Early morning light on Lough Eske.
Mid February, and the forecast wasn’t good, with the best of the weather predicted for the morning, and the rest of the day due to be grey and wet. With that in mind I decided it wouldn’t be worth travelling far, and elected to climb the 392m high Banagher Hill in the Bluestack Mountains. I also decided to set off early to maximise whatever good weather there was. As I drove round Lough Eske, the light was good, although I could see that grey cloud was on its way. I thought that even if I rushed on, by the time I got on to the hill, the light would be gone, so I might as well pause on the shore of the lough and make the best of it while it lasted.
Sunlight catching the distant higher Bluestacks, wreathed in cloud, and still with a few patches of snow.
Carrying on, I took a minor road, one of those with grass growing in the middle, signposted for the Bluestack Way. It took me along the western base of Banagher Hill, and I parked at the first lay by I came to.
A couple of curious bystanders coming to see what I was up to as I parked the car.
As I set off up the hill, the best of the light was already gone, although the low sun still lit up the blanket of cloud that had rolled in from underneath, lending some colour to the sky. It gave me a reason to stop occasionally as I went up the steep west side of the hill, making my way between twisted, stunted trees, rocky outcrops and huge boulders. Despite the growing gloom, the higher Bluestacks still looked impressive, as did Lough Eske below.
The last shot with any colour in the sky, and the light was still good enough for this photo to get a “Photo of the Month” on Mountainviews.ie but after this, it all turned grey, and the rain started.
As I got to the broad summit of Banagher, the rain started, and from here on, I could only grab photos in the brief dry intervals, under grey skies. Despite this, surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the walk immensely. The summit was a huge area, covered in rocks and massive boulders, with several loughs, a couple quite big. There was a real feeling of wilderness and isolation, and I felt remote from the world hidden below. I soon found the summit, marked by a small cairn, close to one of the loughs.
As I mentioned, the summit is a large, broad, flattish area, and there was another raised area to the southwest which looked like it could have a rival claim to be the highest point, so I walked the half kilometer or so to it.
On the way, this little rock caught my eye, the lichen appearing almost iridescent in the soft light.
This side of the hill offered new views over Dongeal Bay, through the rain.
The other high point was alos marked by a cairn.
Arriving at the other high point, it too was marked by a cairn, but looking back at the first point, it now appeared clearly higher! One of those tricks of perspective that hills and mountains can play. At least I could be sure I had stood on the summit having been at both.
I think I’ve written something similar before, but I find an odd pleasure in walking in terrible weather, providing I have the waterproof gear on. It is something similar to being warm in bed listening to howling wind and driving rain against the windows outside. So although I didn’t get many photos, I now enjoyed walking around this wild hilltop in bad weather. And, as usual in the Bluestacks, there wasn’t another person to be seen.
Eventually, I started to make my way down the steep western slope.
Back at the car, I was glad I hadn’t let the poor forecast put me off venturing out.