Mountain Pursuit Challenge

Ulster 2003

Slieve League, Co. Donegal

17th – 19th October


MAP: Discovery Series No.10 Scale 1:50000        Magnetic Variation 7º


Slieve League (Sliabh Liag - Mountain of the Flagstones) at 1972ft is arguably the highest sea cliff in Europe.  This is a classic and popular route, which gives superb and dramatic views of the cliffs as they plunge into the North Atlantic.


This is a quite compact area, which allows for many variations to the proposed route.  Given the proximity to the ocean, the weather can change quickly and dramatically and therefore you should be prepared for changes to the route on the day.  The proposed route is short and most teams should expect to complete the main walk in 4 – 5 hours maximum.  Therefore, you won’t need to be up at the crack of dawn!


The route is well walked and should present no difficulties navigation-wise.  However, as with all cliffs and steep ground, teams should exercise caution and common sense.  Play-acting and foolish behaviour in the vicinity of such high cliffs cannot be permitted.  Weather, particularly the wind will be an important factor on this weekend.


For those not comfortable on the ridge walk, there are parallel lower paths (although over much more broken, rocky ground) on the landward side for almost all of the route.  Depending on the weather, it may be necessary to use these paths for the main walk.


With good weather, the views out over the ocean and eastwards into Donegal are very rewarding.



From Killybegs, take the R263 to Kilcar and then on to Carrick.  From Carrick, take a left turn in the town centre (almost opposite the Garda Station) and head to Teelin.  On reaching Teelin, take a right turn signposted “Cliffs” just after a small carpark on the right.  Stay on this road and follow the signs from Bunglass.  The carpark to be used is not marked on the map but is quite large and is located at approx 574 755.  Park your car here carefully, bearing in mind that we need parking for around 40 vehicles.  Please try to arrive between 8pm and 10pm and do not head to basecamp until you have been checked-in.


NOTE:  This is at least a 5 hour drive from Dublin and please drive carefully en route.



From the carpark follow the road uphill to Lough O’Mulligan (561 755).  There is camping around the lake and on the the other side of the road.  Make sure your tent is well pegged down as it can get very windy here.  Ensure that you’ve checked-in before hitting the sack.



Once you’ve had your site checked and have been checked out, follow continue along the road to the carpark at 558 757.  From here looking south, you should be able to see the signal tower on Carrigan Head.  You may also see trawlers heading back into Killybegs.  A few steps around the corner, you reach a spot called Amharc Mor (the great view) from where you will see the full extent of these magnificent cliffs.  Follow a good trackin a northerly direction to reach Screigeighter at 565 759.  There is no distinct summit, rather a collection of rocky outcrops.



The rockytrack ends here, to be replaced by a well defined track through the peat.  Continue along the track in a northerly direction towards the spot height at 564 764.  You continue to gain height as you head towards Eagles Nest.  The views along the coast are superb and to the east, you should be able to see the pilgrims track winding its way up the slopes of Aghragh.  Passing Crockrawer, there are a number of rocky outcrops, over which it is possible to scramble (dependent on the weather).  One of these can claim to be a truer One Man’s Pass, than that marked on the map.  It is possible to bypass all of these projections to the landward side.  The east-west ridge of Shanbally now appears before and you quickly gain the height onto the shoulder.  The main track avoids the top (559 771) and heads directly towards the col.



From Shanbally, now heading in a Northwest direction, head to the col (559 773) and then climb steadily up the ridge towards Keeringear.  There is a good well defined track all the way and rocky outcrops can be avoided by passing on the landward side.  The ridge running out to Aghragh should be visible to your right.  As you reach the top of the climb, the ground opens out into a quite wide plateau with a number of small stone cairns dotted around.  Walk across this plateau area which has many rocks & boulders to reach the start of the arete (549 781) above Lough Agh.  This is the famous One Man’s Pass.



It is an easy traverse across One Man’s pass, again following a well-defined track.  If you ever wondered why we limit the number of teams on an MPC, this whole route shows the damage and erosion caused to the mountains by hillwalkers.  There are good view to the Atlantic on the left and down to Lough Agh to the right.  A short rise and you are on the main summit plateau which is marked by a Trig point (544 785) which looks like it was cut in half!  Enjoy the view from this lofty height.



The planned descent from the summit, heads off almost directly north to descend towards a ridge at 544 790.  The descent is initially quite steep and over rocky ground.  Take your time and zig zag down slowly.  Swing in towards the river at the 250m contour and head in towards Lough Agh.  Highcamp is at the southern end of the lake.  Check-in on arrival and get your tents up and dinner cooked.



Once you’ve been checked out, leave highcamp and head up onto the Spot Height called Golando (558 797).  From here continue to climb up the ridge (An Baile Mor) to the col below Aghragh at 565 784.  From here descend into the valley, using the rivers as navigational aids to the track at 567 778.  Follow this well defined track downhill to the small lake called Croleavy.



Depending on the weather, two routes are possible.  The first is to follow the track all the way back to the road and then walk the 2KM by road back to the cars.  If the weather permits, leave the track at the bend below Croleavy at 573 772 and countour across the valley towards Lough Meehaviller.  The ground here can be very wet but it should be possible to get around the lake by keeping the high ground to your right.  Pick up the road and follow it back to the carpark.  Check-in on arrival.


Well done, you’ve just completed CSI’s last MPC.  Next year the MPCs will be run as part of the new Association.


On the way home and if you’ve time, why not visit Glencolumcille or drop into Killybegs, Ireland’s premier fishing port.  Drive safely on the way home.