Two hikers take in the view from the top of the Devil's Ladder on Carrauntoohil

Carrauntoohil III – Conquered

The last post saw us at Ireland’s highest lough in the ‘Theatre of Dreams‘. It was time to leave this beguiling bowl and climb onto the ridge via Raven’s Gully.

The climb up Raven's Gully (Brother O'Shea's) starts from Ireland's highest lough.
Leaving the Lough

The gully was largely scree and grass, a firm foothold was far from assured and steady progress was the order of the day. In a surprisingly short time, we reached the ridge top and were buffeted by winds and fast moving clouds. Our hopes of a decent view had all but evaporated.

Having climbed out of Raven's Gully the walk to the summit awaits in dense cloud
The Last Leg

In the above image, you can see that it didn’t take long for my fellow hikers to start merging with the cloud. This really was the last leg of the ascent and it was good to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, following our experienced guide.

When we did reach the summit there were a fair few people around and we dropped a few feet to savour our accomplishment and get out of the worst of the wind. A sign warned us not to tread any further due to the sheer cliffs.

A warning sign near the summit tells hikers not to step further due to the sheer cliffs
Go Back

Before starting the descent, we took the obligatory photographs by the metal cross marking the mountain’s summit. The wind and rain had dispersed many of those that we had come across a few minutes before.

The author at the top of Carrauntoohil

So now it was all about getting down safely, something underlined by the poor visibility. We descended to the Devil’s Ladder, the main thoroughfare for those tackling the peak and the number of people that we passed reflected this. The path was a lot more obvious, but with visibility low, it was still all too easy to stray.

Our guide showed us a fresh spring water in order that we could fill our drink containers. Visibility was improving with each foot that we dropped until we appeared to be out of the cloud completely. When we got down to the point at which the top of the Devil’s Ladder meets the main ridge of the Reeks, the views were spectacular and the curtain of cloud provided a dramatic line; a reminder of how little we could see just minutes before.

Having stopped at the Devil’s ladder and looked at both sides of the ridge, we ignored this steep scramble and continued along the ridge towards Cnoc na Péiste.

The cloud swarmed around the ridge and eyes had to be kept alert to be sure to find the place where our path dropped away into Hag’s Glen, where our journey had started.

We were on the ‘zig zag’ path, a less precipitous descent than the Devil’s ladder involving, as its name suggests, a number of descending traverses and switchbacks.

Leaving the ridge the path of the zig zag descent begins its way to the twin loughs of Hag's Glen.
Zig-Zag Ridge Descent

We took in views across the Hag’s Glen to see the path that took us to the summit of Carrauntoohil via Raven’s (Brother O’Shea’s) Gully. While the main route to the Devil’s Ladder appeared as a motorway and our path of descent a regional road, the path up to Raven’s Gully was akin to a boreen (country lane). The two images below are identical except that on the right I have sought to highlight the route taken up CarrauntoohiI.

Comparing this path to the one on the main valley floor provides some indication of its relative imprint.

It wasn’t long before we hit the valley floor, rejoined the river flowing out of Lough Gouragh and had one last look up towards the highest mountain in Ireland.

A blanket of cloud wraps itself around the upper reaches of Carrauntoohil
Cloud Blanket

The ever changing cloud smothered the mountain. We weren’t the only ones, and won’t be the last, denied a view across all of the reeks and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

So that’s it, a nice easy return back to Cronin’s Yard accompanied by the refreshing sound of the River Gaddagh as it eagerly gamboled down the rocky course put in its way.

Hikers looking spritely as they reach the end of a hike having scaled Carrauntoohil
Final Straight

May be this and the previous two posts have whetted your appetite for a venture into the McGillycuddy Reeks and, perhaps, climb Ireland’s highest mountain via the picturesque Raven’s Gully. If so, I would underscore the following:

  • The mountain is a wild place, treat it with respect
  • Ensure you are prepared for weather changes, being so close to the Atlantic and as Ireland’s highest mountain, the weather can change in an instant and may contrast with that in the surrounding area
  • Have the right clothing and footwear, trainers do not provide the required level of ankle support for this kind of climb
  • Unless you are an experienced hiker, I would recommend a guided ascent, particularly if you opt to go via the more rewarding Raven’s (Brother O’Shea’s) Gully route.

I have no affiliation to Kerry Climbing whatsoever, but having joined one of their guided hikes I can wholeheartedly recommended their guided walks up Carrauntoohil. Other tours also going up Carrauntoohil include Pat Falvey, but I have no experience of their treks.

To enjoy your walk up Ireland’s highest peak, I really do recommend taking the Raven’s (Brother O’Shea’s) Gully route and to use a guide so that you can delegate the directions and concentrate on enjoying the moment of climbing Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, or however you wish to spell it.

I’d also recommend staying in Killarney for one night at least, the Killarney Full Circle IPA is a treasure to behold and I have no hesitation in recommending Teddy O’Connor’s for a post walk celebration.

The next day I took myself to Twomies Wood to flex the legs and work out the stiffness from the previous day’s climb. The day was bright and offered enticing views across to the Reeks.

On a Good Day

Refreshingly, Carrauntoohil still had a shroud of cloud covering it’s summit.

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