Cnoc na Péiste (EI/IS-002) from the Black Valley

This summit is part of a spectacular ridge in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks which also includes Carrauntoohill (EI/IS-001). The full ridge walk is arduous / dangerous and thankfully not necessary from a SOTA viewpoint. I activated Carrauntoohill earlier this year and intended to do Cnoc na Péiste at the same time, but conditions at the time dictated otherwise. Unusually for Irish mountains, it was really hot, I ran out of water, I had a really long activation on Carrauntoohill and it would have been a 11+hr day out, which I hadn’t prepared for. These mountains require serious effort unlike those nearer home.

Anyway, another mini expedition was planned to also include more 10 pointers. An approach from the south is possible and meant I could use the same base as a starting point for 2 summits, Cnoc na Péiste and Purple Mountain. So having completed Mangerton (EI/IS-006) enroute earlier in the day, I made my way to The Black Valley Hostel for an overnight and an early start for Cnoc na Péiste (hill of the serpent). The Black Valley is a remote valley approached by a single lane road. It is a cul de sac and takes definite effort to get there. Interestingly due to the difficulty of the terrain it was only electrified in the 1970’s.

This was the view from the hostel

with the summit marked.

The excellent maps from EastWestMapping shows the detail of the area

with my actual route shown overlaid on google maps. Ignore the straight section from the summit, I forgot to start the track on the descent until the coll above the lake on the descent.

The plan was to ascend via Feabrahy, and as it was a bit “climby” to descend via a longer route across Derrycarna. Leaving the hostel I went along the road until I came to a gate leading up a grassy track to an abandoned house. Continue past the house via high rushes to a gap in a stone wall out onto the mountain. There is no track and the terrain varies from smooth grass to bog to heather covered boulders. It is difficult terrain. Follow a stream up and cross over as best you can near a small waterfall. Feabrahy appears to have many ways to summit it, but these are hard to spot when you’re at the bottom of it.

Here is a picture of it taken on the descent from the other side of the valley with what looks like 3 routes, shown here.

The green one, which I didn’t take, may be the optimum one. The red one, which I did take, definitely involved climbing and scrambling. It would have been a difficult descent. The orange one, not visible while ascending also looks doable. It also may be possible to avoid Feabrahy and just go straight up to Loch gCuach (Cuckoo Lake), but it’s hard to judge the scale of the last section of the climb to the lake. Once on top of Feabrahy, there’s a small descent then it’s a straightforward walk up to the summit, although steep and rocky in sections. Once on the ridge, there is a track to the summit.

I setup just down from the summit, out of the wind. Some idiot forgot to pack his mast, so the antenna, a 20m long EFHW was only held up with walking poles. However, it was enough to get me 17 QSO’s and a successful activaiton. Unfortunately cloud cover at the summit meant no good pictures.

The descent was straight forward, back down the same route to the coll above the lake. This time I turned east and made my way to the outflow of the lake. It was a steep descent along a grassy ridge, shown on the left of this, taken past the lake from the climb up Derrycarna.

I then made my way down as best I could, heading eastwards to the stream and ending up eventually back at the gap in the stone wall by the abandoned house. It was a difficult descent with tough terrain underfoot. If the route were reversed, it would have been a less steep ascent, but much more difficult underfoot. I wouldn’t choose to ascend via Derrycarna.

So, in summary, a successful activation, a strenuous 900m or so ascent that took 3.5 hours with a few tea breaks enroute, followed by a descent over difficult terrain. Doable obviously, but I wouldnt recommend it for your first activation !

I probably won’t go via this route again, but will plan to do it as a double with Carrauntoohill for future activations. I did note while at the coll above the lake, looking to the south / south west to Cloghernoosh, the terrain looked grassy the whole way from the coll down. This may be a good route for ascent and descent, shown here in red.