The June is the usual time for the IMC to bring its new members to a more adventurous, mountain setting. Mourns Mountains is the perfect setting for what we needed. Abundance of routes at all grades, easy enough access (less than 2h drive from Dublin) and famous walk ins.
As usual on these type of meets we paired up the more experienced team members with the newbies and set off to the crags.
Most of the new members wouldn’t have enough experience to lead routes yet, but that’s ok. The idea of the meetup is to learn from tons of experience present.
This time round most of the climbing would happen around Lower Cove.
Some of the groups however opted for Slieve Binnian.
An ordinary climb rendered difficult by a dangerous combination of weather, injuries, darkness, lack of preparedness or other adverse factors.
Went up North (Mournes, Slieve Beg) to do some more adventurous climbs. Had one for sure. Not exactly an epic, but quite interesting combination of unfamiliar terrain, midges & rain.
From the beginning though – Met up with Peter at Donard car park on Sat 9am. Decided to put up some effort and walk up all the way to Slieve Beg – by some described as best mountain crag in the Mournes.
The walk taken just over 1.5h (all uphill, some 500m elevation gain) The views are indeed spectacular and worth the hard work.
Crag description (from wiki.climbing.ie)
The most obvious feature is the huge central gully of the Devil’s Coach Road. To the left is the Main Face, south-east facing and characterised by a series of corners, and to the left again are two large south-facing areas separated by a steep grassy section, with on the far left a small buttress called Satan’s Buttress. To the right of the Devil’s Coach Road are more broken crags the most obvious feature being a steep broad slab of rock taken by Mourne Maggie.
First order of business – gearing up, abseil to the base of:
Sweetie Mice *** 40m HVS (5a)
J. McGuinness, J. Bruce. 19/5/73.
An excellent classic one of the best in the Mournes but there is a risk the rock could have a veneer of lichen due to lack of ascents. Start at the steep diedre at the bottom of the Devil’s Coach Road. Climb the diedre until forced to step right at a bulge onto the arete at 25m and follow this more easily to the top.
Now, the 3* rating might have been accurate few years ago when the route was clean – for us it was a rather severe case of extreme gardening. Peter lead it, I followed and pulled a ton of green stuff in the process. Perhaps next party of climbers will enjoy it more.
It wasn’t a bad route. Just not really in 3* condition.
Anyway – from there we decided to move the other side and try and find:
Wabash Cannonball ** 85m VS (4c, 4b)
C. Torrans, S. Billane, W. J. Baxter. 8/9/74.
1) 45m Trend left and follow crack to reach the diedre proper. Continue straight up corner (dirty exit) or (cleaner) up until it is possible to move out left on a big flake to the outside face and trend back right. On up ledges to good belay on the highest one.
2) 40m Up corner to cracks on right and up cracks and easy ground to an arete on the right. Finish airily up corner in the arete.
By the time we thought we were at the base of the climb the midges were already out.
We figured we had the line so I just got on it.
It felt hard for the grade (supposedly VS 4c), but I kept going until a grassy ledge. From there it kind of didn’t match the description anymore, and I was only 25m up (p1 was meant to be 40m). I figured I’ll build a belay, bring Peter up and we’ll take it from there. And so we did.
Unfortunately for us the single droplets turned into heavier rain, but that din’t scare away the insects. Double whammy.
Anyway Peter went up another 20 odd meters, to a point where there was nowhere to go (at least not for our grade in those conditions). We were definitely off route.
At this point we figured bailing makes most sense. We sacrificed 2 nuts, abseiled back to the base of the climb and scrambled around to the top.
I studied the guide book later and I’m pretty sure we miss identified the start and instead of Wabash Cannonball VS we attempted Burden of Dreams (E3) – (and got shutdown on it’s 3rd, 6a pitch).
Burden of Dreams *** 114m E3 (5a, 5a, 6a, 4a)
I. Rea, P. Holmes. 23/4/90.
Takes the left-hand, clean corner of the double diedre which gives a superb crux. Start at a left trending crack a few metres left of a grassy ramp which starts at the lowest point of rock.
1) 22m Go up crack which leads to a flake system trending left and follow this directly to belay on a ledge.
2) 12m Follow another left trending system of flakes to the left edge of overhang. Traverse horizontally under overhang until possible to cross it at break and then go straight up to ledge.
3) 40m Climb up to first roof and layback around this on the right and go up a bit until possible to step left into base of a very steep right facing diedre. Go up this and over roof (sustained) into niche as for The Fiddler and continue up to large ledge.
4) 40m Climb and scramble up the rock and heather as for The Fiddler.
The midges were still full on out and the weather closed in totally, so we wanted to GTFO ASAP.
Luckily it was mostly downhill now, and for a while we had a good company – local farmer and his crew!
By 6.30pm we were by the Pigeon Rock – another crag, some 20mins drive from Slieve Beg, hoping to actually do some climbing the following day. It’s a place of great beauty and minimal walk-in. Something that appealed to us without a doubt after a lengthy day.
Unfortunately the morning greeted us with rain, rain & more rain. This adventure was over. Totally worth it though. The outstanding beauty of the Mourn Mountains combined with fantastic routes available there make me thing I’ll be back many more times.
For now though it’s time to start getting ready for next adventure – Picos de Europa in northern Spain! Departing Fri the 28th of July with Peter. 7 days of hopefully adventures of equally epic proportions.
Above is for those who don’t know what The Mournes are. It’s actually surprisingly close to Dublin (2 hours drive from where I live), and yet I almost never visit. This had to change, so yesterday we organized a small day trip. We’ve chosen to go to Lower Cove – a sector that on it’s own has enough climbs for weeks.
Dairmuid joined Monika and I, while Peter (whom I’ve climbed with in Fair Head few weeks ago) and Anne drove from The North.
By the time we got to the base of the climbs (it’s 1h walk from the car park), Peter and Anne already finished 1 route (not sure which one though).
I started with:
Third Corner * 45m HS (4a, 4c, 3c)
P. Gribbon, C. Boyd, B. White. 2/1956.
The arete provides a fine finish but before that there is the notorious chimney. It will only feel the grade on a good day with the wind behind you. Otherwise its desperate! Start 5m left of the edge.
1) 21m Gain the edge by a delicate horizontal traverse right to reach white ledge. Continue up blocks to the foot of the chimney.
2) 9m Thrutch into vertical holdless chimney (beware of jammed helmet) and gain the large ledge.
3) 15m Finish delicately up the arete.
I did it in one long pitch. I gotta say, that it was very nice. The chimney indeed feels like VS, the last 15m offers no gear.
In the mean time Peter jumped on mega-classic:
Agag’s Wall ** 30m HS (4a) S. B. Moorehead, C. Stead. 18/6/67
A necky route which can feel handy or scary depending on mood and/or ability. Start 15m up the gully from Third Corner directly under overhang at the top. Climb just in from the left edge to a ledge and step right. Then up more or less directly to a horizontal break 2m below right-hand end of overhang. Either continue straight up and climb past the overhang at its righthand edge (4b) or traverse right to finish up
Since we had a mix of climbing abilities and skills in our group of 5, we mixed it a bit later on, so everyone one had a chance to enjoy climbing on the level they were comfortable with.
Next round of routes was Diarmuid’s lead:
Dark Side of the Moon ** 30m E1 (5b)E. Cooper, T. Craven. 8/4/83.(…). Takes the obvious weakness up the centre of the green wall. With a delicate move gain a large pocket. Moving slightly left, continue up past the overhangs to a ledge. Traverse left and climb the wall leftwards to an arete. Up ledges to a pocked crack. Climb this to a ledge. Mantelshelf with the aid of a good but hidden pock on the ledge. From the ledge at the top of the green wall there are two alternative finishes.
The start is very difficult to protect, but a small alien cam in a small pocket 2.5m off the ground provides ‘adequate’ peace of mind, however first ‘real’ piece goes a bit higher, once you are fully committed to the line.
I followed, while Peter lead Fox’s Tiers, just right of us:
Fox’s Tiers * 37m VS (5a, 4c)
R. Cole, A. Carden, M. Smith. 8/10/78.
Worth doing especially for the second pitch which is sustained and strenuous. This pitch can be easily reached along the large grass ledge which runs rightwards into Fourth Corner Gully. Start right of Dark Side of the Moon, at the base of the diedre which marks the change in direction of the wall.
1) 22m Climb the diedre to a slight overhang. Climb overhang by moving left (long reach) to a usually wet ledge. Continue up a right-slanting crack, to a huge vegetated ledge.
2) 18m Climb the wall 1 m left of the edge on good holds passing jutting block to heather ledge and large boulder. Up right arete moving right after 3m and continue right then up to finish.
For the final round I took the girls to an easier ground, while P&D went to attack:
Aristocrat ***35m E1 (5b)
A. McQuoid, A. Currans. 27/4/80.
Just merits the grade and takes an intimidating line up the edge of the buttress Start 4m in from the arete. Move up and begin a delicate traverse right across a line of small holds and undercut flakes to reach a groove line near the buttress edge which eases with height, stepping right to a good grassy ledge (possible belay). Climb the steep wall directly above the ledge with one difficult move leading to the easier but poorly protected ground above.
In the mean time I lead First Corner:
First Corner ** 27m HS (4b)
F. Devlin, J. McGrath. 30/6/65.
Start right-hand edge of First Corner Gully. Climb arete up to a ledge on left. Continue straight up (4c) or, more easily and more naturally, step left and up the gully wall 3m and back onto the arete to finish.
It’s was very enjoyable and adequately protected. The whole wall provides a lot of easy climbing, and should be considered as fantastic place to be for all beginner leaders.
It was getting late, so we’ve regrouped, had some quick snack (boiled eggs FTW!) and proceeded to walk back to the car park.
To summarize I have to say the Mournes are different than anything I’ve ever climbed before. The rock offers some fantastic friction, but very often the routes are difficult to protect. It’s definitely a premier location that deserves more visits and I’m sure I’ll be back there.