The might of Carrauntoohil stands proud behind Lough Gouragh

Carrauntoohil – I

Having already been up Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, I decided it was time to complete the collection and bag the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntoohil which needless to say has a number of slightly different spellings. This version appears to be the most common, so rightly, or wrongly, I am sticking with it.

It’s many years since I climbed the first three and, more to the point, my new hip was 6 months and one day old. A stern test for me and modern science then.

The standard way to climb Ireland’s highest mountain is to go straight up the Hag’s Glen, at the end of which climb the steep ascent known as ‘The Devil’s Ladder’ to the top of the ridge. Once on the top of the ridge it would be a long haul to the Summit. It’s popular, but kind of obvious and the main path too.

Hag's Glen valley leading up to the Devil's Ladder
Valley Floor

The image above shows the main path heading up the Hag’s Glen from Cronin’s Yard and if you follow its line of direction, the Devil’s Ladder can just about be made out all the way to the ridge. The summit of Carrauntoohil is shrouded in cloud, to the right.

In the end I settled on joining a guided walk with Kerry Climbing and tackling the peak via what is commonly called Brother O’Shea’s Gully, but has the historic name of Eisc na bhFiach (Raven’s Gully). Brother O’Shea was found in this gully back in the 1960’s, clutching his rosary beads, having died of a heart attack – or at least that is what I recall our guide from Kerry Climbing telling us on the day. Have to admit I prefer the old name.

The walk started off from Cronin’s Yard, a great starting pint where there are toilets, a cafe, parking and all you need to do is remember to have a โ‚ฌ2 coin to enable the exit barrier to lift up when driving out the parking area. Bargain.

On a more sombre note, by the gate to commence the walk up the glen are a number of plaques to climbers who have perished. This includes one where a walker was swept away in trying to cross the River Gaddagh on the valley floor. Thankfully there are now a couple of footbridges on the route to cross this river, but the warnings are there; this is a wild place, treat it with respect.

The River Gaddagh tumbles down the Hag's Glen with Ireland's highest peak behind
Tumbling Stream

As we strolled up the glen, our guide Piaras, told us of the old inhabitants and history of the place and I am sure he was cleverly putting in small rests but disguising them as anecdotes and tales. It worked anyway.

The peak of Carrauntoohil, visible for a fleeting glance, can be seen above Lough Gouragh.
Carrauntohil Peak

To our amazement, Carrauntoohil revealed itself completely, shedding its cloak of clouds and enabling us to make out our journey to the top. Naturally enough, that was about the last time that day that the summit deigned to appear to those on the valley below, as the clouds returned to envelope the mountain.

As we branched off from the main path leading to the Devil’s Ladder, our own route became somewhat less discernible and visibility diminished. At one point, the path seemed to stop dead at the base of some rocks. Our guide explained that this was the toughest part, in that it involved a small scramble up the rock. On a clearer day, this may have been more obvious, but I for one was glad I could just concentrate on the walk and taking in the views and not worry about whether we were on the right path or not. The comfort and enjoyment of going up on a guided walk.

All I had to worry about was making sure that I could put one sure foot in front of the other and steadily make the climb to the summit.

The author stands with carrauntoohil towering behind
Ready for the Climb

In my next post I will take you to what I termed the real ‘Theatre of Dreams’ at Ireland’s highest lake.

Apologies for the relatively poor image quality as the photos were taken on the compact and not the usual DSLR. Sometimes it is only when you revert to another camera, do you appreciate the quality that SLR cameras provide.

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