As a counterpoint to when the hills are aflame, here’s a selection of photos from an album I put together a few years back when they certainly weren’t!

1/1/10: Had just gotten my tungsten carbide studded snow tyres and then it snowed. Somebody was telling me to get up to the “impassable” Sally Gap and prove them wrong… or right!

Killakee Lookout in Snow
The view from the Killakee lookout point. The road from Tallaght all the way up here was passable and there was very little snow up to here. Several families were playing in the snow, building snowmen and sledding on the little hill. The ride through the suburbs wasn’t as dull as usual: I used it to get a feel for how much grip the snow tyres gave me. It was funny: I overtook a few cars as their drivers carefully negotiated their big and clumsy hunks of metal through the snow.

Road Closed #1
Road closed. No problem. Skipped on through and got my first feel for how the bike handles in loose snow. It’s a bit like loose sand: if it’s more than a couple of inches you’re better off walking. Luckily some four wheel drives had already been up and had compacted the snow, allowing me to cycle up.

Snowy Military Road
The military road built by the British after the 1798 rebellion to help them put down insurgents in the mountains. Maybe they should have installed under-road heating?

Kippure in Snow and Sun
What a beautiful day. I had to take off my coat at the start of the climb as there was no wind and it was quite hot. That’s iconic Kippure (757m) with its TV mast beside the sun. It dominated the skyline for much of the cycle (code for “you’ll be seeing too many photos of it”!). (Actually, haven’t included most of the other Kippure photos from the original album.)

Studded Tyres
It’s amazing how much grip you have on snow and ice with spiked tyres. I’d have taken the heavy steel touring bike up (and maybe died!) except for the fact that I couldn’t get 29er versions back then. Have them now so next time, maybe!

Real 4WD
This was the only real 4WD I saw out there. It had managed to slog it through some fresh snow and snowdrifts, while those in the toys designed for city driving gingerly followed. Wisely, the driver called it a day here and he and the passengers got out to play in the snow. Took a family picture for them. Hope it came out well!

Footprints in the Snow
I started walking from here, not far from the Dublin/Wicklow border. Plan was to turn back at one. Hadn’t started ’till about 10:30-11:00 so I’d missed a precious 2.5 – 3 hours of daylight. And we only get around eight at this time of the year!

Snow Parking (groan!)
Wouldn’t park there. Too much snow.

Footsteps in the Snow
Only one set of footprints now. Being in a wilderness area gives you a real feeling of peace. It’s too bad we don’t really have many places with no roads here. Looks like Gaia’s claiming back what’s rightfully hers (or something – I’m not a hippie, I swear!).

Tyre and Foot Prints
That’s better!

Abandoned Vehicle #1
An abandoned 4WD. No fresh tracks or footprints now.

White Glencree Valley
Glencree and the Great Sugarloaf.

Glencree Turn Off
Dropped down a bit and rode it all the way down. Road was better as some 4WDs had managed to get up from the road to Enniskerry.

Road Closed #2
Another “road closed” sign. Here we go again…

Another Climb
Climbing again. Had to walk all the way up here. I’d realised that you can only ride on fresh snow when it’s frozen on the flat and going downhill. You need to go fast enough so your tyres don’t sink. Can’t do that going uphill. Especially not this section as it’s the steepest.

Abandoned Vehicle #2
An abandoned car. It’s covered in snow.

Us Snow Crystals
Nobody inside but us snow crystals. Looks like the occupants had to climb out the windows. Or they forgot to close them. Either way there’s loads of snow in there!

Above Loughs Bray
Looking back. About bloody time. Now I can speed things up by actually cycling the odd stretch! I had passed an escape route down to Glencree. I could easily turn back at this point and get out of the snow…

Couple of Prints
…onward! Two sets of footprints had been this way.

Hunting Footprints
Like this one. Those two sets of footprints side by side: my ancient hunter-gatherer senses told me that two bipedal, mid-sized beasts had been this way not so long ago. The hunt was on!

Oops. Stepped off the road.

Abandoned Vehicle #3
That’s a bit careless. Should have taken his bike instead!

Sally Gap
At last! The Sally Gap. Thought I’d reached it first but the couple in the distance had been there already. My original plan was to try and get down to lough Tay and Luggala but I’d long since decided that I’d better get the hell down before I ran out of daylight. The couple (from eastern Europe, not Ireland of course) told me that it was much worse over that way with more dunes and drifts so they turned back.

Glenmacnass Road
Would have really loved to go this way. The descent by Glenmacnass waterfall would have been great. Not enough time though. Maybe I’d have been walking it anyway!

Took Bloody Ages to Get Here!
Dublin: 38km. Only about 32km to where I was going (wherever that was!); one hour of good daylight left; took me 4-4.5 hours to get here…

Looking Back...
The way I’d come.

The Way Forward...
The road towards Kilbride and Blessington. At least it’d be mostly downhill from here.

Abandoned Vehicle #4
Subar-ooh, bar-ooh,
Where are you?
We got some work to do now.

Snowed in? Uh, never mind!

Abandoned Vehicles #5 & 6
Two more

Liffey Bridge
Over the infant Liffey.

Abandoned Vehicle #7
Another. Total number of abandoned vehicles: seven. Would have thought that this road would be the best way to get up seeing as it’s quite gradual but I guess not.

Advised a car full of more eastern Europeans to turn back about here. Wouldn’t want another abandoned car. Would be a pain in the arse to walk back to Dublin from here. The cycle itself was hardly all that enjoyable once you hit the N81. Funny how the Irish aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the country as our guests.

Tore back from here, overtaking other vehicles that couldn’t go as fast. Wasn’t until the N81 before I was overtaken again. Didn’t take any more pictures though as I wanted to get back quickly! Had lights and so on but there was a very cold wind coming up to the gap and my feet were very cold. Enough for me to be concerned about frostbite. Took about 50 minutes wrapped in sheets to right themselves, although I never completely lost sensation. Still, I helped some lads push their car up the hill to the overpass in Citywest anyway. You never have too little time to help people out… well, unless you’re a motorist: the bastards queued up behind us as we struggled to push that car and then snook past when they saw a gap. What complete pricks!

Total time was about 6.5 hours. If I was to do this trip again I’d bring an extra pair of socks for the ride home on the road and my ski goggles: it was really bright up there. Never thought of snow blindness when I was packing. Would have to bring a water bottle too: the water in the hose of my Camelbak froze on that ride down the hill…


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