Galtee Loop

Open Moorland

The dried-up river bed eventually led to the edge of moorland that covered rolling hills as far as my eyes could see. A fence separated the forest from the moorland, and after unsuccessfully searching for a gate, I had to resort to just climbing over it. I decided to head straight for the Galtyway climb route just in case any landowners had an issue with my presence, so I took a compass bearing and made my way north-east.

The land was primarily upland blanket bog, an ecosystem that is relatively rare around the world, and was covered with almost knee-high mountain grass and smatterings of Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris). The hill of Knockeenatoung (elevation : 654m) lay on my right, and sheep were scattered around the peat hag-marred landscape. Peat hags occur when water flows down into peat or when overgrazing from domestic livestock exposes the surface of the peat. Once exposed in this manner, the peat then becomes more prone to further erosion which ends up digging it deeper and deeper, oftentimes resulting in overhanging vegetation. Vegetation can't establish itself on peat hags due to the sheer instability of the peat, and as such is unable to help the landform recover.

Looking back
Looking back towards the forests that surround the Funshion River. The river itself can be seen on the right as it traces its way up the hill to the north-west. The peak of Lyracappul (elevation : 825m) can be seen behind it. Peat hags can be seen on the left on the image.

I joined up with the Galtyway climb route soon after, managing to merge with it just as it swung around to the right. The path continued up the slopes of the hill with brilliant views opening up to the east, until it met with a huge cairn that was located right smack in the middle of the path. Further on, the path led north-west towards the shoulder between the two Galtee peaks, so I decided to bush-bash straight on and directly towards the peak of Galtybeg (elevation : 799m) instead.

Aside from the astounding views, two other things greeted me as I reached the summit: a fierce wind that made me brace myself, and a field of conglomerate rock boulders. The Galtees are primarily made out of red sandstone, and their rounded summits were formed because they used to be peaks that lay above the glaciers, referred to as 'nunataks', millions of years ago. The thawing and freezing cycles eventually caused the summits to wear down to what they are today. There are several other indications of glacial action right next to the peaks, namely the cirques which now exist as corrie lakes, as well as the steep cliffs that drop down for hundreds of metres from Galtymore's peak.

I was forced to bring down my (already struggling) Mavic in a hurry after a pair of ravens (Corvus corax) appeared and immediately began a series of mock attacks and aerial bombardments. Ravens tend to be fiercely territorial, and are known to vigorously defend their territory!

conglomerate rocks

The conglomerate rocks that mark the summit of Galtybeg; Looking west towards the summit of Galtymore

Glen of Aherlow
Looking north from Galtybeg towards the luscious Glen of Aherlow

After packing away my drone, I began to walk westward towards Galtymore. The badly-eroded path dropped down the slopes to the shoulder and past severe cases of peat hag. I had to take care at certain sections as the ground would suddenly become extremely boggy. Just ahead, cliffs could be seen plunging hundreds of metres down and into the lake of Lough Dineen down below. Before I knew it, I found myself climbing back up the slopes once again, walking along the channels, or 'groughs', that had been left by the peat hags. I went over to the side and peered down carefully at the lake down below me. The sight of the huge drop quickly sobered me up, and I was met with the realization that I was completely alone up here.

summit of Galtymore
The summit of Galtymore (elevation : 919m) from Galtybeg

The county border follows the trail up to the peak of Galtymore (elevation : 919m), which means that you are on the highest point of two counties at the same time (which, in hindsight, is not all too uncommon especially for peaks in Malaysia). The peak itself was very wide, and was quite unlike its subsidiary peak, Galtybeg. Once again, the winds were incredible, and the ravens had returned and were looking for that noisy, buzzing, invasive species that they had managed to frighten away earlier. I then made my way down the other side of the mountain after having a quick look at the celtic cross that lay on the northern edge of the summit.

back towards Galtybeg
Looking east back towards Galtybeg

Next : Galtee Loop (Part 3) - The Stone Wall