These cliffs have perhaps the easiest access of any of the Comeragh cliffs. Cars may be parked at GR314080 and a good surfaced track may be followed as far as the Mahon falls, if you are headed for the higher cliffs.
Car Park Crags
From the car park, looking towards the falls, these are close by on the left- hand side (West). A ledge divides the rock into an upper and a lower band.
YERR OWN ARE THE WORST 10m HVS 5b
Visible from the car park, starting from the ledge, above an undercut section, this crack slants to the right before tracking back left and up.
Start: up the rough edge of the flake. Interest is maintained to the top.
G. Fogg, J. Bergin 6/7/2022 Onsight.
An Giorra Butress
This little buttress with the following 2 routes is approximately 100m from the track (to the left) which leads to the Mahon Falls and is approx. 30m above it. It stands out as an obvious vertical and clean piece of rock, about 250m from the car-park, and its south-facing wall is marked on the right hand side by an obvious off-width crack.
The first two climbs are at the south-facing wall (facing the car park):
CALLUNA 10m HS 4b
J. Bergin, M. Lyng, 5. 9. 1996
This route takes the vertical crack line which starts about 3m to the left of An Giorra Maol. Climb the crack for 4m to the rightward trending break, move to the right and continue steeply upwards on bigger and better holds. Belay well back.
AN GIORRA MAOL 8m VS 4c
J Bergin, J Hennessey, June 1990
This route takes the crackline about one meter to the left of the off-width crack. Well protected.
PHLOGISTON 8m E2 6a
The ‘obvious off-width’. The crack is deeply undercut at the bottom which makes getting established both difficult and strenuous. For protection, you will need two large cams: a largish one to cover the first move and a second bigger one (Camalot 5 or equivalent) higher up.
G. Fogg, J. Butler 6/7/2022 Onsight.
Further 100 m into the valley, the next three climbs are at an east-facing wall (facing the footpath):
LEFT HAND CRACK 8m HVS 5a
J Bergin, J Hennessey, June 1990
Climb the left hand crack using some painful hand-jams.
CENTRE CRACK 10m HVS 5a
J. Bergin, A. Widger, 25th May 1990
This route climbs the obvious jamming crack in the centre of the buttress.
RIGHT HAND CRACK 8m HVS 5a
S. Gallwey, J. Bergin, Sept 1989
The route climbs the thin crack on the right hand side of the wall to gain the terrace above.
The following routes are located on the left of the valley as you approach the Mahon Falls.
Ancient Rain is in the middle of the high cliff above the path, just above an overhanging rock that juts out from the sloping hillside below. The crag shown in the topo is at the further continuation of this band of cliffs, near to the Falls.
ANCIENT RAIN 65m E2 4c, 5c
S Gallwey, J Bergin, June 1991
This route is located on the large and steep crag high up on the left of the valley as you approach the Mahon Falls. It tackles the highest part of the cliff where a double stepped overhang dominates the wall.
1. 20m Start to the left of the overhang, at the base of a corner formed by a slanting and protruding slab/ramp which runs diagonally to the right. Climb up this corner and then the ensuing slab to the large recess below the overhangs.
2. 45m. Bridge up the corner on the left hand side of the overhang until you can commit yourself to the crux sequence on the steep left-hand wall. Keep going on past the overhangs to the niche above and into a groove on the left which eases off to a belay just below the top. Very good protection.
5 MAHON CHIMNEY 20m HVS 5a
S. Gallwey, June 1981
The chimney is situated at the left hand end of the crag and is formed by a huge crack splitting some detached blocks. Climb chimney facing left on lower section and right on upper section. Poor protection.
HAPPY CRACK 20m E4 6a
Up the centre of the face to the right of Mahon Chimney.
This little route is an ideal one for the hard-climbing visitor to warm up on: from a sunny ledge with the the sight and sound of running water in the background and an easy walk-in, mostly along a metalled path. It is short, there are holds and protection, it looks about HVS. Sure, how hard could it be??
Start: up the edge of the ramp to the face. Up the centre of this to the strong crack through the small overhang and continue to top.
H. Fogg, G. Fogg 16/9/2014. Onsight.
6 HISSING SID 40m E1 5b
S. Gallwey, O. Jacob, W. Lee, October 1981
This climb takes the corner up the steep face of the left hand buttress to the right of Mahon Chimney.
1. 10 m. Climb up left hand side of the slabs to a large grassy ledge at the base of the corner. Belay.
2. 30 m. Climb up the corner until it is possible to step left onto a ledge after the first overhang. Regain the base of the undercut corner (crux) and continue up the corner until it is possible to exit up the left hand wall.
7 SALAMANDER 42m HVS 5a, 4b
O. Jacob, S. Gallwey, W. Lee, October 1981
This climb takes the centre of the slab up the left hand side of the central buttress. Start at the left hand corner of the slab.
1. 24 m. Climb the crack to just above the overhang. Traverse right (no protection) on whitish rock for 6m. into the centre of the slab. Climb up into a niche (crux) and gain the obvious crack to the left, reaching a belay on the grassy ledge.
2. 18 m. Climb wide juggy crack to top.
8 DERANGED COUSINS 45m HVS 5a, 5a
S. Gallwey, E. Hernstadt, May 1987
This climb takes the right hand side of the Salamander slab just left of the arête. Start at base of arête.
1. 22 m. Climb short wall to a ledge at 6m. Climb leftwards into a groove and continue on up cracks above the groove. Belay halfway up the cliff on a ledge on the arête, just below overhang (large friends or nuts for the belay).
2. 23 m. Step up left onto a ledge and climb straight up the face above, protection improving with height. Continue on up the face keeping close to the arête. The overhang is climbed on large holds just left of the break.
Alternative finish 5b
E. Hernstadt, S. Gallwey. May 1987
From the horizontal break 3 m. below the overhang, step around the arête into a deep corner. Climb the slab to the right until standing on the sharp nose. Climb straight up the impending wall above for 5m. to top.
9 THE LISTING ATTIC 45m VS 4c, 4c
S. Gallwey, E. Hernstadt, (alternate leads) May 1987
This climb takes the right hand side of the large slab on the buttress on the right of the Salamander slab. Start at the centre of face.
1. 25 m. Climb up easy ground just right of centre until just right of a niche where it is possible to traverse out rightwards onto the arête, thus avoiding the grass. Climb the arête with a difficult move to avoid the overhang. Continue up to belay on the arête below a second overhang.
2. 20 m. Climb the second overhang to the left keeping as close to the arête as possible (crux). Continue on up the face to a sloping ledge where it is possible to escape rightwards if desired. Traverse left below impending band of rock to a vertical crack, which is climbed to top.
9a Dave The Rave 45m VS
D. Keane, P. Flynn, April 2014
1. Start to the right of The Listing Attic and follow the grassy crack to belay at the ledge at the overhang, there is a lot of space here for large cams or hexes.
2. Continue by traversing left over the grass to cleaner rock (Mid slab). Climb slightly diagonally right crossing a grass filled crack all the way to the final overhang. Traverse left to finish.
10 IOMAIRE NA CAORTHAN 53m HS 4b, 4a
J Bergin, A Widger, May 1990
This climb takes the obvious arete approx 20m to the right (north) of the Salamander slab. (50 meter ropes desirable). Start in the gully to the right of the ridge proper.
1. 8m. Climb easily for about 5m until it is possible to traverse left onto the arête, then climb with confidence over a small prow. Continue and belay at a small Rowan tree.
2. 45m. Climb the arête to the top.
OThis is the [presumably correct] name given, in the 1958 Climber's Club Journal, to those on the right-hand side as one approaches the Falls i.e. South- West-facing cliffs. The 1956 routes Heifer Buttress, Calf Rib and Hilary's Horror are described as being at the eastern end of the cliff and Jacob's Ladder as being at the western end. Assuming that the writers did not confuse east and west, that puts the 1956 routes further away from the [Mahon] Falls than Jacobs Ladder, in the direction of Waterfall Slabs
Dreaming Gully routes The following routes are located on the east facing wall of the large gully immediately to the right of and overlooking the Mahon Falls. While the first pitch of The Dreaming contains some potentially loose rock, it was well tested. However, from the belay ledge, there are three fine lines up compact rock in an excellent situation. It is well worth abseiling in from a large block about 10m back from the cliff to climb any or all of these routes.
INARTICULATE DREAMS 20m HVS 5a (as a stand-alone route, having abseiled in) otherwise 45m E1 5b 5a in combination with pitch 1 of The Dreaming.
J. Bergin, S. Ryan,. 5 August 1989
20m 5a. Follow a good crack, easily and spectacularly to a crack on the left side of the overhang. Climb this to the top.
THE DREAMING 45m E1 5b, 5b
J. Bergin, S. Gallwey, 10 May 1989
Start on the clean slab of rock two-thirds of the way up the left-hand-side of the gully, under some broken-looking rock.
(1)25m 5b Traverse onto the slab from the gully. Climb the slab on good holds until forced into a long and blind reach to the left for a good jug. Climb up steeply through an overhanging groove, with some potentially-loose rock, then up more easily (veer slightly left to simplify matters) and belay on a comfortable ledge.
5c Variation, pitch 1: instead of following the overhanging groove rightwards, make a thin committing move to the left, and straight up. (G. Fogg 16/5/2023).
Direct Start From below the slab, follow the undercut corner and continue in a straight line along the left-hand-side of the slab to gain the flake and the original line. Perplexing start (6a) to the corner and thin moves (5c) on the slab. G. Fogg 17/7/2022 onsight.
(2) 20 m. Climb up the slab to the overhang, which is turned to the right. Follow the crack on the arête to the top (not visible from belay).
Direct Finish E1 5b
J. Bergin, J. Hennessey. May 1991
From the belay ledge, continue directly through the overhang onto the headwall. Spectacular.
POLITICAL WORLD 15m S 4a
J Bergin, S Gallwey, 22 April, 1990
This climb follows the right edge of a steep wall near the top of the western gully higher up the gully than the start of The Dreaming. Start at an obvious leftward trending ramp. Climb this ramp with confidence until it is possible to place protection behind a large flake. Step left onto the wall and climb trending right, up a crack and steeply to the top.
The following two climbs are on the corner of the right-hand buttress as you enter the above gully.
BROKEN DREAMS 18m HS 3c
J.O'Keeffe J. Horgan June 9th 2012
Start 5m Left & 7m higher up of Big Bang Theory
Climb obvious crack line for 8m, traverse left for 1.5m (Crux) then up slab section over obvious spikes (good protection) the route then joins into big bang theory.
Tat has been placed for abseiling off both routes.
BIG BANG THEORY 25m HS 4a
J. Bergin, R. Smith, Early 2000's
Starting 5m right of the entrance to the large gully described in the above climbs on a West facing wall overlooking the main coum.
Well protected for the top 18m or so of the climb, Big Bang Theory follows a varied width corner crack for the majority of the route. The crux is at approx 19m and involves exiting the crack/corner. After passing the crux proceed for 6m over a large block to belay.
The top belay should be checked for loose rock but the stance is quite spacious and affords great views of the Mahon valley. Abseil descent off large block to gully floor.
The following climbs were originally stated as being in Foill an Priosun, but best efforts at locating them place them on the North-East cliff (South-West facing) in Coum Mahon. This is on the basis of identifying and repeating Waterfall Slabs.
These routes are described, in order, from East (right) to West (left).
WATERFALL SLABS 46m D
Joss Lynam, solo, 19 July 1969
The obvious water-worn slabs at the east end of the crag. Start just east of the right hand stream, cross it after about 12m and go up the slabs between the two streams to the top. Conglomerate - fairly sound.
TOADPIPE 73m VD
Tom Wolfe, Joss Lynam, (alt leads), 20 July 1969
This climb is just to the left of the second big grass gully west from the waterfall. The gully is distinguishable by a rock island in its lower part. Start at the foot of a small slabby buttress.
1. 24m. Climb the buttress and scramble up grass to the foot of a wall. Conglomerate - fairly sound.
2. 12m. Climb the wall moving left. , then right to a ledge. Conglomerate - fairly sound.
3. 9m. Climb the wall above the ledge. Go diagonally left. , then move right just below a grass ledge and climb into a recess. Conglomerate - fairly sound.
4. 9m. Pull out of the recess, up rock, and then steep grass to the foot of a chimney in a corner. Conglomerate - fairly sound. The chimney is the logical finish, but it is very loose (sandstone) and the climb was finished as follows -
5. 18m. Traverse left round a corner into a grassy recess and then climb a chimney to easy ground. Sandstone - loose.
RAVING 137(?)m HS
Niall Rice, R. Kinsella, 19 July 1969
Start - To the right of Screwtape
1. Up the obvious rib.
2. Loose rock to a belay in the corner.
3. A steep wall to easier ground.
4. Traverse left and finish up last pitch of Screwtape. (There is a direct finish but it is loose and was not led).
SCREWTAPE 79m HS
Christy Rice, Paddy O'Brien, Joss Lynam, 19 July 1969
Start - Just right of a deep gully, the third from the waterfall slabs below a big nose.
1. 18m. Up a few feet, then move left onto the nose, up, back R. and straight up to a ledge. (Conglomerate - rotten).
2. 15m. Up the wall on the left, then R. , then L. round the bulge and up easily to the bridge of the nose (Conglomerate - very rotten).
3. 24m. Up grass slopes heading for the L. edge of the big buttress above. Then traverse R. on loose flakes and climb up into the recess, (Sandstone - loose).
4. 21m. Up grass slopes heading for the L. edge of the big buttress above. but for more interest, traverse R. down a grassy ramp, swing round onto a rib, and climb it to the top. (Sandstone).
There is evidence, on both sides of the valley for the squeezing of the rocks, at some time, along an axis approximately SE - NW. This is most apparent in the finer-grained layers, resulting in a cleavage at a high angle to the more-or-less horizontal lie of the beds. It can also be seen, though less-well developed in the coarser-grained conglomerate. Screwtape is a good place to observe this!
The 1969 group was a strong party of experienced climbers. However, it seems likely that most of their experience would have been on granite - in Dalkey, Wicklow and further afield - including in the Greater Ranges. It is unsurprising then that they were less-than-impressed with the flaky nature of the rock that they found. So what is the climbing like?? The first two pitches are easy to follow. Above that, the description is less clear, due to: 1) the lack of an obvious line and; 2) the difficulty of identifying the feature described as ‘the big buttress above’. Nonetheless, there is good climbing to be had.
SCREWTAPE REVISITED 80m E1 4c, 4c, Diff, 5b, 5a
1. 18m 4c Good climbing as described. Rock: flaky-looking but, treated with respect, good.
2. 15m 4c As described. Rock quality of initial wall excellent; then a scramble to a little col.
3. 20m Diff. A little bit of easy rock, then grass, then more easy rock and more grass. Rock quality: irrelevant.
4. 20m 5b Go up easily to a little rock wall above a patch of small willows and place some good protection. Then, descend to the right, behind the trees, to the edge of the void. [It might be necessary to pull up one rope and throw it back down, so that it can be clear of the trees.] Edge gingerly across to gain the undercut arete, avoiding some suspect flakes. A couple of moves brings you to a position of remarkable exposure - standing on a small square jutting block, with 60m of fresh air beneath your feet. Go around the arete and make some technical moves to a ledge. Rock quality: excellent.
5. 10m 5a The previous pitch brings you to the lower end of a grassy ramp - and to the ‘more interesting’ finish of the 1969 party. Climb the rib as described. Rock quality: excellent.
Pitches 1,2,3,5 C. Rice, P. O Brien, J. Lynam 19/7/1969 Pitch 4 G. Fogg, M. Griffin 17/9/2020 on sight.
THE LINE 65m E2 5b 5b
Location: In the centre of the cliff, mid-way between Jacob’s Ladder and Screwtape. The first pitch climbs the ruler-straight left-facing corner; the second pitch continues up the left side of the light-coloured prow above.
1. 40m 5b. Easy ground, then keep to the slab to the right until you can step left onto the grass pad in the corner. Above, the back wall bulges. Getting up this is the crux and the gear here is small, hard to find and hard to trust but ‘be ye men of valour’ , there are better holds and gear-placements above. Follow the corner to its very end (including the grassy top) to belay immediately below the headwall.
2. 25m 5b Follow the cracks above the belay. Holds and gear placements abound but the wall overhangs slightly making it quite pumpy. The angle eases towards the top.
G. Fogg, M. Griffin 25/9/2022. Abseiled previously to remove the carpet of grass turf in the corner of pitch 1.
ARTEMIS 80m E2 5a 5b/c
Location: 10m to the right (East) of Unseen Things Above, the first pitch climbs the left-slanting groove between the flake/buttress and the wall behind. (Unseen Things climbs the left edge of this buttress). The groove is vegetated but this is of no consequence since the climbing consists of bridging between the edge of the flake and the clean, solid and delightfully knobbly back wall. The top 25m of the second pitch is superb high-quality climbing on clean rock.
1. 35m 5a. Up a couple of metres of vegetation to reach rock and then the groove. Bridge up this to a grassy belay.
2. 45m 5b/c. From the belay, go up and right over easy ground for 20m towards the (very small) corner in the centre of the face. Where the rock steepens, follow the edge of the triangular flake to the base of the corner . This is marked by a small square plate jutting from a slot. Climb confidently to the top, finding good protection from small nuts for most of the way.
G. Fogg, M. Griffin 28/8/2022 The first pitch was climbed on sight. An attempt was made on the second but, when no crack was found in the back of the corner, and with no sign of gear-placements visible from below, it seemed unwise to continue (‘Fain would I climb but yet fear I to fall’). An easier line was then taken to the top and a cursory examination and perfunctory clean made on abseil, consistent with safety. The easier line, at 4c, combines with the first pitch to give an excursion at HVS as follows:
APOLLO 80m HVS 5a 4c
1. 35m 5a Pitch 1 of Artemis.
2. 45m 4c From the belay, go up and slightly left towards a stunted (pedunculate-) oak tree. Squirm past this on the right and follow a good edge and crack towards a (scary-looking but actually sound) hanging flake. Pass this on the left to the top.
G.Fogg, M. Griffin 28/8/2022 on sight.
UNSEEN THINGS ABOVE 80m E2 5b 5c 5b
Location: Jacob’s Ladder is easily identified by the detached block at its base. The bay to the right (East) of it is defined on its right hand side by an obvious overhanging corner/groove.
1. 30m 5b Climb the groove, exiting right into a good belay nest.
2. 25m 5c From the belay, traverse delicately left for two metres to a narrow grass ledge and follow the crack up to the slot above. Intricate climbing through this leads to a grassy platform.
3. 25m 5b. From the belay, go up and, on the left of the arete, pull strenuously up the flake-crack to a stance and then, to avoid thin suspect flakes, keep left and climb spectacularly up the edge of the thin-but-solid sharp arete to its top. From here, protection can be found in the bottom of the crack to the left, which separates the glass-smooth slab from heathery rock. The top is a few metres up. Walk off from here i.e. below the top band of rock.
G. Fogg (1,3) H. Fogg (2) M. Griffin 7/8/2022 Onsight.
JACOB'S LADDER 82m HS [original grade]
R. J. Wathen, K. I. Meldrum 1957
Ronnie Wathen and K. I. Meldrum could climb and had a good eye for a line. This is a good climb in a good situation. It is certainly worth VS and a case could be made for HVS.
The route climbs the stepped-ladder feature, one third of the way down the crag from Mahon Falls, that forms the right-hand boundary of the large wide-vee gully. The left-hand branch of this gully provides a convenient [if somewhat sketchy] descent.
The route starts from a detached boulder.
1. 25m. Climb straight up the face of the rib to grassy top.
2. 35m. Up slab and obvious vee-chimney. Above is quite tricky if one sticks to the rock. To grass ledge.
3. 22m. Up slab to ledge and thin crack on left. Rusted remains of original piton is still to be seen almost sixty years on.
ART THOU ELIAS? 60m VS 4c 4c
Location: This is the stepped arete opposite Jacob’s Ladder , across the mouth of ‘Pirate Gully’ (so-called for the ‘Plank’ i.e. the narrow rock path leading out into nothingness at its left hand side). It is the next gully east from Dreaming Gully.
1. 20m 4c + 10m to the belay. Start just left of the ‘Plank’ and follow the rough crack which snakes up to a little overhang at the top. Go through the centre of this overhang to a lovely little promontory.
2. 30m Severe, except for one 4c move as described: At the overhanging split nose, move up to the right and make an exciting move onto a small flat foothold just above the overhang on the point of the nose, and continue up the groove.
Scramble up to the terrace and descend via Dreaming Gully (Pirate Gully not recommended without prior knowledge).
Pitch 2 G. Fogg, M. Griffin 10/5/2023 on sight. Pitch 1 G. Fogg, M. Griffin, R. Power 16/5/2023 on sight.