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On Saturday 12th September, the Trek NI walking group divided up for the day and tackled Slieve Binnian from two different angles. Here are our trek reports from a great day’s hike in the Mournes…
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I had missed a few Trek NI walks recently so I was really looking forward to getting back out. Mixed emotions though as I’d signed up for the A walk because it was a new route for me but given that I’d barely walked the length of myself all summer I was dubious about my ability to keep up with the fitter members of the more experienced group.
We met at Carrick Little and after donning our masks, clambered on board the Black Sheep mini bus. Peter runs an excellent shuttle service around the Mournes and is both a wealth of information and font of all mountain related knowledge.
Spirits were high and there was some chat of a detour via Dublin for the day but being the responsible leaders that they were, Darren and Vanessa ensured we made it to our pre-arranged leaving point on the Bann Road.
The weather was glorious. Mild air, blue skies and high clouds. I love days like that. They showcase the Mournes in all their amazing glory. The track was a little busier than expected as we made our way into the hills behind a large herd of cattle.
We came across a guy with his easel, happily painting the incredible views and it struck me then, and again later when we were passed by trail runners, nimbly and expertly making their way down the side of Moolieve, that the mountains offer such a varied range of experiences for those who are drawn to them, yet the inherent satisfaction we collectively get is what brings us all back each and every time.
The first climb of the day came courtesy of the southern Slievenaglogh. The ground was wet in places and it was steeper than it looked but the views into the Mournes were totally worth it.
We followed the wall back down, sampling the wild blueberries growing in the sun and made our way over to Silent Valley. A highly entertaining mini canyoning experience ensued as we clambered down a gully, testing our balance, footwork and sense of adventure! As throughout the entire walk, there was much laughing and joking and general craic.
We stopped for a quick cuppa at the wall of Silent Valley, deciding to save our lunch for the energy required for Big Binnian. This pitstop gave us the chance to organise potential Christmas do’s and Trek NI tours. Consider the social calendar now complete!
A steep but short climb took us up to the stile on Moolieve. We crossed over and headed on up towards the Binnians. The sky was clouding over but the spirits and banter remained as high as the imposing summits ahead.
We had our lunch, sheltered from the increasing wind on Wee Binnian. Her bigger sister loomed ominously over us, seemingly taunting us with her presence and from that angle the enormity of our final climb became worryingly clear! Despite being a group of such mixed ages and backgrounds, the sense of camaraderie was strong and off we cheerily went for the final pull.
It was tight! At points more rock climbing than hill walking. But I find the most encouraging thing when climbing steep and tough terrain is to take a look back and see how much of distance in terms of height you cover in such a short space of time. Definitely much more encouraging than looking up and seeing what you’ve still yet to climb! I have done Binnian many times but never from that side. It was much tougher but probably more enjoyable. I love a wee scrabble. If you don’t, stick to the more well-trodden side, following the wall directly up from Carrick Little.
The winds at the top were ferocious, the lift-you-off-your-feet kind usually only found on the summits. But they added to the exhilaration of finally completing what we had come to do. Such a sense of achievement. We were all properly buzzing and expressing our satisfaction at having had such a great climb.
The rocky tors of Binnian are as dramatic as the views and are what makes it one of the most popular mountains in the Mournes. Today though, probably given the time of day and the changing weather there weren’t the usual hoards that have been seen post-Covid lockdown.
The walk back down to Carrick Little went by in a flash and we arrived at our cars late afternoon, just as the heavens were opening for the evening. Seemingly perfect timing to finish an absolutely perfect day.
Thank you Trek NI and the A Team another fantastic walk. See you in the hills again soon!
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The date was set to trek the Binnians on 12th Sept but to comply with current Covid rules we split into two groups of up to 15 people.
Group A led by Darren & Vanessa would be made up of the elite mountain goat-type members.
Group B led by Graham was made up of the remaining flotsam & jetsam, including myself. We also welcomed some new people for the B group walk.
A quick head count at the assembly point of Carrick little car park totalled 13, not a good omen! This was changed to a bakers dozen, so with bad omens banished we made our way up the stone path which was a gentle warm up for what lay ahead.
We started our ascent towards the wall which we would follow to the summit of Binnian. After a while we stopped for a tea break which was a chance to rest and re-group before our final ascent.
As we closed in on the summit we were amazed at how busy it was (honestly, have these people nothing better to do on a Saturday! Ha).
After a quick pause due to Michelle suffering a bit of dizziness we reached the summit.
Original plan was to lunch here but it was quite busy and windy.
So after a quick group snap we made our way down the other side into a gorgeous valley which Gail said was her favourite, and I can see why.
We found a sheltered spot out of the wind and settled down to lunch and enjoy the views of Lamagan, Commedagh, Donard and Chimney (thanks Graham).
After lunch we descended down the step-shaped rocks and onto the Buzzards Roost for another postcard perfect view and the obligatory group snap.
From here we descended onto the rocky path which was taken with care as it would be easy to twist an ankle if not careful.
Not far to go and it was looking like a damp finish, but by the time the coats came out it had stopped.
That’s three dry hikes in a row for me.
It won’t last!
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