivalent of stabilizers on a child's bike. I squinted at the map and decided to contour round to my goal across the lowers slope of Galtymore. Lough Curra seemed close and attainable in the narrowing window of opportunity. On and on I went, rising gently. Progress was slow. I was getting colder. The twilight was deepening. Crossing the deep river ravines seemed more and more taxing. The ground seemed awfully steep. As I got closer to my goal the GPS didn't seem to know which direction to point. The arrow seemed unsure. As I contoured around the final protrusion on steeper and steeper ground, the denouement finally occurred.
I was on a flank of Galtymore perched high above Lough Curra, looking straight across at L Curra Mountain. It was a most beautiful sight. A half moon had risen above Galtymore. The grass was shining in the frost. But it was deadly dangerous. The ground was so steep that I knew that if I slipped that would be "it". I started to descend towards the outflow from the lake. Painstakingly. But I couldn't see a continuous line to the ground below, and I guessed (correctly I later discovered) that there were cliffs beneath me. I could have retraced my steps, going up for safety on the way, but I figured that there just might be a safe way down if I proceeded closer to the lake. I went on until I eventually saw a clear line to safe ground.
While I was in extremis I felt a deep sense of regret for my unfortunate family at home and wondered if I ought to phone for a final call, but figured that this might interfere with my concentration, and be the cause of losing the last of the light. Just then the phone rang. It was my youngest son wondering if I could pick up an X-Box Live membership for him on my way home. Although I am deeply hostile to X-Box activity,dead or live, I readily agreed to what might have been his final request to me. By the time the call ended I felt clear headed and rested and resolutely made my way to safety. (Thanks Peter!)
The hop from the lake to the peak of Lough Curra mountain took a few minutes. I was awestruck by the sight of the frosted northern face of Galtymore, with the half moon sitting just above the ridge, and the beautiful lake below. And I felt the great relief we all experience when we stare calamity in the face and survive to tell the tale.