J247224 Eagle Mountain boasts the most extensive and impressive crag in the Mournes, but this is greatly marred by its north-facing aspect which leaves most of the routes damp, vegetated and ubiquitous grass clinging to almost every ledge. However a few gems do penetrate this general gloom and the crag can give good climbing in impressive situations. Despite this and the efforts of a few pioneers notably R. Cole and M. Smith in the late seventies and early eighties the crag suffers almost complete neglect.
The crag perhaps is now more popular as a winter venue ('fairly reliable' for the Mournes in this respect) than a rock climbing area. Indeed the only new route activity since the last guide has been a winter ascent.
The crag is approached by turning off the Kilkeel/Hilltown road and continuing on through Attical village. After a double turn over a bridge turn right up 'Sandy Brae' past the Holy Cross Gaelic Football Field. The road deteriorates into a track which is followed to a parking spot beside a footbridge over a ford. Once across the river follow the signs indicating the path left which leads around the back of the farm-house. Continue up the track along the valley heading for the Windy Gap with the crag gradually unfolding on the left-hand side. After crossing a stream coming down from the crag there is a fork in the track. Take the left branch which leads up back left to the foot of the crag (about one and a half hours).
The main features are the huge chimney of Corpse Alley on the left-hand side; the impressive and obvious Great Corner in the middle of the Main Face; Great Gully, the huge gully to the right of the Main Face which is bounded on the right by the large buttress of The Keep. Descent from the main crag is commonly down Great Gully, with an abseil peg (but don't count on it!) in place above the short rock step.
About 400m further up the valley, and facing towards the main crag are the vegetated slabs of O'Hanlon's Slides, and further again an area of clean quarried slabs which offer a few routes.
Descent from the main crag is commonly down Great Gully, with an abseil peg (but don't count on it!) in place above the short rock step.
Musical Cracks 54m HVS 5a
C. Torrans, C. Moore, D. England. 16/4/67.
This route starts just left of Corpse Alley. At about one-third height is a diedre capped by a cave recess with a pillar running up beyond. The climb starts at a grassy chimney at the mouth of Corpse Alley to gain this line. 1) 20m Climb to a large ledge at the cave and layback strenuously past on the right to large ledge and block belay. 2) 34m Move right round the corner to cracked diedre. Climb and finish by a chimney.
Corpse Alley 72m VS 4c
R. Cole, A. Carden, M. Smith. 13/8/77.
A serious route for the grade taking the obvious huge chimney at the left-hand end of the crag. 1) Walk to the back of the gully or start at the entrance and bridge up to chockstone. Move out past it or the outer side and continue up gully to grass ledge and belay on the right. 2) Climb gully to where it narrows. Continue up to wider and easier gully.
Dead End Buttress 70m VS 4c
R. Cole, M. Smith. 26/6/81.
Start - just right of Corpse Alley. 1) 30m Climb to top of big block and traverse right 3m. Move up wall and left past old peg. Continue up two overlaps to grass ledge. 2) 40m From right-hand end of ledge move right onto slab, climb slab for 3m and traverse left until below overhanging wall split by V groove. Awkward mantelshelf leads to V groove. Continue up leftwards. Another awkward mantelshelf and wall lead to overhanging corner and top.
Motor Cycle Mania 48m VS 4b
R. Cole, M. Smith. 18/9/77.
Motor Cycle Mania takes the chimney formed by the left-hand edge of the buttress, about 35m right Corpse Alley. 1) 38m Climb a ledge and gain the chimney using holds on the left wall. Climb the chimney and exit via flakes. 2) 10m Climb the corner crack above.
Sammy Higgins * 55m VS 4c, 4b, 4a
G. Earnshaw, C. Moore. 21/6/64.
A good old fashioned route which is only a bit dirty. 20m right of Motor Cycle Mania is a large V groove leading to a pronounced crack above left moving up to the top of the buttress.
1) 27m Climb the diedre by the right-hand wall, moving on to the right- hand edge. Move left near the top to a niche in the overhang and ascend awkwardly at this point to a large grassy ledge.
2) 18m Climb the crack in the corner on the left.
3) 10m Climb the corner crack above, as for Motor Cycle Mania.
Great Corner * 95m E1 4a, 5a, 5a, 5a
C. Torrans, W. Jenkins, R. Merrick. 26/8/67.
Start - below and to the left of the great central corner of the crag at the foot of a steep corner crack.
1) 18m Climb cracks in the corner to the overhang. With difficulty move right around this and into the crack above. Move right over two ledges to belay.
2) 37m Climb up and traverse delicately left into the corner (crux). Move up cracks and right to the huge grass ledge in the middle of the corner.
3) 20m Climb the parallel cracks in the steep slab above. Step left into a niche and up to a traverse left on loose blocks to belay below the final corner.
4) 20m Climb with difficulty the (usually) wet off-width cleft above.
Cookstown Cultchy * 61m E2 5b
M. Smith, R. Cole. 1/8/81.
Start - the leftward-sweeping overhangs forming a corner right of Great Corner. Climb grass for 50m to bottom of corner.
1) 33m Climb corner for 5m to grass ledge on right (old peg). Climb corner to first small overhang and place runner. Descend to grass and climb off-width on left (crux and poor protection). At the top move 3m left below short overhanging wall until it is possible to stand on small pinnacle and pull up delicately left onto slab above. Move left on slab to belay as for last pitch of Great Corner.
2) 28m Move right back onto the slab and up to a crack which is the continuation of the corner. Climb it to the top.
Lassara Grooves * 70m E1 5a, 5b
M. Curran, M. Henry. 24/9/78. D. Stelfox, B. Ireland (First direct ascent). 18/5/80.
A great line but very overgrown. Start - 30m right of Great Corner at a straight diedre system.
1) 30m From the blocks at the base of the corner groove climb up and enter a chimney. Move up by bridging and chimneying until at 23m a step right can be made to a deep crack,
2) 40m Climb the steep corner layback crack from the left side of the ledge to gain a triangular flake 4m up (crux). Easier climbing up grooves and corners leads to top.
Wet Saturday 50m HVS 4c, 5a
M. Smith, R. Cole (alternate leads).
Start - 7m right of Lassara Grooves at obvious white slab.
1) 25m Climb to overlap at top of slab and make an awkward step right to gain a wide crack in the slab above, At top of the slab step left into corner and gain spike. Continue up slab to sloping belay.
2) 25m Go left and climb arete/flutings to overhang. Climb overhang and continue up to crack filled with loose blocks. Traverse right and up grass to belay on left. Grass or rock to top.
The next routes are in the Great Gully/Amphitheatre area.
Cretin's Groove 40m VS 4c
R. Cole, D. McKay. 16/4/77.
The route has been used as an approach to Surplomb Sundae and Fool on a Hill but is loose and not recommended.
The left-hand wall of Great Gully, below the lower rock step consists of two rock walls separated by deep gullies. This route splits the right-hand, upper wall, starting as a gully and trending up right to finish as a thin and exposed crack. On the left-hand side of Great Gully, just to the left of the rock step, are two prominent overhang-capped grooves, both starting half way up the crag. The left-hand of these is taken by Fool on a Hill and the right-hand one by Surplomb Sundae. Both can be reached by scrambling up a dirty gully leading left immediately above the rock step.
Fool on a Hill 55m E2 3c, 5c
M. Smith, R. Cole. 26/6/81.
1) 20m Traverse left on grass ledge below Surplomb Sundae to reach the left-hand gully. Climb easily up and belay on ledge at foot of the flared chimney. 2) 35m Spraughle up the chimney until a pedestal on left is reached at half height (crux). Jam and bridge more easily up to small ledge on left which is 5m below an overhang. From the ledge step delicately right onto arete and climb wall above.
Surplomb Sundae ** 35m VS 4c
H. J. Kerr, M. Curran. 5/9/76.
The route is hard to approach, but given reasonable conditions is well worth the trouble. An abseil approach is probably best. Start - the right-hand groove as described above. Climb the corner to the base of the bottomless chimney. With difficulty enter and climb the chimney. Adralergic moves over the capstone lead to the final crack which is followed to the top in a brilliant position.
The Links 60m HS 4a
R. Cole, W. Holmes. 14/7/80.
Start - a little to the right of Surplomb Sundae (approach as for Surplomb Sundae). 1) 32m From a belay on top of a pinnacle climb groove to left of hanging slab and move right via a delicate hand traverse above overlap (crux). Continue easily up corner and groove. Belay on top of detached shield, below wall. Eagle Mountain 2) 28m Climb wall above and traverse right around arete on loose flakes. Continue up crack just right of arete until forced to move into the last 10m of Tullamona Cracks.
Funk 24m HS 4b
D. Dick, C. Moore. 14/8/63.
Not recommended. Start - 15m above the lower rock steps on the left gully wall is a line finishing at a chimney behind a flake at the top. Climb to the chimney, strenuous below it and with a suitable resting place in the chimney, climb it.
To the right of the top of Surplomb Sundae is The Amphitheatre, a bay of rock perched high above Great Gully. It is lined with short routes which were once good but generally need re-cleaned.
Tullamona Cracks 35m VS 4c
J. Forsythe, M. Curran (One aid point). 15/8/76. P. McClenaghan, R. Greene, D. Stelfox (First free ascent). 15/8/81.
Start - the series of cracks near the corner of the left-hand wall of The Amphitheatre. Climb the right-hand of the two cracks with difficulty, until at 5m more generous holds appear. Steep but straightforward climbing leads past a rocking chockstone at 15m. At the top of the crack move right and finish up the slab.
Fanta 26m VD
M. Curran, J. Forsythe. 14/8/76.
Start - the narrow black groove above and right of Tullamona Cracks. Ascend on generous holds.
Southern Comfor 32m S 4a
M. Curran, J. Forsythe. 14/8/76.
A line 5m right of Fanta which moves left past several curious hanging blocks. Climb the crack on the left of the groove. Step right into an awkward corner and ascend on sizeable holds to a little bay below the overhanging groove. Up the groove to the top.
Abrasion 42m VS 4c
W. Morrow, C. Moore, H. Porter. 23/4/65.
Start - 5m right of Southern Comfort under the diedre lying to the left of the obvious cleft at the right-hand end of The Amphitheatre. Climb up to a small chimney. Move left onto a ledge above and follow this to another with the large chimney on the right. Climb the chimney to the diedre.
Social Disease 30m E2 6a
M. Smith, R. Cole, A. Devlin. 7/10/84.
Start - at foot of overhanging corner left of The Pervert. Climb corner by jamming and bridging with increasing difficulty to poor rest position at small ledge below overhang. Hard move up to jug at very top of corner. Make a long reach left for layaway crack and foothold (crux) to reach wall above. Continue up wall.
The Pervert 23m VS 4c
R. Cole, M. Smith. 1/8/81.
Start - V chimney capped by square-cut overhang right of prominent cleft in The Amphitheatre. Climb chimney and take overhang directly or on the left.
Alcoholic Sandstorm 45m VS 4c
R. Cole. 5/5/77.
Start - at the top of Great Gully on its right-hand wall, 5m above and left of Honest to God. Climb the groove to the crux at 30m which can be climbed direct or move into the groove from a crack on the left.
Honest to God 42m S 4a
J. Forsythe and Party. 8/8/76.
On the right-hand wall of Great Gully above the second step. Climb the obvious diedre and exit the climb at the top by moving right across a grass ledge. The belay is behind a pile of rocks which constitutes the top of The Keep.
Early Birds 40m HVS 5a
D. Stelfox, B. Ireland. 18/5/80.
This route takes the obvious leftward-trending groove on the right wall of Great Gully, i.e. left side of The Keep. Climb the wall to small overhang, round this and into the corner proper (old peg in place). Continue up groove becoming slightly more reasonable but poorly protected. Take the first chimney on the right wall (easily entered from left) to exit on the top of The Keep. Descend by continuing up The Keep and down to Great Gully.
Bird Leg Buttress 88m VS 4b, 4c, 4c, 4a, 4a
M. Curran, J. Kerr (Two aid points). 15/5/77. M. Smith (First free ascent). /79.
This route follows the front of The Keep starting at the toe of the buttress just left of a prominent green groove and has become rather vegetated with the passage of time.
1) 18m Using a large flake traverse left into the base of a groove and ascend. Exit left and continue to a large ledge on the right. Peg belay.
2) 34m Move up and left around an awkward bulge. Continue up to a niche below a large overhang and traverse left until it is possible to gain the slab above. Trend right and upwards to a vertical crack overcome by jamming. Easier but exposed climbing leads to a thread belay behind a sloping ledge.
3) 12m The large overhang above is split by an obvious crack. This is climbed with difficulty to belay above.
4) 12m Easier climbing leads to a large ledge which is followed left. Climb a short diedre to an enormous grass ledge. 5) 12m The final tower is climbed by the obvious diedre in its right-hand flank. Thread belay.
400m right of the main crag and facing back towards The Keep is a large area of slabs known as O'Hanlon's Slides. These are very vegetated and almost constantly wet. A number of routes have been recorded in the area but these are not described. It is possible to climb anywhere at VD to S and climbers can follow their own exploratory instincts. A further 300-400m further left is a large area of quarried slabs. These are surprisingly clean, generally sound and worth a look if passing. A number of routes have been recorded, and some are described. It is possible to climb almost any line on a dry day, rarely above HS.
Bilbo 62m HS 4b
C. Lutton, D. Gibson. 28/6/75.
This climb is at the left-hand side, 25m left of Broze Boise. 1) 30m Climb straight up from arrow marked I to a grassy ledge and belay. 2) 32m Continue directly up from the left-hand end of the ledge to a wall. Exit left to a belay. Protection difficult to arrange.
Broze Boise 74m HS 4b
J. Forsythe and Party. /74.
At the lowest point on the slab (arrowed). 1) 36m Climb from the arrow past a curving overlap to the grass ledge. 2) 38m Climb the slab above to mantelshelf over the slab rift and continue up a white shallow groove to heather.
Broze-Bilbo Traverse 80m HS 4b
P. Gibson, C. Lutton. 28/6/75.
Start - as for Broze Boise and climb to the slab on the right. Traverse left at the base of the wall to finish as for Bilbo.
Further on up the valley, just as the main track peters out at a final quarry, is a further broken outcrop of rock. Two routes have been climbed, Barefoot and Henry's Route picking ways up the most continuous sections of rock at about VD standard.