Varied, strenuous wild Bluestacks walk.
This varied route explores the two Ardnageers, Croaghbane, Croaghbarnes and the ridge north east of there, one of the finest ridges in Donegal, though unsung. As well as the usual risks this route can be badly affected by overflowing rivers.
Originally this was to be a spot of summit completion, going over three Vandeleur-Lynams, however we extended it to Croaghbarnes and its NE ridge. The final walk has a grand mixture of experiences including steep ascents, airy ridges, bog and granite pavement.
Warning. This route crosses two rivers, the Owendoo and the Owengarve. Both of these could become impassable after rain. When we crossed it was over 18 hours after heavy rain had stopped. The water had receded however it was clear that the streams would most probably have been impassable earlier. As you can see from the OS map the Croaghbarnes ridge is surrounded by rivers making it possible to become nearly trapped.
The ascent of Ardnageer SW (626m) starts with a mid-level traverse before reaching the broad ridge between it and Ardnageer main top. From Ardnageer to Croaghbane expect 3 major granite sided notches crossing your path and requiring walkarounds.
From Croaghbane the drop to the SE col is infamously steep however our track shows a route which was mostly quite reasonable. Reaching the bottom of the col, you should be able to see Lough Belshade. Though undescribed (as far as I could find) the ridge NE from here which forms one side of the Owendoo valley is a fine example of a U shaped valleyside having over 2km of rounded shape topped by granite cliffs.
From Croaghbarnes the continuing ridge NE has long patches of bare granite pavement which is weathered and whitish. It is crossed by occasional notches of 10 to 15m just to make your walk more interesting. In places you can almost imagine that the ice left last year so sparse is the vegetation and so striking the oddly perched rocks.
West of Cronamuck is a near cliff so we retraced our step for an easier descent from the col between Cronamuck and the mean little Meenanea. From the valley floor the return to the start commences in earnest with a slog up Cronakerry (ridge extending NE from Croaghbane) over unpleasant long grass.
Returning to Gaugin we aimed for a forest road marked on the map but apparently missed by 100-200m to the right. Future visitors might check if this track does exist. The way we took beside a stream was possible but not optimum.