Sunday, November 22, 2009

Doan Mountain

Ill start things off with a look back at a walk taken this September in the Mourne Mountains, i wrote this piece initially to see if i was any good as a travel writer. Being able to combine work and my love for the wild places is a dream of mine so we'll see what comes of it. It was written as a route description so the style isn't as personal as my writing on this blog will be.

I have spoken to many people over the years about the joys of wild camping; many of whom use it as a tool to enable them to complete more difficult and lengthy routes. For others just starting out though, that may be a step too far at first. Doan Mountain in the Mournes offers a chance of waking up to an awesome sunrise, on an actual summit, without the uncertainty of being miles from civilization, proving that bigger isn’t always better.

If we were to compare the Mourne Mountains to a litter of puppies, Doan would seemingly be the runt of the pack. Under-rated, under appreciated and dwarfed by its larger brothers and sisters, many walkers choose to ignore this peak, opting instead to go in search of bigger prizes around its periphery.

For the discerning walker though, Doan comfortably rides up front alongside its more celebrated neighbours like Bernagh and Binnian. Its position is enviable, sitting at the head of the Silent Valley reservoir, Doan affords the walker with some of the finest vistas in all of the Mournes. As well as the reservoir itself, all of the surrounding 700m peaks can be identified easily, with uniquely unobstructed views.

The Ott car park on the Slievenaman road is our starting point for this route, its close proximity should offer peace of mind to those heading out for their first wild camp. From the car park, cross the road and hop over the stile onto a wide stony path, follow this path to a fork where you should veer right to avoid ascending via the sometimes swollen Shimna River and deep bog. The path is gentle in gradient and winds around the bottom of Ott Mountain, offering a pleasant view of Fofanny Dam further down the valley.

Further up, the path comes to an end but a trail can then be negotiated through wet ground and peat hags to the saddle between Slieve Loughshannagh and Carn Mountain. A ladder stile here over the Mourne wall gives entrance into the inner Mournes, with the bulky Slieve Binnian dominating the view ahead.

Leave the wall to pick up the path again, avoid the broad gully which leads down to the shores of Lough Shannagh, instead contour around Slieve Loughshannagh to the left. The aesthetically pleasing Doan now comes into view to the south east. The narrow track leads gently downhill again to a flat, open area of soggy ground which is easily crossed. A path is now clearly visible leading a direct route to the summit. The gradient is not overly steep and the only obstacle will be an easily negotiated and very short rock step leading to the summit.

The summit is rocky but sports a flat grassy area large enough for a couple of small tents. Make sure that the tent is facing into the prevailing wind as the summit is exposed and the wind funneled up the Silent Valley can be strong.

Once you have your camp set up, have a wander around and explore the area. There is some good scrambling to be had on the southern side. If you have enough time before dark, a stroll around Lough Shannagh is recommended or else nip over to Ben Crom for a peak down its shear walls that fall into the reservoir below. Whatever you do, make sure sunset is spent on the summit, there’s nothing quite like a hot drink whilst watching the sun disappear over Carn Mountain.
As dusk descends you will quickly become aware of the quiet solitude. Doan offers a kind of serenity that you won’t experience anywhere else. Its position in the heart of the Mournes gives a real sensation of remoteness whilst still being less than an hour away from the car. This is what sets it apart from its larger counterparts, for they invariably require a longer walk in, more time to get to the top, more food, more water, etcetera etcetera. It’s accessible all year round and in the summer months, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect to set off from the car at seven o’clock and still strike camp before sunset.

For the return journey back to the car, simply retrace your steps from the day before. An alternative would be to bear right at the Mourne Wall and take in the summits of Slieve Loughshannagh, Slieve Meelbeg and Slieve Meelmore before heading down a granite path at the col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bernagh known locally as Pollaphuca.

The granite paving slabs lead past an old quarry to your right on the slopes of Slieve Bernagh where the granite for the path was taken from. The path leads to a wide stony path known as Trassey Track. Follow the path, keeping the Trassey River on the left until a dry stone wall is reached, travel south west alongside this wall, walking around the foot of the mountains climbed earlier in the day. Skirt around Fofanny Dam and a small evergreen forest before hitting the road for the final 1.5km trudge back to the car.

Hello Welcome!

Welcome to my blog, its looking pretty bare right now but i intend on keeping it well up to date and will be including lots of outdoor related action very soon. Thanks for visiting!