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markwallace: Track 4368 in area near Benbulbin, Dartry Mountains (Ireland)
Messy, scrambly ascent of Benbulbin
Length: 12.2km, Creator time taken: 3h59m, Ascent: 566m,
Descent: 565m

Places: Start at G67388 46008, Benbulbin, Benbulbin South-East Top, end at Start
Logged as completed by 1

From the OSI 16 map, the Ben Bulben Forest Walk at Gortarowey looked an interesting spot from which to attempt Benbulbin´s peak. I started the loop heading northeast but less than a km from the start I found a gate and passed through it onto the steep grassy slopes, topped by the rocky buttresses of Benbulbin´s north face. I gained height slowly while crossing under the buttresses and the vertical gullies between them.

Finally, I came to a wider and apparently less vertical gully situated above the old quarry at the northern corner of the mountain, and went up for a closer look. The climb up to the gully, going just left of the quarry, was very slippy and steep, over an unpleasant damp clay studded with stones. But looking into the gully, it seemed it might be doable.

I traversed across, dropping slightly. The unpleasant damp clay made this harder than it looked. When I got to the first high rocky barrier at the bottom of the gully, I began to climb it but with very slippy holds I gave up and descended. I crossed to the left of the gully, thinking I would climb over the loose clay and then pass onto the gully floor above the stone ledge. It was, again, too damp and crumbly to the touch and felt very unsafe. After a couple of steps, I had to descend again, which was quite unnerving given how unsafe my holds felt. I felt I had only been a move away from potentially getting stuck. I gave up the gully and traversed further round the corner in search of another route up. The grassy ground I was on narrowed to an initially pleasant little balcony path, which later became uncomfortably exposed and finally dropped off a cliff at Cloyragh. From its apparent lack of destination, I suppose it was a sheep track, rather than a people one.

The path at its most exposed, just before dropping off a cliff:

I turned back for the third time and prepared to go back towards the gully to find a way down to lower ground. But I spotted a grassy ramp, invisible coming in the other direction, which went between the crags and was scramblable. It led onto a walkable grass slope, passing by a few more crags and coming out onto the featureless plateau.

After the trig, I visited the south-west corner of the mountain at Theebaun. It was a beautiful day and the easy walking on this part of the plateau was a relief. There were a couple of very dark, deep-looking pools on the way, with fences around them. Then I wandered back past the trig towards the SE top. At the col, I saw a sheep stuck in a roundish sinkhole of black bog. The back legs and back half of the body were under the mud and it was flailing helplessly. Two walkers from a group ran over, grabbed a horn each and after a couple of efforts they pulled the sheep out and it scampered away. The mountain was beginning to give off a sinister vibe.

Clouds had gathered over Benwiskin and Annacoona and were approaching, so after taking in my surroundings again at the SE top I headed back down. I kept a high line slightly below where I had ascended as I wanted to get another view and see if there was a good ascent line I could have taken but none was evident. I was attracted by the cliffs and outcrops of Cloyragh and gained some height to take in the amphitheatre there.
I descended to the northeast edge of the Forest Walk, where I had planned to begin the ascent initially. The fence there was depressed, as if used by others who had tried to ascend from here. It would be interesting to see their routes. I met two women on their way up. They had just passed over the fence and wanted to know about the route. I advised them to go back to their car and start from Luke´s Bridge, which had been visible from slightly higher up and was hopping with cars, most people milling around the bottom but some climbing Benbulben from there. They did turn back.

It seems the only straightforward option using the Forest Walk would involve leaving the walk at its northeast edge and staying low until more or less reaching the line of ascent used from Luke´s Bridge, and if you are doing that you can do it much easier from the bridge. The route I ended up taking, after several missteps, is not recommended but perhaps there is another way, though certainly nothing easy and nothing without scrambling. Steepness and the horrible damp, clayey ground seem to rule out the wide gully for those without climbing equipment, or so I found.

Uploaded on: Sat, 15 Aug 2020 (11:57:38)
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Comment created by simon3 2020-Aug-15
This is a cracker of an experimental route .. you can feel the trickiness.

NOTE: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
Your time to complete will depend on your speed plus break time and your mode of transport. For walkers: Naismith's rule, an approximate though often inaccurate estimate, suggests a time of 3h 23m + time stopped for breaks
NOTE: It is up to you to ensure that your route is appropriate for you and your party to follow bearing in mind all factors such as safety, weather conditions, experience and access permission.

* Note: A GPS Height in the elevation profile is sourced from the device that recorded the track. An "SRTM" height is derived from a model of elevations for parts of the earth. More detail

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Some mapping:
Open Street Map
(Various variations used.)
British summit data courtesy:
Database of British & Irish Hills
(Creative Commons Licence), a Hill-walking Website for the island of Ireland. 2100 Summiteers, 1400 Contributors, Monthly Newsletter since 2007