Mountain Environment Weekend

When I saw a photograph of the ripple marks at the highest mountain in Ireland for the first time I wouldn't imagine that my curiosity will lead me to spend a wonderful weekend at the MacGillicuddy Reeks sometime later!

As a part of National Biodiversity Week, Mountaineering Ireland hosted "Mountain Environment Weekend" (26th - 28th May 2017) at Cappanalea Outdoor Education & Training Centre, Killorglin, Co. Kerry.

The event was delivered in conjunction with Cappanalea OETC, Killarney National Park Education Centre, and the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum, with input from a number of individuals with expertise on different aspects of the mountain environment.

Outcrop of Devonian sandstone with an interesting layering

The event took place on the last weekend of May 2017. On Friday evening participants were welcomed by Michael Maunsell (Chair of Mountaineering Ireland`s Access and Conservation Committee) who presented a brief overview of weekend`s programme. Later it moved on to a guest speaker - Valerie O`Sullivan - a renowned and award-winning photographer who published her book "The MacGillacuddy's Reeks - People and Places of Ireland's Highest Mountain Range" in 2016.

Michael Maunsell and Valerie O'Sullivan with a copy of her new book "The MacGillycuddy's Reeks"(2016)

Saturday morning started with my short presentation on the geology of Ireland, Kerry's and the MacGillycuddy's Reeks. Participants received a hard copy of materials helpful in identification of some of the geological structures and landforms.

Studying geology of The MacGillycuddy's Reeks before our first hike

We spent most of the day outside exploring the MacGillycuddy`s Reeks. Our hike started from the Hydro Road car park (mountain access point 3 - Breanlee in MacGillycuddy's Reeks) and followed up towards Lough Eagher to Counmloughra Glen. During the hike we made several stops and talked about different landforms, habitats and species we came across. Helen Lawless (Mountaineering Ireland) spoke on conservation issues and threats on the natural habitats. One of my favorite part of the hike was to learn about the St. Patrick's Cabbage (Saxifraga spathularis). It is a distinctly Irish plant, being found only on the Island of Ireland as well as Spain and Portugal. It looks amazing! My favorite mountain flower so far.

St. Patrick's Cabbage (Saxifraga spathularis)

Michael Maunsell and the ripple marks on the Devonian Old Red Sandstone

On Sunday morning, our hike started from Lisliebane Parking Area. We were blessed with the weather and the views of Carrauntoohil and glaciated valley of MacGillicuddy Reeks were magnificent. We climbed up over rocky outcrops of the red sandstone and conglomerates to Knockbrinea. Stepping on the soft carpet made of heather and moss, we discovered one of the smallest of woody plant - dwarf willow (Salix herbacea).

A quick chat at the Lisleibane Car Park. A word of advise on ticks from Chris Baron

The love from Mother Nature is visible from everywhere!

The smallest "tree" in the highest mountain in Ireland (Dwarf Willow)

That was a truly amazing experience. I am grateful to Mike and Helen for inviting me on this adventure. Being able to share my passion and knowledge on some aspects of mountain geology was a really enjoyable experience. I thank the entire group for being interested in the geological part, for sharing their knowledge from different fields, which I would not think I could be interested in.

Here is an interactive map telling the whole story of the Mountain Environment Weekend. If you are unable to see it properly, please follow the link to open it in a new window


HELEN LAWLESS - Helen Lawless is in the lucky position of being able to combine her passion for the mountains with her role as Mountaineering Ireland's Hillwalking, Access & Conservation Officer. Helen works across the island of Ireland, aiming to protect Ireland’s mountains, coastline and crags, to secure access and to encourage responsible enjoyment of these places. Helen lives in the Wicklow Mountains; her spare time is divided between enjoying the mountains and volunteering in her local community.

MICHAEL MAUNSELL - Michael Maunsell is a Lecturer in Conservation & Biodiversity Management, with a research interest specifically in mountain environments and has established Mountain Research Ireland in order to promote cooperation and research on mountain environments in Ireland. Michael has over 30 years’ experience of working as a climber and researcher in mountain environments throughout the world. Michael is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Chairperson of Mountaineering Ireland’s Access & Conservation Committee and represents Mountaineering Ireland on the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission.

GOSIA HORAJSKA - Gosia is a project geologist who came to Ireland 11 years ago to visit a friend and fell in love with the Emerald Isle. She gained her qualification from AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow and specialises in mineralogy and geochemistry, with an interest in gemmology. Gosia has worked as a project geologist for a number of years in Ireland and7became fascinated by Geographical Information Systems, in which she later obtained a degree at UCC. In 2014 while working for GoKerry Gosia took an interest on geotourism and decided to focus on Kerry geology. As a result of Kerry excursions, mainly in North Kerry, she is developing a blog page “KerryGeoAdventures”.

CHRIS BARRON - Chris Barron is the manager of Killarney National Park Education Centre, based at Knockreer House in Killarney. Chris is a mine of information on birds, mammals and some invertebrates (creatures without a backbone). Through his work in the Education Centre, Chris engages with groups of people of all ages and abilities to help them further their appreciation of the outdoors and especially the species and habitats that they encounter. He also lectures part-time at IT Tralee on the Wildlife Biology BSc in Habitat Conservation Management, Land Use and Irish Wildlife Studies.

TONY NAGLE - Tony Nagle BSc (Environmental Management), MSc (Ecological Assessment) has a background in avian research focussing on birds of prey. Tony has participated in numerous national bird surveys and has been a regional organiser for the National Hen Harrier Survey and the National Peregrine Falcon survey. In addition, he takes part in ongoing surveys such as the Irish Wetland Bird Survey (IWeBS), the Countryside Bird Survey and he is also involved in ongoing studies of the Common Buzzard and Barn Owl in County Cork. He has been interested in bird-watching since his childhood in the 1970s. He has been a member of BirdWatch Ireland since 1978 and he has been actively involved in the Irish Raptor Study Group since 1998. Tony was a regional co-ordinator for the recently published Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland. In 2013, he became a full-time Ecologist and he has since gained considerable experience in carrying out ecological8impact assessments for a variety of major projects including waste water treatment and wind energy projects.

VALERIE O’SULLIVAN - Valerie O’Sullivan is a full-time photographer based in Killarney, Co Kerry. Her specialities are covering outdoor and adventure events. Valerie regularly contributes photographs to the Irish Farmers’ Journal and national newspapers. She has published several books and won many national awards in photography. Her book The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks – People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range was published in 2016. For more about Valerie and her work see

Here is report from Fiona Buckley (Midleton Climbing Club) on environmental weekend published in Irish Mountain Log, Issue 122

#OldRedSandstone #ripplemarks #MacGillycuddyReeks #Carrauntoohil #hillwalking #climbing #biodiversity #learning

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