CLASSIC ROUTE: Carrot Ridge, Bencorrby Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com Jul/2009
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This is the companion to Dan Bailey's Scotland's Mountain Ridges - A Guide to Scrambles and Climbs
Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland - Scrambles and Climbs by Dan Bailey
A guide to summer scrambles, technical rock routes and winter climbs on ridges in the Lake District, Snowdonia, Peak District, Exmoor, the Isle of Wight, Kerry and Connemara, covering popular classics and obscure gems, from Sharp Edge to Skeleton Ridge. With inspirational photographs, this book is both a celebration of the landscape and a route guide.
Cover: Paperback - Laminated
Published: 11 Jun 2009
Dimensions: 24.0 x 17.0 x 1.8cm
Originally Published: 11 Jun 200
Readers will need to add the code UKCEWI on the shopping basket page to claim the discount, Cicerone also offer free UK postage.
Grade: c.370m Difficult
Time: 6 hours
Start / finish: Private track turnoff for Gleninagh (L820562); the nearest available car parking is some distance along the public road.
Maps: Harvey Superwalker (1:30000) Connemara is the best; OSI Discovery (1:50000) sheet 37 is less clear and comprehensive
Accommodation: Local hostels include: Harbour House, Rossroe 00353 (0) 43933 – the austere philosopher Wittgenstein used to live next door, and it's still an inspiringly back-to-basics sort of place; Letterfrack Lodge 00353 (0)95 41222; Sleepzone, Leenaun 00353 (0)95 42929
Sleeping out: Gleninagh may look suitable on paper, but the entire valley is a bog and the chances of finding a pleasant pitch are slim.
Public transport: Bus 419 runs from Galway bus station to Leenaun, then along the N59 to Clifden. The crossroads just E of Kylemore would be your closest stop; from here it's a long walk along the R344 minor road to the Gleninagh turn-off.
Seasonal notes: Carrot Ridge is too low and too slabby to make a good winter route; given the lack of positive holds and general boldness it's best saved for a dry day.
Rising forbiddingly out of the bleak Connemara landscape, the Twelve Bens (a.k.a. Pins) are as rugged as any massif in the west of Ireland – which is to say, very. For hills this rocky it's surprising at close quarters to discover that in between acres of quartzite the range is one giant sponge. Indeed the peat bogs and their guardian midge hordes are practically of a Caledonian ferocity. The same can be said for the hills, of which Bencorr is both beauty and the beast. This pale ridge-buttressed rock peak hosts some of the grandest crags in Ireland. Amongst so much exposed stone Carrot Ridge is the stand-out line, visible from afar and irresistible in its obviousness. Appearances are auspicious, and the climb does not disappoint. Quality rock, grand slabby situations and a setting and scale worthy of the Scottish Highlands make this one of the very finest routes of its grade in the British Isles.
The walk up Gleninagh starts on a private track that branches off the Recess – Kylemore road at L820562; but first you've got to park. Space is extremely limited along the public road; there's room for a couple of cars some way NW of the turn-off, and also a tiny layby fitting one vehicle several hundred metres SE near a bridge over the Tooreenacoona River. The track is signed as private property, but there's no other practical route over the extensive bogs of the lower valley so just be unobtrusive and hope for the best. After 1km pass (quietly) through a group of farm buildings, beyond which the private road becomes a footpath. A further 1.5km along the floor of Gleninagh brings you to an old sheep fold. Carrot Ridge already looks appetising; from this angle its gentle curve is actually more reminiscent of a banana. It stands proud of the hillside, bounding the left edge of Bencorr's huge quartzite wall and starting a lot higher than the main crag; the base is a distinctive pale coloured slab.
Crossing a stream, head roughly S to ford the Gleninagh River at some stony shallows. Now make a beeline for Carrot Ridge, sploshing through the waterlogged flats before a long trudge up a sponge-and-scree slope to reach the foot of the climb.
Carrot Ridge c.370m Difficult
Pitch 1 25m
Climb the slab close to its left edge to a little stance on the blunt arête, below a steepening.
Pitch 2 25m
Step right to ascend a short groove – place runners here as there are few higher up. Continue straight up the rounded crest on small holds to belay on a big ledge.
Pitch 3 30m
Easy ground leads to a steep step – the rock is sounder than it looks. Belay at a wide gravel-floored ledge.
Pitch 4 30m
The menacing wall of the First Step looms some way above; luckily it is skirted rather than being taken head on. Make a short sharp pull from the ledge, and then bear right to gain and follow a vague groove leading up to an obvious recess on the right flank of the Step – excellent climbing and protection. Belay at a little stance just right of the recess.
Pitch 5 15m
Traverse easily left to the corner in the back of the recess, which is climbed quite steeply for a few metres until it's possible to pull left onto a ledge on the ridge crest.
Pitch 6 15m
Walk left again to enter a little chimney/corner which leads with interest to another well-positioned stance.
Pleasant padding leads on up the slabby ridge crest – if dry it should be OK to proceed unroped. On nearing the distinctive Second Step the ridge narrows briefly before reaching a little col. Continue up an easy slab at the base of the Second Step to belay just under a short steep wall.
Pitch 7 44m
This pitch might be split into two, though there aren't so many runners that drag becomes an issue. Breach the wall at its lowest point, then move rightwards over a little slab to gain a slabby groove running up the ridge just right of centre. This leads easily but magnificently to gentler ground at the top of the Second Step.
A superb easy clamber up the clean slabby upper crest soon leads to the top of Carrot Ridge.
The minor top of Binn an tSaighdiúra is a stiff uphill hike away, and the main summit of Bencorr further still. This latter would be well worth visiting if time allows. From Bencorr there are three main descent options. The obvious route to the road would appear to be a descent via Bencorrbeg, fine but for the murky mires and meandering river at its foot. The distinct east ridge of Bencorr is a pleasant scrambly ascent, but getting safely off the end of it is problematic in descent. All things considered it might be preferable to continue the round over Bencollaghduff before descending to Maumina pass, where a good path into Gleninagh is met.
Alternatively, it's a lot quicker to descend directly from the top of the climb. To do so ascend briefly to pick up a clear traverse path that heads left over the scree slope flanking the E side of Carrot Ridge. Pick a way down this slope with care – it's a lengthy descent on unpleasant ground, and would not be amusing after dark. Re-cross boggy Gleninagh and its river to regain the valley-bottom approach path at the sheep fold.
Dan Bailey is the author of Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland - Scrambles and Climbs and Scotland's Mountain Ridges - A Guide to Scrambles and Climbs described as 'a work of considerable authority, I can recommend (it) unreservedly.' Chris Craggs (reviewer) published at www.UKClimbing.com (May 2006)
Ridges are epic. Graceful carved walkways slung between summits, twisted spines of stone – these can be the most beautiful of mountain landforms. With elegant lines and giddy exposure, ridge climbs emit a powerful siren call, drawing us out onto the rocks.
The author, Dan Bailey lives in Fife and has always had a passion for climbing and the outdoors. His work has featured in Adventure Travel, The Sunday Times, Trail, High, The List, The Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday, among others.