Mountain Pursuit Challenge
Ulster 2010

Slieve League, Co. Donegal
8th – 10th October 2010

MAP: Discovery Series No.10 Scale 1:50000

INTRODUCTION

Slieve League (Sliabh Liag - Mountain of the Flagstones) at 595m forms part of the sixth highest
sea cliffs in Europe. These cliffs are nearly three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher.

This is a compact area. Given the proximity to the ocean, the weather can change quickly 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 the entire Saturday route. With
good weather, the views are breathtaking. Please note that the water should be treated by either
boiling or water purification tablets to be on the safe side.

This area, like any other in Ireland, is a delicate ecosystem and requires great care to camp in it.
We are all responsible for ensuring that there is nothing left behind after our stay. To that effect
rubbish bags will be inspected as usual on Sunday and remember if you pollute the environment
the environment will pollute you! Junk in, Junk out. Please also remember to use your trowels.

GETTING THERE

From Killybegs, take the R263 to Kilcar and then on to Carrick (An Charrig). 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” and “Tí Linn”. Stay on this road and follow the signs
for Bunglass. The carpark to be used is not marked on the map but is quite large and is located
at approx G574 755. There are two portoloos here. Please try to arrive between 8pm and 10pm
and do not head to basecamp until you have been checked-in.

FRIDAY - START TO BASECAMP
Base camp is a stone’s throw from the car park. From the carpark follow the road to Lough
Meenavillier (G571 756). Friday night’s campsite does not have a great water supply, so it’s
best to carry water in with you. There is camping around the north east side of the lake. 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.

SATURDAY – BASECAMP TO SCREIGEIGHTER

Once you’ve had your site checked and have been checked out, follow the road to the carpark
at G558 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 Mór (the great view) from where you will see the full extent of
these magnificent cliffs. Follow a flagstone track in a northerly direction to reach Screigeighter at
G565 759. There is no distinct summit, rather a collection of rocky outcrops.

Magnetic Variation 6º

SCREIGEIGHTER TO SHANBALLY

The developed track 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. You descend a little in height before you regain height to Crockrawer. The east-west
ridge of Shanbally now appears before and you quickly gain the height onto the shoulder. The
main track avoids the top (G559 771) and heads directly towards the col.

SHANBALLY TO ONE MAN’S PASS (Casán an Áonair)

From Shanbally, now heading in a Northwest direction, head to the col (G559 773) and then climb
steadily up the ridge towards the Keeringear arête. There is a well defined track all the way and
the exposed 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 is where the Pilgrim’s Path meets our route. Continue on to reach
the start of the arête (G549 781) above Lough Agh. This is the famous One Man’s Pass.

ONE MAN’S PASS TO SUMMIT

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 views 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 (G544 785) which looks like it was cut in half. Enjoy the view.

SUMMIT TO HIGHCAMP

The planned descent from the summit, heads off in a north easterly bearing to descend towards
a flat area at G549 786. The descent is initially very steep. You can avoid the rocky ground by
good route finding. Take your time and zig zag down slowly. Once you have found the flat plateau
there is a small re-entrant to the left, use that to make your way down the slope eventually
meeting up with the stream to the south west of Lough Agh. High camp is at the southern end
of the lake which is accessible by skirting around the lake from the stream to G556 786. Flat
camping ground is limited, so please maximise space. Check-in on arrival and get your tents up.

SUNDAY HIGHCAMP TO PILGRIM’S PATH

Once you’ve been checked out, leave highcamp and climb east towards the ridge An Baile Mór.
Use the re-entrant at G560 789 as an aid to climb up onto the spur. The stream marked on the
map in this area is not represented on the ground. Aim for the saddle at G563 788. Keep heading
upwards to the col below Aghragh at G565 784. From here descend into the valley, using the
rivers as navigational aids to the track at G567 778.

PILGRIM’S PATH TO CARPARK

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 is very bad
we will arrange to finish at the car park at G574 773. We will then shuttle drivers back to Friday
night’s car park. Check-in on arrival. If you didn’t get a chance to see the tower on Carrigan Head
on Saturday, you can avail of the opportunity to see it before you drive home. It’s well worth a
look.

Well done. On the way home and if you’ve time, why not visit Glencolumcille or drop into
Killybegs for some fresh fish! Drive safely on the way home.

FACT SHEET ON SLIEVE LEAGUE (Sliabh Liag)

The mountain itself

1. Slieve League is the highest mountain in the Donegal South West area and the 285th
highest mountain in Ireland.

2. One Man’s pass is marked on the map. However, there is some debate about the truer
one man’s pass being the Keerinagear arête. Mike Harding in his 'Footloose in the West
of Ireland' (London, 1996) says about the arête; "A yard wide at its narrowest point and
about forty foot long, I would like suckers on my feet before I crossed it on anything but
the stillest day". The renowned Irish mountaineer, Joss Lynam, is of the same view in his
book “Best Irish Walks” (Dublin, 2001).

3. The rocks which make up the cliffs are metamorphic. The quartzite on Slieve League
splits into flagstones and was used for flooring or roof tiles.

Flora & Fauna

4. The Belfast born botanist Robert Lloyd Praeger was very enthusiastic about the wide
range of alpine plants on the face above Lough Agh (Saturday night’s campsite) as was
HC Hart writing about it in 1884.

5. Look out and listen for the rare Ring Ouzel. This bird is identified by its unique "thin reedy
pipping" sound. Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills and Kittiwakes also live on the sea cliffs.
These cliffs are a specially protected area within the EU according to Birdwatch Ireland.

6. Carrigan Head (see below) apparently gave its name to a type of seaweed called
Carrageenans. The use of such seaweed (Chondrus crispus) was first described in
Ireland around 1810, when it was recommended as a cure for respiratory ailments.
The name “carrageen" for this species seems to have been introduced around
1829. “Carrigan/Carrageen” is commonly used in Ireland, not surprisingly since it
means “small rock”. The use of Carrageen Moss spread from Ireland to New England,
USA, probably via the Irish emigrants fleeing the potato famine. A small processing
industry developed there and expanded enormously during World War II, mainly to
replace agar, the supply of which from Japan and had been cut off by the war. After the
war, carrageenan gradually became a major force in the food-additives business, and is
now the leading seaweed-extract on the world’s markets.

7. Minke whales, killer whales, dolphins and porpoises have all been sighted off this stretch
of coast – see Irish Whale and Dolphin Group www.iwdg.ie

Archaeology:

8. This area has a wealth of archaeological ruins from Neolithic tombs (c.4000BC) to early
Christian settlements to Napoleonic watch towers.

9. There was a hermitage on Slieve League connected with St. Assicus of Elphin, Co.
Roscommon. The last pilgrimage to these ruins was held in approx. 1909. The ruins are
the piles of stone still to be seen just NE of the One Man's Pass. The monks who made
this remote mountain top their home eventually left the little pier at Teelin, on a hide-
covered boat and brought Christianity to Iceland and there is a little memorial to them at
the remains of a 6th Century Church beside the fish-factory on the pier.

10. On the southern back wall of the corrie at Lough Agh (Saturday’s campsite) there are
the remains of St Aedh Mac Bric’s church according to “Best Walks in Ireland” by David
Marshall. On the old ½ inch map there are a number of holy wells shown in this area too.

11. Have a look at the signal tower at Carrigan Head as you walk up the road on Saturday
morning. It was built between 1804 and 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars and was used
by British troops to identify potential French invaders. It was manned until Napoleon’s
defeat in Waterloo in 1815. It's still in really good shape even after 200 years. There is a
smaller WWII tower right beside it. The tower was one of a chain of 81 commencing with
No. 1 at Pigeon House in Dublin and working around the south and west coasts to No. 81
at Malin Head. The tower on Carrigan Head was No. 71 and the towers either side with
which it would exchange semaphore signals were No. 70 at St. John’s Point and No. 72
at Malin Beg. These watch towers were manned by a marine reserve known as the Sea
Fensibles.

12. The next Napoleonic signal tower is located at Glen Head near Glencolumcille village,
which is visible to the west at G519 869.

13. Rathlin O’ Beirne island is visible at the westerly end of the cliffs. You can see a
lighthouse on it in clear visibility which was originally built there in 1864. There is also a
monastic site marked on it on the OS map.

History:

14. According to locals the words “Tír Éire” were whitewashed along the coastal cliffs south
of Friday’s car park during WWII so as to identify Ireland to German war bombers.

15. Did you ever wonder about Ireland’s neutrality during WWII? Well this part of Donegal
saw a lot of action back then. Recently the BBC program COAST explored the
importance of the secret wartime Air Corridor across neutral Ireland from Lough Erne to
Donegal Bay which allowed RAF and USAAF aircraft access to Atlantic airspace during
the Battle of the Atlantic in Second World War. There is a plaque to the secret wartime
air corridor in Beleek, Co. Fermanagh and one in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal which you
passed on your way to Slieve League.

16. This secret war time cooperation is seen in the story of the Fintragh Beach crash landing.
You pass Fintragh Beach on the way to Slieve League. An American B-17 Bomber crash
landed in 1944 after two out of its four engines failed and serious problems with its on
board instruments. There were two different compasses which the pilot relied on – his
radio compass and his magnetic compass. They showed a 90 degree variation. The pilot
split the difference and flew at a 45 degree angle between the two courses! He eventually
heard a radio signal and approached the beach at 110mph, crash landing in the sea.
Thankfully, all survived and were looked after by the locals. For more information see
http://www.theclocktower.ie/pp/useruploads/pdfs/bomber2.pdf

17. Like any part of coastal Ireland, there are a lot of marine wrecks off the coast of Slieve
League. One of which is a British naval ship the SS Nerissa, which was sunk by German
submarine U-552 in April 1944 off this coast by torpedoes. The second torpedo sadly hit
a life raft. There is a graveyard and memorial on St John’s Point. It was the only troopship
to lose Canadian troops en route to England.

MPC Team
October 2010.