XCedars 2014
John and Derek organised an exciting and often demanding programme of walks in the Mournes, for groups ranging in size from 10 to 20 Cedars walkers, during the summer break in 2014, bagging a number of mountains that many hadn't been on before. True to the name, Xcedars, the walks almost invariably exceeded our expectations.

Subject to weather, interest and the availability of leaders it is hoped to continue XCedars with small groups of keen walkers during breaks in the Cedars main programme.

XCedars final walk of summer 2014 - Pigeon Rock Mountain and Slieve McGeogh

Derek led 18 XCedars for yet another great day out on our final walk of the 2014 summer season. John awarded him the CDM (a large bar) after lunch and presented him with a well deserved "Thank You" card and gift from XCedars members. Pictures to be uploaded next week.

Derek later sent John a text - reproduced below:


A big thank you to everyone for your most generous gift this afternoon. It has been an absolute pleasure, privilege and honour to be a part of Xcedars during the last 11 week. Thanks again.


XCedars climb Crossone

Superb weather on 28 August greeted eleven of us as we arrived in Newcastle. After basking in the sunshine for 10 minutes and taking a group selfie we caught the Kilkeel bus to Bloody Bridge. From there we made our ascent of Crossone (545m) via the Bloody Bridge River before contouring round to Thomas's Mountain and descending by the quarry to Donard Forest, Glen River Path and our cars at Donard Car Park. All that and home before 6:00pm. It all made for another great day! For some pics of the walk click HERE. Total ascent was about 700m and distance walked was about 7.5km - both are approximations as I didn't turn on my GPS at start of walk.

XCedars XCel once again - Ben Crom

Another great walk in the Mournes on Thursday, 21 August with a trouble free (if rather damp) ascent of Ben Crom (11.3km). Forecast was spot on - the chance of some heavy locally thundery showers breaking out by afternoon (around 2:00pm) - just as we arrived on the summit of Ben Crom. But even heavy rain couldn't spoil the exceptional views and nothing could have spoiled our enjoyment of a first class day out. For some pics of the walk click HERE.

The ultimate challenge - Thursday, 14 August 2014

The weather on 14 August was perfect for our walk and it lived up to its billing as "the ultimate challenge"! Eight XCedars turned up and enjoyed a fantastic day in the mountains. Starting at Donard Car Park at 10:00am we walked up to the col between Donard and Commedagh, joining the Brandy Pad and passing The Castles then successfully tackling Beg, Cove and Lamagan before decending down to the Silent Valley. There we sprinted alongside the reservoir to catch the Mourne Rambler back to the cars (and ice cream) in Newcastle.

Well done everyone, especially Derek (pictured left) who led us with great skill.

Statistics for the walk - distance was 16.4Km, total ascent was 1,196m (Donard is a mere 853m) and average moving speed was a creditable 3.6Km/hour overall, largely thanks to an impressive 6Km/hr for the last 4.5Km in Silent Valley.

Without doubt it was the best walk of the summer and most certainly in the running for "best walk ever!". For some pics of the walk click HERE.

POST SCRIPT: Slieve Beg is perhaps most famous for the Devil's Coachroad - watch the video at www.mourne-mountains.com/mournes/mountains/slieve-beg/. We had a peek down the "coachroad" from the top. Be assured, we have no plans to include this in future walks.

Hen Mountain, Cock Mountain, Slievenamiskan and Spelga Dam - 07 August 2014

After some long, sometimes difficult but always enjoyable walks in June and July it was a came as a relief when Derek agreed to take us on a shorter gentler walk on Thursday, 7th August. Originally planned as a linear walk from Hen Car Park to Spelga Dam, the day was so good that we decided to extend the walk and return to the cars on foot along the Ulster Way, a delightful and fairly level route. The total distance of the walk was 9.6Km (6 miles) with total ascent of 640m, or three-quarters of a Donard! For pix click HERE.

From left to right - Spelga, Slievenamiskan (444m), Cock Mountain (505m) and Hen Mountain (354m).

Rocky II and Annalong Buttress - 24 July 2014

Starting at Rourke's Park at the end of Head Road we went north through Rourke's Park and over Rocky, then on to Bog of Donard with brief spells on the Mourne Wall. We had lunch at the stile before joining the Brandy Pad for 0.5Km, then turning west to the Annalong Buttress, and south past the amazing Hare's Castle, through Annalong Wood and back to the cars. A big walk of over 13Km in glorious sunshine with total ascent of just over 600m. Sun cream and plenty of water were required but it was another fantastic day! Thanks again to Derek for his expert guidance.

Yet another best walk ever? For pix click HERE.

Chimney Rock Mountain and Slievenagarragh - 17 July 2014

It doesn't happen so often now but every three or four weeks in Cedars I hear the comment "that must be the best one ever". I heard it again on 17 July 2014 and our 11Km walk (occasionally scramble and, once or twice, tumble) on Chimney Rock Mountain surely must rank well up in the top 10.

It combined brilliant weather (hot and clear but without too much sorching sun), a test of stamina (especially the initial climb up Slievenagarragh), freshly baked silent valley blaeberry muffins on Slievenagarragh (courtesy of John), unbeatable views (into the central Mournes and out to the Isle of Man), an exciting rock climb (up the tor near the summit of Chimney Rock), industrial archaeology (with the remnants of the railway from Carr's Face quarry, which provided the granite for Liverpool Docks, forming part of our path down), great craic (as always), and even a foot spa (where Glen Fofanny River meets Bloody Bridge River).

Perhaps it really was the best walk ever! For pix click HERE.

Once again our thanks go to Derek for his unerring guidance, great patience and good humour.

Only one question remains? How do you follow that?

10 July 2014 - Slievenagore

Great walk over Slievenagore and into the Silent Valley - 9 Km in total with a little less climbing than in recent weeks (a total ascent of only 275m). For pix click HERE.

03 July 2014 - Millstone Mountain and Granite Trail

Great walk up Thomas's and Millstone and down the Granite Trail - 7.6 Km in total and an ascent of 590m. For pix click HERE.

"We're the XCedars." Slieve Binnian - 26 June 2014

An early start on Thursday, 26 June was rewarded not by the bright dry day that had been forecast a day earlier but by something even better - a first class walk. Led by Derek, nine XCedars and guest, Peter, climbed Slieve Binnian, Wee Binnian (worth another visit) and Moolieve before descending into the Silent Valley. Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure - although the walk measured only a little over 7Km, we climbed 725m over ground that was often very steep and slippery. Click HERE to view photographs.

Slieve Binnian (from the Irish: Sliabh Binneáin) is the third highest mountain in Northern Ireland at 747 metres. The name comes from the rocky tors situated around the top of the mountain which make it easy to identify. To the south west of the mountain is Wee Binnian which is an easy climb and to the west is Silent Valley Reservoir. The Mourne Wall crosses over Slieve Binnian.