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February has been a month of endless storms, one of which deterred us from our previously outing. With another one on the horizon, we decided to take the chance and get out on what was one of our longest planned hikes of the year.
A small group of us met at the Banns Road car park, including some new faces. The sun was a welcome sight as we set off, but it was deceptively cold with a biting wind.
On the relatively flat walk to Lough Shannagh, the shear volume of the recent rain was evident in the flooded path. One of my favourite parts of the walk is getting one-on-one time with both new and old members of the group, and there was plenty to be had on this trek.
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After a short tea break to warm up, we continued on to Lough Shannagh. The winds started to pick up, but we battled on and were confronted with our next challenge. The rain had raised the water level of the lough and the overflow was gushing, causing a steady stream of water to flow where we needed to cross. Darren and Graham found a safe spot to cross and we all successfully completed the lunge and started our ascent.
I’ve never climbed Doan from this route, and it was a lot steeper and wilder than I thought. The rain had made the ground perilous in places and the wind was only compounding the conditions of the climb. After some slow progress, we joined the main path and discovered remnants of snow and ice on the ground and with large icicles protruding from the heather, which was a testament to the cold conditions.
We were advised by other hikers to take a different route to the summit, which had more cover from the increasing winds. Darren measured the winds at about 40mph on the summit, making it difficult to stand and enjoy the views. The promised snow had started to fall, so we decided to head down and get a covered spot for lunch. With the wind direction changing, this was a little harder than we thought so we had to grab a quick lunch and get going again before we all turned into ice blocks.
As usual, the descent is always easier than the ascent and we made good time getting down to Lough Shannagh, thawing with every passing step. The snow and wind direction meant that the snow was blowing into our eyes during our downwards journey, making the conditions tricky.
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After a quick break in Lough Shannagh, we were confronted with what can only be described as a blizzard. With the wind and snow blowing right in our faces, we were faced with a cold and wet walk ahead of us. The wind made any communication difficult, as the snow quickly turned to sleet and felt like daggers anytime it hit any uncovered flesh – thank goodness for snoods!
By the time we reached the car, a lot of us were soaked and tired, but totally exhilarated. It felt good to be out in the mountains again, but it was a testament to how quickly the conditions can change and how prepared you need to be.
Until next time!
Date: Saturday 29th February 2020
Total distance: 13.7km
Elevation gain: 527m
Duration: 4 hours
To find out more about the Trek NI Walking Group, click here.
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