The ‘no parking’ and ‘private property’ signs gave me the impression that I should probably leave the car a bit further back down the road. I’d driven down this quiet country road as it was a good entry point to a valley in the Partry Mountains that I’d come explore. I walked briskly past the house with the signs and in no time I was following Srahnalong River and there wasn’t a soul around but for me, the birds and scattered sheep.
I followed the river’s course, with Mám Trasna to my left a vertical wall of rock, until I got as far as the end of the valley, then crossing the river I made to ascend the slope to my right, which was almost as formidable as Mám Trasna but not as tall or as steep. I decided that, rather than backtrack to allow myself to be able to ascend a gentler slope up to the summit, I would instead head straight up from where I’d crossed the river, following a stream flowing from the top. A harder climb, but quicker. So the logic went at the time.
I trampled through the bog that always seems to lead up to the slope of a mountain, trying to avoid the really wet bits, and after a while felt the harder ground under my feet that signalled the start of my climb.
I should have paid more attention to the contour lines on my map because what appeared difficult but nothing I hadn’t tackled before when viewed from the side of the river, was actually way steeper than I had anticipated. I sat on a rock about half way up because my heart was threatening to explode and the view was already spectacular. On catching my breath I set off again, only to find that the damned slope got even steeper. I wasn’t walking anymore, I was climbing. At some points I was having to use my arms to heave myself to the next bit. About three quarters of the way I regretted everything. I was making very slow progress and to continue was going to take a long time and take a lot out of me. But I couldn’t go back down as it was too steep. I had my camera bag on my back, the slope was wet, and if I slipped I’d properly hurt myself. So I had no choice but to continue to the summit and find a safer way back down.
Motivated by the fact that I actually didn’t have a choice, I eventually made it to the summit and sat down to consult my map with hands that were shaking from the exertion of the climb. I could see a way back down that might offer less of a chance of broken legs but first I needed to find the reason I’d climbed up here in the first place – Lough Na Deirce Móire.
I headed off towards the horizon in the direction of the Loch and now that I was on even ground in not much time I was stood overlooking a huge open valley leading out towards Lough Mask. It was such a great view that the climb now seemed worth it. The exertion of getting to this spot might have had something to do with it but I got quite emotional, I even recited some poetry, as a sort of offering to the mountains. It felt a great privilege to be at this elevation and to have such an expansive view completely to myself. There wasn’t even any wildlife this far up.
Now I had to tackle the descent. I knew that if I headed towards some stone walls marking field boundaries way down in the valley then that would offer a gentler gradient. But the way down, while not as steep as the way up, was still pretty steep and several times both feet slipped out from under me, precipitating me sliding down on my bottom, arms flailing wildly for purchase, and ensuring that I stank of mud and sheep shit by the time I got back to the car.
It took an age to reach the river, from where I could now see that I’d completely missed the gentler way down. I could now hear the sound of human activity again and passing the gate I’d hopped after leaving the car 5 hours previously I now noticed a ‘no tresspassing’ sign. So when a farmer in a van stopped beside me I thought he was going to give out to me, but instead he just wanted a chat. He asked if I’d been up the mountain and told me about some poor soul who’d gotten lost up there recently.