Mweelrea Horseshoe and Summit
wildlifewriter has put together a Garmin Mapsource file of all the waypoints on this page. You can download it here
The Walk itself and the Equipment:
Navigation of the Mweelrea Horseshoe involves a 13 mile horseshoe walk and absolutely requires Discovery Series 37. When placing the cache in good weather the hike took 10 hours. Forecasts for the Mweelrea Mountains are avaliable here
This cache will involve hillwalking in a remote part of the West of Ireland where weather conditions can change quickly. Appropriate precautions should be followed in terms of fitness, safety equipment carried and clothing / footwear worn. Advice on sensible precautions and weather forecasts can be obtained from here
You should strongly consider the following equipment necessary for this cache: Waterproof Boots, Warm Inner, Waterproof Outer Clothes, a change of Clothes to leave in your car, Water, Food, (and reserve food and water), GPS, OS Map, Hat, Gloves, Whistle, Mobile Phone, Hiking Stick, Torch and Survival Bag. It's probably a good idea not to do this on your own, and this is not one for children.
I cannot stress how important equipment and planning is as there are no real 'escape' routes once you're on the horseshoe. The nearest sizeable road is the R335 and if you have to abort the hike you will only be able to turn back or continue, as there are cliffs to the north, the ocean to the west and Killary Harbour fjord to the south. But do not let all the above put you off, because although the walk is a challenge, completing it means having mastered one of the hardest and greatest hikes in Ireland, and finding possibly the toughest traditional geocache in Ireland and Britain will be your reward.
The walk offers stunning views on a reasonably clear day. There are also several caches nearby which could act as an added incentive for a longer trip to the area. Also, unless you benefit from superhuman strength and endurance, an overnight stay in the locality would be recommended.
Driving directions, accommodation, food and drink:
Follow the N59 from Galway and then take the R336 through Maum and Leenane. Rejoin the N59 (signposted Westport), then take the R335 towards Louisburgh. Leenane was the location for Jim Sheridan’s adaptation of John B. Keane’s 1930s period classic "The Field", which starred Richard Harris – in the performance of his career – as "The Bull" McCabe. The residence used as "The Bull’s" house, a spartan stone cottage, was located beyond the village on the road to Clifden.
Parking is at L846 672 in the Doolough Pass along the R335. If you have the use of two cars then leave one at the Delphi Adventure Centre and use it as a shuttle to the second car further north after you complete the walk.
There is an excellent and reasonably priced hostel in Leenane if you are looking for accommodation in the area.
Pints, snacks and friendly chat can be found in Leenane's two pubs. There is a post office and small shop there also. For larger meals and seafood dishes try the nearby Leenane Hotel.
From the parking place, walk along the shore of Doo Lough towards the Owengarr river and cross the river at the small sluice located at L844 670. Continue a little further south and start the ascent of the ridge. This ascent is steep on all sides but becomes less steep the further south you go. You will be aiming for the highpoint at L834 671 (image below taken looking east from this point). From here, navigate towards L821 675 and the nearby OS-marked highpoint of 760m - L820 674.
From here head towards L825 672 and then change direction towards highpoint 803m L812 674. Navigation between point 760m and 803m is very important and care must be taken in bad weather as there are high cliffs (see below photo) on the northern side of the ridge.
In good weather you will have excellent views to the north and south from here. To the north, you can see Clew Bay with its myriad of drowned drumlins and the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick with its small summit church.
Mweelrea summit (below) may by now be in sight, although having spent two clear days in the area with an easterly wind, it does tend to be cloudy most of the time.
Via L806 677, aim for Ben Bury summit cairn at L803 683. From here, you should be able to see the mystical islands of Inishbofin and Clare Island.
On to Mweelrea summit. Continue down the saddle and navigate towards the spur at L793 676, then directly south towards the ridge at L792 670. This, the final climb, is a steep enough climb. It involves a climb of 165 meters from the low point of the saddle. This saddle can have a funnelling effect on the prevailing winds at times. Between here and the summit you will find the cache itself (see spoiler below). Once found, the summit is a short distance away at L789 662 (N53 38.234 W009 49.819).
You should hopefully at some point have a commanding view of the horseshoe and the Mweelrea valley (below)
After your well-deserved rest/cigarette/brief prayer for inspiration and energy you will be moving SSW towards L794 658 via L788 662. There is a section along a one-man path arete and great care must be taken here in bad weather. There are also cliffs to NE (see below photo).
The views to the south should prove to be rewarding, as you should be able to see most of Killary Harbour, Benchuna and Duchruach Mountains (which overlook Kylemore Abbey), the majestic Twelve Pins and on a clear day, the distinctive Lackavrea mountain that stands over Maam Cross. (below)
The old "most accidents happen on the way down" maxim rings very true on this hike as the descent is very challenging.
Continue via OS point 495 (L796 654) to L807 649. This marks the beginning of your walk out from the mountain. Now make a route decision. You can continue to climb Pat's Hill (OS 379 - L826 642) and complete the full horseshoe before rejoining the road at L842 638.
You can begin your descent and aim for the forest plantation and its access road at L822 649. This road returns you to the Delphi Adventure Centre and the road at L840 652.
The cache is hidden in a rock crevice. It is a small tupperware box containing a notepad, two pencils, an eraser and a sharpener. There are no trade items. Due to the low volume of visits it is probably best not to leave travelbugs here. The cache is enclosed in a ziploc bag and another ziploc bag is inside. Please ensure these are closed properly before leaving.
If you are planning to attempt this cache and require any information of any kind, or if I can be of any assistance please feel free to e-mail me.
Oh... and the cache title?
Not-so-good American Country singer Roger Alan Wade had a song featured on the closing credits of Jackass: The Movie called "If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough." It might make no sense right now, but when you're sitting up on the barstool in Leenane, pint in hand, anticipating the next cramp, wondering if you'll ever walk properly again and smiling that contented smile that comes with having gone to hell and back in the course of a day-long physical challenge, believe me, that song title will have a ring to it.