Except for Carrot Ridge, all the routes on the Ben Corr quartzite are serious, and unsuitable for bad weather, which unfortunately is fairly frequent in Connemara. Hence it seems worth while producing an interim guide to Coum Gowlaun and other sandstone climbs in Co. Galway, which are less serious, and less dependent on good weather. I would stress that this is an interim guide, and that descriptions have been taken almost verbatim from the reports of first ascents except in these cases where climbs have been repeated. Gradings are based on one or two ascents and are therefore tentative. The rock is a rough sandstone, giving excellent friction, even when wet. Most of the rock is sound, but there are some bands of loose rock. Apart from Coum Gowlaun, there is one route above Lough Glenawough.
Coum Gowlaun Main Crag
It lies on the north-west side of Maum Trasna, running up from Gowlaun Bridge (map ref. 953673 on .5 inch Sheet 10) on the Westport to Leenane road. It was first visited in 1951, when Andre Kopczinski, Boris Wilson and Joss Lynam made a route on Castle Buttress. I regret that I am unable to remember the exact location of this climb (Gaoth Rua 300ft. Mild V. Diff) but it is probably just to the left of Shah Begum. It was not visited again until 1967.
On the left side of the east branch of the coum easily visible from the road is a mass of slabs with one big overhang. A stream flows down just to the left of this overhang. and continues in a gully to the foot of the slabs. The lower tier of slabs are set at an easy angle and are topped by a grass ledge. This fades out into the hillside on the right, and goes up as an easy gully on the left. It is the best descent route.
3 BÉAL BOCHT 90m S
Sean Rothery, Frank Winder. 4.6.67
Starts just to the right of the gully, at the foot of the slabs. Scramble up easy slabs to a ledge below steeper slabs.
1. 30m. Diff. Climb the wall to the right of the watercourse on good holds and finish easily up the edge to the grass ledge at top of the lower tier of slabs.
2. 27m. Mild Severe. Above is a steep slab on the right of the great wet corner with a crack groove on its right. Climb the groove for 5m. until a traverse can be made up and across to the edge on the left of the slab. Climb this to a small vegetated ledge with a spike belay.
3. 15m. V. Diff. Go straight up behind the belay to a good ledge and belay below a prominent short corner with an overhanging start.
4. 18m. Severe. Go up the overhang to gain the short wall on the right of the corner. Move up and finish out left to the edge and up.
All the following climbs start from the grass ledge or its continuation as a gully to the left. They are approached by scrambling up the lower tier of slabs to the level of the top of pitch 1 of Beal Bocht. Going left from Beal Bocht the first route is:
JANUS 30m MS
C. Jacob. July 1980
Takes the gully to the left of Beal Bocht.
1. 15m. V. Diff. Up groove until bored.
2. 15m. Mild Severe. Traverse 3m. left and continue up until nervous in small loose overhangs. Traverse right and continue up. Vegetables? End below the overhanging waterfall.
DOUBLE FUN 50m E1/2
A. Macfarlane, D. Stelfox. 29.5.89
The route takes an obvious line through the centre of the two big overhangs on the left of the crag. Scramble up the lower rock as for Pitch 1 of Beal Bocht or, in dry weather, the watercourse on the left. Scramble on up under the lower overhang.
1. 15m, 5b. A steep and athletic start gradually leads to better holds up the right-hand side of the lower overhang; poor protection to start, with considerable exposure below. Belay just over the lip, before the watercourse, on the slab.
2. 35m, 5b. Easily up the slab to below a line of very steep flakes leading up through the second overhang. Gymnastically follow these over the lip to the top.
JAKE'S JUG 46m HS
O. Jacob, C. Jacob. 26.8.79
Starts between Wetback and Beal Bocht where there is a large slab with a waterfall running down it - this is the main feature of the crag. The bottom of it is overhung - the climb takes the overhang - and has a stony gully beneath it. This is best approached along the "grassy ledge" shown in the guidebook. The climb starts some 18-21m. up the gully, beyond the waterfall, just before a huge block and a little to the right of a prominent overhanging nose.
1. Stand on the edge of a spike and pull up over the overhang on good holds. Move up the slab to the steep juggy wall on the nose. Climb its highest part (crux), trending left. Over the arête, up an easy slab to a niche. Belay.
2. Traverse across slab and up diagonal ledge/crack. Around arête and reverse down similar crack to stony gully.
Plenty of V.Diff./Severe alternative finishes.
HIPPO'S HALLUCINATION 15m VDiff
C. Jacob, C. Tilson. July 1980
Takes the edge to the right of Sobriety. Start as Sobriety, but quickly move right to the outside edge of the nose. Elimination of most holds makes it interesting
SOBRIETY 15m VDiff
C. Tilson, C. Jacob. July 1980
Between Jake's Jug and Wetback this starts at the base of the ribbed nose. Start at base of nose. Climb 2m. left of edge.
2 WETBACK 30m VDiff
Frank Doherty, Noel Lynch. 11.5.68
Starts about halfway up the grass gully, directly below the arête on the left of the waterfall. Pull up overhang on good holds, and go straight up groove (some loose rock) to base of second overhang. Bridge up and move left onto arête. Pull around corner- delicate. Thread belay.
GEORDIE ARÊTE 18m VDiff
Start on the descent gully between Wetback and Cracklet, there is a prominent arête starting just left of where the overhanging part of sidewall ends. Follow arête throughout.
1 CRACKLET 15m MS
Joss Lynam, John Gibson, Jim Leonard. 18.5.69
Starts 9-18 m. up the gully to the left of Wetback, at the foot of an obvious crack in a corner. 1. 15m. Go up easily to the foot of the corner. Move up on friction holds with poor finger jams in the crack until a magnificent horizontal flake can be reached with both hands. Pull up and continue to easy ground.
Returning to Beal Bocht and working to the right......
4 BALTHAZAR 57m VDiff
Doug Milnes*, Joss Lynam*. 11.5.68
1. 27m. Climb the groove for 5m. as Beal Bocht, then keep straight up the diedre (slightly loose). Eventually pull out right onto slab edge and reach a good ledge and belay.
2. 30m. Go left round the corner into the continuation of the diedre. This starts at an easy angle and then steepens into a V-chimney with a chockstone at the top. Exit by bridging.
MELCHOIR 23m MS
O. Jacob, A. Nelson, C. Jacob. 26.8.79
An alternative pitch 2 to Balthazar. From belay climb easily past prominent spike to buttress right of V-groove of Balthazar finish. Up centre of buttress - plenty of holds but exposed.
FACETIOUS FACTION 30m VDiff
C. Tilson, C. Jacob. July 1980
Alternative second pitch of Balthazar. Move left from belay at top of pitch 1 of Balthazar, ascending on good holds up small overhangs. Good protection, not steep
5 SHALOM 60m Diff
Peter Shortt, Betty Healy, Gwynn Stephenson. 4.6.67
Starts about 5m. right of Beal Bocht, on the left edge of the next slab.
1. 30m. Climb the slab edge (slight difficulty after 9m.) to ledge and belay (shared with Balthazar).
2. 30m. Continue up on good holds keeping to the edge. Quite exposed near top.
6 ACRIMONY 60m VDiff
Pat Colleran*, Peter Shortt*, Mick Colgan. 4.6.67
Start (at arrow) below small overhang a few feet right of Shalom.
1. 30m. V.Diff. Climb the overhang and continue up the slab close to the wall on its right. There is a bulge at 12m. Above this work left to ledge and belay shared with Balthazar.
2. 12m. V. Diff. Go back right into the corner (nut runner) and climb a V-chimney to a good stance with poor belay
3. 18m. Diff. Gain the slab above the stance and continue up, keeping right of the overhang.
Some distance to the right of these climbs is an obvious corner. There are two routes here.
7 AN ÓIGE AOISTE 81m S
Frank Doherty*, Joss Lynam*, Noel Lynch. 4.6.67
Starts right of the gully at the foot of the lower tier of slabs. Scramble up the slabs heading for the corner, as far as the grass ledge.
1. 24m. V.Diff. Up a slab, grass, and broken rock to the foot of the corner.
2. 15m. Severe. Climb the wall left of the corner. Move right, then left and up into a scoop. Move left out of the scoop and up to a grass ledge.
3. 27m. Diff. Follow the arête easily to a grass ledge below a second corner.
4. 15m. V. Diff. Climb the wall left of the corner, using a slanting crack.
8 CRUSKEEN 42m HS
Sean Rothery, Frank Winder. 4.6.67
Starts at the top of pitch 1 of Og is Aoiste, directly under a steep crack.
1. 33m. Hard Severe. Gain the crack by moving up the steep wall on its left. Move into the crack after 5m. and go up it until it becomes vegetated. Climb the slab on the left by a steep ascending traverse on small holds (Delicate with no protection). Gain grass ledge at top of pitch 3 of Og is Aoiste.
2. 9m. Diff. Climb the rib above to the top.
The next feature to the right is a rift with a small stream, flanked on its left by red-brown slabs at a fairly easy angle. Here is:
10 BEREFT 75m D
Joss Lynam. 4.6.67
The route goes up the brown, humped slab on the left of the streambed, under the overhanging side wall. It continues over two bulges and finishes immediately to the right of the final overhangs.
9 TRICORN 59m S
Doug Milnes, Joss Lynam. 12.5.68
Starts as for Bereft.
1. 15m. Severe. Up a few feet on the first slab of Bereft and then left up a corner. This is awkward and apparently loose, but the blocks at the top seem O.K. for a press. Go left up V-groove to foot of second corner. Peg belay; good stance.
2. 9m. Severe. Up the corner. Awkward move onto sloping ledge half-way. Exit left, belay.
3. 18m. Scrambling up left on easy rock to foot of clean slab.
4. 17m. V. Diff. Up slab for a few feet and then left into corner. Climb the corner and exit left to chockstone belay. Scramble to top.
9a TRI-HARDER 56m MS
Doug Milnes, Joss Lynam, Henning Therkelsen. 24.8.69
Starts about 18m. of Bereft, just right of an overlap.
1. 21m. Mild Severe. Up a slab and short wall, heading for an overhang. From a position on the right just below the overhang swing round to the left on a block and go up the overhang using high holds. Stance with poor belay higher to the left.
2. 14m. Moderate. Straight up easily to a grass rake. Junction with Tricorn, top of pitch 3.
3. 21m. Mild Severe. Go right up a brown slab for about 9m. then left over a bulge onto a slab running left. Almost immediately traverse slightly down to the left to a good ledge. Then up through the overhang (some loose rock) to the top.
Go to the right-hand side of the main crag where a stream comes down steeply from right to left. There is a brown stained wall with an overhang above it on the skyline. Belay on rock right hand side of stream.
GOWLAUN CLEGS 51m. S. Christy Rice. Tommy Irving. June 2013.
1. 25m.S. Climb the brown wall via a series of short wall and slabs directly below the top overhang, after about 20m move up right to a grassy good size ledge and belay from nut on back wall.
2. 20m. MS. Climb the short back wall 2.5m and keep climbing up diagonally left to the gap on the skyline,belay in gap. 3. 6m. VD. Step out right 1m or so and climb the slab above, good friction holds and cracks. Belay on left near top.
From the Coum below, there are two large Prows on the sky line of the right hand side of the main cliff with a recessed area between and a slab below them.
These climbs start below and to the left of the left hand Prow on the brown stained wall.
Scairbhín. 60m S (4b,4a)
. Start a few meters to the right above Gowlaun Cleggs indicated by arrow etched on rock.
1. 30m Scramble up the rock to the arrow and climb the shallow bulging groove pulling up over left (crux) to the slab above. Climb the slab for a few meters and build a belay under the head wall.
2. 30m Move right and climb a small wall two meters to another slab seven meters directly below the Prow. Move up right on slab for three meters until a ramp heading diagonally up left on the wall above comes into view. Climb the ramp for four meters and round the apex of the Prow to its left. Belay.
Christy Rice. Kristof Kozlowski. 9/6/2015.
Ramp and Slab. 100m S (4a,4a)
Start a few meters to the left and below Gowlaun Clegg. indicated by arrow
1. 50m. Climb the broad ramp slanting up right, 35 meters. At the top of the ramp climb the wall, all of the time going in the same direction as the ramp to an easy angled big slab. Belay.
2. 50m. Climb easy slab up to center point of it above and step out right on to recess slab above a undercut, on good hand holds. Climb the fault line in the slab above right of center on good holds and friction. Scramble on up easy ground to belay boulders.
Kristof Kozlowzki. Christy Rice. 9/6/2015.
Coum Gowlaun Castle Buttress
The remaining climbs are on Castle Buttress. Starting from the right they are:
DISPARITY 73m(42m of climbing) VDiff
Frank Doherty*, Joss Lynam*, Noel Lynch. 4.6.67
This route is on the rightmost of the three ribs on the buttress and starts at its foot.
1. 30m. V.Diff. Up the crest of the rib. A nose leads to easier ground. A second nose needs care on account of loose rock (the left wall is harder, but sounder).
2. 12m. Diff. Up the nose and go left round the overhang to the top.
PURE CORN 39m S
Ken Price, Paul Hill. 12.5.68
Starts in the recess between the Disparity and Shah Begum ribs. Move left from recess, cross arête, and move into V-groove. Climb the groove, steepening into a corner, and pull out onto a small grassy ledge (pitch could be broken here). Step back right and continue up the corner on good holds to a good block belay at top.
SHAH BEGUM 73m S
Mick Colgan*, Pat Colleran*, Peter Shortt*. 4.6.67
The route generally follows the edge of the centre ribs.
1. 15m. Climb vertical wall on left of rib on good holds to base of short gully.
2. 27m. Severe. Continue up gully until route is blocked by a large overhang. An ascending traverse on the right wall of the gully (difficult for short reach) brings one again to the edge of the rib.
3. 30m. Follow edge of rib to summit.
POPCORN 64m VDiff
Doug Milnes*, Joss Lynam*. 12.5.68
Left of Shah Begum is a hogsback. Start below this at the foot of a wide splay groove.
1. 15m. Climb the groove (which is wet) and avoid the overhang at the top on the right. Belay at foot of hogsback rib.
2. 15m. Climb the rib. Some loose holds here. Belay on second ledge.
3. 14m. Continue up the rib to grass.
4. 20m. Mixed grass and rock to a grass rake. Climb the easy wall behind the rake.
I'M NOT GOING DOWN THERE IN MY WELLIES 90m Diff
R. Cole, M. Smith. 8.4.80
Start at the bottom of left (first) rib. Climb in two 45m pitches (no protection).
VARIATION SECOND 90m VS
M. Smith, R. Cole. 8.4.80
Go left to wall with rising overhang on right. Climb diagonal left crack under overhang to top.
One other climb is known on the north side of the Maum Trasna plateau. Below the north east end of the plateau, lies Lough Glenawough. West of the Lough is a re-entrant, map ref. 985681. At the head of the re-entrant is a buttress composed of three slabs, each separated from its neighbour on the left by a gully with an overhanging side wall. The route starts up the central slab.
INTERMEDIATE 100m Diff
Joss Lynam, Ruth Lynam. 5.4.68
Start at the foot of the central slab, just right of the gully.
1. 21m. Up the slab near the left side wall. Then surmount a bulge by moving out right. Above the bulge go diagonally back to a belay underneath the sidewall, and below a second bulge.
2. 18m. Go over the bulge and continue, mostly on veg., bearing right, until the rock reasserts itself.
3. 24m. Climb pleasantly up the middle of the slabs to a bulge. Climb this and move left into a grassy rock under the sidewall, below another bulge. Jammed nut belay.
4. 12m. Climb the bulge, which becomes a rock nose between the slab on the right and a grass gully on the left.
5. 27m. Above is a big prow. Go diagonally left and pull up onto the slab above the prow. Climb the slab to prominent block belay on the crest.