Ascent of Slieve Donard on 2014-09-11

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Others in Party:supported by Rose
Date:Thursday, September 11, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Slieve Donard
    Location:UK-Northern Ireland
    Elevation:2799 ft / 853 m

Ascent Trip Report

A clockwise trail climb over 3 peaks ...... 10.5km, 5h15 hours including all breaks

We awoke to fog, not looking good for our hike, the lady at breakfast, Eileen, assured us that it would clear as the day progressed. She would turn out to be right, except that it didn't fully clear until after our hike. I had poor to fair visibility during my time on the mountain ..... its too bad cause this place offers stunning scenery.

From our B&B we found our way to the Donard Car Park off of route #A2 (the coastal road) about 1km south of the Post office in Newcastle. This is the TH, sort of unusual to have a major mountain TH in a town .... the Mourne Mountains slope to the sea. There is a trail map at the start of the trail.

SLIEVE DONARD ....... 4.5km, 2H20 hours from the TH.
Go through the gate at the start and stay on the trail to the left (I erred in going right until someone redirected me). The trail leads to the Glen River and follows it southwest all the way to the top of the valley and up to the Donard/Commedagh col, where it meets up with the famous Mourne Wall. The trail turns left (right-of-east) and follows the wall to the summit, very straight forward and very easy to follow.
It's a moderate trail as it follows the river, then moderately steep after the final river crossing at top of the valley as it climbs to the col. The section along the Mourne Wall is the steepest section.
When the trail arrives at the Glen river it crosses the river to the left (south) bank on a bridge, then further up crosses back to the right (north) bank on another bridge. It stays on this side of the river all way to the top of the valley where it crosses the river again and climbs steeper to the col. The trail passes-by an old Ice House (on left bank) from the olden days, worth a visit.
This is not a difficult trail however in my case I huffed and puffed and took numerous granny breaks, once at the top of the valley.
The summit is capped with a huge cairn, each arrival tends to add his own rock.
The Mourne Wall arrives at the summit and makes a turn/descends to the south, at the corner is a huge Stone Tower with the plaque "Belfast Water Works 1910, Trespassers will be prosecuted".
The Mourne Wall was constructed to enclose/protect a water reservoir's catchment area, in order to keep out animals (sheep and cattle). The 22 mile long wall passes over numerous peaks around the reservoir. It was started in the early 1900, taking 20 years to build.
I must say that today there is a short broken section on the way up to the summit, I could see sheep on the other side.
Unfortunately I had very poor visibility, it would have been awesome to see this wall running over the other peaks.
This is a popular destination for hikers, a lot of people on the trail.

SLIEVE COMMEDAGH ..... 2km, 55 minutes from Slieve Donard with breaks.
From the Donard summit I descended back to the col then ascended along the Wall northwest to the west ridge of Slieve Commedagh at another large Stone Tower signed "Belfast Water Works 1913". I left the Wall and turned right (northerly), on a good path with a slight upgrade, to the summit (abt 2km from Donard). The wall part of the climb to this summit being easier than that of Donard's.
Luckily the weather cleared some and I was rewarded with better visibility of my surroundings.

SHAN SLIEVE .... 4km, 1h25 hours from Commedagh and back to TH including breaks.
From Commedagh a lesser path leads/descends right-of-north to a shallow col before going up to the Shan Slieve summit. With visibility it is very easy to follow, however with a white out one must be careful here, the right (east) side of the ridge drops off vertically.
By this time of the day the visibility was much improved, I was rewarded with fairly good view of Donard, good enough to see/photograph.
From the summit I continued/descended northeast on trails of sorts (at times loosing the trail and picking up another), after about a kilometer I headed for the patch of woods to the south, where I crossed a fence and bushwacked (perhaps 200+ meters) my way back to the Glen River trail, estimated at 1.4km from the Shan Slieve summit. Took a break then descended 1.7km to the TH.

A super day, I loved the Mournes ..... the hike over Slieve Commedagh and Shan Slieve was perhaps my real highlight of the circuit as the trail was less taxing and the weather much better.
I have been very fortunate/blessed to have summitted N-Ireland's and the Republic of Ireland's HPs. On this trip everyone has told us that the weather these last few weeks has very very exceptional. The weather rewarded me with the 2 summits but not with their respective views ... half a loaf is better than none is what they say.

We went back to our Golf Links House B&B, cleaned up, and went down to the restaurant for a pint of guinness and dinner. Another great day with nada problema.

The plan for tomorrow is to leave N-Ireland and head back to the Republic of Ireland .... just love our trip.

NB: It is very interesting to note that the standard trail's route that I took to the Highest Points of N-Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (Donard and Carrauntoohil) are more or less the same ..... they both climb southwest to a col, are of the approx same distance and elevation gain and have a steep final ridge climb to the summit. The biggest difference being in Carrauntoohil's two lakes, Devil's Ladder (much much more steeper and dangerous) and its valley slopes (much more rockier, craggier and rougher).
I didn't get to see it all because of the weather but from what I saw, the effort I put in and just the feel of the mountain, Carrauntoohil is the more spectacular/scenic/tougher climb.

Donald Trump has been quoted to say, "I don't make deals for the money. I have enough, much more than I'll ever need, I do it to do it."
I say the same thing, "I don't climb mountains for the climb. I have climbed enough, much more than I ever imagined, I do it to do it."


Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Northern view of Donard summit with its corner Mourne Wall Tower and huge cairn (2014-09-11). Photo by Ben Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2766 ft / 843 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2766 ft / 843 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:glen river tr swb from donard car park
    Start Trailhead:donard car park in newcastle  33 ft / 10 m
    Time:2 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Route:mourne wall nwb to commedagh
    End Trailhead:commedagh  
Ascent Part of Trip: donard

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Slieve Donard2014-09-11 a2766 ft / 843 m
2Slieve Commedagh2014-09-11 b646 ft / 197 m
3Shan Slieve2014-09-11 c134 ft / 41 m
Total Trip Gain: 3546 ft / 1081 m    Total Trip Loss: 1972 ft / 601 m

Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Slieve Donard from Commedagh (2014-09-11). Photo by Ben Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Ice house to one side of Glen River Trail (2014-09-11). Photo by Ben Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.

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