Benfree is one of those mountains whose profile suffers from being in the shadow of its nearby Big Brother, Benbaun. Not only is there about 90M difference in height between them, but the later is the highest mountain in the range and a county top. This is very much reflected by the amount of comments on MV (1 page for Benfree and 4 for Benbaun), as well as the numbers of MVers who have recorded summiting both of them, 132 compared to 274. As has been mentioned elsewhere, it is normally done as part of circuit that includes Muckanaght and Benbaun from the Glencorbet valley, such as that mentioned on this site, or in Josh Lynam’s classic walks. What I don’t get is why nearly half of those on here who did Benbaun didn’t go that small bit extra to also summit Benfree!
My visit to Benfree came on the 31st May, the same day as our last referendum. The previous weekend had been our summer, a distant memory to us all now, but do you remember, that one weekend of glorious blue skies. I decided that if the weather kept up, that I was going to pretend I was a teacher on Thursday and take the day of the referendum off work and head west. The weather didn’t keep up its part of the bargain, but I had myself psyched up to go walking, so I still took the day off and went! An early start, to get the vote in when the polls opened and off I went to Connemara, hoping that I could get my days walking in and back to a junior football match in Drogheda that same evening. I needn’t have bothered with the junior match, but I would vote yes for the Twelve Bens.
Ideally I wanted to do the Lynam route myself, but having read plenty of comments about the treacherous underfoot conditions on Muckanaght in the wet, I decided to give it a miss. It was so wet that fording the Kylemore river was no mean feat. It was swollen and cost me a walking pole and got me a wet foot as I struggled against the raging torrent. Once across, I followed the route into the valley and stayed on the left of the river up to
, where I turned 90 degrees and made a direct ascent on Benfree, along the side of a stream initially. This was quite steep, but perfectly fine to ascend. As I tired I wandered a bit to my right, eventually ending up at
, before correcting my course on the final ascent to the summit. I would recommend this as a perfectly fine approach route, although I would be a bit more wary of descending this way. After a brief stop at the summit I was heading for Benbaun and another county top. For anyone doing Benbaun I would recommend to stretch themselves that little bit further to take in Benfree as well.
PS: I had been warned about the midges in this range by a mate who swears he will never go back there again. I can see what he meant. As soon as the drizzle and breeze ceased, they were straight in to feast on me! I was foolish enough not to bring repellent, I warn you not to make the same mistake. Linkback: https://mountainviews.ie/summit/216/comment/14741/