|Date: 30th May 2009
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
There won't be much humour in this report because I wouldn't want to be bracketed with the type of man who can have fun on his own. Although I enjoyed major parts of the Glover I wouldn't call it fun anyway. The rest of the CCC were scattered far and wide, Mayo and Belshade being prominent, but I wanted to test how the alpine training was going. John, Sean and his mate "Furps" (don't ask) had suggested doing Errigal but I didn't think that was a long enough day. "Why not do the Glover?", I thought, "Start Muckish, end Errigal and a few hills in between. Easy!" Because you start in Creeslough and end in Dunlewy I greased our Milo's palm with Ã¢â€šÂ¬20 to do Muckish with me and then drive round and hang around Dunlewy's only pub quaffing Guinness.
We were all away around 7:30am and Milo and I were hoisting the packs around 9am at the big granite block marked "START->" below the miner's track up cloudy Muckish. The path kind of petered out in the middle and up to the left looked steep and imposing with some possible scrambling so we headed up right to an easyish grassy gully. Near the top Milo was gasping and wheezing and probably wondering if Ã¢â€šÂ¬20 was enough when we heard voices. Looking for the source (a descending party) we had a "Doh!" moment when from our high position we could see the miner's track as clear as day on the left. Ah well.
About 10 years ago I received a fine compass as a leaving present but I'd never really used it in anger. Today was to be the big day at last. Armed with the route notes of the Glover, complete with bearings, distances, times, gradients and heights and OS Discovery maps 1 and 2, I whipped out the compass at the trig point and tried to work out which way up to hold it. Waving goodbye to Milo I set off along the top towards the descent to Gleennaneor. Having negotiated the steep slope down and checked the map again I realised I was probably a 1/4 mile from where I should be but took a new bearing to the top of the ridge at Crocknalaragh.
Another check here and I realised that although I could see a direct line to the ridge up to Ardloughnabrackbaddy (high lough of the brown trout) the proper route was 500m to my right. "Jeez I have to walk all the way over there?", I thought, then scolded myself. "Gotta do it right. No jaunting round the back of the pillar today." I was starting to realise that distances were disceiving though and I was standing at the world's smallest cairn on Crocknalaragh in just a few minutes.
After descending past Lough Alruig I stopped to power up on Lucozade Sport, wine gums and fig rolls for a direct assault on the Ardloughnabrackbaddy ridge and had a futile attempt at putting in eye drops in a stiff breeze. The sun was starting to burn through the cloud so the gunky factor 30 went on the exposed skin, especially the oul noggin. About a quarter of the way up I was thinking that the description of the ridge as a long hard trek was over-selling it. Half way up though the direct assault was converted to easier zig-zagging and by the top I had a new humble respect for the climb.
You divert right here to Aghla Beg, return to the col and then saunter up to Ardloughnabrackbaddy on the left, so I dropped the pack and strolled easily over picking it up on the way back. At the top of the second peak I checked the time. 2pm??? 5 hours already??? Bloody hell the whole route was meant to only take 7! I'd told Milo to expect me in Dunlewy at 5pm and to only start worrying at 8pm. Time to get a move on. I virtually ran down and across the col to Aghla More, passing a couple headed in the wrong direction. Maybe they'd grown tired of doing it the standard way and were trying the new way to spice things up. Fnarr fnarr.
Aghla More wouldn't be a hard climb at all on it's own but I was starting to feel the strain a wee bit after 5 peaks. The sun was scorching when it peaked through the clouds and for the first time I started to worry that the 4 litres I'd brought wouldn't be enough. Still I was well past the half way point and the navigation was going well. Although the peaks and route were abvious I wanted to keep practising. The descent to Lough Altain was long and steep but I was looking forward to bathing the feet in the cool lake and having a wee rest on the tiny beach.
It was a great feeling to ease the boots off and enjoy the tranquility of this remote spot. Not another soul for miles, only the occasional bleat of a distant sheep and warmed by the afternoon sun it was a magical few minutes rest. I nearly pulled the phone out to text someone and then selfishly decided not to share and put it away. The beep-beep of a returning text would only have spoiled it anyway.
The long descent to the lough meant a long ascent to Breaghy and if I'd been feeling the protesting legs before they really made their presence known now. I was resting a lot more often and was thoroughly glad to descend to the col below Mackoght. I was rationing the water to a few sips when climbing. Descending didn't require drinking I reasoned but the spit had fair thickened by the bottom. The mountain before me looked absolutely huge and I was trying to work out if the bumpy shoulder above me was the peak of Mackoght. That would mean that the rest of the huge mass was probably Errigal. The finish was in sight!
The climb up was as steep as anything on the rest of the route and my wooden walking pole was abandoned in favour of hand pulls of heather. There was even a bit of scrambling by my chosen way up but I reached the shoulder collapsing exhausted on to a conveniently flat boulder. The notes were telling me I had to drop 150m after Mackoght but I could see nothing but up so continued on one plodding step at a time. You would not believe the crushing disappoinment as I gained the real top of Mackoght and Errigal loomed up behind as if to say "Ha! You though it was over!". So much for my map reading skills. I was bone tired by this point, I had very very little water and I had to consider whether I'd actually be able to finish. But the sheer doggedness I've pulled out on occasion (notably on the smilarly tiring Cuillin Ridge) made me push on after a longish rest.
Descending the now obvious 150m and re-ascending the same height to gain the ridge onto Errigal was a lesson in will power. The water had run out despite my best rationing but I spotted at least 6 people on the ridge silhouetted against the sky from the col below. At my slow pace I reckoned they'd be coming down as I started to ascend the ridge proper and I'd beg water from them. And so it turned out. A kind fellow and his girlfriend threw me a full 750ml bottle of River Rock and I must have drank half of it while thanking them profusely.
Errigal was now familiar and there no surprises ahead of me so, newly quenched, I plodded on to the top at a pace I last remembered using on a high alpine peak with a full pack. On the summit I checked the time again. 7pm. 10 hours so far. Way way out of the guide time but still I'd made it. I fired off a text saying something like "Next time I've a bright idea like this, talk me out of it!" and began the descent to Dunlewy. Despite my shattered state I still had enough to overtake the other 4 people who left the peak shortly before me.
On the way down Milo phoned and I arranged pickup on the road and a nice cold pint to be waiting. It was sheer nectar i can tell you! We got chatting to some locals about a guy who was doing a sponsored "10 times in 1 day" climb of Errigal the following week. Apparently the previous year he'd done 7 in 1 day and 6 the following day but was going out to beat his own record. Nutter. Who'd want to do such a thing? Oh, hang on...
01 Jun 2009
The Glover is "no fir safties" and good practise for the alps. Fair play til ye.
02 Jun 2009
Well done Anthony. Yep I agree with every muscle wrenching energy sapping move you decribe. The Western 'Thumb Ridge' is a wonderful descent to Dunlewey after the Glover. Anyway, I'll bet ya it tightened up every saft muscle ye had lol :)
03 Jun 2009
Yeah, avoided stairs for a few days but I'm right as rain now and itching to go back and beat that 10 hour time. I've got a free weekend towards the end of June if anyone's up for it!