The Mourne Mountains (pronounced/ˈmɔərn/MOHRN; Irish: na Beanna Boirche), also called the Mournes or Mountains of Mourne, are a granitemountain range in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland. It includes the highest mountains in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster. The highest of these is Slieve Donard at 850 m (2,790 ft). The Mournes is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been proposed as the first national park in Northern Ireland. The area is partly owned by the National Trust and sees a large number of visitors every year. The name Mourne (historically spelt Morne) is derived from the name of a Gaelicclann or sept called the Múghdhorna.
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.
The full photo gallery here.
Shout out to Ambrose Flynn to whom we run into second week in a row! He’s doing great job introducing new generation of climbers to our fantastic sport!
All route descriptions as per http://wiki.climbing.ie/index.php/Lower_Cove and the MCI guidebook.