An ominous start?
I am slowly closing in on completing my local 100 list – a personalised list provided by mountainviews.ie of the nearest 100 hills and mountains to your location, with the bonus of a certificate on completion. So with a free Sunday, I ventured out to tick off three of the smaller hills on the list, all close together in Co Donegal. First up was Brown Mountain, not actually a mountain at 224 metres despite its name. My last trip was to Beenkeeragh in Co Kerry, the second highest peak in Ireland (I still have to write up that trip here) which is higher than all three summits I would be doing today put together. I therefore imagined I would be in for an easy day. As it turned out, things would be a bit more awkward than I thought.
As I started along the forest trail through the coniferous woodland on the slopes of the hill, maybe I should have taken a hint from the sheep’s skull wedged into a tree beside the track! If this was a film, it generally wouldn’t end well to continue past such a clear warning, although admittedly I didn’t encounter any real evil, just inconvenience and discomfort 🙂
The track continued with thick forest all around, so I had to look to the smaller details for photos, there being no grand views.
As I neared the summit, the trouble started, as the track petered out. Initially, I didn’t mind, as I found what seemed to be a deer trail, and through a gap in the trees, I actually got some views. I could just about glimpse Lough Gartan below, with Muckish mountain in the distance.
Muckish on the horizon.
A glimpse of Lough Gartan.
Soon however, the trees closed in and even the deer trail became almost impassible. I was pushing through the dense forest, getting scratched and poked, and if that wasn’t enough, the ground underfoot was covered in deep undergrowth with hidden dips and holes that made progress slow to avoid broken legs or ankles. Just to round things off, it was also extremely boggy and I was soon soaked in mud and water from the knees down. The only consolation was that at this time of year I wasn’t worried about ticks. If, as it seemed, this was deer country, pushing through all the vegatation meant that in summer I would probably have been covered.
I didn’t bother bringing a map or GPS device for these small hills, so I was guessing where the summit was. Any accounts I had read suggested the top was on open hillside, but it was possible that trees had since covered it, and it seemed that way to me. The hard going, combined with the lack of views persuaded me that I was close enough, a decision reinforced by a sudden downpour, and I turned to battle my way back down to the easier going of the forest track.
Views were obscured near the top.
Back on the trail, the rain continued on and off, but the canopy sheltered me down here, and my grumpiness at the difficult going was lifted by a quick glimpse of 3 or 4 deer flitting through the forest. Too quick, and in too much thick growth to get a photo unfortunately, but its always great to see such large, wild creatures. I was encouraged to spend another couple of hours exploring the tracks on the lower slopes, and continuing to photograph the smaller details.
A view along one of the forest tracks where it opened up a little.
So, despite the awkward going, I left the hill in a good mood, lifted by the experience of the deer and other sights, and headed for the next small peak of the day.