Four Peaks 2/4 – Connacht – Mweelrea (aborted)

The title above should read something like this: Four Peaks 2/4 – Connacht – Mweelrea (aborted) (Ireland). Yep, my legs ache so much I can barely climb the stairs at work, and Sean and I have failed to climb the second in our ‘four peak’ Ireland series by what can’t have been more than a few metres. I’ll start at the beginning… if you haven’t looked at the picture just yet, save it for later on…

Mweelrea is intimidating to say the least. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that when we arrived in the Mayo countryside the clouds were well and truly drawn in over the peak, and we could only see Mweelrea’s very close and very substantial neighbors, though it didnt turn out to be a good thing in the long run.

Mweelrea is only around 860 metres tall, but being right next to the coast, that means pretty much 860 metres of climbing. The position’s about as nasty as they come in Ireland, too. To get to the base of the hill you have to wade through what’s basically an entire valley of narrow streams and deep marshland, picking your way across to what in theory should be the hard bit, and it saps your energy no end. There’s no obvious way up. In fact, as we picked our way across the valley, the main topic of conversation was which one of the seemingly impossibly steep slopes would be the best one to attempt to scramble up. It took about an hour to walk from the road to the first bit that looked vaguely passable, and given that things didn’t look any better (and did look distinctly marshy) further on, we decided just to head on up.

If there’s one way I don’t want to climb a mountain, it’s straight up in crawl, but that’s what most of this turned out to be. Hundreds of metres of loose rock and moss, frogs, slugs and not a path to be seen took us to the cloud line, and an immense view down into a valley, where we could see the fish farms in the harbor below and watch the marshy streams winding down towards the car. A few metres further up, visibility reduced to only outlines a couple of dozen metres in front of us, and we followed a trail of rocks which seemed to go up forever. And then, about two hours in, nothing appeared in front of us.

That probably doesn’t mean to make sense, but a quick glance at the picture Ive sneakily stolen from the internet might help to explain…

See that ridge off to the left hand side? The side on the edge of the picture is what we climbed, and it was pretty much that steep (if not a touch steeper) all the way to the edge, which we saw from about five metres away in the fog. We stood there, had a quick look around and walked a few metres either way, then realised we had absolutely no hope of working out which direction the peak was in (the ledges look similar on both sides on the map). Instead, we decided to abandon ship, get out of the horrendous wind, rain and fog and wade our way back over the swamp.

Mweelrea, it seems, is going to have be tackled again to complete the four, which given how close we clearly were to the top is more than a little frustrating. Now, about those classes on the top floor…

James x

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