A Baker’s Dozen in the Bluestack Mountains: 2
Thankful for the refreshing gift of a sound night’s sleep, I woke just after dawn to the smell of coffee. An ethereal mist had crept in from the sea swallowing views of Donegal Town, but the sky was clear, the sun already warm; it promised to be another scorcher. Breaking camp, we began the steep descent from Croaghbane involving mild scrambling over granite cliffs towards Ardnageer, a fin of rock reflected in a bog lough in the col below. Approaching the summit, we disturbed two grouse which took off protesting noisily. The summit gave views over Lough Belshade, indigo and mysterious in the morning light, while on the northern horizon the quartzite cone of Errigal rose majestically above the Derryveagh Mountains. We passed over Ardnageer SW Top close to a strange outcrop of gleaming quartz on its NW flank, behind which Lavagh More looked ominously high.
Before we scaled its heights, we had to surmount the highest point on the traverse: Croaghgorm. The route was incised with steep gullies of exposed granite with carpets of bog in their bottoms. In one, we found the wreckage of a RAF Sunderland DW110 which crashed in January 1944 claiming 7 lives. The highest point in the Bluestacks gained, we were over half way through the traverse. A gentler descent off Croaghgorm over heath and grass took us past Lough Cronagorma fringed with bog cotton nodding ragged white heads in the breeze and sporting a colony of stringy bogbean. Here I disturbed a fledgling meadow pipit which fluttered clumsily across the water and lay cowering amid a tangle of vegetation. I gently picked it up, a fragile little ball of warm fluff and feathers, its tiny heart pounding against the palm of my hand. Released from my grasp, it soon disappeared. Motionless, its plumage provided a perfect camouflage.
The pull up Lavagh More was punishing in the heat. Besides midges, we now had horseflies to contend with; I could feel their razor sharp mouth parts slicing into my skin. The summit gained, we had lunch before assailing Lavagh Beg, passing above several loughs in the boggy basin between Silver Hill and Binnasruell. The turbines of the wind farm near Carnaween still looked very far away. From Silver Hill to Cullaghacre, up to the foot of Carnaween, the route was mostly exposed peat hags and squelching bog. After halting at Miley’s Lough for a cuppa, we assailed the quartzite slopes of Carnaween, the final summit of our baker’s dozen. Following makeshift waymarks (Carnaween is climbed the 1st Sunday in June) we descended steadily over heath, heading for a picnic area at the end of an old boreen by an abandoned cottage where we were to be collected. We should have stuck to the waymarkers but took a short cut and unfortunately veered off into a stinking morass of boot sucking bog and waist high reeds. Thoughts of a cool beer, a hot shower and an escape from midge misery now crowded my mind. I was mightily relieved to see the taxi driver who welcomed us back to civilisation!