On the way up the Devil’s Ladder to Carrauntoohil.
It was day 3 of our trip to Kerry, and the rest of the family were having a day in Killarney, while I slipped off alone to see if I could get up Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks range. At 1038m, and subject to quick and dramatic weather changes, it is a more serious undertaking in hill walking than any I had done before. It has been responsible for fatalities in the past, and is a mountain that demands respect. With that in mind, I had prepared as well as I could, researching routes on MountainViews.ie, and studying the map I would be taking with me.
I set off early in the morning, and parked the car at Cronin’s Yard which provides facilities for walkers. From there I set off on foot making my way alongside the Gaddagh River. As I made my way towards Hags Glen at the foot of the mountain, the weather didn’t look promising, with low cloud hiding the tops of all the nearby mountains including Carrauntoohil itself. I was so excited to be climbing Ireland’s highest peak however, that although it would be disappointing, I knew I would be happy to stand on the summit, even if I had no views or photographic opportunities.
Setting off. Not far along from Cronin’s Yard. In Part 2, I’ll finish with another image taken from this spot in quite different weather at the end of my walk.
One of two steel bridges making crossings of the Gaddagh River easier. The river can swell quickly after heavy rain, and one of the bridges is named in memory of a walker who died trying to cross it on the way back from Carrauntoohil.
The mountains, hidden in the clouds, behind this minor summit.
As I made my way along the track, the mountains were revealed to a greater or lesser extent as the cloud ebbed and flowed, but never got close to revealing the summits.
Looking towards the eastern Reeks.
My excitement was growing as I approached the Hag’s Glen and the two loughs Callee and Gouragh, at the foot of the mountain. Lough Callee, on my left, was the first to come into sight.
I could also soon see Lough Gouragh on my right.
By now, I was passing small stone cairns marking the route, and I could see the next stage of my walk, beyond the Hag’s Glen, the fearsomely named Devil’s Ladder. The Devil’s Ladder is a steep, rocky gully that leads up onto the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne. It would form part of my route, and I approached it with a little trepidation having read some real horror stories about it. It did look intimidating from the Hag’s Glen and I thought, well, I’ll give it a go, and if I find its beyond my capabilities, I’ll turn back. In fact it wasn’t that bad. It was steep and care is required as a fall could be extremely dangerious, even fatal, but I only needed my hands on a few occasions, and I always felt that if I paid attention to what I was doing, I would be fine. One of the main dangers is from falling rocks, dislodged by people higher up, but as I had set out early, there was nobody above me on the Ladder, and i didn’t have that to worry about. I found this part of the walk to be exhilarating without being terrifying.
One of the stone cairn route markers, and beyond, the Devil’s Ladder route up the mountain, the top of the col hidden in the clouds.
Starting up the Ladder.
It was hard work on the steep ascent up the Devil’s Ladder, and I stopped several times to catch my breath, take in the views with increasing height, and take a few photos.
Looking back as I start up the Ladder.
A little stone shelter/wind break.
Some height gained, and looking down on Lough Callee.
Looking down on the Hag’s Glen and Loughs Callee and Gouragh.
Looking down the Ladder.
Anothe look back down the Ladder.
Close to the top of the Ladder now. Ahead, was probably the worst part, with loose rock and slippery mud, but again, with care, no real danger I felt.
A final scramble and I was out of the Devil’s Ladder, and standing on the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne. I was pleased to have conquered the Ladder, and for the first time I could now look south over Curraghmore Lake and along the Bridia Valley, with a vast array of other Kerry mountains beyond. The clouds had now retreated a bit, and the col which had been hidden when I started the ascent, was now cloud free. To the east, the col rose up to Cnoc na Toinne and its summit at 845m. North west, was the slope leading up to Carrauntoohil’s summit, a gentler incline than the Devil’s Ladder, but still fairly steep going. The top itself was still well covered in cloud.
On the col, looking south over Curraghmore Lake and the Bridia Valley beyond.
Looking up to Cnoc na Toinne.
Standing on the col, I was now over half way up Carrauntoohil, and ready to push on for the summit. I’ll continue the journey in Part 2.