A good hike to enjoy in Ireland, for the advanced hiker is Ireland’s highest Mountain located in County Kerry, Carrauntoohil. The mountain is 1,038 metres (3,406 feet) and is part of the Mcgillycuddy Reeks’ range in the South West of the country. The hike is a round trip of around 25km (15 miles) and should take around 6 hours to arrive at the top and return back to Cronin’s yard. It is classed as a strenuous walk so it shouldn’t be attempted by anyone without experience on loose, steep scree and without good navigational skills as the weather can turn treacherous very quickly. It is advisable to always pack enough water, snacks and an extra rain jacket, hat and gloves as well as a compass. Carrauntoohil overlooks three bowl-shaped valleys, each with its own lakes.
The most famous route up the mountain is to start at Cronin’s Yard and take the north East Ridge route along the Hag’s Glen and up the steep gulley known as the Devil’s Ladder. Although this route is still used by 1000’s of tourists each year, it is becoming increasingly dangerous as the rock and scree are becoming loose due to overcrowding so care has to be taken up this route. The Kerry mountain and rescue team have looked into restoring the terrain in the past but as of yet nothing has been done.
The route up the Devil’s ladder is the most straight forward on the mountain and requires no climbing skills but good balance on loose rock and scree. For the more adventurous climber there is a route up the Howling Ridge which climbs 430m and usually takes around 2 and a half hours for the climb. This climb however is usually done in summer time as the condition’s in winter are usually not recommended to attempt although it has been done in the past.
At the top of the Devil’s ladder the hiker can look back at the impressive views of Kerry and the many surrounding lakes at the foot of the mountain. The route continues to the right and from the top of the ladder it should take around 1 hour to reach the summit. You are now at the highest point of Ireland and one of the 4 Summit challenge of Ireland, Scotland and Wales! At the summit there is a 5m tall steel cross that was first erected in 1976, however it was cut down in 2004 by an anti religious attack but quickly re-erected. From this point the views are impressive of the rest of the “reeks” and is a good point in time to sit down and enjoy the accomplishment, with a snack and some water to refuel. The route down follows the same route and extra care should be taken walking down the Devil’s ladder and a gap of 10m should be left between yourself and any other hiker below.
Once back at Cronin’s yard it is worth travelling to nearby town Killarney which is famous for the many pub’s and live music to enjoy a Guinness and relax after climbing Ireland’s highest mountain!