The Twelve Bens are situated in western Galway, and form the centre of the Connemara National Park. They are famed for their rugged peaks and good walking. Nine of the Summits are over 2000 feet and we hope to complete four of the northern summits. There is also a second published map of the area, it accompanies a book called 'The Mountains of Connemara' by Joss Lynam and was compiled by Folding Landscapes and Justin May. One word of warning about this map it does show many items in better detail than the Discovery Series but its contours are at 30m intervals. It does however show the access route along the Clifton Road which off the edge of the discovery series.
The key to this activity is to travel light, however safety is paramount so do not skimp on the essentials. The 2 litre of coke is not necessary, the hair gel is only necessary when you get back to the car. The change of clothes for going home should be left in the car and not carried on the back. Try and carry large day-sacks instead of huge rucksacks, share the non-essential items of equipment instead of having one each. Please refer to the MPC handbook for the gear lists. These mountains are dangerous if not treated with respect. In order to ensure team safety please only have your lunch stop at one of the checkpoints and not between them.
How to get there:
From Galway take the Cliften road. After you pass through Maam Cross and Recess continue along the road passing Ben Lettery Youth Hostel. The turn off point is about 2-½ km further along the road. Take the right hand turn just past the church and follow the road along till it crosses the river. The carpark is just on the other side of the bridge at (L 744 513). (Note a coach will not make it up this road). Check in with the staff and prepare for a gear check.
Start to High Camp (L 766 527)
The route for Friday night takes us along the forestry track till it reaches the ford on the river at (L 775 519). You need to climb up onto the bank on the left-hand side and follow along between the forest edge and the river. Continue along the riverbank towards base camp. You need to cross a number of streams along the way. The points will be marked with Flags / Flashers. The best points to cross are very close to the main river where the streams are wide and shallow. You may also be able to jump a number of the narrower streams, but remember the extra weight of your rucksack. The base camp is situated close to a number of old buildings towards the top of the valley. Check in with the staff, and find a good spot to pitch the tent. Have a brew and hit the sack.
The Saturday hike is designed as hike for full packs to a new high camp. The bad weather alternative is to use the base camp as a standing camp and to descend back southwards from the ridge to the camp instead of descending northwards to the new camp site. The decision as to the campsite will be made on Saturday Morning.
Base Camp to Stream Bend (L 774 532)
We intend to get the first teams away at about 9am. Get up and have Breakfast A decision on the route will be make at 8:30 so get your PL to check with the staff as to the route plan. Get your tents down and have a staff member check your site. Follow the river up - stream. Be careful crossing the feeding streams, as you do not wish to get wet this early.
Stream Bend to Col (L 788 531)
Keep following the stream up hill. Take plenty of rests, as it is a gruelling trod. Your last chance to get water is just before the crest on the col.
Col to Ben Baun (L 786 539)
Ben Baun means the White Mountain. From this point Ben Baun's looks daunting. A steep grassy slopes lead up to a narrow band of rock. You will have to do a little route finding through this obstacle, it is not too difficult. Once you through it is an easy walk up a grassy ridge to reach the stony summit, marked by a trig point and cairn. This is the highest point in Co. Galway and views range across the mountains and countryside Connemara. This if the day is clear is an ideal place to do feature recognition and all members of the patrol should spend time looking at the Maum Turks, Killary Harbour and the many other geographical features in the area.
Ben Baun to Benfree (L 778 544)
Ben Free is an anglicised version of binn fhraoigh, which means the mountain of heather. A ridge of rock and scree descending from Ben Baun becomes grassy as it leads down to the coll. A short walk up hill leads to the summit of Benfree.
Benfree to Muckanaght (L 768 541)
Munkanaght means the place of lumps and ridges. A steep, grassy slope lead downs from Benfree to a peaty col. Another steep and grassy slope then lead uphill from the Col, becoming rocker towards the top of the mountain. There is a cairn on the summit.
Muckanaght to Bencullagh (L 756 537)
Bencullagh means the mountain of the old woman. A gentler slope leads down from the summit to the Col, and the up hill walk isn't too steep either. The vegetation changes from grass to heather, but the top of Bencullaght is stony.
Bencullaght to Maumonght (L 749 539)
Maumonght is marked as a spot height of 602meters. From Bencullagh you descend into a narrow col. running along this Col is a fence which rails off a steep gully running down to the valley below. After you cross the col you ascend a short distance to the spot height market by a cairn.
Maumonght to Shoulder of Spur (L 745 548)
Holding the line of the ridge descend along it till you meet the forest on a small shoulder, just before the slope gets steeper.
Shoulder of Spur to High Camp (L 748 554)
A re-entrant runs from the shoulder to the valley floor. Follow this down to the river in the valley and follow along till you reach high camp. Check in with the Staff and find your campsite.
High Camp to Shoulder of Spur (L 745 548)
Retrace your steps back up the re-entrant to the shoulder.
Shoulder of Spur to Forrest Corner (L 747 541)
Following the edge of the forest uphill on the West Side of the main ridgeline, till you reach the corner of the forest.
Forrest Corner to Lake (L 731 537)
Follow the Forest downhill till you reach the lake. Take care on the top section, as it is a little steep.
Lake to Track (L 725 521)
Follow the lake around till you meet the outlet. Follow the stream downhill till you reach the track.
Track to Finish (L 744 513)
Follow the track along till you meet the road and continue along till you reach the carpark.