Slieve Bearnagh/Sliabh Bearna
Slieve Bearnagh (from the Irish: Sliabh Bearna) is a mountain in the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland. Its summit is crowned by a number of rocky tors. The Mourne Wall crosses the summit of Slieve Bearnagh east to west. Paths lead to the cols on either side of the mountain, namely Pollaphuca (“pool of the púca”) to the west and Hare’s Gap to the east. From the latter, one can also descend southwards to the head of the Ben Crom reservoir.
In March we attempted to climb Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains. We were beaten away by bad weather less than 100 metres from the summit. [Read about that here.]
We were determined to return before Cherith climbed Ben Nevis.
Cherith [My wife] is climbing Ben Nevis this summer with two friends. One of their team, Stephanie is raising money here for Friends of the Cancer Centre.
Saturday 4th June was to be another dry and warm day, perhaps a little more overcast than previous days that week but for hiking, these would be good conditions in our opinion. The previous weekend we had climbed Slieve Donard in similar conditions so we knew what to expect. [Read about that here.] We were determined to summit Bearnagh though, no matter the weather.
We parked up at the excellent Meelmore Lodge where there is free parking, great facilities and direct access into the heart of the Mournes. We always notice that serious walkers are over on this side of the mountain range and it’s a little less tourist-y when you head toward the heights. There is certainly less rubbish and waste left along the paths than over on Donard but, that’s another story for another day.
We left Meelmore Lodge, followed the track alongside their camp site until we reached the stile which marks entry into the mountains. From here you can see Hare’s Gap and with the Trassey River on our left we headed towards it, passing the ruins of a sheepfold and then crossing the river at the first of two fords. The crossing was easy this time but after rainfall it can require a little more thought and care. Be careful. As the Trassey Track gets closer to Hare’s gap the pathway more or less ends and turns into larger rocks and boulders. A bit of a scramble is required to get to the wall.
At Hare’s Gap we took a quick break to refuel and then began the trek upwards onto Slieve Bearnagh keeping the wall on our right. Initially you will follow a set of steep steps which takes you away from the wall but, with good visibility it is easy to see your way back to the wall again. In worse weather conditions the wall can act as a handrail but, even if you can see for miles around on a bright sunny day, it’s always good to be safe and know your surroundings well. In this case, we were keeping the wall on our right on the ascent.
Slieve Bearnagh presents a few steep sections that look vertical and almost impossible to navigate from a distance. Just as you conquer one, you realise there’s another. As with the previous weekend we encountered a few other walkers moving at different paces but the old question of whether up or down is easier was still being discussed on the mountain-side. Compared to the previous weekend though, there were far less people around.
The vertical drama of Slieve Bearnagh is not welcoming for people who want a stroll in the hills.
Once we saw the North Tor emerge we knew there was a path which skirted around the edge of the tor. We could have hugged the wall and went up over the North Tor but the Summit was in our sights and seeing that track was a welcome flat section of walking after the gruelling climb. By now sunshine dominated the skies and it was getting hotter too. The Summit Tor is about 500 metres away from the North Tor and… it was almost lunch-time so we hightailed it to the summit.
The summit of Slieve Bearnagh is really stunning. The rock formations and the views make you forget the effort you’ve just put in to get up there. We could see for miles around and on this occasion there was practically no wind. I had the sudden urge to camp on the summit but alas we had no camping gear or tent with us. Perhaps another time though. Check out this post about camping on the summit of Slieve Bearnagh if you think I’m talking crazy.
The picture above shows the summit as it was… in as much as a photograph can.
Calm… cool in the shade of the rocky tors, hot in the sunshine, peaceful.
It is genuinely like another world entirely up there. The summit of Slieve Binnian offers a similar experience but, I think Bearnagh trumps it for the sheer enormity and beauty of it’s summit.
All-in-all we had another stunning day in The Mourne Mountains. We will be back to Bearnagh another day no doubt.
When the mountains call… who can argue!
All pictures were taken using an iPhone 6S+ and edited using VSCO.