Stargazing from Doan

Due to a slightly disorganized companion and a broken tentpole, I was unable to spend the night on Slieve Meelmore with the Ni-wild group and after a long hard walk in the wind and rain, I regrettably had to make a return trip to the car that same night.

As I didn’t get the opportunity to test out my new Rab Storm Bivvy, I was eager to get out another night out.

After having a look at the weather forecast and seeing that Tuesday had perfect conditions and a full moon, I hastily changed all the plans I had on Tuesday to the Monday, not a good idea.

After a late start and a hangover that could bring down a horse, I finally was on my way to the mountains at 4.30pm. Unfortunately I knew I was going to miss sunset, but at least there were clear skies for plenty of stargazing.

With my friend bravely leaving his car at the Blue Quarry carpark (aka Ott carpark) we began the easy trek up Ott track.

As I have been working hard on getting my packweight down to a minimum, I had left the house with my pack at 9kg, including food and water.

With a quick stop on the way for a firelog, this brought my pack weight to just above 10kg, meaning a very easy walk. By the time we hit halfway to the wall, it was as dark as it was going to get, yet with the fullmoon and clear skies I had no need to use my trusty headtorch. Parts of the path were frozen, with any water flowing across the path being frozen solid.

After making it to the wall in under 30 minutes we had a quick look at the map and decided whether or not to camp at Lough Shannagh or Doan. Given the conditions I had my heart set on Doan, as I wanted to be able to look around me, rather than being surrounded by hills, so we took the path going left from the wall and contoured around Slieve Lough Shannagh until we were about half way round, when we dropped down and began a straight course for Doan. Although I had not ascended Doan before I knew that the area we were crossing is usually fairly boggy, however because of the temperature we were able to walk across it with ease, all the bog and mud being rock solid with ice. Within an hour and a half of leaving the car we were standing on top of Doan, and immediately at the tarp was the perfect spot for Daniel’s tarp, and a nice flat bit to the side for my bivvybag.

We set about pitching the tarp straight away, opting for the usual pyramid shape, with the open end facing towards Donard and Commedagh, to protect Daniel from the little wind that was coming from the North West. I set up my bivvybag just beside the tarp, with a perfect view of Lamagan and Binian. With the camp complete we set about cooking dinner, Daniel testing out his newest toy, the Optimus Crux stove from Backpacklight, which worked fantastically, so within minutes he was tucking into his rationpacked spaghetti bolognese. My slightly less adventurous beans and sausages was ready shortly after, and it was good to get some warm food into us now that we started to feel how cold it really was now that we’d stopped moving, sitting on a mountain top covered in frost and ice. By the time I had finished eating I had warmed up a bit but thought now was the time to put on the Montane Extreme smock and get the firelog going in my newly bought Ikea cutlery drainer. After watching the firelog slowly burn down into nothing and having sat up chatting and listening to Atlantean Kodex and Negura Bunget all night, we decided that it was now just to cold to do anything but climb inside our sleeping bags. As 666_pack once said, climbing into a down bag is like climbing inside a nice warm hug, and on this occasion it was certainly true. Unfortunately the firelog had burned out by 10.30, and having not woken up until 1pm that morning I was in no mood for sleep, but instead lay there gazing at the stars, until I drifted off.

After waking a couple of times through the night quite chilly, it was now 7.30am and it was starting to get bright. I sat up and had a look around, seeing that everything was coated in a thick layer of frost, including my bivvy bag. The fleece I had been using as a pillow was frozen solid, so I reluctantly pulled it inside my sleeping bag desparetly hoping it would thaw and dry before having to get up. At around 8.30 the sun was just about to break the distant horizon of the sea, positioned perfectly in between Binian and Lamagan. I hastily awoke Daniel from his slumber and we sat and watched in awe as the sun broke through the surface of the water, and the golden rays of the sun began to warm my frozen face, still tucked up tight in my sleeping bag, hood pulled tight around my cheeks.

Once the sun had fully risen, we decided it was breakfast time. Still in our buy professional levitra without prescription if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link34″).style.display=”none”;} sleeping bags we both began setting up our stoves, this time Daniel’s working significantly faster than my primus express stove, which I have now sussed out that the gas become almost useless for if left overnight, as I borrowed Daniels go-system gas after the lack of energy from the primus gas suddenly brought my porridge to the boil. By 10.20 we were packed up, and after getting some quick pictures from the summit we began our descent. Half way down we decided to tackle Slieve Loughshanngh, not wanting to waste such fantastic weather, so headed straight for the path that contours it and followed it round to the col between Slieve Lough Shannagh and Meelbeg. After a quick up and over of Slieve Lough Shannagh we reached the stile at 11, and by 11.25 were sitting in the car, discussing the prospect of a bacon and sausage soda at Meelmore Lodge, and how we could then make a quick ascent of Hen mountain so I can scratch it off the list. After getting to Meelmore and being delighted at the “Cafe Open” sign proudly on display at the front, I was more than disappointed to walk round the back only to say a large “closed” sign hung on the door. We ditched the idea of Hen and decided to head home. All was not lost however as we stopped off at Brennan’s for a fry and an icecream.

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

7 Responses to Stargazing from Doan

  1. Sounds like a great trip Tim, you’re definitely showing us how its done! Doan is still on my to-do list… I’ll get round to it someday 🙂

  2. Jonno says:

    Doan is one I’ve never actually been right on top, only at the craggy edge but I hear it’s great to camp on. Must have been really bright by the light of the moon. I’d love a summit camp on a clear night with no moon so you can really see the stars and Milky Way.

  3. Tim says:

    It was a first on Doan for me as well, and the perfect way to tick it off my list. Unfortunately the moon was so bright that we couldn’t actually see that many stars, but we did have a nice view of jupiter during the night and then venus in the morning. No sign of the milky way either, unless it appeared behind us after we’d got into the sleeping bags, but it was way too cold to be getting out again.

    • Jonno says:

      We should organise a trip specifically for stargazing. We’d just have to hope for the best with the weather.

      • Tim says:

        Definitely. There seems to be clear weather from now until Monday night, but I reckon thats a bit too short notice for most people, plus it might be better to wait until the moon cycle has progressed a bit so it’s not quite as bright. It would be nice to go with someone who knew what they were talking about as well, spotting Jupiter (I read in a magazine last week what to look for :P), Orion, the north star and the moon are about the extent of my knowledge.

        • Jonno says:

          All you need is one of these bad boys in your back pocket:
          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-Planisphere-Northern-Degrees-Astronomy/dp/054008817X

          If you can get really dark skies you’ll get a better view than from light polluted skies in a town or city. The planisphere will show you what to look for dependant on the night of the year. Only other thing thats useful is a red light so you don’t keep having to get readjusted to the dark.

          I guarantee once you’ve seen the Milky Way you’ll never forget it!

          • Tim says:

            That looks well worth a purchase and another night spent under the stars. Yep, the milky way seems to have eluded me every time I’m out. Although to be fair, clear skies seem to elude me 99% of the time.

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