This past week a few BARFs decided to take to the mountains and recce the classic Spelga Skyline race route, which will be reintroduced to the NIMRA championship on Saturday 5th July. It was perfect weather for such a long jaunt, half of which is over the lesser trodden western Mournes. With recent experience at Donard a good reminder, we knew to pack all the essentials – map, compass & full body cover!
The route sets off from the gate at the base of Slievenamuck, climbs to the summit, and then descends to the first of two road crossings at the well known Ott track. From this point it’s time to set your own course for the next checkpoint on the summit of Slieve Meelbeg. This ground is fairly rough with equal parts peat hag and long (wet) grass, with the climb up Meelbeg also including a scramble over boulders. Once high enough we picked up the ridge trail to the summit cairn.
The next checkpoint is the summit cairn of Loughshannagh, so a quick drop down then up following the Mourne wall is all that’s required, remembering to cross the stile to reach the cairn.
Off now to Slieve Muck, and with a compass bearing to miss out Carn and hit the corner of the Mourne wall. This section has few tracks, so it was a case of following the bearing to the wall, then running alongside it to the stile, crossing over for the trig point and pending descent to Deer’s Meadow.
The next checkpoint Rocky, which this evening was in clear view past Tornamrock. On this section we followed the Rocky race route along Tornamrock, down to the col, crossing the Mourne Way, and ascending Rocky. It’s a nice runnable section, and a popular one given the number of mudclaw stud imprints along the way!
Theoretical checkpoint completed on Rocky, and now only two summit checkpoints to reach; Hen & Cock. The race route is runners preference, and there are options! We took a bearing straight for Hen and descended Rocky into long grass, streams, holes, and hidden boulders – good in places. Perhaps there’s a better route! We then took a few minutes to replenish our water bottles before a short skip up Hen, and off the east side to a good runnable track over to Cock.
Legs now tired, the climb up Cock was particularly tiresome, but with light fading and the end in sight, we ploughed on, summited Cock, and set a bearing for the dam. This involved a quick jaunt over the very runnable Slievenamisken, before the final descent and up to the car park.
All things considered, it’s a tough course with some great sections, and in our opinion, a worthy re-addition back in to the NIMRA calendar. Click here for more information
If you enjoyed the Annalong Horseshoe, you’ll love the Spelga Skyline.