First off, Happy New Year!
I started the year off with my first hill walk for a good few years – officially kicking off my preparations for the Four Peaks Challenge in June. Lana was working today, so I deliberately chose a very well marked and obvious trail up and along An Spinc in Glendalough seen as I’d be walking solo – my navigation skills need a bit of brushing up before I have any ideas of getting too adventurous on a solo walk. The route is the ‘white’ signed Spinc and Glenealo Valley described on this page.
This popular walk leads you through some of the most spectacular scenery in Co. Wicklow. (The name Spinc comes from the Irish ‘An Spinc’ and means ‘pointed hill’). The trail ascends steeply up by the Poulanass Waterfall before joining a boardwalk. More than 600 wooden steps lead you to a viewing point overlooking the Upper Lake. The boardwalk skirts the top of the cliffs before descending through blanket bog and heath into the picturesque Glenealo Valley, home to a large herd of deer. A rough track then leads you back down into Glendalough Valley.
Total length should have been about 9km, but the upper car park was not yet open when I arrived at 9am, so I had an extra 3km of flat walk from and back to the first car park. Weather was dry, about 3C and with the top of An Spinc in fog as I arrived. However the sun was trying to burn through and it didn’t look thick.
The walk is circular, and can be done in either direction. I chose the clockwise route, heading up past the Poulanass waterfall. This has a very steep ascent up onto the Spinc Ridge, most of which is along a boardwalk that starts with those 600 steps mentioned above! I found this tough going and it hit home that my fitness levels are really not what they used to be. I’ll certainly need to get in lots of miles and gym work before the Four Peaks. I’m pretty sure that Carrauntoohil won’t have a set to easy to walk on railway sleepers all the way up it! Once at the top however, the view was awesome (even in the fog) and I momentarily kicked myself for not bringing the camera (figured for my first walk I’d take as little weight as possible)
The rest of the ridge was fairly even, and also nicely devoid of people. I seemed to be the only person up early on New Years Day, can’t imagine why. I did gain some accompaniment from an eager Robin who followed me for a km or more, flitting up to me every time I paused. Unfortunately for him I had no food that he would like! On reaching the end of the ridge the descent down into the Valley took me through typical Irish bog, with lots of frozen water and a herd of deer, including stag, who seemed ambivalent to my presence as I walked not 30 yards away from them. Just after this encounter I met the first humans of the day coming the other way and the boardwalk gave way to a stone path leading down to the bridge crossing a river feeding into the Upper Lake. The bridge marked the turning point for home, with the descent following the river down into the valley. The going here was very rocky and a good test of my new Brasher Hillmaster GTX boots.
Once reaching the lake, the rest of the walk was uneventful, and much more populated. Uneventful that is apart from the fact that I’d developed a nice pair of heel blisters thanks to the new boots. Hopefully it is just a breaking in thing, and not a sign that they will cause me problems. To be fair, it was probably not the best idea to do such a walk straight off in a new pair of boots, but there you go!
The preparation for the Four Peaks begins!