Hill: Brandon Mountain
Date: Sunday 24th August 2014
Company: Myself, John and Derrick
Distance: 11.1km
Time: 4Hrs 10Mins

As today's forecast was for strong winds and rain, we decided to head for Brandon Mountain leaving McGillicuddy's Reeks for later in the week.

Brandon Mountain (also known as Mount Brandon) is located in the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. It is named after Saint Brendan and is the end of a pilgrimage trail. The mountain is popular with Irish Catholic pilgrims.

The Western side and Eastern side of Mount Brandon are very different in character. The Western side is an easy grass slope, the Eastern side is a dramatic series of rock steps with a set of small lakes. We decided to go in from the East to witness the hill at its best.

We drove from our base in Killarney to Faha where there is a small car park for circa 12 cars.

Route undertaken:

Before getting suited and booted we read the safety notice located in the car park.

Safety Notice at start of walk:

Were we prepared for tough ground, wind, rain, cold, mist, ...?
Did we have the list of required items in our packs?

Shit no, we had no 'stout' with us! Hopefully the copious supplies of Guinness drank in Killarney the night previous would stand us in good stead!

From the car park we set off walking along a track that was really colourful due to numerous Fuchsia bushes growing alongside. Once through a gate we made our way a short distance uphill to reach the Blessed Virgin Mary grotto.

Looking towards Brandon Peak from start of walk:

Blessed Virgin Mary grotto:

Blessed Virgin Mary:

From the grotto we followed a path with a series of white metal poles up the hillside.

Brandon Bay:

During the walk in I spotted a caterpillar on the path. I had to look this one up as I had not come across one like this previously.

Knot Grass Moth Caterpillar:

Looking back towards Brandon Bay:

Into the mist:

At a height of circa 500m, the white poles were replaced by a series of cairns. It would be very difficult to lose this section of the path.

Looking down to Loch Cruite:

Until now the ascent had been fairly dull. However, on skirting round into the coire the views were far from dull. The Eastern coire is fantastic. It reminded me very much of Coir a'Ghrunnda and Coire Lagan in Skye, albeit the rocktype is different.

Heading into the incredible coire below Brandon Mountain:

The initial section of walk into the coire skirts below the Faha ridge.

Heading towards the coire:

Heading towards the coire:

Route finding across the floor of the coire is made easier by following arrows painted onto the rocks. The path is however reasonably obvious without the arrows!

About to cross the coire floor to reach a diagonal rise:

Looking back from the coire towards Loch Cruite:

Derrick atop a large rock in the coire:

It was far too wet and windy today to attempt the Faha ridge. The rock here is fairly greasy/slippery in the wet. The Faha Ridge is a scrambling route up to Brandon Mountain. Although it is only Grade 1, it is fairly exposed in places.

Looking up to the Faha ridge:

The Faha ridge:

However, our route was possibly even better than the Faha ridge as our route took us into the coire and up its headwall.

Looking back during ascent of the coire wall:

Looking back towards the Faha ridge during ascent:

Looking back during ascent:

It was disappointing to be undertaking such a fine route in rain and drizzle. However, when we did get fleeting glimpses of the surrounding landscape we were all seriously impressed. I would go so far as to say this is one of the finest routes up a mountain I have undertaken.

Great view looking back down to the Paternoster lakes in the coire:

The ascent up the back of the coire follows a diagonal ramp through the crags. It is fairly steep in places and eroded so care is needed. On reaching the ridge, we were blasted by the wind. At the point we reached the ridge there is a marker post indicating that this is the route "Down".

Onto the ridge leading to the summit:

On the ridge towards the summit:

Approaching the summit of Brandon Mountain:

On reaching the summit we stopped to take several photos. We found a flag stuck into the summit cairn which we borrowed for our summit pic.

Derrick at the summit of Brandon Mountain:

Myself and Derrick at the summit of Brandon Mountain:

At the summit we had a quick look at the map to see if it would be possible to descend via the easy Western ridge. While this would have been a much easier descent it would have put us a long distance away from the car. We therefore took our time descending back the same way. On reaching the coire floor, we stopped for around ten minutes to speak with another walker. He could talk for Ireland!

During the descent from the coire the rain changed from light to "pishin' doon". By the time we got back to the car, we were soaked. Despite the weather this was a really enjoyable walk. On a perfect blue sky day this walk would be outstanding.