Looking over to Cnoc na Toinne, on the ascent of Carrauntoohil.
In Part 1 I had reached the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne, having come up the Devil’s Ladder route. I would now head north west up the rocky slope to Carrauntoohil’s summit. For much of the way up, I was immersed in cloud, although it occasionally cleared below and behind me towards Cnoc na Toinne.
A view towards the Bridia Valley just before ascending into the clouds.
Cnoc na Toinne.
Neighbouring Beenkeeragh on the left, its top hidden, and right of centre, the track I had taken on the approach.
Just prior to losing all visibility as I gained height, I took a series of shots as I looked east to Cnoc na Toinne, watching the clouds seeming to seethe and boil around it. It made for a fascinating spectacle.
After that, the clouds enveloped me and I walked upwards in a circle of visibility that extended only 10 – 20 metres in each direction. It was impossible to tell how near or far the summit was, until at last, I could see the steel girder cross which crowns it, emerging from the gloom. Despite the lack of views, my spirits soared to be arriving at the highest point in Ireland.
The summit, with its cross marker becoming visible.
A little stone shelter in the foreground, and another just below the cross. They don’t look like much but actually provide great relief from the strong winds.
On the summit! I was officially the highest man in Ireland.
Having become so hooked on hill walking, this was a special moment, and it its difficult to describe what it meant to stand here, but its an occasion I’ll never forget. No matter where I walk in Ireland, I will never attain a loftier position. There were still no views to be had, just thick cloud rushing by, borne on the now very strong wind, even on a day like this which had been fairly calm the whole way up. I can only imagine what the wind is like here on stormy winter days! Despite that, I wanted to savour the occasion and spent an hour or more wandering around the summit, trying to peer through the gloom, and looking down into steep sided abysses, more imagined than seen. Now and again, I would retreat into one of the little stone shelters for some respite from the cold wind. It was amazing how much shelter the small structures provided. In an emergency, they could certainly be a life-saver.
Once in a while, there would be enough of a small break in the clouds to give tantalising glimpses of what the views could be like.
The nearby Beenkeeragh, the second highest mountain in Ireland, would have been in this direction but was impossible to see. If the weather had been better I would have considered crossing the notorious Beenkeeragh ridge, to take in that summit too, but by all accounts it is a difficult and dangerous crossing, so I decided not to attempt it in such poor visibility. On my first time on Carrauntoohil, I was even having trouble locating the ridge, and a wrong turn could have dire consequences here, with sheer drops on most sides, as the next photo illustrates.
A brief glimpse down into the Hag’s Glen.
Lough Callee, which I had walked past earlier, appears for a few seconds, hundreds of metres below.
West of Carrauntoohil stands Caher, the third highest mountain in Ireland, and it too seemed to briefly make an appearance, but in the murk, it was difficult to judge distances, and I wasn’t sure if was looking at Caher, or the ridge that leads over to Beenkeeragh.
Eventually, I reluctantly decided that I had seen all I was going to see, and that conditions weren’t going to improve enough for me to cross over to either of Carrauntoohil’s huge neighbours, Beenkeeragh or Caher. I started back down the way I had come, towards the col and the top of the Devil’s ladder. I did not have to drop far before visibility began to improve, and more so than on the ascent, I was able to get increasingly good views.
Cnoc na Toinne, now completely free of cloud, and the rest of the eastern Reeks behind.
Behind me, Caher now too was beginning to emerge from the clouds.
At the top of the Devil’s Ladder again, looking down on Lough Gouragh.
I was back at the top of the Devil’s Ladder, the steep gully I had climbed on the way up. It would take me down to the Hag’s Glen and the walk to the starting point at Cronin’s Yard. However, now that it was time to leave, I was reluctant to go. Visibilty seemed to be improving, and it could be a long time before I could make the long journey back to the Reeks from Co. Tyrone at the other end of the country. The col I was standing on was between Carrauntoohil, and Cnoc na Toinne. Cnoc na Toinne may be small relative to its lofty neighbours, but at 845m, is a big mountain (for Ireland anyway). I could also see a path down from Cnoc na Toinne on its eastern edge, which wound its way down to the Hag’s Glen and would serve me just as well as the Devil’s Ladder. I later learned this path was known as the Zig Zag. I decided to take in one more summit. I will give an account of the walk up Cnoc na Toinne in my next post. I was exhilarated by the walk up Carrauntoohil, and wanted more.