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Peter Walker: Track 4435 in area near Slievenamiskan, Mourne Mountains (Ireland)
Spelga Circuit
Length: 12.8km, Creator time taken: 3h44m, Ascent: 827m,
Descent: 827m

Places: Start at J26816 27307, Slievenamiskan, Cock Mountain, Cock Mountain South-West Top, Pigeon Rock Mountain, Slieve Muck, Carn Mountain, Carn Mountain North Top, Butter Mountain, end at Start
Logged as completed by 1

Northern Ireland is (or was) locked down, but has some somewhat 'open to interpretation' rules on travelling for exercise (namely that one should try to stay within 10km of your residence if possible). It's become clear that a lot of people have chosen to take this to mean 'you can go hillwalking as long as you socially distance properly and you don't stop anywhere on the way', the car parks and amenities are open and the PSNI are policing things lightly to the point of not policing them at all, thus our informal Sunday 'Challenge Walk Training' (see the article by the inimitable Bleck Cra in the last MV Annual) has started sallying cautiously forth once more.

It was Gerard's turn to lead, and he had elected to escort us around the not-unknown-but-rarely-busy circuit of the Spelga Dam, a route that marries a bit of the High Mournes (with a stretch alongside the Mourne Wall) to the slightly more esoteric terrain of the Western Mournes. It's a middling sort of day that can be taken at a fair lick if desired: a good weekend leg-stretcher.

We congregated (if four people can be said to congregate) at the Dam's car park with the cloud down and the remnants of a hard overnight frost dangling in the air. A short walk down the road takes you to a driveway cutting back towards the dam itself, and a bridge (formerly closed off by gates that could only be circumvented by a clamber that risked a very serious fall into the manky outflow channel) that takes you onto the hillside. Up into the mist we went as the short climb to Slievenamiskan warmed us up (relatively), then a little dip and similar pull up through the slabs took us onto the twin tops of Cock Mountain. It was still deeply murky, but at least the frost and relative lack of recent rain suggested that the going on the next section might be less squelchy than it usually is.

Betwixt a Cock and a Pigeon
Tracks of a fashion can be found to help the passage towards Pigeon Rock, but the initial descent and the final climb are fundamentally trackless. There was still little to see beyond the immediate ground, so none of these summits were causes for much lingering. Batt's Wall (much older and less ostentacious than the Mourne Wall) took us down to the high point of the B27 road. Despite knowing the main road is there, it's always somehow a bit of a surprise to discover the main road is there, so it pays to be sufficiently tuned-in to not just step out onto it without thinking.

The summit of Slieve Muck, probably
Next up came the main climb of the day: the somewhat tedious 300m+ plod up Slieve Muck, despatched by Gerard at a 'let's get this over with' sort of lick. One wall was swapped for another at the summit, and the main Mourne Wall was followed north over Carn as the odd hole started appearing in the cloud cover (and we didn't fall over the little cliff that sits athwart the Wall just short of the Muck/Carn col; be aware that's there folks).

The Mournes have a wall, but it's rarely mentioned
We went as far as the Ott Track (which meets the wall on the Carn / Slieveloughshannagh col) and followed it down to the Ott car park (which has become a place of pilgrimage during lockdown, as legions of tyro hillwalkers have become obsessed with climbing Doan from this direction: the car park massively overflows at weekends and there are cars parked along the road for a huge distance).

Ancient, monolithic, rugged, abrasive, etc
Through the car park we went, and up the grassy track up Butter Mountain's facing slope. By now conditions had cleared up substantially, and unpleasantly warm sunshine was making a mockery of our frost-inspired clothing, but being relatively late in the itinerary shedding layers didn't seem worth the effort. The perspiration had started by the summit, but then the easy descent with a following wind down to the dam seemed to allow most of it to dry.

Back at the car the ice cream van had just rocked up. But I'm hard: I didn't have one.

The descent from Butter Mountain to the ice cream van

Uploaded on: Mon, 12 Apr 2021 (18:25:27)
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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 56m + 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

OSi logo OSNI/LPS logo
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