J310283 Bearnagh Slabs is a popular crag with beginners but with a few good, hard routes thrown in and offering excellent slab climbing with renowned Mourne friction. Most of the routes are about 80m long and tend to follow friction grooves and slabs.
The best approach is to follow the Trassey Track from the car park (312314) to the disused quarry on the side of Slieve Bearnagh. From here take the right branch leading to the col between Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Meelmore. The slabs are at the col, approximately one hour from the Trassey car park.
To descend from the routes walk rightwards to the Mourne Wall, cross the wall and descend the rocky slopes to the col. Various grassy routes have been claimed at the left side of the slabs, but the first continuous route is -
Directissima 80m S 4a
B. Moorehead, C. Stead. 23/6/67.
Most of this route offers clean and rather good climbing with some bold moves but the final corner can be a bit dirty. Start: just left of the left-hand-most rib (which forms a distinctive zig-zag) at two mossy streaks.
1) 25m Climb the slab between the mossy streaks using flaky side- holds. Belay on a grassy ledge under the rib.
2) 15m Using the left-sloping crack at the top of the ledge gain an airy perch with a dubious spike and nut belay.
3) 40m Delicately up from belay and continue past a grass patch above to a square-cut buttress. Up the left-hand corner of the buttress. (An older finish traversed right to ascend grassy tramlines - with lack of traffic over the years this vegetation may now be strong enough to give a fine finish!
n old route Frockan's Route 70m D (C. Brims, F. Martin. 9/36.) follows the grass immediately under the zig-zag rib to finish by grassy tramlines above two large grass ledges.
Zen * 75m E1 4a, 5b
I. Rea, I. Dillon. 10/5/92.
Takes the left edge of the main slab (left of Crooked Chimney).Start: at the lowest point of rock below the zig-zag arete.
1) 40m. Up and follow the blunt rib rightwards to smooth slab. Cross overlap on right at a spike and follow a seam leftwards. This leads to the top of the arete at a big grass ledge. Block belay.
2) 35m. Up onto ledge above block. Follow thin corner left to another ledge. Step back right and climb thin groove on edge of slab to another ledge below steep left facing corner. Up this and make an awkward step left onto edge and then back right again up the continuation groove which leads to yet another ledge. Finish up Crooked Chimney.
Crooked Chimney ** 69m HS 4b
S. Graham, B. Blakie, M. McMurray. 5/49.
A 'classic' route regarded by countless generations of climbers as a 'pleasant introduction' to the S grade (indeed originally graded Mild Severe i.e. slightly harder than Hard V Diff) only because leaders have had a blackout whilst struggling up the awkward deep crack on the fourth pitch which is best climbed with a rock shoe on one foot and an alpine boot on the other. The route follows a series of rightward-trending ribs to a grassy ledge and finishes up a prominent dogleg chimney at the top of the slab. Start: at two criss-cross blocks.
1)25m Follow the slabby edge of the rib system to reach a small ledge and spike belay or up slab directly left of rib to the same small ledge.
2) 12m Up directly to left-hand side of a spacious grass ledge, shared with Grand Central.
3) 14m Climb left up a crack to the edge and follow the slabby exposed rib back right, to reach a narrow ledge below a deep corner crack.
4) 9m Crux pitch. Spraughle up the deep crack or levitate gracefully (for the more accomplished crack climber) and continue to a small ledge.
5) 9m Finish up the dogleg chimney or directly up from belay or the large crack on the right.
Grand Central ** 70m VD
One of the best longer excursions in the Mournes. Start - 6m right of Crooked Chimney at a large grass ledge directly below a large overhang at the top of the slabs.
1) 25m Climb easily up slabs to grass ledge. From its base up left trending groove to join right-trending groove leading to a belay.
2) 10m Climb up a groove directly behind belay for 3m then traverse up left along a faint groove and up to the grass ledge shared with Crooked Chimney.
3) 10m Step down and climb the tilted wall on the right to reach a triangular flake belay.
4) 10m Move left up slab to edge of rib and ascend to a small conical spike, below the overhung groove.
5) 15m Bridge up and enter the corner groove above (awkward), which is followed to the top or layback a flake just left of the corner groove.
Innocence ** 60m E2 4c, 5c
I. Rea, M. Rea I. Dillon. 16/5/92.
An excellent eliminate with a fine, bold but technically reasonable crux. Start - on the big grass ledge as for Grand Central.
1) 25m. Up to first grass ledge. Follow seam leftwards from top of ledge and cross overlap rightwards into a left facing corner (just left of Peter de Bernac). Climb this traversing left at the top to gain the spacious belay ledge on Grand Central.
2) 35m. Go right, but then steeply left to gain left trending hanging ramp/groove. Climb this for 10m (crux) to gain a slab just right of Crooked Chimney. Up thin seam on slab to bulge. Move left for 2m then hand traverse right to a crack. Up this to gain left edge of smooth slab. Move precariously up the arete to finish.
The left facing corner left of High Anxiety is characterised by a massive green vegetation strip. The following route takes the next corner left of this.
Peter De Bernac ** 72m VS 4a, 4b
I. Rea, I. Dillon (Pitch 1). 10/5/92. P. Gribbon (Pitch 2). 29/4/54.
The original Peter De Bernac variation and a newer direct start have been combined to give a good independent line. Start - on the big grass ledge as for Grand Central.
1) 45m. Up to first grass ledge and work your way up to the corner, which leads directly to the flake stance on Grand Central.
2) 27m. Move right across slab to a good jug and on up the corner. Either climb the deep cracks above or move left into a corner and climb the overhang.
North Wall Climb 67m VD
M. McMurray, W. B. Gibson. 11/50.
A confused climb of character i.e. many variations possible and character building. This climb starts at Grand Central, crosses Hypothesis, Crescent and Yosemite Days to surmount the large right-hand rib near the top.
1) 15m Climb zig-zag cracks to a grass ledge.
2) 37m Follow a vein diagonally right for 25m over two small walls and climb the confusion of grass and rock to a spike belay.
3) 15m Ascend the narrow slab for 10m to a notch in the wall and finish up this.
High Anxiety * 78m E2 4b, 5b
E. Cooper, T. Cooper. 10/6/84.
Low in the grade but bold despite the excellent friction for the slab work. Start - immediately left of Hypothesis.
1) 30m Climb small arete left of Hypothesis and continue up the slab to overlap. Continue over this to a small spike and traverse right to the first stance of Hypothesis.
2) 48m Traverse left to spike and continue up the edge of the slab to a crack. Climb this until possible to step left into a large pock. Boldly smear up and left to a faint crack leading to a ledge. From here move right across the slab to a good crack. Climb this leftwards to a ledge on left edge. Either continue right and gain the final crack of Hypothesis, or continue up the top of Peter De Bernac.
Variation Buttercup Summers* E3 (5b/c G. Murray, B. James. 19/8/95. A short but even bolder direct variation on the original - heart racing!
2) Follow High Anxiety but continue up to end of crack and make delicate moves straight up slab until able to reach thin overlap. Follow this leftwards to stance on left edge as for High Anxiety. Finish up this.
Hypothesis ** 78m S 4a
I. Firth, E. Wilkinson.
Start - 15m left of the shattered overlap wall which virtually marks the right-hand edge of the main slabs.
1) 30m Climb straight up to a belay below the left-facing overlap corner of Crescent.
2) 30m Climb the crack leading diagonally left to the middle of the slab. Follow the rather adhesive cracks above to a grass ledge on the right.
3) 18m Up a crack on the left edge of the slab or more easily straight up from the belay.
Crescent * 78m VS 4b, 4b, 4a
A. McQuoid, M. Curran (Pitches 1 and 3) 6/79. I. Firth, E. Wilkinson (Pitch 2).
A fine second pitch but the rock is a bit dirty. Start - at a small slab tongue just right and above Hypothesis.
1) 30m Climb directly up to and along the base of the obvious crescent shaped overlap. From its left-hand side, step up and right. Belay as for Hypothesis.
2) 30m Follow the dogleg corner directly above moving left at its top and continuing to belay as for Hypothesis.
3) 18m Continue straight up to the top or the last pitch of Hypothesis which is cleaner.
Yosemite Days 75m S 4a, 4a, 4a
C. Roberts, S. Smeltzer. 7/82.
Quite good climbing on the first pitch but vegetated thereafter. Start - takes the ramp right of the Crescent/Hypothesis ramp.
1) 35m Trend left to follow a groove to the middle of the blank slab. Gain a fist-sized hold and surmount the small overlap (crux) using undercuts. Move up the groove in the middle of the ramp above until able to step left onto a small grass ledge, several metres higher than the Crescent/ first belay.
2) 15m Move up the groove in the ramp to belay below where a wall starts to force one left.
3) 25m Stay on the ramp using holds on the right wall where necessary to continue up to a layback finish.
Greased Lightning 35m VD
M. Manson, J. Forsythe. 5/7/81.
This route takes the black greasy corner right of Hypothesis, and finishes up a slab and groove above.
Apocalypse Now 45m VD
Start - at the old ruined baronial wall near the Mourne Wall. Follow the grooves and grassy rock above, to finish up a rib at the top.
Pussy Riot 47m VD
T. Glancy, G. Galligan. 11/8/2012.
Starts approximately 5m right of Apocalypse Now.
1. 20m. Move up the slab over vegetated cracks to belay halfway up the overlap on the right.
2. 27m. Continue with interest up the slabs which steepen towards a prow. Finish up the prow.
Girdle Traverse 110m HS 4a
B. Moorehead, C. Stead. 20/8/67.
From top of Directissima climb the steep wall on the right to the base of the dogleg chimney on Pitch 5 of Crooked Chimney. Traverse right below Grand Central and finish up Peter De Bernac.
The following route is located on the face left of the quarry which is passed on the approach and just off the track.
Rachel's Route 25m HVS 5a
S. Herron and party. 20/11/97.
Start - 4m right of arete on small shelf below two small pock marks. Up ledges to rightward pointing spike. Above spike climb the first crack on the right to horizontal breaks. Traverse right to leftward trending crack, up this to sloping shelf and then easier ground to belay.