I promised the other day that if the memory card inside my sadly smashed camera had survived intact, I’d post some of the pictures from the Reek climb that PJ and myself did last Thursday. Well, the good news is that it has and so here they are.
I’ve also included with the photos two video clips that I took on the summit so this should give you a good feel for the visual treat you get when you undertake the climb. It goes without saying, however, that nothing compares in any adequate way with doing it for real.
As you can see from the picture above, the summit was well covered in clouds when we set off from the car park in Murrisk on Thursday morning but we figured that, with the day being fine and sunny, the cloud would be well gone by the time we reached the top at around midday. We were partly right: that particular cloud had lifted but more had arrived on the scene just as we completed the climb.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though – we’d only just set off at this stage. As we did so, what was encouraging – and this continued to be the case all through the climb – was how our efforts were so quickly rewarded with some spectacular views, initially of Clew Bay and Achill beyond. The higher we went the more spectacular they became – the picture below was taken just under an hour into the climb and already you can see how far from sea-level we’d got to by then:
That first hour was a gentle enough ramble but it culminated in the first bit of steep climbing on a stretch which was tricky enough underfoot (too tricky for me on the way down as I was to discover: it was at this point on the downward leg that I ended up on my derrière) and where the gradient was far more challenging than anything that had gone before. At the end of this piece of the climb, however, there was a significant reward in the shape of our first view of the Sheaffrey Hills and the moody Mwealrea Mountains to the south:
Once we’d reached this point of the climb, we had a respite more or less all of the way to the First Station, which is at the base of the cone. On this stretch, the walk is barely uphill (it’s even downhill for a small bit) and, with Clew Bay now obscured, all the views are to the south. And very nice they are too:
It’s when you hit the first station that the real climbing begins. I’d got this far in my abortive, hungover attempt back in 1991 so I was glad to reach the same point in much better fettle last Thursday. As you look up the cone, it’s a forbidding enough sight but we knew that half an hour or so would see us to the top and so off we went.
This bit is, obviously, the toughest of the lot, but the higher we climbed, the more we were rewarded by the truly sumptuous views.
Like this one:
And this one:
And this one:
As the old saying goes, though, you can’t eat the decor and we were really feeling all the effort we were expending over those last punishing yards from the top. We kept our spirits up doing impersonations of The Gooch on how “de last fifteen minutes” are so vital as we continued to plod skywards. After what seemed like an eternity (of bad Colm Cooper take-offs as well), the roof of the little chapel on the summit at last came into view and we could see that we were only a few footsteps from the top:
But, as we completed those final few steps that brought us to the top of the mountain, we saw, to our chagrin, that we could see very little apart from St Paddy’s Bed and the tiny hundred year-old oratory.
Although the day had, indeed, turned out fine and sunny, a rogue cloud had enveloped the summit just minutes before we’d completed the climb and so, instead of enjoying all the splendours of being 2,500 feet above sea-level, it felt instead that we’d stumbled into some kind of weird midge-infested netherworld:
Happily, however, this sense of anti-climax was short-lived. The cloud began to shift and, as it did so, it was like a curtain being pulled open to reveal truly breathtaking scenery such as this:
All that light, all that sky, all that sea, all those mountains – it’s little wonder that we stayed at the summit for close on two hours. While we were up there in the heavens we also got a hint as to why a century ago Paul Henry was content to spend the best part of a decade on Achill painting all those evocative post-Impressionist watercolours. This hazy picture of Clare Island could, with a few deft brush strokes, have come from the great artist’s catalogue:
And, as if that visual extravaganza isn’t enough for you, here’s a short video clip of what things look like from up there:
We didn’t do the climb from the perspective of pilgrims – our motivation being skewed more towards the ‘because it’s there’ mindset – although I did, I admit, utter an agnostic’s prayer for the minors while on the Holy Mountain. The holy stuff is of interest, though, in terms of understanding what the Reek is all about and central to this is the little oratory that’s been perched up on top of it for a bit over a hundred years:
The inside of which looks like this:
On reaching the summit, pilgrims are instructed to do a whole load more than simply enjoy the majestic views:
As you can see, included in that list is some further walking, in the form of fifteen circuits of the little chapel. Here’s a video clip of what one such circuit looks like:
Heavenly though it felt up there, eventually we had to start on the long trek back down to sea-level. The bit down the cone to the First Station was hairy enough and it was here that we got full value from the stout ash plants we’d taken with us (mine had already done the trip once, in the company of The Brother a few years back) as we picked our way gingerly downwards over the loose stones.
Once we’d negotiated that bit, we felt like we were as good as home and so started to relax and enjoy the views of Clew Bay as it came back into view again, with Nephin beyond, on the way back down:
And then, of course, there was Achill to admire as well:
And then, because I was far too relaxed and not watching sufficiently where I was going, I lost my footing, landed with a thump on my rear end and smashed my camera so that’s the end of this particular pictorial essay. Oh well, not to worry – I did manage to retrieve the 140 pictures I had taken up till that point so all my snapping wasn’t in vain. I’d have been a whole load more hacked off had I broken my leg rather than the camera: I mean, it’ll be hard enough trying to invade the pitch at Croke Park the next day after the minors win their All-Ireland without having to attempt doing so on crutches.