Every January 1st we mark the arrival of the new year by climbing Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard. 2016 was no different, the early rise meant we were making our way through Donard Forest for 6am and tackling the frosty climb over the ice covered rocks to the saddle an hour later all this to witness the new year sunrise over the stunning Mourne Mountains.
The route was thick with ice and towards the summit we found Slieve Donard was covered in a reasonable layer of snow and it was particularly difficult to find your footing, especially on the way back. It was worth it, the wintery Mournes were akin to a scene from a CS Lewis novel, it was simply stunning.
We arrived at the Ice House at the top of Slieve Donard just before 8am enduring a painful hailstorm and poor visibility to ultimately discover the temperature at the top had dropped to close to -15. My new Christmas RAB gear kept me warm in the freezing winds but ultimately our focus turned to the way back down.
Fortunately (from a photographic point of view) the hail ceased and the cloud density also diminished to create a dramatic scene of rolling clouds through the valley.
It was a painstaking trip down the summit but there were still opportunities for the trusty Fujifilm X100T to grab a few shots of the Mournes and across to the Devil’s Coach road. The view from the Saddle over Newcastle was particularly stunning in the early morning light and the small stone patch paved our icy way back to Donard Carpark.
The way back down was treacherous to say the least and it was great to finally get below the freeze level.
This wasn’t a photography focused trip but it was great to have the little X100T strapped around my neck to document the journey. Yes, mobile phone cameras are handy but they don’t offer the control and features of this stunning little camera, mine goes everywhere.
Shooting snow can be tricky but clicking the white balance dropper in Lightroom on an area of white and then reducing the white balance slider can work miracles on blue heavy winter scenes. Check out the FlixelPix Free Lightroom Presets.
Conclusion : Climbing Slieve Donard
Climbing Northern Ireland’s highest mountain in the dead of night well before the crowds arrive has to be one of the best ways to kick of the new year. The rising sun over the Mournes is breathtaking especially when combined with the dramatic wintery weather, here is to the 2017 outdoor adventure. Happy New Year.