It wasn’t the day for a climb up Slieve Donard if the aim was a good view. Nevertheless ascending a hill in thick fog does alter the perspective, heightening the sense of hearing while giving few visual references from which to work.
The walk started almost at sea level with a steep path up through Donard Wood following the Glen River. The water cascades over slabs of rock in a small but often steep-sided ravine. This was the grounds of Annesley Demesne and has suffered the fate of many such places with Rhododendron taking over and hiding the river; although much work has been done in clearing it. The woodland itself is largely pine changing to fir at the upper extent, some trees have done reasonably well but this is tough ground and the exposed edges are stunted and gnarled.
Just beyond the tree line is an old ice house; a high and inconvenient location out on the hillside. It must have been close to the ice supply but it must have been a tough job transporting the ice down the rough ground to the house, not that it would have been a concern of the owner. The path climbs slowly upwards to the Mourne Wall; a massive structure and a huge and tough undertaking from the early 20th century when it was constructed to enclose the reservoir catchment to the south and keep livestock out. The wall climbs the steep side of Slieve Donard and makes a right angle turn at the top, a little turret carries the trig pillar and is dated 1910.
The final ascent turned more and more bleak, the wind picked up although the wall offered some shelter and the ground became more and more snow-covered. An occasional meadow pipit call broke the sound of the wind and the sound of boots on the rocky path.
One disappointment of the walk was the huge scattering of orange peel. It seems that the expectation that it is ‘biodegradable’ makes it OK to throw it down (along with banana skins) but in the hills, and particularly in the cold of winter, it takes ages to decay. Why, if you can carry an orange up a hill is it not possible to carry the peel back down?