Saturday, 21 September 2013

Ireland's Highest Peaks - Carrauntoohil

The hills of Ireland (like Wales and to a lesser extent, the Lake District) are 'familiar strangers' to Munro baggers - similar landforms and topography to the Highlands, yet put a photo of one in front of a bagger and they will scratch their heads, trying to work out where on earth in Scotland the picture was taken.

Is that, eh, the Mamores? No, Macgillycuddy's Reeks:


Macgillycuddy's Reeks rise from a patchwork of green Kerry fields, filling the horizon between the tourist honeypot of Killarney and the rugged and scenic Iveragh peninsula. They form the largest mountain massif in Ireland, full of steep corries and dramatic, narrow ridges, the match of any Munro, and contain Ireland's highest hill, Carrauntoohil. As a bagger on holiday in south-west Ireland, guess where I went first?

Below Carrauntoohil:


There are three options in ascending Corrauntoohil from the direction of Killarney. You can go south-west straight up Hags Glen to a bealach, walk along the dramatic ridge to the left of the glen and go over hills like Cnoc na Peiste, or go up to the right of Hags Glen via Benkeragh. Benkeragh was my first choice, to gain a bird's eye view of the deep corrie of Eagle's Nest and to traverse the narrow ridge between Benkeragh and Carrauntoohil. This was exhilarating without being terrifying - the best of hillwalking.

Carrauntoohil from Benkeragh:


The summit of Ireland sports a great iron cross, and I waited in vain for the mist to clear before heading down, spending the night in an interesting hostel near Dingle. On mine and Billy's return several years later, we took the trade route straight up to the saddle from Hag's Glen. (Apparently this has become badly eroded in recent years.)

Loch in Hag's Glen:


From the saddle it is a straightforward slog to the sunmmit. As we descended the same way, we met another couple of Scots, who told us about a path we hadn't heard of, 'Heaven's Gate'. This involved descending the tourist route halfway to the saddle, contouring round back towards the steep corrie of the Eagle's Nest, picking up a faint path and descending vertiginously. We left the crowds behind and gained spectacular views, but I would only try this route in clear weather due to the accurate routefinding required.

Descending Heaven's Gate:


The Reeks are a superb range, and Carrauntoohil just one corner of them. I would love to return and explore them further.



6 comments:

Russell said...

Went up Carrauntoohil 4 years ago by Hags Glen and the Devil's Staircase, a wet loose path. After I came down saw a sign asking not to go up this way. It would only be dangerous if there were a lot of people going up at once. Didn't fancy the ridge to Benkeragh but I'm not much of a scrambler. - So I did it on its own a couple of days later. The Reeks are nice hills but I showed a lack of imagination and didn't think of the Mamores

blueskyscotland said...

Nice Photographs.
So many great hill ranges over there and largely unknown to most hill walkers outside Ireland.

Robert Craig said...

Aye, I've enjoyed your posts about the Mournes and can't wait to visit some day!

Anonymous said...

Hi Craig, It's entirely possible for a reasonably fit hill walker to climb all 10 summits (4 significant, 6 subsidiary) above 3,000ft in the Reeks in one day. I was there in early June this year for some unseasonally good weather - the Reeks were under blue skies. I did a clockwise round starting on Cruach Mhor and ending on Beenkeeragh, and the ridge from Carrauntuohil was superb. I've had dismissive comments from some when I mentioned I'd done some of the hills in the Reeks, but that's absolutely fine with me. I suspect they haven't actually been there...
I'm planning a return trip to bag Caher and its Top which I didn't include - my excuse was that my companion was a little knackered. Only next time it'll be on a crisp, clear winter's day. David

Robert Craig said...

Hi David - that's a mighty walk. Anyone who dismisses the Reeks has obviously never seen them. They would be a cracking winter expedition.

Anonymous said...

Craig, agree these hills in winter would be great. I reckon I did nine miles and just over 5,000ft climb. Add another 3 miles + 1,500ft for Caher and its Top, and not forgetting an early start from Cronin's Yard, and it's possible. Harry Mulholland published a good guide booklet (A5-size 84-pages) called 'Guide to Eire's 3000-foot mountains - The Irish Munros'. As well as Caher + Top, I need Galtymore and Lugnaquilla for the Furth Ireland set. And that's of course ignoring the other Irish hills like the Connemara Twelve Bens. Can't wait to go back - and I haven't even finished the Munros yet. David