Walk for the weekend: a Connemara climb brings rich rewards
The central section of Maamturks Ridge isn't the easiest, but comes with classic Connemara scenery
A view from the summit of Mullach Glas. A rocky gully providing a route to the top
There is no doubt that the Maamturks Ridge at its fullest extent from Maam Cross to Leenaun in Co Galway, is the most significant mountain challenge in Ireland, and one would want to be a mighty mountaineer to tackle the entire ridge in one trek.
The challenging navigation, the broken rocky ground, the steep slopes bordered by formidable cliffs, the deep cols where you lose most of the height you’ve already gained are all a severe test of stamina. Why go near them at all, you might say. If you feel you are not up to the full challenge they are divided into three convenient sections, each of which can be completed in six to seven hours.
While I’ve so far given you the downside, the upside is that there are spectacular views of the Twelve Bens, the lakes of the Connemara lowlands with the coruscating waters of Galway Bay in the distance.
And, most importantly, there will be satisfaction of having successfully negotiated some tough terrain.
Having tackled the central section (Walks: January 21st, 2017) last year, I was drawn back to them again, this time taking on the southern peaks which form a convenient ridge.
The first peak is Corcog (609m). As the slope gets steeper you will see a large triangular patch of the small scree at the base of a cliff, but there is a gully on the right which leads up to the next level. And so you zig zag your way to the summit, where you will enjoy the classic Connemara scenery.
The descent from Corcog is along a spur to the northwest. There is a fence leading down which is a good guide. The col is dominated by a large outcrop of rock named Cruiscin (432m), behind which soar the slopes of Mullach Glas (622m). The ascent looks problematic at first glance, but then you’ll notice a fence behind Cruiscin which runs up a rocky gully providing a route to the summit.
There is one of the all-round views here of mountain and lake strewn lowland that makes the travails of traversing the Maamturks so rewarding.
From here across to Binn Mhor (661m) there is a confusion of rock outcrops and small lakes.The descent from Binn Mhor to Mam Ean col is the crux of the traverse, and requires concise navigation and absolute concentration on the descent.
Head north towards some lakes which will bring you level with Binn Ramhar (596m) at the southern end of the plateau. Head west-northwest until you come to a cluster of lakes, at which point turn northwest and begin your descent down the steep slope scattered with rocky ledges which you must avoid.
If you keep Maumeen Lake on your right you will avoid the cliffs which dominate it. At the base of the slope walk across the bog to the ancient church of Mam Ean, from which there is a path out to the car park.
Now, all I must do is to decide whether I will complete the trilogy, but I notice on the map of the northern section that the last dip before Leenaun Hill is named “the Col of Despondency” which isn’t very encouraging.
THE MAAMTURKS, CO GALWAY, SOUTHERN PEAKS
Map: Harvey Superwalker Map of Connemara. 1:30,000. www.harverymaps.co.uk . The OSI Map does not show the names of any of the peaks, while the Harvey map shows many of them in Irish. The large scale and the fact that the cliffs are marked makes it ideal for these mountains. The OSI Discovery Series covers the route on sheets, 37,44, and 45. You will need two cars
Start: Head north on the R336 from Maam Cross for 4km. At grid reference 965498 there is a cutting for five or six cars on the left-hand side of the road.
Finish: A car park at the start of the track to Mam Ean. Grid reference 892 495. Go west from Maam Cross on the N59 Galway to Clifden road. Some 11km west at Caher (GR: 873 475) turn right on to a third-class road, signposted for Mam Ean. Go right at the fork, and the car park is 500m beyond a sharp left hand bend.
Time: Six hours
Food and accommodation: Oughterard