Ben Crom

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J312260 The Ben Crom crags haughtily overlook the Ben Crom reservoir at the end of the Silent Valley. The Main Face offers many fine climbs mainly in the HVS-E2 grades in a superb mountain setting in the middle of the Mournes. The positions on this face high, above the reservoir, are among the best in the area. Also, the approach is reasonable along a fairly well defined path and the best approach to all the routes is from the top of the crag. In contrast Womble Wall and the other smaller crags give shorter routes mainly in the lower grades on excellent rock and with a generally sunny aspect. Bouldering is also available, in fine surroundings, but for a short day Hen is handier.

The easiest approach is along the Ott Mountain Track, which leaves the Spelga-Slievenaman-Bryansford road at a small parking space (280278). The upper fork of this track leads in the direction of the Slieve Lough Shannagh/Carn Mountain col. From this col a small track descends around the side of Slieve Lough Shannagh to the top of the broad shoulder that runs between Slieve Lough Shannagh and Doan. Continue along the track to a small cairn and head out right for about 50m to reach a track along the Ben Crom river. Follow this on either side of the river for about 500m until a path on the left strikes up to the long northern ridge of Ben Crom and follow this to the summit. About one and a half hours from the road. Just below the top is Summit Gully, which is the normal descent route to the climbs on the Main Face.

<display_map zoom="11">54.167576, -5.987486~Ben Crom</display_map>

Main Face

The first five climbs are all located on the right wall of Summit Gully (looking up) and provide excellent climbing up rounded grooves and flutings. The routes start from a large grassy terrace in the middle of the wall with the obvious central fault giving the line of Endless Highway which has a good flake belay at its base.

Intolerance 35m HVS 5a I. Rea, P. Wells. 5/4/96. Worthwhile and a lot tougher than its immediate neighbour.Start - 4m up and left of Endless Highway at a hanging flake. Follow this right, then directly up on flutings and pockets to a bulge. Move left to gain a left leaning crack and up this to horizontal break. Step right and finish up wall.

Ignorant Armies * 35m HVS 5a I. Rea, P. Wells. 5/4/96. A good introduction to the style of the harder routes on the Main Face.Start - 2m left of Endless Highway below an elliptical pocket. Climb a few metres directly up to a bulge, turn it on the right and then step immediately back left. Climb directly up thin flutings to gain on the left a shallow right facing corner. Up this to the large horizontal break. Finish up the middle of the wall as for Firefly.

Endless Highway * 32m E1 5b S. Mcllwaine, B. Stewart. 18/6/86. The technical difficulties are focused into a few hard and committing moves. Start - at a flake belay below the previously mentioned obvious fault in the middle of the wall.Climb up to small overhangs. Directly over bulge to reach a corner/groove on the right (or step left below bulge, up and back right to the same point.) Climb the corner/groove to gain the grass ledge on the right. Continue up the arete on the left to top.

Rainbow Road *** 40m E4 6a E. Cooper, Jeremy Suffern 10/8/2005 Takes the obvious vertical fault running from the left end of the roof on Endless Highway. Delightful technical climbing with barely adequate protection. Up corner and over the roof to gain right trending fault and follow it to top avoiding tempting flakes on the left at half height.

Die Walküre * 40m E3 5c I. Rea, M. Rea. 6/4/96. Start - at the flake belay of Endless Highway. Traverse horizontally right along break for 1m then straight up to a small square cut overhang. Over this and go up for a few metres until it is possible to step right into Pouter (just below the horizontal break), then step up right to a grassy ledge on the edge of the arete. Place good friend before stepping back down and gain the sloping ledge at the base of the arete. Precarious layaways gain high holds on the arete and give a tenuous finish. From the big grass ledge, avoid the grassy corner and climb the arete on the right.

Pouter * 45m VS 4c J. McKenzie, P. McHugh. 30/3/74. A tortuous line up the face but pleasantly interesting. Start - at the flake belay of Endless Highway. Follow Die Walküre but continue traverse horizontally right to gain flutings and deep cracks on right-hand side of the wall. Take an arcing line left to a horizontal fault. Traverse horizontally left along this to gain a corner/groove (junction with Endless Highway) and climb it until the corner on the left can be reached by another horizontal break. Climb corner to the top.

Firefly ** 45m HVS 5a C. Torrans. 20/5/84. Start - just around the corner from Summit Gully wall. Shares the same start as Planxty. The route can be made easier (VS) by climbing in from the left, at start of Pouter. Move left to arete. Turn arete (crux) and climb up flutings to a horizontal fault (junction with Pouter). Continue up the flutings (as for Pouter) until it is possible to move left to crack in steep slab. Up crack to large ledge traverse left on horizontal break and climb wall on right of corner by thin cracks to top.

Planxty * 45m E1 5b J. McKenzie, R. Greene, E. Wallace (One aid point). 23/3/74. C. Torrans (First free ascent). 20/4/84. Start - just around the corner of Summit Gully on the Main Face, 3m left of the cave at an obvious fault. Climb the wall with difficulty up to the overhang. Using a good hold on the right move down and right to gain easier ground above or take the roof direct. Up cracks to top. Direct Variation E2 (5c A. Chambers, G. Clarke. 5/7/92.

The Dreaming Air ** 45m E3 5c I. Rea, S. Ferris. 13/5/96. Start - on top of a block 1m right of Planxty. Climb up and right into a left facing niche below a roof. Turn the roof on the right and make delicate moves up to another roof. Reach out left over the roof to gain good jugs then work right into the crack/fault that runs parallel to Chimney Route, on its left. Go up this to below the last bulge, then swing left to the edge and follow this clean lay-back flakes up and slightly right.

Chimney Route * 45m HS 4b J. McGuinness. /75. This route, at the left of the Main Face, climbs in and out of the obvious deep cleft and will be a sheer delight to those with troglodyte tendencies. 1) 25m Climb into the cave and re-appear at an opening 10m higher. Surmount awkward bulge and continue in groove to airy belay. 2) 20m Continue up groove to top.

The next four routes share a common start 10m right of Chimney Route at a grassy corner.

Cancer ** 45m E3 5c/6a E. Cooper, A. Moles. /89. Climb the obvious flake on the left until below the roof and move right into the corner. After a few moves up traverse left along the lip passing a good thread to gain the right arete of Chimney Route.

Moon Fever E5 6a Eddie Cooper, Martin Manson Spring 2001 Start as for Cancer. Climb to flake and pull over roof to join Yellow Moon. Follow Yellow Moon until possible to move right and up to surmount a small overlap using down pointing flakes. Continue to move easily to a bulge. Technical moves lead over this to a ledge. Traverse left to join Yellow Moon at the twin cracks and follow these to the top.

Yellow Moon ** 45m E4 6a E. Cooper, A. Moles. /89. A sustained climb taking the central line of the main wall above the overhang. Follow Cancer and continue along it's traverse left to the thread. Climb the wall above directly to the top using a series of shallow corners, breaks and cracks.

Pisces * 45m E2 5c, 4c C. Torrans, R Greene (Two aid points). 9/3/74. C. Torrans, U. MacPherson (First free ascent). 22/4/84. 1) 25m Climb the flake on the left and move into the corner as for Cancer. Continue up the corner for 12m to a good ledge. Follow fault line to overhang, up this with difficulty to a good finishing hold. 2) 20m Move up left then back right to large loose block. Bridge over block to crack. Enter this from the right and follow it to the top.

Blood Strangers *** 50m E3 5c, 6a C. Torrans, E. Cooper. 7/10/84. (Pitch 1 done on 20/4/84) A tremendous route which provides some hard climbing in varied situations and takes the deep niche around the corner 10m right of Pisces. Start - up to the crack of Aries. 1) 30m Up crack for a few metres until able to delicately move left into corner niche. Pass overhang on right and continue up on good flakes to jammed block. Traverse 2m right to crack. Up crack with difficulty and traverse left on good holds to large grass ledge, 2) 20m Climb the right-trending scoop to small ledge and thin crack going back left. Step up on edge of crack, move left to vertical crack. Climb crack until forced back right and finish by an awkward layback.

Aries * 52m HVS 5b R. Greene, M. Walls. 6/4/74. Start - 10m right of Pisces below a bulging crack. 1) 37m Climb wall and layback round bulge (crux). Continue up the layback for 8m to a good stance. Go diagonally left past a good thread runner, over flakes to another good stance below a slim left facing flake/crack. Lay-away off this to a good flake at its top, then diagonally up left on a wide break to a large grassy ledge. Belay on medium sized friends. 2)15m Layback up corner on left but it is dirty and not recommended - much better to finish up Pisces top pitch

The Slug ** 90m E1 5b, 5b, 4c R. Greene, R. Finlay. 8/75. This excellent excursion traverses the Main Face from right to left taking in some of the best sections of Aries and Pouter and provides superb situations. The second needs to be as competent as the leader. Less tedious after pitch 2 to finish up Chimney Route. Start - as for Aries. 1) 30m Climb Aries until able to belay on a good ledge. 2) 20m Step down to gain a horizontal crack. Traverse this to gain the belay ledge of Chimney Route. 3) 40m Climb up and traverse left around corner to grass ledge (possible belay), move out onto wall and traverse leftwards into the top corner of Pouter, continue up this to the top.

The Rage of Achilles *** 60m E3 5c, 5c I. Rea, S. Ferris. 13/5/96. A brilliant eliminate. Start - about 3m right of Aries at a small triangular niche. 1) 40m Go up directly on a left trending finger crack/flake and follow this to the first ledge on Aries. Go left into Blood Strangers. Then from under the roof traverse left across the steep wall to the edge. Go up and swing right into a good flake crack which is followed to another ledge. Follow Aries to its first belay. Belay on medium sized friends. 2) 20m Go directly up a thin crack behind the belay, bridging into initial corner of Pisces for the first few moves, then lay-away up the rounded cracks into the middle of the wall. At the final bulge, traverse right and finish up the break in the arete with an awkward lay-back (as for Blood Strangers). Ben Crom Variations: On the 2nd ascent of Rage of Achilles, E. Cooper and A. Moles made two variations. On the 1st pitch it was found possible to move directly from the traverse up to the flake crack (at same grade). On the 2nd pitch, E. Cooper added a direct finish up the obvious groove, instead of traversing into Blood Strangers ? 6b.

Red River ** 50m E2 5c, 5b/c I. Rea, R. Bankhead. 17/8/96. Start - 3m right of The Rage of Achilles, below a grey block. 1) 30m From the block go straight up the wall to a good resting spot on a flake, just below a sloping ledge in the prominent right facing corner. Go out left and jam and hand traverse to the end of the diagonal fault. Follow Blood Strangers and where it goes left continue on up to belay on a large sloping ledge. 2) 20m Up the tight corner behind the belay, step out right, then climb the prominent blocky arete with a difficult move to finish. Further right an old route Dam View takes a line in the area of broken rock just before Round Gully but seems to have disappeared under the vegetation.

Phil's Folly 42m VD A worthwhile top pitch on small holds and friction and better than it looks. This pitch can be approached along a path/ledge from Barnstorm (see below). Start - 90m left of the main summit gully at the same altitude as the Main Face. 1) 18m Up the wall to the right of overhanging blocks, over these and up the wall edge on large holds. 2) 24m Straight up the slab into the long twin groove scoop. add comment

Summit Block

At the top of Summit Gully this is obvious on the right (looking out) and is easily reached along the wide grass ledge.

Barnstorm 15m VS 4c I. Rea. 17/4/87. The fist-sized diagonal crack on the left of the main block and leading to the left edge and up to the top.

Further left the path/ledge continues (care required - some loose boulders) around the summit block to where it becomes slabby and crosses the belay of Phil's Folly so giving easy access to the top, worthwhile pitch. Continue past a large flake until a massive boulder can be seen butting out from the summit slabs on the next level above the large flake. This boulder has three short problems which are -

Boring Stories, Glory Days 10m HVS 5b A. Whitcroft, S. Reid. 15/9/90. Climb the obvious thin finger crack rising from a grass ledge on top of a flake.

Forever Young 10m E3 6b G. Murray, R. Purvis. 12/8/96. Climb the sharp, left edge to scoop at 2m just right of arete, move up to sloping small ledge and on up the slab more easily.

Oberon 10m VS 4c I. Rea, G. Murray. 25/5/92. Start - 1m back from the left edge. Go up flakes to spike and swing out right to large cavity and move easily up.

Round Gully

This is the broad gully which is about 50m right of the main face climbs. The routes are located on the obvious clean, sweeping wall and are best approached from the top of the gully.

Golden Gate *** 40m E3 5c Ian Rea, K O'Hara. Destined to become a classic, low in the grade. Start below a small overhang just left of Restless Eyes. Climb directly up via flakey fault/crack to ledges below a grassy depression. Up right for a few meters to flakes and to a good footledge. Traverse right and up crack to right facing corner. Up this to its top and exit left. Directly up to grass ledge and then a short wall to top. Good stake belay, though a good belay can be taken on the grass ledge.

Restless Eyes *** 40m E2 5b G. Murray, M. McNaught. 27/10/85. This route takes the very prominent right facing diedre at the left-hand side of the of the wall and provides sustained technical interest all the way. Start - at a belay block below the diedre which is gained by an easy but steep and vegetated traverse left from the gully. Best to rope up. Up wall until forced right by bulge at half height, move right and up wall until able to move left back into the corner and a good ledge. Climb the corner turning a bulge on the right and then the top.

On the Verge 35m HVS 5b D. Stelfox, P. Mallon, R. Mallon. 3/7/94. Start - at the lowest point of the right-hand edge of the clean wall. Climb up steeply then rightwards to small detached pinnacle. From the top of this move up corner above until forced right and the tier above can be breached. Move back left to steep headwall which is right of the distinctive corner/arete and climb this with difficulty to top (crux).

Chicken Run 10m E3 6a E. Cooper, I. Rea 3/9/00 High in the grade. Takes the obvious vertical fault just right of the centre of the summit block. Climb angular fins and breaks to left slanting crack. Good friends high in this. Hard step right into crack and layback up this with difficulty. Protection good. RPs in crack.

Boot Jam Gully

Right of Round Gully is the narrow, steep-sided Boot Jam Gully. The left side of the gully (looking up) is broken and vegetated and has the following poor route -

In Praise of Older Men 42m VD J. Forsythe, B. Barker. 2/9/76. Start opposite a rock spillikin. 1) 22m Move up and diagonally right to gain the base of the obvious ramp that cleaves the gully wall. 2) 20m Gain the ramp and climb up to exit left at the top.

The right-hand side of the gully is a steep, clean wall and has four routes.

Child's Play 26m S (3c J. J. Childs. Start - 10m left of the obvious blocky fault (White Heather) about half-way down. Traverse diagonally right and upwards along a line of flakes. Traverse right to the top of White Heather.

White Heather 26m S 4a D. Parkinson, D. Naylor. 8/60. Start - about half-way down at the obvious blocky fault. Climb up for 10m. Reach high for a good edge and make an awkward mantelshelf. Follow the heather above.

Someone Did ** 35m VS 4b A. Weir, M. Hearty. 8/90. A great mountaineering route with excellent positions but a bit dirty. However with traffic would clean up to an absolute classic. Start - at the obvious diedre 3m right of White Heather. Up this until able to move right to the top of a pinnacle. Move on up the wall above to a ledge then right into a large corner which leads to another pinnacle and a fantastic airy finish. Variation Saint Vitus Dance 35m HVS (5a A. Weir, M. Hearty. 8/90. Up the diedre as for Someone Did to triangular roof and pull out left on good holds. Move up until it is possible to traverse right above roof to gain good ledge on Someone Did.

Refiners Fire 40m E3 6a G. Murray, M. Rea. 5/94. Start - below Someone Did at the base of step and below the flake/groove at 4m. Climb boldly up wall and rib to ledge. From ledge up flake/groove and make difficult moves around bulge and on up groove to wall. Continue up wall to easier climbing and the top.

Question of Sport 40m HVS 5a G. Murray. 8/91. Start - at the lowest point of the gully. Climb up the wall by a series of grooves to an obvious pinnacle. Move into a wide crack to the top of the pinnacle and straight up the top wall to finish.

Womble Wall

These routes are located on small broken buttresses 200m to the left and well below the Main Crag. They are directly in line with the Dam Wall.

Sidney Fisher 20m D D. Bruce and Party. 8/6/74. Start - at the upper and left-hand end of the small crag lying in line with the dam, to the left of a small gully. Climb a crack, to a heather ledge, up the wall to a large block and continue up on good holds to the top.

An unnamed route (D) climbs the left wall of the gully with a nice finish up the flaky wall on good holds. On the right of the small gully is the poor Wilson's Waterloo (W. Withers, D. Withers. 8/6/74. D) which climbs the wall at the pointed rock and soon ends in vegetation.

The Sponge 20m VD D. Withers, W. Withers. 8/6/74. Start - at a grassy corner, 4m right of Wilson's Waterloo. Climb the grassy groove to a small roof and turn the overhang on the left to a ledge. Climb the crack just left of the overhang to the top.

Bugs Bunny 20m VS A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 14/6/86. Climb the grassy corner of The Sponge on the right, turning the overhang on the right. Traverse left on the wall above the roof to the finishing groove of The Sponge.

Down right from The Sponge is Orinoco (I. Rendle, D. Withers. 6/7/74. D) which climbs the large flake using cracks in the arete. This arete marks the left-hand side of Womble Wall which has two wide grassy crack/grooves running down it. Left of this are two faint, right leaning, parallel cracks.

Raindogs 15m E1 5b Climb the cracks (delicate) and exit on grooves at the top.

Zig Zag 18m S 3c The climb follows the left-hand major crack in the wall, gaining it from the right.

Travelling Rabbi 15m HS 4b A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 14/6/86. Follow faint crack lines between the two major grooves/cracks on the wall.

Cinnamon Girl * 15m VS 4c A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 28/6/86. Right of the second major groove/crack. A faint line leads to pronounced impending crack at top. Straight up to base of this crack and then move right onto the wall on breaks.

Grass Harp 15m VS 4c A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 28/6/86. Start - at right-hand end of the face in corner below small roof. Bridge up under small roof, gain crack at its right edge. Follow crack to where a pronounced break trends left and up. Traverse along obvious incut fault and finish out left on small holds.

Texaco Gasoline 15m HS 4b A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 28/6/86. Start - on the face that forms a right angle to Womble Wall. Follow obvious crack terminating in vegetation, move to right-hand crack. Gain ledge, step left and up twin cracks to top.

Roadside Rabbit 12m HS 4b A. Whitcroft, P. Williamson. 14/6/86. Start - right of Texaco Gasoline. Climb layback flake/crack to gain crack up wall. Finish straight up.

The Bakers 15m VD W. Withers, D. Bruce. Start - at the base of a rib split by a crack to the right of Grass Harp. The route follows this.

Common One 15m HVS 5a G. Murray. 8/89. Disappointing as the short crux is avoidable by the grass ledge. Climb the rib and wall just right of The Bakers, passing a grass ledge on the right, and finish easily to the top. Below and right of The Bakers, is another wall with a small jutting buttress which forms two definite corners on either side.

Wellington 15m HS 4b I. Rendle, D. Withers. 6/6/74. Start - at the left-hand end of the wall. Up to a nose at mid-height, and a crack running past it.

Hot Cargo * 15m VS 5a I. Rea, M. Rea. 17/4/87. The wall, mini-diedre and continuation crack between Wellington and Thomsk.

Thomsk * 15m S 4a I. Rendle, D. Withers. 6/6/74. Start - 4m right of Wellington is a diedre formed by a large flake. Climb the diedre, using finger holds in the flake on the left.

Slap on the Bracelets 20m S 4a A. Whitcroft, C. Adams. 7/8/88. Climb the corner as for Thomsk to where there is an overhang on the right. Take the good rising crackline on the left wall to gain a small ledge. Now traverse right on the horizontal break. Easily to top of crag continuing to trend right.

Thomsk forms the left-hand corner of a slight buttress which sits 1m proud of the rest of the wall. The next two routes are on the left and right edges of the front face of this buttress.

Sunburn * 20m El 5c A. Whitcroft, R. Young. 12/6/88. Start - left edge of the face 1m right of Thomsk. Follow a crack and flake system to a ledge below an overhang split by a crack. Climb crack (crux) and up over lip to finish on a big belay platform 5m below top of the crag.

In the Shade 20m HVS 5b A. Whitcroft, R. Young. 21/8/88. Worth doing as the cunning crux makes up for the scrappy start. Start - 1m right of Sunburn. Climb shallow right angled corner full of heather/gorse. Move out right on the horizontal breaks using the gaps between the vegetation to reach the right-hand edge of the face. Follow this to a blank section topped with a small roof. Up this (crux) and continue with interest to the top. Belay on the big sloping platform as for Sunburn.

The grassy corner formed by the right-hand side of the slight buttress is climbed by the poor route Uncle Bulgaria.

Flexibus 15m HS 4b A. Whitcroft, R. Young. 29/8/88. Start - 2m right of this grassy corner. Climb the slab trending right to gain a corner with a crack running up from it. Move up and right to gain heathery ledge. Traverse left following obvious line to just before a chossy gully and finish straight up.

Samuel Beckett Said 12m E2 6a A. Whitcroft, S. Reid, R. Young. 11/9/88. Start - directly below the groove line 1m in from right-hand end of the crag. Scramble up the slabby section to the foot of the groove and ascend this to groove, to flat holds. Reach and bridge right to gain the arete and finish up this easily. 100m downhill from Womble Wall at the lowest outcrop above the dam.

Sportin Life 10m VS 4c I. Rea, M. Rea. 17/4/87. The crack and wall rising from undercut buttress. From ledge finish out left. About 30m to the right and uphill from above route is a slabby buttress with an obvious wavy finger crack.

Wee Honey * 10m HVS 5a I. Rea, M. Rea. 17/4/87. Short but sweet (and sustained). Follow the crack to the top.

The layback in the corner right of this is 4b.

Deluge 35m S 4a J. Anderson, J. Irwin. 30/7/66. The climb takes the left-hand edge of the Summit Gully, in its lower regions, about 150m below the Main Crag. Follow a 15m slab, a 12m corner, a 6m vertical wall and a 6m hard left-hand crack.

Mystery Man 18m VS 4c G. Murray, M. McNaught. 8/91. Takes the face of a pinnacle down below the main face roughly at the level of Deluge but much further right, almost as far as Boot Jam Gully.

Ben Crom Bluffs

This is a line of small buttresses forming the right-hand side of the northern ridge of Ben Crom and overlooking Doan. These have short routes and problems and are best explored in the evening sun and is worth a visit. The first bluff is separate from the others and only routes on the last buttress at the right-hand end have been formally recorded. The top of this last buttress is most easily reached on the return journey. Re-trace the approach from the top of Summit Gully and about 100m along go down and left to the top of the buttress.

All Saints Day 12m VS 5a) G. Murray (Solo). 8/91. The first obvious jamming crack at the left-hand end.

Green Mansions 14m HS 4b G. Murray (Solo). 8/91. Climb the pancake arete to the left of the obvious cleft in the crag.

Still at It 14m E1 5b K. Lindsay. 7/96. Rather bouldery. Directly climb the wall, left of the small cave, to obvious quartz knob at 6m. Up easily to the top.

By His Grace * 14m HVS 5a G. Murray (Solo). 8/91. Unusually steep wall climbing for the Mournes but positive holds. Up the wall just right of the small cave then move left to base of flake. Climb this to below overhang and surmount it on the right. Easily up the nose to the top.

Don't Look Up 14m S 4a S. McErlean, J. Holterman. 1/11/2015. Starts 4 metres right of 'By his Grace'. Climb the cracked blocks to the end of a ledge then step right into the face and continue up to finish just right of large over hanging cap stone.

Village Idio 20m D G. Murray (Solo). 8/91. Climb the blocks and cracks at the slabby right-hand end of the buttress by a variety of lines.