Maps - Discovery sheets 37 and 44, Connemara, 1 -50,000 by Folding Landscapes available with The Mountains of Connemara, a hill-walkers guide by Joss Lynam or 1 -63360 by Folding Landscapes available with Connemara Gazetteer by Tim Robinson. Both books include information on the geology of the area. Names quoted are taken largely taken from the Tim Robinson map.
The finest rock formations in the Twelve Bens are found in the south wall of Gleann Eidheanach (Glen Inagh), running from Binn an Choire Bhig to Mám na bFhonsaí, east of Binn Dubh (L808530). The rock is quartzite, white, pink or grey but always hard. The texture is smooth but the surface is uneven with small knobs and hollows. It is very different from the granite, limestones, volcanics and sandstones to which Irish climbers are most accustomed but once one learns to trust the one finger grip and the one toe hold these quartzite crags provide good climbing. Most climbs involve negotiating vegetation at one time or another.
The climbs vary from Diff. to V.S. and they are long - 150m to 320m. On the harder routes both belays and stances are scarce. These harder routes, because of their length, lack of protection and general steepness are serious undertakings which should be approached with caution. Seriousness and length are more characteristic of these climbs than extreme technical difficulty and steadiness under exposure together with route-finding skill are the qualities required of the leader.
ACCESS - The cliff is approached from the Srath Salach (Recess) - Kylemore road which is fenced in parts to protect sheep from traffic. Park on this road. There is a campsite beside the bridge over the Tooreenacoona river. About 400m north of the bridge take a boreen which leads west off the road into Gleann Eidhneach. Follow the path up the valley from the end of the boreen and then cross the river and ascend to the crag.
Deer Island Buttress
L822535 The buttress is an obvious steepening of rock below the east shoulder of Ben Corrbeg, bearing 198 degrees from the Tooreenacoona Bridge on the Kylemore-Recess road. Cross the Gleninagh river just above the confluence, and head more-or-less directly for the crag. The crag is approximately pear-shaped.
Carib 60m VDiff
L. Convery, J. Lynam (shared leads) 31.5.1981
Start at the foot of a detached buttress left of centre.
1) 39m. Climb the detached buttress to a grassy ledge (15m) (pitch could be broken here). Move left to gain the rock again, and then climb up bearing left, towards the rib bounding the buttress on the left to a belay.
2) 21m. Climb the open diedre behind the belay and to right into a recess (good nut runner). Step back left onto the nose and continue to the top.
High up on the mountain to the left of Carrot Ridge is a small slabby buttress (possibly called Carraig Beag) with a right-angled corner running up its centre. There are two routes recorded on this buttress.
1 Lilliput 45m Severe
F. Winder, P.Kenny. 7.4.1950
1. 21m Go up the slab left of the corner. 2. 24m Go into the corner and over a small overhang.
2 Unnamed 45m VDiff
P.Kenny, F. Winder. 7.4.1950
Is of less interest and goes up the loose rib right of the corner.
Binn an Choire (Binn an tSaighdiúra)
The drawing above is self-contained and numbers refer to routes as listed above and NOT as numbered in the text of this wiki.
This is an attempt to translate the drawing above to a poor photo. Numbers shown refer to the text below. Lines are indicative only.
When you top out turn right (westish) to the col marked on the topo. At it's far end an easy path leads to the valley floor. Alternatively turn left and descend the scree-slope.
3 Carrot Ridge (Meacan Buí) *** 275m D
Alberry and Crofton, (CUMC), 1933. Zyta variation; André Kopczinski, 18.3.1951
Starts on a pinkish slab high up to the left of the main cliff. A fine clean route with good situations.
1) 33m Climb the slab near its left edge to a stance just below the final steepening.
2) 33m VD Move around an awkward corner to the right and climb straight up the nose on small holds to easier ground.
3) 24m The ridge is easy for 12m then steepens and a traverse is made to a grass ledge with flake belay.
4) 30m The ridge steepens towards the First Step but holds become more plentiful. Climb over some flakes bearing right and up a shallow scoop to a stance.
5) 15m Traverse below the wall into the recess on the nose and climb the chimney in the corner to a ledge. 5a. 15m Zyta Variation - Climb the slanting crack on the left wall of the recess.
6) 15m Move left along the ledge and up a chimney to easy ground.
7) 90m Scramble along the level part of the ridge to a small col, then go up easy slabs to the foot of the second step.
8) 18m Traverse left until the wall is low enough to be climbed and go right up to the foot of a shallow groove.
9) 18m Climb the groove to the top of the Second Step.Above this about 100m of easy scrambling up the Third Step leads to the top of the crag.
To the right of Carrot Ridge is a messy gully.
5 Rolleiflex Crack 61m M
A Kopczinski, J Morrison (leads shared), 21.4.1951
From the top of the gully two ledges lead to the right into the main cliff. The lower is the Grassy Rake, the upper is the Springboard. This climb follows a crack from just below the Springboard up onto Carrot Ridge.
6 Second Step From Clabarán 42 m D
Joss Lynam, Ian Blackmore, 23.6.1973
Starting from the gully at the level of the col near the top of pitch 7 of Carrot Ridge this route leads to the top of the Second Step.
7 Feothadán (Thistle Rib) 390m D
Joss Lynam, Nora Gorevan, 23.3.1951
This follows the rather ill defined ridge to the right of Clabar?n.
8 Discrepancy 152m Severe
A Kopczinski, K R R Wilson (shared leads) 23.3.1951
A fine climb on the steep band of rock above the Grassy Rake. Starts from the Rake 30m right of Clabarán at the foot of a steep crack.
1) 24m Up the crack to a knob belay.
2) 21m Climb 8m into the base of the chimney then up the chimney to some loose chockstones. Make a delicate move on the left wall to surmount these and then rejoin the chimney. Enormous belay.
3) 30m Up the wall by the centre crack of three cracks and so to the Springboard.
4) 21m Walk a few feet left and go up a narrow slab to the right of an overhanging crack. Belay.
5) 24m Up the groove treating loose rock with care. 6. 30m Pleasant scrambling.
9 Hypotenuse 80m V Diff
A Kopczinski, John Morrison, 21.4.1951
Starts at the foot of an obvious slab to the right of Discrepancy and goes up to the Springboard.
10 High Dive 110m VS
A J Maxfield, G Cape, 26.7.1967
Starts at the foot of a buttress which falls from Feothadán into the Clabarán gully and level with pitch 7 of Meacan Buí. Keeps to the left of Feothadán. The last pitch is mild VS and is avoidable.
) 22m. Slightly to the right of the buttress, a rock-filled crack is climbed for 5m, then an easy ledge leads to a large block. Belay.
2) 22m. Climb the block and step onto a sloping gangway which runs above Clabaran. Follow the gangway until an obvious crack on the right can be seen running up steep slabs to the ridge of Feothadan.
3) 30m. Climb the crack until another crack crosses it. Belay.
4) 36m. (mild VS). Cross the slab on the left by following the horizontal crack until a steep 6m wall is reached. A crack is used to climb the wall. Cross easy slabs to a spike belay.
Moving right from these climbs one comes to the great crack-like fault running up the crag for about 100 metres and forming a natural division between the slabby section on the left and the steeper Central Buttress on the right.
11 Klepht 220 m VS
A. Maxfield, G. Dixon, 28/7/1967.
A serious and exposed climb which takes an obvious crack coming out of the cave to the right of Caveman's Delight and running up the east wall of Central Buttress. Starts 7m right of Discrepancy.
1) 35m An easy slab is climbed from left to right and finally ends in a grassy rake which is followed to belay at a small pinnacle.
2) 35m Climb the wall above the pinnacle for 6m and then by an ascending traverse Caveman's Delight is reached.
3) 33m Follow Caveman's Delight until you are above the cave on the right.
4) 20m To the right is the steep wall of Central Buttress which has a line of weakness just over the top of the cave. Traversing horizontally along the weakness a belay is taken where the crack comes out of the roof of the cave.
5) 35m (crux) Climb the crack above for 18m until easier ground is reached and finally the crack becomes grass-filled. Belay.
6) 35m To the right is the upper part of Central Buttress. Climb out right for 6m and then up the centre of the buttress to a belay in a shallow groove.
7) 25m Easy climbing to the top.
12 Low Dive 52m VDiff
Joss Lynam, Ian Blackmore, 23.6.1973
Start from the gap below the Second Step of Carrot Ridge, descend into Clabaran, to the foot of a buttress leading up to Feothadan. The climb starts about 5m up Clabaran from the corner of the buttress.
1) 12m. Climb the steep wall, mostly on good holds, but with one awkward move, until it is possible to traverse right onto a slab. Then go up and left into a big grassy nook.
2) 21m. Climb the slab behind the nook to its right top corner, then traverse left and up a corner to a ledge. Go a few feet up the slab on the right, and then left up an easy short wall to some blocks.
3) 19m. Traverse left across the slab to a big crack. Climb this easily, and move out left near the top onto the crest of the rib.
13 Caveman's Delight 335m VDiff
A. Kopczinski, F. Butler, 24/3/1951.
This route generally follows the slight easing of angle just to the left of Central Buttress. It is a good introduction to the main cliff. Start at the foot of the rib directly below the slanting crack on the buttress.
1) 30m Climb the rib to a belay on a block in a grassy groove.
2) 30m Continue up the rib to a block belay.
3) 90m Scramble up rock and grass slopes to a groove above the couloir which bounds Central Buttress.
4) 18m Climb the groove and slab above to a block below and left of dirty groove.
5) 30m Climb the groove and gain a slab to the right. Extend upwards in the direction of the slanting crack (many variations are possible here!). Stance and belay near a triangular crack.
6) 21m Up the slab to the left of the cave.
7) 30m Straight up the slab to a stance below the slanting rift.
8) 21m Climb the left edge of the rift to a small grassy ledge. Small belay in middle of wall.
9) 30m From the left end of the ledge climb the exposed slab on sufficient, but not generous, holds to a poor stance but good belay.
10) 34m Continue up the slab to the top of the climb
14 Trafer's Route 300 m HS
Frank Doherty, Brendan Walsh (shared leads) early 1966
Takes the first 3 pitches of Caveman's Delight and the breaks out diagonally left to a wide ledge at the foot of a very obvious wet wall. At the left hand side of this there is an overhanging wall. Move a metre left of this wall.
4) 24m. (S) Climb up on good holds for more than a metre to a small vertical wall (awkward mantleshelf). Move to the right and then back left to obvious white rock with crack. Traverse left then right to easier ground and belay on grass ledge.
5) 23m. (HS). From belay move left on treacherous rock to the base of an overhanging crack. This crack is deep but slimy. In an off balance position jam right hand in crack and using small nicks on left wall of crack pull up over overhang. No protection. Both pitches very exposed.
6,7,8,9. Up to top on easy rock.
15 Seventh Heaven *** 330 m HS
P. Kenny, A. Kopczinski, J. Morrison, 17/10/1951.
The best climb on the whole crag. The first 7 pitches lie more or less on the line of the left edge of the Buttress. The 8th pitch is the Milk Bottle - a shallow recessed slab visible from below.
1 27m Start up and left of the lowest point of the crag. Climb straight up the steep slab on very small holds. Finish on a patch of vegetation. Move left for stance and belay.
2) 30m. Climb straight up on good holds to a vegetated ledge. Piton belay.
3) 12m Up to a small overhang. Jammed nut belay.
4) 15m Move left under the overhang and up to the right of a steep vegetated gully to a holly tree/tat belay.
5) 15m Move left and climb the rib to a small vegetated ledge. Piton.
6) 22m Move left up the wall (piton) and right to a small ledge. Pull up overhanging edge on right, then more easily up slightly left to a grass ledge and belay (marked by a very old piton).
7) 33m Step left and up directly to gain a grassy gully. Climb to the top of this gully and move out left onto a large grass ramp in the left of the Milk Bottle. It is also possible to climb the slab left of the gully, which is straightforward but very run out.
8) 27m (crux) Descend to the bottom of the grass ramp. Go around a corner and up a few feet before traversing to the right side of the Milk Bottle. Climb the corner on good holds with good gear to below the short overhang. Continue up to gain a grassy ledge.
9) 21m Climb the slab, slanting right to a stance with belays in opposition.
10) 33m Climb straight up a series of ledges and slabs on good holds to a large grass ledge.
11) 30m Up fairly easy ground to gain the great ramp.
12) 30m Up the ramp on the left edge to the corner on the skyline.
13) 30m Up easily on slabs and ledges until the angle eases
NOTE: The above route description is a bit out of date these days (2012). With 60m ropes many of the pitches can be strung together and this is advisable to save time. Some of the fixed gear mentioned is now missing - the jammed nut at the end of pitch 3 appears to be gone, and some of the pitons are no longer in place. So if you can't find something it doesn't guarantee you've gone off route. The Milk Bottle may have the hardest section of climbing but it also has the best gear on the route. Allow plenty of time, bring small gear and avoid wet weather.
16 Great Central Route 300 m Severe
P. Kenny, F. Winder, 7/4/1950.
Starts at the lowest rocks of the buttress, on a narrow isthmus of rock between two patches of heather.
1) 30m Climb up steep slabs on small holds almost to a heather ledge and finish on a rock isthmus with a knob belay. Cross about 12m of heather ledge.
2) 30m Up steep slabs moving diagonally left.
3) 30m Continue left to spike belay.
4) 30m Diagonally left up a groove then climb a wall (Severe) and continue up the slabs to a knob belay.
5) 18m Climb a wall directly to a good belay behind a block.
6) 18m Climb a bulge to the left and then continue straight up.
7) 9m Move to the right and up and then to the right again and up to a hanging belay from a block. No stance. Exposed.
8) 30m Diagonally to the right to a stance and small belay.
9) 30m Directly up a rib to a spike belay.
10) 30m A bulge with a rib above leads to a broad heather ledge which is crossed to the final pitch.
11) 30m A groove or one of the two ribs may be climbed. The left rib is probably the easiest.
17 Mona Lisa 355m VS
P. Kenny, Móna Monahan; N. Brown & W. Bottomley, 25/5/1958.
Start as for Great Central Route.
1) 35m VD. From the lowest rocks climb by the cleanest line to avoid vegetation.
2) 35m VD. Continue on a similar pitch to the base of a steep wall.
3) 35m S. Climb the wall on smallish holds to grassy ledge and piton belay.
4) 35m HS. Move diagonally left towards grass ledge and to the right of the big rib. (Treat dangerous vertical vegetation with caution).
5) 18m VS. Traverse around the rib to a very big foothold and from it climb vertical rock and vegetation.
6) 24m HS. Climb a steep narrow rib and traverse left into a mucky groove (piton runner). Climb the groove for 1m and traverse right to gain sodden grass ledge.
7) 30m VS Climb the slight overhang on the left (very strenuous) and move left on no holds to a grass ledge (runner). Move right to good stance.
8) 35m mild S. Traverse right on best holds yet (piton runner) and go straight up to stance on rock ramp (extremely exposed).
9) 33m D. Climb the slab on good small holds until the angle eases. Excellent stance.
10) 33m D. Traverse left on the slab towards a grassy corner.
11) 33m D. Climb the rib on the left or crack in the centre or the wall on the right to gain the top of the climb
18 Sherpani 270m Severe
P Kenny, Moira Laracy, 1957.
A rather beautiful overhang on pink fingerholds.
19 Fiach Dubh 240m Severe
IMC party, Easter 1953.
No description.Probably mild severe in good conditions. The first (and probably only) ascent was in a snow storm.
A steep gully divides Central Buttress from the long slabby rocks which sweep round to Mám na bFonsaí
20 Unfinished Symphony 130m Severe
A Kopczinski, J Morrison, 23.4.1951
Owing to a lack of time on the first and only ascent this finishes on an escape ledge well below the top of the crag. It starts at the head of the grassy gully to the right of Central Buttress.
21 Surplomb Rouge 425m Severe
F. Winder, P. Hill, 1953.
Up the large overhang between Unfinished Symphony and Mám na bhFonsai.
22 Toolamauraun 300m Severe
S. Rothery, E. Healy, 18/4/1954.
The steepness and continuity are not so marked on this section of the cliffs as on Central Buttress but there is still plenty of exposure.
Mám na bhFonsaí
The following climbs are below the rock-bound Mám na bhFonsaí between Binn an tSaighdiúra and Binn Dubh.
23 Devil's Drainpipe 230m Severe
P. Kenny, J. Lynam, Paris Panayotou, 24/5/50.
Starts at the top of a small seasonal watercourse 30m left of the main stream and follows the oblique cleft left of the waterfall.
1) 30m Straight up easy slabs for 20m and then swing onto the rib on the left to stance and belay.
2) 27m In 7m a steep slab leads to a right-angle chimney. Climb this to a stance a couple of metres below the Drainpipe.
3) 30m Move left and up a shallow recess to a spike belay on the rim of the Drainpipe.
4) 30m Continue up the lower rim of the Drainpipe until it disappears beneath a broad grass ledge.
5) 18m Severe. Climb the loose slimy chimney to the cave at the top. Stance and piton belay.
6) 9m Severe. Descend the chimney slightly and make a long step onto the left wall. Traverse out to an insecure grass ledge with piton belay.
7) 30m Severe. (crux) Climb the corner (combined tactics were used on the first ascent) which leads to messy slopes. There is a secure heather stance higher up.
8) 30m Scramble up the broad rib and around a corner to a large grass terrace.
9) 33m Move diagonally right into a large loose gully which leads to the upper, easy slopes of the col.
24 Boundary 200m V Diff
H Drasdo, E Langley, April 1955
The slabby buttress below Mám na bhFonsaí is bounded on the left by the Drainpipe and on the right by the direct watercourse. This route follows the left ridge of the watercourse for most of its length before moving left towards the centre of the buttress
25 High Tension 150m HS
B. & M. Lawler, P. O Leary, 1957
More direct and more notable than Boundary, this route is to the right of the waterfall.
26 Bartok 75m Severe
F. Winder, P. Hill. (leads shared) 1953
Goes up a groove left of the Drainpipe, follows the Drainpipe for 12m and then goes straight up the wall above.
Sceilp na gColm 150m HS.
S. Rothery, E. Healy, 17/4/1954.
This is the big chasm on the face of Binn Dubh.
High on the side of Binn Dubh facing Binn Bhán is a fine piece of rock on which three routes have been made.
Leftover 150m Severe
H Quinlan & party, 1957
Climb the face of what appears from below as a pillar.
Hangover 150m Severe
P Kenny & party, 1957
Climb the cleaner slab on the right of Leftover..
Kampala 150m Severe