J313295 The haughty crag of Spellack sits high on a spur of Slieve Meelmore overlooking the Trassey Valley. It offers fine, difficult, routes on the steep, clean rock of the Main Face and there are also good easier routes, with White Walls S being an absolute classic.
Follow the Bryansford/Hilltown road past the edge of Tollymore Forest and turn left down the Trassey road to a public car park (312314) beside a farm. Follow the Trassey Track past the farm and through young forest onto the open mountain. Follow the track until directly below the crag. Cross the river and climb up steeply to the base. About 30 minutes from the road.
The Main Face of Spellack is split by a leftward diagonal grassy ramp into two tiers of steep clean rock. However the lower tier as it sweeps further left becomes a steep broken buttress the top of which meets the left-hand side of the grassy ramp. The top of this buttress forms a grassy platform below the prominent left arete of the upper tier which marks the line of Blowin' in the Wind. The broken buttress is bounded on the left by a large gully which terminates in Spellack Chimney. The left wall of this has some areas of good rock and left again are two smaller buttresses.
To the right of the Main Face are further smaller buttresses and below and to the right again is the small Forest View Buttress. Friends are invaluable on most of the routes and almost essential for protection on many of the routes on the Main Face. The climbs are described from left to right, starting on the second small buttress left and below the main gully entrance, the buttress being distinguished by the obvious diagonal crack of Cabin Cruise.
The first climbs below are on a small buttress at the top of Cabin Cruise Buttress. Access can be gained by climbing any route on that buttress and then walk up a further 30-40m, or by scrambling up the gully to the left of Aries.
Smokin? the Tweed 14m E1 5b
S. Patton, D. Crawley
Route takes a direct line through the blocky overhangs further round to the left of the main section. Climb straight to first roof, and climb directly through to next roof which is climbed by an obvious break on the left. Climb direct to finish.
Rock Over and Roll Up 15m VS 5a
D. Crawley, S. Patton
Start left of the arete bounding the left edge of the main face as crag is approached from below. Climb direct to small roof which is taken directly by a reachy move. Follow the clean wall to top and belay on large blocks.
Marasco 15m VS 4c
D. Crawley, S. Patton
Start at bottom of aforementioned arete. Make an energetic move right to swing up and right onto the main face, rock slightly crumbly for feet. Climb up face to a deep crack system which is climbed to small horizontal break. Climb boldly to top on rounded holds finishing as for Rock Over and Roll Up. Descent is by walking back 10/15m.
The following routes start from the foot of the buttress
Shadow 30m VD
Takes a line up the arete on the left end of the buttress.
Half Baked 30m E1 5c
P.Swail, A.Marshall 11/6/06
Start 1m left of Leeward. Make bouldery moves off the ground to a rest where gear can be arranged. Pull through small overlap and climb right handside of the arete to belay as for Leeward.
Leeward * 30m VS 4c
R. Greene, T. Ryan, J. McKenzie. 5/75.
Start - 6m left of Cabin Cruise. Climb directly over the overhang and follow grooves to the top, keeping to the right of the edge.
Ariel * 30m HVS 5a
I. Rea, I. Dillon. 15/5/92.
Tough for the grade but excellent protection. Start - 1m right of Leeward. Climb crack to obvious niche at 12m. Climb up above niche to just below grass ledge. Traverse 2m right to two thin cracks. Continue up these and finish out left.
Fear and Trembling 30m E4 6a
I. Rea, E. Cooper 28/5/00
Start 1m left of Cabin Cruise. Climb up for a few meters to gain footholds just R of Ariel, place a runner in Ariel then step R and climb between the good edge on the L and the thin friction seam on the R. Hard moves lead to good footholds just L of the green streak. Traverse R to a vertical crack, over bulge and up the wall directly to finish as for Ariel.
The finishes of the next two routes Cabin Cruise and Scarface, are both vegetated and it is recommended to finish up Ariel.
Cabin Cruise * 30m E1 5b
J. Rotherham, R. Telford, T. Hawkins. 13/6/72.
A superb illustration of a typical Mourne route. Climb the obvious diagonal crack on the buttress.
Scarface * 40m E1 5b
G. Murray, M. McNaught. 26/10/85.
Similar in nature to the previous route and almost as good. Start - 5m right of Cabin Cruise. Climb the obvious diagonal grooves to a thread and continue up wall to the top.
La Longue Carabine 25m E1 5b
I. Rea, I. Dillon. 15/5/92.
Start - in a cave/niche up and right of Scarface. Climb out left from niche and follow obvious flake/fault diagonally left to the thread of Scarface. Take the lower line crossing Cabin Cruise just below where the crack on that route widens. Delicate moves lead further left at the overlap to gain the niche on Ariel.
On the first small buttress left of and below the gully base is
Matain 40m VS 4c
C. Torrans, S. J. Crymble. 20/10/67.
A bit scruffy but it gives good, steep climbing. Start - at a small recess at the left end of the buttress. Climb the overhanging wall and surmount a large block at 6m. Move right then left to the arete and continue up to a tree belay. Variation Right-Hand Finish HVS (5a Finish up the corner right of Blue Velvet.
Blue Velvet 25m E2 6a
I. Rea, G. Murray. 8/91
Start - 3m right of Matain at the right-hand side of a triangular niche and directly below the spillikin of Schizoid. Pull up strenuously into the corner/groove and continue in the same vein to the spillikin. Step out left and up the blocky wall to the base of the double overhang. Out right and over the roofs to finish.
Schizoid 30m S 4a
W. Jenkins, B. Beattie, L. Kirkpatrick. 20/10/67.
Start - 10m right of Matain. Move left to a spillikin and surmount this, keep going left to a belay.
A large gully culminating in Spellack Chimney marks the left boundary of the two large main faces. The left-hand side of the gully wall has three continuous stretches of rock, one above the other.
Thrutch 25m D
W. Holmes, R. Rowe. 4/4/74.
Climb the chimney in the middle of the lowest stretch of rock, just left of the foot of the gully.
This possibly newly exposed rock face about 3/4 of the way up the gully appears to have been exposed by a small mudslide possibly in winter 2021. It's a white wall (not that one), to the right-hand side of the gully below White Walls. Note the far right side of this is quite loose and should be avoided.
Life Before the Crash 25m? S / XS
IamJam, Declan and Alisa 25/09/2022
Climb the slab below A white wall by a series of grooves and small ledges. So you think you found White Walls ... WRONG. Initially, cleanish easy climbing with increasingly poor quality rock the higher up you get until you get to some terrible choss below the chimney you were possibly aiming for. Finished at the large solid flake on the left-hand side but not a great belay spot really. If the loose rock higher up comes down to reveal more solid rock you might be able to continue to the smallish chimney above in future. To be avoided to be honest unless all the loose stuff comes down on its own.
On the second panel of rock half way up the gully wall, with a large arch of rock curving off to the left are -
Bugsy 22m HVS 5b
M. Manson, P. Douglas. 17/5/80.
Start - at the left side of a small cave 3m left of Surprise. Climb the rightward-trending flakes (one loose) beside the small cave to a small ledge on the right below a faint horizontal break, where flakes run out. Move left to gain a rightward-sloping crack with poke holes. Climb this and over the large overlap. Finish as for Surprise.
Surprise * 35m HVS 4c
R. Greene, B. Carville, J. Mathers. 6/76.
Adequate protection up to the sting in the tail which is a bit crumbly and bold. Start - below right-hand end of the large archway. Climb to the archway and surmount on the right using pocks. Up and traverse left about 1m below large pock to gain ledge. Up ledges trending slightly left with delicate moves to finish. Variation Bouldering Biggles 20m HVS (5a P. Douglas, M. Manson. 17/5/80. A poorly protected and delicate start to Surprise. Start - right of Surprise under the obvious flakes on the wall. Climb directly up the wall on small pockets and flakes and make a difficult move to reach a sharp scooped ledge and large pockets up right of overlap. Move left and finish as for Surprise. No protection until large pockets are reached.
Lightning Visit * 20m VS 4c
R. Greene, A. Douglas. 5/76.
A well positioned little route and worth the struggle up the gully. Start - the upper stretch of rock on the left wall of the gully, immediately left of Spellack Chimney. Climb the distinct corner to the top.
Spellack Chimney ** 18m VD
G. J. Bryan. 28/4/63.
A bit dirty but has good situations. This route takes the obvious chimney at the top of the gully marking the left-hand end of the main face.
Throwing Shapes * 30m E2 6a
G. Murray, B. James, T. Mercer. 9/9/95
Start - just right of Spellack Chimney at the lowest point of the slab. Up the slab by small edges and horizontal breaks until below dark diamond shaped overhang. Climb through the middle of overhang by short groove trending leftwards to obvious crack and top.
White Walls *** 30m S 4a
R. Dean and Party. /74.
One of the best routes of its grade in the Mournes. Start - below the obvious cracked white wall at the top of the main crag just right of Spellack Chimney. Climb the slab below the wall by a series of grooves and small ledges. After reaching a large ledge on the right, step back left onto the steep wall. This is climbed directly, on excellent holds in a very impressive situation.
Race the Darkness * 47m HVS 5a
K. Quinn, S. Ferris 1997
A route with steady interest up to the short, tricky crux which is well protected and then much easier. Start: on the right of the lower gully of Spellack Chimney at an obvious left leaning corner with two overhangs. Climb the corner through both overhangs. Move left and up linking the slabs together. Traverse left above a small cave to gain the final slab. The original ascent Sidestep VS (4c) (K. Quinn, R. Lawson. /83.) took a short detour right onto the wall from a horizontal spike above the first overhang and then back left to regain the present route. Although this variation avoids the crux it is still worthwhile.
The arete right of the gully is Morceaux HS, a very unsatisfactory route starting from the base of the gully.
It's Raining Again 40m S/A1
QUBMC Group. /89.
Hardly worth the effort as most of the route is vegetation. Start - at the base of the gully as for Morceaux. Climb the arete for 5m and traverse left parallel to gully floor then up to an obvious spike. Traverse left to below overhang and continue left to the slab and up to a small ledge on the arete. Get past spike on right either free (5a) or lasso it and use aid. Finish by scrambling up easy ground and vegetation to the top.
Secret Rapture ** 50m E2 5b, 5c
I. Rea, M. Rea. 6/91.
Superb positions on the second pitch but is prone to overgrowing Start - just to the left of Troubled Waters.
1) 15m Climb over an awkward bulge and then straight up to a blocky wall. Traverse right to a belay ledge directly below a hanging arete.
2) 35m Move up left to a grassy ledge and on up to a roof where you step right to the edge. Go directly over the roof on solid jams and move up and left to the edge again. From here it's boldly up to the horizontal break where twin cracks lead you past another break. Finish out left to a large block and belay on the edge.
3) Scramble easily up from here, but best to keep tied in.
Troubled Waters 55m VS 4c
L. Griffin. 14/5/71.
A poor route, very overgrown. Start - at a fault leaning slightly right which lies 5m left of the large cave at the base of Flaky Pastry. 1) 25m Follow the fault to the base of the diedre above. 2) 30m Climb the diedre and escape left near the top. Traverse left for 12m to belay.
Flaky Pastry 65m VS 5a
R. Cowan, R. Greene. 5/75.
Another poor, very overgrown route. Start - at the right-hand end of the cave, topped by a large roof lying left of centre at the foot of the lower main face.
1) 25m Climb to the narrower section of the roof, surmount, then traverse left along its lip to ascend a line of holds.
2) 40m Continue up left to a rotten corner. Gain large but dubious holds below a small bulge. Surmount this and scramble up easy ground to the top.
Weaver Bird 80m HVS 5a, 4c, 4c
D. Stelfox, K. Quinn. 30/7/83.
A meandering, poor, vegetated, route and not really worth the effort taking the left-hand side of the smooth wall at the right-hand end of the lower main face. Start - at the obvious leftward-trending ramp at the middle of the wall.
1) 40m Climb the ramp tto the unstable-looking spike at 15m. Dynamic moves left, centred around a hidden jug on the left arete, lead to a grassy ledge, which is followed (down left) below a blocky wall to the foot of a steep corner. Climb this, awkward to start, to an overhang. Move back right through the overhang and up the short corner above to a grassy ledge. From the left-hand end of the ledge climb the steep rightward-trending ramp to a small ledge on the left and belay.
2) 20m Continue up the ramp above to blocky ledges. Move left and up on grass to the foot of a steep wall. With gymnastic moves climb this to gain a large ledge. Move back right to a grassy ledge at the foot of a steep corner.
3) 20m Up the corner to undercling. Traverse right to deep crack and climb this via a series of awkward moves to the next horizontal break. Move back left to ledge and up broken corner to top
Mad Dogs ** 35m E5 6a
P. Douglas, M. Manson (Two Rest Points). /80. E. Cooper (First Free ascent). 2/7/88.
Start - at the left end of the large grass ledge, part way up the right-hand side of the lower main face. Climb large flakes until level with the first small overlap (jammed nut). Traverse left under this to undercut holds below in-situ peg runner. Make difficult moves up to peg. Climb overlap just left of peg to gain ledge at base of inverted V. Step right to below peg. Layback up right-hand side of inverted V, bridge out of top and step right to reach side pull above peg. Make a committing series of moves (crux) up the featureless walls (no runners) to second inverted V. From here, easier climbing leads to a small overhang. Swing out left and up face to top. Good nut belay in square-cut corner.
Usurper * 35m E1 5b
P. Douglas, M. Dowling. /79.
Start - as for Mad Dogs. Follow flakes diagonally right to beneath first overhang. Traverse right round overhang on undercuts then right and up a short steep wall to below another overhang. Swing left onto the main face and traverse left for 3m and finish up the wall above.
Blowin' in the Wind ** 20m HVS 5a
M. Manson, P. Douglas. 11/5/80.
Delicate and thoughtful climbing with plenty of fresh air - as the name suggests. To avoid the slog up to its base can be combined with Race the Darkness. Start - at the left-hand end of the upper main face, close to the edge of the crag. Follow the rightward-sloping crack to the top.
Walking Backwards * 25m E3 6a
G. Murray, R. Purvis. 28/5/97.
Start - 2m right of Blowin' in the Wind at small groove. Climb groove to horizontal break, continue along break for 8m until able to make hard moves into groove. Up with continued interest to the top.
Cool for Cats * 33m E2 5c
P. Douglas, C. Callow, J. Codling. 13/7/79.
For cool cats with cool heads in the final groove. Start - right of Blowin' in the Wind below a series of ledges just right of a large rock step on the ramp. Climb ledges to a small overhang, directly over this and the wall above (crux) to a horizontal break. Traverse right to the bottom of a groove and follow this boldly to the top. (No protection in this final groove.
Too Cool for Cats E2 5c **
Craig Hiller, Keith Willett 31/7/05
An interesting direct start to Cool for Cats. Start 1m left of Mirror Mirror below a small roof. Move through the right hand side of the roof and trend left on good side-pulls to reach the first horizontal break. Make hard moves above to gain the next horizontal break. Go straight up the wall using a deep pocket to the next large break and join the groove of Cool for Cats to the top.
Mirror Mirror ** 40m E4 6a
C. Calow, J. Codling, P. Douglas. 13/7/79.
Start - beneath a shield of downward-pointing flakes right of Cool for Cats. With difficulty climb over these flakes and step right to a short horizontal break. Continue directly up a shallow groove, peg runner, to reach a long wide horizontal break. Traverse right to a peg runner, step up and right and finish up the prominent diagonal crack above.
Warhorse *** 40m E4 6a
J. Codling, P. Douglas, C. Calow (One aid point). /79. J. Codling (First Free Ascent. Top-roped prior to ascent). /85.
Superb open face climbing. Start - takes the water-worn wall mid-way between Mirror Mirror and the fault at the right-hand end of the face (Cherub). Follow a line of flakes diagonally right. Traverse right (peg runner) and up to a thread (impossible to place when leading.) Up left to the first horizontal break (peg runner). Make a long reach to gain a flat hold below the second horizontal break. Using a pocket above this break, reach high up left for a flake. Move right to reach another thread and continue straight up to finish.
Pegasus *** E5 6b
E. Cooper, S. McCrory. 19/4/88.
Start - below Cherub. Climb ledges and move left up flakes, from the top of these move left again and up to a peg runner. Hard moves past this (crux) to gain pockets, then shuffle right and go up boldly to a second peg. Make more technical moves to gain a flake and continue directly to the top.
Renegade * 36m E1 5c
J. Codling, P. Douglas, M. Manson. /80.
A girdle traverse starting as for Cool for Cats. Walk along ledge then start traversing right until a shallow groove can be gained for the foot. Step down. Continue to a long step down. Traverse delicately until better, if widely-spaced, holds are reached. Foot or hand traverse right to reach a short corner. Finish diagonally right just left of Cherub.
Cherub * 30m E1 5c
R. Dean and Party. /74.
A fine climb which is just hard enough for the 5c grade. Start - at the fault at the right-hand end of the upper main face. Ascend ledges to the fault which is climbed with good rests in the big pockets but awkward moves in between.
Cumulonimbus * 35m E1 5a
G. Earnshaw, D. Smithson. 6/64.
Start - as for Cherub. Ascend the ledges to ledge below fault then step right and up the wall moving slightly right past a spike. Continue delicately straight up.
Jagged Edge 20m E2 5b
G. Murray, I. McEwan. 10/10/86.
Start - 3m right of Cumulonimbus at a faint groove. Climb wall to good foothold on the right. Ascend the wall above using the right groove to gain a deep crack above. Continue leftwards to the top.
Below and right of the main face is a smaller buttress which has broken rock and vegetation at its base but with two clean, slabby faces above and split by a grassy gully.
Seven Up 25m HS 4b
T. Hawkins, K. Quinn. 1/8/81.
A reasonable route and worth persevering with the vegetated finish. The gear is good at the demanding crux move. Start - at the left-hand side of the grassy gully, on a rock tongue. A confidence testing pull up on good holds gains a sloping ledge. Traverse left until the ledge runs out. Traverse a good crack left until able to move up. Move right and up on clean rock but finish on vegetation.
Sugar Mountain 25m E2 5c (climbed in the wet so may be 5b)
I Rea, D Crawley 29/3/04
Climb to the initial ledge on Seven Up. From the middle of the ledge climb directly up via vertical fault to the quartz intrusion. Traverse down right on twin breaks to middle of Slab. Using the two right trending diagonal faults, trend left to the large block. Go left on ledge, step-down and climb wall left of the Seven Up finish.
Gates of Dawn * 25m E2 5c
G. Murray, R. Purvis. 28/5/97.
Interesting climbing. The nervous leader may find the closeness of the vegetated gully a comfort - as a soft landing! Start - as for Seven Up. Straight up wall just in from left edge of buttress and up diagonal groove to where it meets a pair of horizontal parallel grooves. Step up and right and continue up to gain ledge on right at grassy break. Move right and up flakes then easier to the top.
Right of the grassy gully is a clean face above a broken area of rock and vegetation with an obvious rightward trending groove giving the line of the following route -
The Flying Vicar * 20m E2 5b
G. Murray, M. McNaught. 26/10/85.
Bold moves until after the crux. Start - near the middle of this slabby face below the above mentioned obvious rightward trending groove on a grass ledge best reached up Z Edge. Climb the groove to a flat hold (crux) and continue straight up the wall with interest.
Z Edge 33m VS 4c
K. Quinn, T. Hawkins. 1/8/81.
Good rock with adequate protection but slightly spoilt by some vegetation. Start - right of The Flying Vicar at the extreme right-hand end of the cliff below a white streak left of the edge. Climb the obvious white streak on small holds until just below a ledge on the right at 8m. Traverse left for 2m and up grooves to the next grassy ledge and corner. Climb the corner, go left a bit and up.
Variation * E1 (5b After the traverse left, climb the left-hand side of the grooves until possible to step left onto the flat hold of Flying Vicar and finish up this route.
Forest View Buttress is the small buttress lying about 300m to the right of the main face and presents a maze of cracks and grooves of varying difficulty and combinations most of which have been climbed. Two left slanting faults split the crag with the left-hand one starting from a large niche about third way up.
Double Berth 12m S 4a
Start - near the left-hand end of Forest View Buttress at a tall clean recess. Climb the crack out of the tall clean recess and the cracks above.
Broken Arrow HVS 5a
I Rea, D Crawley 29/3/04
Start 1m right of Double Berth. Up via pockets and footholds to break. Climb between two cracks to ledge. Down right to the most prominent crack. Climb between it and the finger seam on the left to top.
Single Berth 20m S 4a
Start - below and right of the left-hand of the two faults in the centre of the wall. Make for and climb the left-hand large fault.
Variation Spanish Burgundy 20m HS A harder alternative moves left from the niche at the base of the fault and up the double grooves above.
Ron Burgundy 22m HS
From below the V-shaped recess beneath Single Berth. Climb to the rightward sloping ledge and follow this to a horizontal break. Step down onto a lower groove and up to a good ledge by an awkward mantelshelf.
Variation Start directly up right hand line of pockmarks. A hard move left leads into double grooves, Finish straight up via a large ledge. (VS 4c/5a)
Groove Armada 22m HVS 5a
Up the vertical crack 1m left of Final FU to a large rightward slanting groove. Follow this dirty groove, with difficulty, to a good ledge.
Final FU 22m S 4a
C. Moore, I. Brown, D. Bruce. 6/9/64.
Start - below the right-hand of the two faults. Follow the large groove and continue up this to the top.
Wonderchild 20m E1 5c
G. Murray, R. Steele. 4/96
Start - 2m left of obvious peapod at left edge of small cave. Up thin groove to a (dangerously?) hollow undercut hand traverse of Whit. Climb directly above thread and up using small groove on right until able to reach groove and bigger holds on left. Finish up grooves right of Final FU or Final FU.
Whit 30m HS 4b
C. Moore, I. Brown, D. Bruce. 6/9/64.
Start - just left of the bottom of Afterbirth, below an obvious undercut hand traverse. Climb to the undercuts and traverse left to gain the fault of Final FU.
Afterlife* 30m E2 6a
K. Kilroy, E. Clarke 16/5/10.
A fun and airy eliminate line that crosses the big blank slab at Forest View Butress. Climb Afterbirth until you've had you're fill and move left onto the next obvious horizontal break above Whit. Hand traverse the break, taking a just moment to savour the pendulum potential, gain a small ledge at the end of the break with interest and finish up cracks right of Final FU.
Afterbirth * 22m E1 5a/b
J. McGuinness, D. McKay, J. Baxter. 6/74.
Tricky crux i.e. could be 5b on a bad day! Start - at the obvious crack which widens to a peapod at one third height, near the right edge of the crag. Climb the crack, peapod and the short crack above (crux) and easier moves to top.
Moto Psycho Nightmare * 22m HVS 5a
Start - 5m right of Afterbirth. Layback up the sloping groove for 3m and move right to a recess. Continue up a small crack, move left and finish left as for Afterbirth.