Friday, August 27, 2010
The Dreaded Midge & The Western Mournes
Sunday, 22nd August, 2010
Staring and Finishing Point: Deers Meadow
Pigeon Rock Mountain (Minor summit)
Height: 534 metres
Slievemoughanmore (Minor summit)
Height: 560 metres
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Marilyn
Height: 638 metres
Dillon Count: 40
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt
Height: 626 metres
Dillon Count: 41
After some tough walking for the Mourne Seven Sevens just a couple of weeks previously, it was back to a more leisurely pace for a hike along Batts Wall to take in the couple of Western Mournes featured in Paddy Dillon's book. A 6am alarm-clock call saw us on the road early and as we drove down the M1, the low covering of cloud began to dissipate. By the time we arrived at Deers Meadow, the sun was making an attempt at breaking through the clouds.
A stile close to the lay-by at Deers Meadow gives access to Batts Wall which was to be our guide for the mornings walk. The wall led us gently up to our first minor summit of the day, Pigeon Rock Mountain. The gaping hole in the wall which was there on my last visit had been repaired somewhat meaning that the summit cairn which had been moulded from stone from the fallen section of the wall was now more a small gathering of rocks. The corner of the wall gives good views down to Spelga Dam and across to the impressive bulk of Slieve Muck.
The wall swings left then right to lead down Pigeon Rock and up the steeper slopes of Slievemoughanmore, the second minor summit of the day. To visit the summit of Slievemoughanmore, you need to deviate around 150 metres away from the wall. There are two cairns of pretty equal height, neither of which would appear to mark the summit proper according to my GPS. One of the cairns provides a superb viewpoint down onto Spelga Dam surrounded by Cock Mountain and Slievenamiskin.
View from the summit cairn on Slievemoughanmore
View from Slievemoughanmore
Rejoin the wall to descend from Slievemoughanmore down to the Windy Gap. A more apt name would probably be the Boggy Gap with a short section of ground very much waterlogged. So wet is this section that it appears that a stretch of the wall has been lowered to provide dry passage across it. Once across the gap, the climb begins up the steep rocky slopes of Eagle Mountain, our first Dillon of the day and the 40th Dillon of my own personal quest. Keep to the right hand-side of the wall which climbs steeply before swinging left to give way to a more gradual incline. When the wall swings right, cross the stile and the summit cairn is located just a short walk away. The best views of the walk are available from the cairn on Eagle encompassing Spelga Dam right across to the Higher Mournes with Bearnagh, Muck, Donard and Binnian all visible.
Me at the summit cairn on Eagle
From Eagle, it really is a case of two Dillons for the price of one as it's only a short dander across to Shanlieve. Again, the cairn on Shanlieve is situated just away from the wall and lay among a white carpet of Bog Cotton. Shanlieve itself is rather unremarkable but provided us with a logical stopping point for a bite to eat. While we chewed away on our sandwiches, the local midges had a field-day chewing away on us.
Me at the summit cairn on Shanlieve
Shanlieve summit cairn
Jason escapes the midges on Shanlieve
View from Shanlieve
Hole in Batts Wall on Shanlieve
The big drawback of this walk is that it requires you to reverse your route back to the starting point. On reaching back to the Windy Gap, we decided to contour along the base of Slievemoughanmore. This route provided great views along the cliff-face of Eagle and down into the Valley but the heathery and wet ground proved quite heavy going. As we arrived back to Deers Meadow, most people were only starting their days walking with quite a number of people visible making their way along Batts Wall up the steep slopes of Slieve Muck. I can't say I envied them!
Jason Descending Eagle to the Windy Gap
The steep descent along the wall leads to the Windy Gap
Cliffs on Eagle Mountain
Descending back to Deers Meadow
2 more Dillons bagged to bring my total to 41 and only 2 remaining of those in the Mournes. The car journeys will be getting longer after that!