Iain Miller of Unique Ascent made the best of the recent cold spell to sample winter conditions on the Iconic Muckish Mountain in County Donetal. Ian is a mountain instructor living, working and playing in the uplands and sea stacks of County Donegal.
Winter in Ireland is a very fleeting mistress with a sudden drop in the ambient air temperature and an even swifter rise in temperature, Winter conditions in the Irish mountains can come and go in a single day. It is when a period of extended cold weather hits the Emerald Isle, it is then that its mountains are transformed into a true winter wonderland.
At the northern end of The Derryveagh Mountains in County Donegal lives a huge flat topped mountain called Muckish named from the Irish, Mucais or an Mhucais, meaning the pig’s back. The south face of the mountain holds the easiest and most popular route to it’s huge flat topped summit. The north face of Muckish is a completely different beast as the entire face is dominated by a huge steep sided corrie. This corrie holds the remains of the ancient mining works used long ago to extract the high grade quartz sand from the mountain, the sand was then used to produce high quality glass.
The old miners track into the corrie provides an excellent and easy summer navigation route into the corrie and up onto the summit of the mountain. When winter hits county Donegal this corrie is transformed into an outstanding winter mountaineering venue. The steep normally wet sides of the corrie freeze and are plastered with snow. With a few freeze/ thaw cycles this snow soon consolidates and is quickly transformed into superb neve. This neve provides outstanding underfoot conditions for winter walking into this magnificent corrie. The miners track is quite steep in places and a single walking axe and crampons are recommended as the track weaves its way up and through several amazing but steep gullies to the huge summit plateau.
From the summit of Muckish Mountain the views are vast, uninterrupted and breathtaking as far as the eye can see towards the Slievetooey massif to the South, the Inishowen Peninsula to the North and the surrounding Derryveagh mountains. Muckish Mountain is living proof that you do not have to travel abroad for a truly great winter mountaineering experience.
Mant thanks to Iain Miller for providing us with the piece. You can download a fee Donegal winter mountaineering guidebook at