Walk for the weekend: Black lake, black valley and golden slopes

The views from Knockaunanattin Ridge, Co Kerry, sweep from the lowlands of Glencar to the peaks of the Glenbeigh Mountains

The remote Black Valley must be one of the finest examples of a glaciated trough in the country

The remote Black Valley must be one of the finest examples of a glaciated trough in the country

 

In glaciated mountains, one of the places where the power of moving ice is dramatically obvious is where a glacier has carved a gap in the uplands. On the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry there is only one place where a road runs east to west across the mountains. This is at the Ballaghbeama Gap where cliffs and large slabs of loose rock tower above the little car park at the highest point on the road. From here the Knockaunanattin Ridge runs eastwards to Stumpa Duloigh at the head of the Black Valley.

The topography on the north side of the pass is much less intimidating than the southern precipices and it is relatively easy to walk up the sloping rock slabs which have sufficient cracks in them to make for an easy ascent to Knockaunanattin West Top (467m).

The route turns easterly then and two Spot Heights, 412m and 456m mark the way to the bulky summit of Knockaunanattin (569m). As there is lowland to the north and south of the ridge the view from the peak is superb. To the west, the lowlands of Glencar rise to the peaks of the Glenbeigh Mountains beyond which stretch the Slieve Mish Range of the Dingle Peninsula. To the south, the broad reaches of Kenmare Bay underscore the long outline of the Caha Mountains all the way out to Dursey Island.

Confusion of ridges

A fence provides an easy guide to the next peak, Stumpa Duloigh, SW Top (663m); the last stretch of which is steep pull up to a confusion of little ridges on top which makes it difficult to find the exact high point. From here one gets a view of the southern slopes of Carrauntoohil and Caher.

The southern slopes of Carrauntoohil and Caher
The southern slopes of Carrauntoohil and Caher

The final leg of the ridge is a grassy slope up to Stumpa Duloigh (784m) and one of the best mountain vistas I have seen for some time. From the circular ramparts of the Duloigh coom, the full length of the Black Valley stretches away in front of you. This remote valley must be one of the finest examples of a glaciated trough in the country. To the north the brooding mass of Bruach na Binne marks the top of the valley and beyond it soar the high peaks of the Reeks. I walked along the edge of the cliffs to Stumpa Duloigh SE (780m) to get a better view down into Duloch (The Black Lake).

I had a choice on the return route. One can follow the outward route, though this means hauling oneself up the five steep peaks on the ridge again. But if one keeps 200m or so to the south of the crest one can save both time and effort. If you have a good eye for rough ground you will easily spot the line to take.

Back at the car, the pass was in deep shadow but the haze which had lingered all day had dissipated and the evening sun had turned the upper slopes with their spring vegetation to gleaming gold, making me wish I was surveying the landscape from Stumpa Duloigh again.

Knockaunanattin Ridge, Co Kerry

Map: Ordnance Survey. Discovery Series. Sheet 78. Or Macgillycuddy’s Reeks 1:25.000. (Peaks named) Start and Finish: The car park at the high point of the Ballaghbeama Gap.

How to get there: Take the Sneem Road at Moll’s Gap which is midway on the N71, Killarney to Kenmare Road. The road for Ballaghbeama and Glencar is signposted 10km southwest of Moll’s Gap

Time: Six hours

Distance: 8.5km, with total ascent 750m

Suitability: Route is hard. Compass, map and raingear are essential

Food and accommodation: Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem

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