I enjoy the long races and challenges and I aim for something each year with very mixed results. My biggest achievements to date were the Fellsman (100km), Wicklow Way Solo (130km), Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí (73km) and The Old Country Tops (60km). Heading into the second half of my 50s ‘Round’/100mile type events are now a bit beyond my abilities.
That is why I got quite excited when I saw the “Irish Mountain Challenges” coming live. The type of challenges being proposed ensure there is a challenge to suit.
Of course, living in the South East, the Comeragh Crossing caught my eye immediately. I’m quite familiar with the Comeraghs, and with the distances involved I felt an immediate attempt was possible. I knew my twin was coming home for a visit and I quickly ran it past him if he would be interested. Pat was immediately on board as he never visited the Comeraghs and loves open mountain running.
So, with no planning / recces / support arranged, Pat and I met up Tuesday evening in the Greenway Car Park in Dungarvan (free parking) which is beside the Devonshire Bridge. We left Pat’s car there and went back to my place. Wednesday morning, we left for Clonmel / Suir Island Car park (€3.50 full day parking). NOTE: There is a Centra just five minutes away we used before starting.
Comeragh Crossing start at Old Bridge Clonmel
Following the East Munster Way signs (also the descent of SEMRA’s “Long Way Round”), we knocked off the first 300m of climb on road. After leaving the road for trail an obvious track left appeared that lead us to the Grotto. Checkpoint notes told us Scrouthea Hill summit is behind the Cross. On the way there we identified the track left for Long Hill. After the summit we back tracked in the thick mist to the junction. Following this track to Long Hill and Lachtnafrankie respectively and descended to “Powers the Pot” where the IMRA South-East “Laghtnafrankee - Long Hill Clonmel” race started.
A quick pitstop before the slog cross Moanyaha Bog to Knockanaffrin Ridge. Our initial direction was due east since we couldn’t see the ridge and we did not want to miss Shauneenabraga. Upon reaching the ridge proper the ground quickly improved for the climb towards the stone cairn.
Navigation on the ridge isn’t an issue as we just had to stay on an obvious single track towards Knockanaffrin picking up Knocksheegowna along the way. We ‘hit’ Knockanaffrin around 11am and our second pitstop. At this stage the mist was dispersing to give fabulous views including Carrigshaneen climb towards Comeragh Plateau.
Knockanaffrin Ridge looking towards Carrigshaneen and Comeragh plateau
But first we had the ‘fun’ very runnable 3km descent down to The Gap which is the col of the funeral road from The Nire to the graveyard in Rathgormack.
I’ve been up Carrigshaneen several times and memory didn’t fail me, it’s still very difficult. One may think you’re at the top when you reach the crags but it’s a false summit and there is another false summit after the crags before reaching the actual plateau and bagging CP8 Croughduff.
Comeragh Plateau with Croughduff in the distance
From here, we decided to leave the route available on the website for several reasons:
• The Direct line from Croughduff to Kilclooney passes straight through the “Black Bog.”
• Adding the 741 spot height (IS 319 121), gets the person to follow the rim of The Boolas around to the cairn. The Boolas could well be the most specular Coomb in the Comeraghs and well worth a visit.
• Due south from the 741 spot height to Coumshingaun it pretty good terrain.
• Get the opportunity to see Coumshingaun (and its 400m cliffs!) as the runners’ skirt around to Comeragh High Point aka Kilclooney Mountain.
Coumshingaun from the rim (beware of extreme exposure)
Since the Comeraghs is a plateau, the highest point Kilclooney Mountain is nothing to write home about. It’s basically just a bit of ground that is higher than the flat ground around it!
Pat at Comeragh Hight Point/aka Kilclooney Mountain
From the high point is the start of a boggy and featureless section where we circle the plateau around the valley that is the source for Mahon River(falls). Pat leading, picked up a stream and splashed his way down to one of Mahon River tributaries before the climb back up the other side to CP10 - Spot 750
Spot 750 – “A little cairn at the plateau”
In the now clear conditions, we could see the next two checkpoints which were bagged quickly due to better ground conditions. From Moonavolla Hill we circled around Com a’ Louha for a bit before veering directly south to ‘hit’ the rim overlooking Com Tae for more spectacular views and a very runnable track around the rim (careful here due to exposure). Upon leaving the rim there are trods that lead to Seefin and its very ugly concrete building.
Another pitstop before crossing over to bag the summit cairn (concrete cairn has fallen on its side). We then descended to the wire fence to start the very runnable 6km to the Mauna Road via the Dogs Gap, containing the wonderful white standing stone and stone circle. There is one climb during the overall descent to take in Farbreaga(CP14) and its eye sore of scaffolding for ariel and satellite dishes.
Final pitstop on the Mauna Road before the short climb up to the final summit, Cruachan, with its great views of Dungarvan and its bay which looked very far away! It turned out to be 10km.
Upon leaving the summit we had fire road through a newly cut forest for a 1-2km, before turning left on a narrow pleasant track for the next 1500m. Tarmac then for the final 5km. We descended to the N25 for the final approach into town. In hindsight there is a right-turn just before the N25 which would have brought us into Dungravan on a much quieter road (if a little longer).
Our route was 48km with 2000m of climb in 10’ 55”. We weren’t chasing a time, so I made detours to show of the best of the Comeragh which are certainly around the edges overlooking its wonderful Coombs and valleys. A wonderful day out and we enjoyed every second of it and highly recommend it to anyone to try.
NOTE: Logistics, we had two cars, but it can be done using public transport using Waterford City as a base. Waterford / Clonmel and Dungarvan / Waterford have excellent Bus Eireann services.
Finish at Duke of Devonshire Bridge!
John and Patrick Barry
29th October 2021.