Mountain Pursuit Challenge
Benbulbin, Co. Sligo
MAP: Discovery Series No.16. Scale 1:50000, Magnetic Variation 6º (as of 2003)
The famous profile of Benbulbin has always been an eye-catching attraction in this part of the country. The range itself consists of a large, undulating plateau, which spurs off at various points to create the summits of Benbulbin, Benwiskin (another amazingly shaped mountain) and Tievebaun. Dramatic escarpments provide wonderful views. Unfortunately, much of the range is difficult to access due to difficulties with land-owners in the area. The Gleniff valley to the north (the horseshoe road) in particular has borne the brunt of this.
Our route for the weekend will consist of a standing camp on the North side of the range with a day-sack hike on Saturday up and around the plateau (availability of water on the plateau cannot be guaranteed and the access issues and steep cliffs negate any possibility of a high camp).
If visibility is good, the route will give you a chance to see many interesting features of the area. Watch out for caves and ‘pot-holes’ and in particular the rocky ‘canyon’ visible just to the South East of Kings mountain.
In bad weather - or poor visibility due to mist - navigation on the plateau will be particularly difficult. The lack of prominent features and/or ridges on the plateau will really call for careful pacing and compass work in order to keep on route.
We would ask everyone to ensure they practise pacing, compass & map work well in advance of the weekend.
FRIDAY NIGHT 26th September
STARTING POINT: ARDNAGLASS UPPER (690 472)
DIRECTIONS TO START
Follow the main Sligo to Bundoran road (N15) northward to the junction at 656 472. There is a church at the junction (which is hard to spot at night!). Travel in a north-easterly direction along a minor road to a junction at 677 478. Turn right here and continue on to the forest at 690 472. Limited parking is available in the forest at your own risk. Please plan to arrive between 8pm and 10 pm. If you arrive early do not leave until you have been checked in.
START TO BASE CAMP (706 459)
After check in, follow the road
to Luke’s Bridge (698 473). Cross the bridge and follow the track leading off
to the right as far as a second bridge at 703 468. Cross this second bridge and
follow the track. This track gradually fades out into boggy ground. The base
camp is at 706 459.
Be absolutely sure to check in with the staff before settling down for the night.
SATURDAY 27th September
As this will be a day hike you should leave your tents in position and take what you need (i.e. food and personal equipment) for the day. This should be evenly distributed among the team - it is NOT advised to only bring one rucksack and pass it around. You will be given a start time and should not leave before then.
Base camp to Top of Stream at 706 454
From base camp, follow the course of the stream steeply uphill. This is the steepest climb of the day so take your time. You should keep to the left of the stream and near the top pick up on a sheep trail. As you go, take time to admire the unfolding view northward. Weather permitting you will have a good view of Donegal Bay. Directly below you is Mullaghmore. Watch out for the tower rising from the woods near Mullaghmore. This is Classie Bawn castle, the former summer residence of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, a member of the British royal family.
Top of stream to
Cartonwilliamoge at 701 455
When you arrive onto the plateau turn in a northwesterly direction and climb gradually to Cartonwilliamoge. As you go you should have an excellent view of the campsite in the valley below on your right.
Cartonwilliamoge to cliff edge at 697 465
If weather conditions are ok you will continue along the eastern side of Benbulbin to the cliff edge at 697 465. There are excellent views from here of the cliffs that form the famous profile of Benbulbin. BE CAREFUL AND FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS OF STAFF WHO WILL BE ON DUTY HERE. From here continue on to the summit of Benbulbin at 692 463.
If weather is unfavourable, we will avoid the steep ground & cliffs and proceed by a direct route to the summit of Benbulbin at 692 463.
There is a trig point at the summit itself which is back from the cliffs giving you no sense of being on a dramatic escarpment. However, you will not be disappointed by the views, from here you have a 360 degree panorama. Across Donegal Bay lie the Blue Stacks and Slieve League ; away to the east is Truskmore with its unsightly TV mast, the highest point in Sligo. To the south west is Knocknarea, crowned by a massive cairn and to the south Lough Gill and the Curlew Mountains. Beneath you and to the north is Streedagh Point where the Spanish Armada famously came to grief in 1592 with the loss of hundreds of lives.
Benbulbin to Cartonwilliamoge at 701 455
Leave the summit and return by a direct route to the top of Cartonwilliamoge.
Cartonwilliamoge to Spot Height 459m at 703 447
This takes you across some broken ground so keep a close eye on your map and compass.
Spot Height 459m to Kings Mountain at 703 442
Continue over more broken ground to Kings Mountain which affords excellent views of Sligo, its bay and environs. Look out for Drumcliff church below where the poet W.B. Yeats is buried.
Kings Mountain to Spot height 438m at 709 439
There is a deep and very steep gully between these points so you should not take a direct route but make a dog leg to the north to maintain as much height as possible.
Use your compass. Even if visibility is good it’s an opportunity to test skill levels.
You will have to cross a fence
in the gully. Please do so with care and do not damage the fence in any way.
Spot Height 438m to Spot Height 436m at 711 436
The southern side of spot height 436m is a sheer cliff so be very careful as you approach it. Look down very carefully and you will see a dramatic rocky canyon running east to west. There is a good view south of Castlegar (or Copes Mountain) on the other side of the valley and Glencar Lake with its two crannogs.
Spot height 436m to White Cross 500m at 713 448
If its clear you will just be able to see white cross on a ‘spot height’ – not marked on the map as such - to the north east. This area is characterised by holes that are shaped like bomb craters; some of them are quite deep so beware. You may also come across a cave in the area.
White Cross 500m to Spot height 566m at 721 458
Continue in a north/north-easterly direction to spot height 566m marked by a small cairn. The cairn does not appear to be at the same spot as the spot height marking on the map however.
Spot height 566m to Spot height 597m at 728 463
Be sure to maintain your height along this stretch as it is easy to veer off to the left or right. If visibility is bad check the best bearing to follow with the staff at the checkpoint. You will come to an old fence.
Spot height 597m to gully at 724 465
There are very dangerous cliffs here so be very careful. From Spot height 597m there are excellent views of Gleniff valley and of Truskmore. You will also see the old track leading to the now disused Barytes mines near Glencarbury. The material mined there was used in the manufacture of paint. As you move along roughly northwards keep well back from the edge and traverse around a deep wide gully cut into the cliffs.
Gully to Spot height 508m
From here follow the ridge keeping well back from the cliffs until you reach the Spot height 508m.
Do not attempt to proceed to Benwiskin or exit into Gleniff valley; there is an ongoing access dispute with the land owners and we don't wish to get involved.
Spot height 508m to stream Junction at 710 473
Descend carefully to the valley making sure not to cross any fences along the way - remember that most accidents happen on descents.
Stream junction to track junction at 703 468
Cross through the turf cuttings until you reach the track junction. From here follow the track back to Base Camp. Its not advised to try to cross the bog unless the ground is very dry.
SUNDAY 28th September
Pack your gear and leave base Camp when your site has been inspected. Remember that all litter must be taken away. Our route out is along the same path as we took in on Friday evening. Be sure to check in when you get back to the car park.
You will pass the Church where W.B. Yeats is buried if you are driving back into Sligo.
Hope to see you all at the Ulster MPC in October!