dino: Track 4662 in area near Cruach Eoghanach, Bluestack Mountains (Ireland)
Croaghonagh (Barnesmore) The Hard Way
Length: 9.8km, Creator time taken: 4h33m, Ascent: 434m, Descent: 415m
Places:Start at H0453687427, Cruach Eoghanach, end at Start Logged as completed by 1
The usual route for many to the summit of Croaghonagh is via the access track used to service the ugly crown of masts. This route gives a more challenging option.
Parking is close to the main N15 leaving the road at the entrance to the quarry and more recent Meenbog Windfarm. There is a small track on the right just after entry and a couple of hundred metres later there is a wide area that will accomodate a number of vehicles out of sight of the main road.
This access track sits on the remains of the West Donegal Railway/Donegal Railway Company narrow guage line that ran between Stranorlar and Donegal Town from 1889 to 1959. As you walk Southwest on the track through the small forest plantation and out on to the side of the Gap you can see many relics of the railway. The raised flat track is very clearly cut into the side of the hill and many telegraph poles are still in place. The gravel used to grade the line and support the rails is clear to see on many sections and there is still a hint of humps where the sleepers sat. There are many stone features that have survived since the construction of the line with retaining walls on the hillside above and stone culverts that were built to carry the many streams safely under the tracks.
As you exit the forest there is a gate that is to prevent grazing sheep from straying into the forest. This gate is topped by barbed wire as is the fence beside and requires care to cross. As far as I know there is no issue with access along this track and the wire is probably there to prevent fly tipping. There are no signs to deter access and I am not aware of any issues in the area. However, the area is used for sheep grazing and discretion is advised if walking with a dog.
Approximately 3.5km will bring you almost to the far side of the Gap with Biddy's O' Barnes visible in the valley below. A few hundred metres before a second gate a handy sheep track on the left will give you a reasonably easy spot to cross the stone wall and access the hill.
The next section involves picking the best route possible through the deep grass and heather and through the many small craggy hillocks that dominate the terrain. This is difficult terrain to walk with hidden holes and no tracks to follow. It's a matter of picking your best line, using vague sheep tracks and heading in a general easterly direction. On your way you will cross a soggy gully with a small stream. This is pretty steep sided so try and enter on the lower SW end rather than having to scramble back down the ridge unecessarily. At the top of this gully you then need to aim for a steep grassy ramp between two knuckles of the hill. My visit was in April and this ramp stood out green against the rest of the hill and was clearly visible (H 03100 84714). At the top of this ramp don't be tempted to follow the easy ground. Instead climb the steep but short side of the gully and you will be rewarded with your first view of the summit.
The rest of the walk to the summit is across an exposed peaty area that is a mixture of grass, peat hags and rock outcrops, typical Bluestack terrain. My visit was after a week of very warm and dry weather so the ground was mostly dry and compact but care would be needed here after any period of wet weather as the ground felt like it could be quite boggy. As you approach the summit there are a number of dips with the final approach up a large rocky outcrop that was satisfying after all the grass and bog. On this section I spotted two mountain hares that my dog had great fun pretending she wanted to catch!
Leave the summit by the mast access track with two options to descend. The first is to simply follow the access track to the T junction at the bottom, turn left and follow the track all the way to the quarry and the parking spot (Approximately 5km). At the time of writing Meenbog Windfarm was in construction and access along this track could be problematic especially Monday-Friday during works.
The second option and the one this route follows, is to descend down the steep face of the hill. After 200m on the track head off into a clearly visible gully that has been cut by a stream that eventually drops down the steep face of the hill to the railway track. This is a difficult descent with a very steep gradient. It requires a lot of patience and care to choose the best line on the day. There are many hidden holes and trip hazards with potentially disatrous outcomes so it should not be taken lightly. I would strongly advise that this descent should not be attempted when the ground is wet or slippery.
I found the terrain to the right of the stream to be the best in general although I did have to cross over a number of times. Eventually you will reach the remains of an ancient fenceline and if you keep to the right of this you will stay away from the steepest area of the gully and reach the forest treeline. I found the rest of the descent was best completed a few metres into the trees as the ground cover was much lower and the trees gave handy supports on the steepest sections. I felt this was a good tradeoff for having to scramble over the ocassional dead fall.
Eventually you will reach the railway line track once again and turning right you have an enjoyable 1.5km stroll back to the parking spot.
Uploaded on: Mon, 25 Apr 2022 (08:48:30) Linkback: https://mountainviews.ie/track/4662/ To download GPS tracks you must be enrolled and logged in. See "Login or enrol", top right - quick and easy.
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NOTE: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
Your time to complete will depend on your speed plus break time and your mode of transport. For walkers: Naismith's rule, an approximate though often inaccurate estimate, suggests a time of 2h 41m + time stopped for breaks
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