Ireland day 0354. Saturday 17 September 2022- Imaal

Ireland day 0354. Saturday 17 September 2022- Imaal
Today’s summary A really good day out today with the Walking Club, exploring Lugnaquilla for the third time this year, but today from the western side, the Glen of Imaal, rather than Glenmalure to the east.  Perfect cool sunny weather
Today’s weather Bright, mostly sunny, and dry.   Moderate north easterly wind.   16C in the valley, about 7C on the top
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Lugnaquilla circuit from Imaal DWC

I’m getting quite to like Lugnaquilla.   Yes it’s a big blob of a mountain but there are lots of different ways up it and they are all very different.   So today’s ascent, on a Walking Club group outing, aimed to tackle the summit from the west – the Glen of Imaal – rather than the east, Glenmalure, side which we have used previously.   It turned out to be a fine excursion.   Perfect, albeit quite cool, weather, nice quiet paths, and brilliant views.

As is our habit nowadays, Val and I picked up a friend in Portmarnock then we car-shared down the N81 through Blessington into the Glen of Imaal and Fenton’s Pub – our first destination today.  On the way, just below Poulaphuca reservoir, we passed through a sheltered glen which this morning was just emerging from the mist and was covered in a shimmering rime of hoar frost.   The first of the winter.

When you approach the Wicklow Hills from the west, you are immediately struck by how different they look compared to the eastern facade, around Glendalough.   They are much rounder from the west, largely shorn of trees, and with none of the deep valleys that sculpt the landscape around Laragh.   I am sure that the quaternary glaciologists would be able to explain the difference in the topography based of the flows of the ice sheets, but for today, and for me at least, I was just content to note the difference and to appreciate the remoter, less visited, aspect that they presented.

Our aim was to do a bit of a one way walk today.   So we parked at Fentons (which was sadly closed so no pre walk coffee and scones, unfortunately) then consolidated ourselves into two cars and drove a little further round the beautiful empty bowl of the Glen of Imaal.   We parked the second contingent of vehicles at the Ballinabarny Gap and started the walk from there.

The reason, by the way, that the Glen of Imaal appears so peaceful and beautifully deserted is because it is a vast military firing range.   There are warning signs all around the area, so you have to be moderately careful not to stray off the path.   Given the hazardousness of the terrain it’s perhaps not surprising that nobody lives there.   But there didn’t appear to be any military activity going on today, and the fearsome warning signs do ensure that relatively fewer walkers visit this side of the hills compared to the east, making it beautifully quiet.

I think the whole group really enjoyed the hike today – for some reason it just worked well and we seemed to spend the whole walk chatting and catching up on news.   With lots of laughs along the way, we summited Ballineddan and Slievemaan and then Lugnaquilla itself almost effortlessly – we barely noticed the steep uphill climbs along the way.

The top was as usual quite busy, mostly with walkers from the Glenmalure side.  Our co-inhabitants of the summit cairn included a large group of charity walkers from a major accountancy firm who wasted no time in explaining to us how they all had super important jobs in mergers and acquisitions.   Very interesting.

There was only so much of a good thing we could take, so once we had enjoyed our lunch, soaked up the sun in the shelter of the cairn, and learned all about corporate finance, we packed up our things and headed off to the welcome solitude of the Camarahill ridge.   The descent was smooth and mostly pretty easy.   We soon seemed to be back at Fenton’s pub which thankfully by this stage was open, so while some of the party went back to collect the remaining cars from the Ballinabarny Gap, the rest of us enjoyed refreshments in the bar.

There’s even a photo on the bar walls of a few members of the Walking Club – one of whom was with us today – taken outside the pub in the middle of the night back in 2003 – after a night-time ascent of Lugnaquillaa.   Now that does sound like fun!

Anyway, by this stage we were all starting to feel hungry so we finished our drinks, got back in the cars, and went our separate ways.   A straightforward and quick drive back to Dublin, and now it’s time to enjoy some delicious carrot and coriander soup with more homemade focaccia that Val pulled together while I was away earlier in the week.   A perfect end to a perfect day.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Well, this seems pretty clear then.
I’m pleased to report that we all returned intact
Once you get above the forestry at Ballinabarny Gap, where we left one lot of cars, the way ahead opens up.   Lugnaquilla is in the centre, but you have to summit two secondary tops – Ballineddan and Slievemaan – before you get there.   The last section from the peat hags (see next picture) to the top is quite steep
Halfway up, on the Slievemaan ridge, there’s a bit of a boggy section with a few peat hags.   But despite recent rain, it was actually quite dry underfoot today so the going was much easier than I had feared it might be The summit of Lugnaquilla is a vast grassy mound.   It looks benign but even in good weather like today it’s quite disorientating and it can be easy to set off one or two degrees away from the intended route and you can end up in completely the wrong valley
The group heading off the summit back down towards the Camarahill ridge.   The views were stunning from up here today Meanwhile, back at Fentons..
I was driving so could only look on in envy…
(But Val enjoyed it!)
Looking back to the whaleback summit of Lugnaquilla.   To the left of the summit is the North Prison.   To me, it looks like the perfect example of a small glacial corrie.   Probably sculpted in its current form not in one of the Ice Ages, but rather in the Younger Dryas, 11,000 years ago (as we learned on the field trip a couple of weeks ago)
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 12381 m
Max elevation: 924 m
Min elevation: 196 m
Total climbing: 714 m
Total descent: -833 m
Total time: 05:26:03
Download file: Glen Of Imaal And Lugnaquilla DWC compressed corrected.gpx

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