“You can’t go up there. People have gotten lost up there”. The owner of the Bed and Breakfast where I was staying was adamant. Going up and over Brandon Mountain via the walker’s Dingle Way was not a wise thing to do. I was 19 years old. I didn’t know about mountains or map reading or hiking in misty conditions. I took the B&B owner’s advice and took the next available bus home.
Nearly two decades have passed since that failed Dingle walking trip during my university years. So when I got a chance this summer to head back to that south western corner of Ireland, the first thing I wanted to do was to head up and over Brandon Mountain.
The mist was down again the morning I planned to climb Brandon Mountain. But this time I was ready. No B&B owner was going to tell me that I would get lost in such murky mountain conditions.
Despite being armed with my map and compass, the climb up Brandon Mountain was helped along by a series of white markers plonked up the mountain’s slopes. Even the 14 stations of the cross were strategically positioned along the way, a reminder that this mountain is part of a pilgrimage route that Irish Catholic men and women revere.
But what helped most was reaching 500 metres altitude. Normally in Ireland you start out at the bottom of mountains and it gets misty as you climb. This time in Dingle, the weather had been turned upside down. I had started out in thick fog. But 500 metres above sea level, the whiteness left to reveal the brightest of bright blue skies and Brandon Mountain’s summit in the clearest of views.
I met a lad on top sporting a Wicklow Adventure Racing (WAR) t-shirt. I asked him if he’d done the recent WAR race and it turned out he had read my book. He then explained to us about the crazy inverse weather. “The high pressure that’s coming in is forcing the low pressure system down”. It might have been something also to do with the fact we were in a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.
I headed north from Brandon Mountain, along an incredible set of cliffs that fell off to the right. The sunny weather lit up the green slopes, bursting from Ireland’s summer rains, and the blue lakes that glistened at the bottom of the treacherous rocks.
Soon enough I passed over the Dingle Way, the one the B&B owner barred me from back in the 1990s. So I headed west and descended back to the road and my car via this muddy path. As I ran down, I once again entered the misty conditions. I also met others heading up the hill. “Don’t worry”, I said. “The weather is picture perfect on top”. My words carried across a field and were heard by a young American hiking couple. They had walked the wrong path and had got lost, fulfilling the B&B owner’s prediction from all those years ago. They followed the sound of my voice through the white-out and came back on the right track.
The next day, the weather came good, on both the top and bottom of the mountain range. So I went up Brandon Peak from Conor Pass and got to see not just the mountain tops, but the spectacular sea on both sides. I was right to go back to this area of Ireland again. Hopefully I don’t wait another 20 years before I return again.