A winter walk on snowy, seductive Galtybeg

The Galtees in their winter cloak draw me like a moth to the light

Traversing Galtybeg’s ice-crusted ridge, I am rewarded with expansive views over Aherlow, Slievenamuck and beyond to the Silvermine mountains

Traversing Galtybeg’s ice-crusted ridge, I am rewarded with expansive views over Aherlow, Slievenamuck and beyond to the Silvermine mountains

 

It happened late this season. Usually they sport winter attire for Christmas, but this year it was bare tops through the festive period. In fact, it took a sudden cold snap in January to force them into apparel that always sets my pulses racing. I don’t know why this should be, but a cloak of snow on the lofty Galtee peaks invariably draws me like a moth to light. It is my signal to abandon all and make haste towards Ireland’s highest inland mountains before the ephemeral snow blanket silently disappears with the stealth of a ship in the night.

This morning, they are lovely in their winter attire as I approach beneath unblemished skies. At the Black Road car park the white stuff is already enchantingly well settled on the surrounding fields. From here, it is shank’s mare up a track that takes its name from how its surface was darkened by turf drawing during periods of wartime austerity. The Black Road conveys me deep into the Galtee heartland, but today it could be more accurately described as a white road. Long experience has taught me that snow always extracts a price for its rare beauty. Today, I find drifts that have settled on the trail are sometimes a metre deep. As I struggle through the boot-napping powder, I reflect ruefully that this is one of the rare occasions when snowshoes would have been appropriate for the Irish uplands.

Snowy emptiness

Instead, I square my shoulders and head up through the eye-watering whiteness of Galtybeg’s west face. The wee one of the Galtee twins is actually a fine mountain in its own right. Traversing its ice-crusted ridge, I am rewarded with expansive views over Aherlow, Slievenamuck and beyond to the Silvermine mountains misting away to the north. A short descent then leads to the cliffs above the perfect teardrop of Boreen Lough. Here, the Geisha Steps path provides a tempting traverse above the icy waters to gain Glencushnabinna, but my route lies in the opposite direction. So regretfully I turn and head south, ploughing through more drifts to gain the end of the Black Road, where it is just a question of retracing my steps to the parking place.

Walk: Galtybeg, Co Cork

Map: OSI Discovery Series sheet 74

Start point: Leave the M8 at junction 11 and take the N8 towards Mitchelstown. Just north of Skeheenarinky, a finger sign for “Galtymore Climb” points right beside a derelict building. Follow this to its end and park in the Black Road car park.

Effort: About 3 hours.

Suitability: Short but challenging walk to a high summit that is often windy and cold, so be equipped with warm clothing and raingear. Navigation skills required as the head of the Black Road can be difficult to locate in mist. Return from this point if unsure of your route-finding skills.

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