On the map our route across the Mangertons looked straightforward, if somewhat twisty in the first part, but as we found out en route, a map can be deceptive. We planned to do the walk over two days, taking time to video our journey and include a bivy overnight and because of this we were weighed down with camera equipment, sleeping and cooking gear and food. The walk starts by a farmhouse at the end of a minor road off the Glenflesk to Lough Guitane road where we sought permission from the owner to leave our car overnight. From here we followed a farm track towards Crohane, the first summit. This track affords splendid views of Lough Guitane and the route ahead, especially the deep and narrow valleys either side of Bennaunmore. After about 2.5km and just before the end of the farm track at W 04702 83885, we took a small indistinct path which leads to the summit of Crohane with its scattered batteries from a long defunct TV deflector. A quick descent leads to Crohane SW top where we then made a steep descent westwards down a gulley to the valley just north of Lough Nabroda. Here we stopped to fire up our stove for a hot meal, taking water from the lake and enjoying the impressive rhyolite rock formations, created during a phase of volcanic activity in the Devonian period.
We then tackled a very steep 175m climb up a narrow gulley that leads almost to the summit of Bannaunmore. As Simon3 (Trail 1502) has described, this ascent averages about 59% but the steepest parts are more like 185% or 60 degrees and great care was needed, especially as we were carrying heavy backpacks and a slip here would be serious. The direct descent from Bannaunmore to the beautiful valley of the meandering Cappagh River, was down a gulley to the SW that is slightly less steep than the ascent but perhaps a bit more dangerous, with tricky route finding to avoid vertical cliffs and large boulders interspersed with deep holes obscured by thick carpets of moss and heather where a lower leg injury was a real possibility. Passing through reeds and long grass where deer were grazing, we picked our way across the river and headed west through a grove of ancient oak trees, following the north bank of a tributary of the river. This delightful valley, with numerous waterfalls cascading over cliffs from Lough Fineen, was marred by wet tussocky ground and pestilential clouds of midges, which sapped our energy somewhat.
Near the top of the valley we topped up our water supply from a crystal clear burbling brook, before turning NW towards Stoompa East top and then on towards Stoompa where we bivvyed for the night just below and east of the summit (to shelter from the wind). Here we enjoyed superb views of the mountains we had climbed, as well as the Paps beyond, before the mist quietly rolled in snatching away the fine views and swallowing the sunset. The following morning after a grey dawn, a quick ascent to Stoompa which boasts magnificent scenery over Killarney Bay was followed by a spectacular traverse around the eastern and southern rims of Horses Glen with its impressive glacial lakes to the summit of Mangerton. Care is needed in places as the winding pathway is quite eroded in places and very close to vertical drops into the glen.
Pulling ourselves away from the delightful scenes of the Devil’s Punchbowl and the mist churning enigmatically within the Horses Glen, we turned across the bog towards the relatively non-descript summit of Mangerton. From here a gentle and easy descent past eroded peat hags and then down a long grassy slope gave way to rocky and boggy ground as we headed towards Dromeralough NE top. From here to the main Dromeralough summit is only about 1km, but negotiating rocky ridges, meandering along lake sides and avoiding bog and tussocks made this part of the route very slow. However, this section is hugely enjoyable with the numerous picturesque loughs and excellent views, especially northwards to the Reeks and Dunkerrons. Similar ground is encountered on the traverse to Knockbrack from where it is necessary to almost double back on the route onwards to Knockrower in order to avoid an unnecessary descent over boggy ground to Lough Nambrackdarrig.
From Knockrower the descent down its western side is relatively benign over grassy ground interspersed with bracken towards an old boreen along the valley floor. We followed this southwards for around 2km (occasionally losing it as it was swallowed by the bog) past abandoned homesteads, until it joined an unsealed track. Following this track for another 2km (the later part is paved) we reached the cross roads with the Old Kenmare Road (and the Kerry Way). We could have walked the 4km to Kenmare from here but chose to call for a taxi to collect us and take us back to our car at the starting point. This was a most enjoyable trek across one of Ireland’s most impressive and scenic mountain ranges and one we highly recommend. Apart from the pathway above the Devil’s Punchbowl, we didn’t see a soul for two days and the route is by and large wild, unspoilt and offers a real challenge, crossing as it does such varied, and at times, tricky terrain.
For a taste of this route and the adjacent Dunkerron's see kernowclimber’s blog on kernowclimber.blogspot.ie and our video on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/102921209 or on Youtube at http://youtu.be/iiovo-tLcp0