Sunday, May 8, 2016

Crohane and The Cappagh Glen.


A rather magical start to the day
Yesterday was my first day off in a while from work and I was keen to get a bit of mountain air into me so I headed back to Kerry. I had thought to go to The Galtees but a very dodgy forecast and a look at the rainfall radar showed that the rain was already half way across the country with only the western half still dry so I decided that west was best. As I drove back towards the blue skies I decided to forgo my usual haunts and opted instead for the magical place that is the Cappagh Glen. This has many advantages because as well as being one of the most beautiful places in the country it is fairly low and sheltered so that if the bad weather arrived it wouldn't make too much of a difference here. One of the biggest drawbacks of the place is the terrible condition of the roadway that runs alongside Lough Guitane. The last time I was here with Frank we had parked a long way from the trail head and I expected to do the same this time so it was a delightful surprise to enjoy a beautiful new tarmacked surface all the way in to the usual parking spot. I got out of the car in a beautiful morning and was greeted by the sound of my first cuckoo call of the year. I walked in through the farmland which was full of cavorting newborn lambs and reveled in my wonderful surroundings.  It was a super start to the day.
Gaining height looking over Lough Guitane

Bennaunmore and Eskduff Mountain

Looking east from the shoulder of Crohane

The summit of Crohane

Once off the pasture I was all too briefly in the beautiful but narrow band of woodland that guards the open mountain beyond. Moss covered stony ground gives way to mostly boggy ground which after the recent reasonably dry spell was fairly solid underfoot so progress wasn't too difficult. I could see that the rain was well on its way to these parts as I got higher and by the time I reached the shoulder of the summit ridge of Crohane (650 metres) the first drops of rain reached me. I wasn't too bothered whether it got worse or not as I was just enjoying being out and about. I paused to don my rain gear and dropped down initially in a southerly direction before turning east as far as point 477mtrs. This is one of my favourite lunch spots but it was too early today so I dropped the remaining 200+ mtrs to the beautiful wild valley in which Lough Nabroda nestles and from where the volcanic genesis of Bennaunmore with its basalt columns is best seen.  Now there follows an even steeper climb of another 200 metres to the summit of Bennaunmore which even though it is only at the modest height of 454 metres is a wonderful place to be and offers as wild a vantage point as you could wish for. The rain which had threatened to get heavier remained very light so I enjoyed a quick lunch here before continuing on my way.

The east face of Bennaunmore

Some of the basalt columns can easily be seen

View down towards The Cappagh Glen

Next comes what I consider the highlight of the walk, the Cappagh Glen. It is only a drop of 100 metres from the saddle into the glen and some care is needed here as the ground is pitted and rough in places and chances are you will be looking ahead very often to soak in the beauty of the glen below and its sparse but beautiful "petrified " oak-wood. Once down in the flat floor of the glen the woods seem to envelop you more than you would expect and the running water of the streams and little river only adds to the magic of the place. Almost every time I am here I think to myself "I must come here and camp soon" but I never have and today was no exception and again I resolved to put that to right soon. After a few hundred meters the glen narrows up and briefly becomes gorge-like and you have to clamber over some boulders but this is short lived and you once again enter wider flat ground. Soon you exit the glen on the right hand side and cross the bottom on the spur that descends from the summit of Bennaunmore and after crossing some wild scrubby ground you once again enter the pastures and return to the car. The rain was still fairly light and I was easily able to change into dry clothes. It had been a wonderful and enjoyable if all too brief outing. The area is without a doubt on of my favourite places and with the new road it is a spot that I hope to visit more often.
Camping heaven

Some possible hard mountaineering routes

Looking back after the narrow section

The glen up towards Lough Nabroda