The Faha ridge walk proceeds from an East to West direction toward Mt Brandon. Faha Ridge is on the above and to the North of the regular route up Brandon from Cloghane, known as the Pilgrim’s Path.The route starts out as a gentle incline up a grassy slope, but once the slope levels out, the ridge narrows into, in places, a knife-edge arête with stimulating views on either side, down to the Pilgrims path and Locha Chom an Chnoic to the South, and Coimín na gCnámh to the North.
: There are a number of routes up and around Brandon that are known as Pilgrim's paths - the main, and most frequently used, one being from Cloghane straight up toward Brandon, under the Faha ridge. The other, less frequently used, is over by Más-an-Tiompáin, and continues over the Brandon range of hills toward Muiríoch and Ballydavid.
See Mt Brandon main page.
Follow the Pilgrim’s path uphill from the Faha Car park, until the marked path comes close to the ridgeline. Leave the marked route, which proceeds parallel to, and below, the ridge and hike up to the ridge line, in a Northerly direction, until you come to the remnants of a stone wall. Hike parallel to the wall up the ridgeline. The wall, marked on OS map 70, continues almost two thirds of the way up. A faint path mark should be visible on the South side of the wall. On the Northern side, the slope drops away quite precipitously toward the Owennafeana river.
Once at the top of the slope (at point 822 on OS Map 70), the ridge-walk begins. See the route map photo for a rough idea of the path route. The path becomes more noticeable here, and is quite easy to follow.
The route initially starts with a gentle decline along a grassy slope towards a lower summit. The ground then becomes a little more rocky but the path remains quite visible as it continues down to the first notch. The first notch can be dealt with without difficulty, and the walk then starts a gradual incline up a mixed rock and grass slope, until the ridge flattens out somewhat, toward point 809 on OS Map 70. The path then declines again, down toward the second notch, where there is need for some gentle scrambling down to a slightly inclining rock plateau.
Quite suddenly, the walker comes to the end of the rock plateau (third notch) and is faced with a sheer drop of perhaps 10-15 metres down to the saddle visible in the centre left of the picture. Any evidence of a path seems to disappear at the edge of the drop, and it takes a few minutes examination before a possible route down a rock chimney is found to the right with, if recent, the occasional mark of a boot on the small ledges half way down. This is perhaps the best scrambling on the route, and both hands and feet are needed to obtain the bottom.
Once at the saddle, you leave the rock wall you’ve just come down, but are faced with an altogether more formidable wall looming above you. Though there are some signs of a path going around toward the South and possibly in the direction of the Cloghane Pilgrims Path route, ignore this and take the path to the right-hand side of the rock wall, on the side of Coimín na gCnámh.
The route now becomes a traverse across and up a mixed rock and grass slope, which in places is quite steep. In wet and/or snowy conditions this section of the route can be quite treacherous. Any slip could very easily result in a slide and drop over the cliffs beneath. Traverse along the slope in an E-W direction until you come close to a rocky outcrop and start following a faint gully up to the right. Keep traversing upwards E-W until you’ve passed over the rocky outcrop.
Once over the outcrop, the slope becomes more rock than grass, and the hiker, continuing in an upward E-W direction, should traverse across until a shallow grassy gully, running down the slope in a N-S direction, is reached. Scramble up the gully in a Southerly direction until the top is reached, close to point 891 on OS Map 70.
Mount Brandon summit is but a short hike away in a Southerly direction, along a well worn path, joined by the Cloghane Pilgrims Path route where it rises out of the Locha Chom an Chnoic coum.
Same as Más an Tiompáin-Piaras Mór-Brandon-Brandon Peak Ridge Walk. A GPS is very handy if the weather is bad, as visibility can be reduced to next-to-nothing, with precious little view of any landmarks, save large shadows in the gloom.
The best map for Brandon as a whole is the 1:50 000 Ordnance Survey Discovery Map No. 70. This is probably too small a map for the Faha ridge route, however, and I'm unsure if a 1:25 000 map of the area exists. (Addition: A 1:25000 map of the area does
exist, but I can't remember the name of it)
A Note of Warning
In times of bad weather and visibility (which is the way of things most of the time on Brandon), this path takes on altogether a more formidable aspect, particularly toward the latter stages, where aspects can appear quite menacing. When I last did it in April of 2008, visibility was down to about 10 feet, and the final traverse was up a grassy slope with about 5-6 inches of melting snow underfoot, resulting in the surface being extremely slippy with no trace whatsoever of even a sheep trail. I was glad to get to the top and indebted to my GPS.
The photos give an idea of the terrain that must be negotiated on the route. Elements of the route are sometimes easier than they look, but this is still not a route to be undertaken lightly. Any semblance of a path occasionally disappears, and walkers need judge the best route to follow. To risk stating the obvious, this walk should only be undertaken by those with good route finding skills and the ability to get themselves either up or back down safely if the weather turns nasty.
A Note of Stupidity
After completing the route in April 2008, in bad fog, snow and a freezing wind at the top of the gully leading to point 891, I met four people in trainers blundering toward the edge I had just come up, in the mistaken belief that they were heading towards Brandon summit proper. Brandon summit was in fact directly behind them. In horrendous weather, they lacked rain-gear, a compass and even a map. I'm regularly amazed that there aren’t more call-outs for mountain rescue on Irish hills due to the drastic lack of preparedness of many of those who head out hiking.