From Cnoc na Toinne, looking over to Carrauntoohil.
At the end of Part 2 we had reached the fourth peak, Maolan Bui, on our traverse of the eastern ridge of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in Co. Kerry. It had been a tough climb up to the first summit, Cruach Mhor, but most of the height had been gained on reaching it, and there was wasn’t too much descent or ascent required along the rest of the ridge. We had faced difficult conditions, with rain leaving the rocky terrain very slippery on some exposed and steep ground. But, by the time we reached Maolan Bui, the worst of the weather, and the tricky walking and scrambling was behind us. There was no more knife-edge, and the ridge became more rounded and broader.
The small summit cairn on Maolan Bui.
The cloud had closed in again on top of Maolan Bui, so we didn’t linger long, there being no views to keep us, and we pushed on for the next top, Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top, which although an impressive 926 meters high, isn’t much more than a small rise on the ridge between Maolan Bui and Cnoc an Chuillinn. Its prominence means that mathematically it qualifies as a separate mountain however.
Continuing to Cnoc an Chuillinn.
Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top really is fairly unremarkable, and it would be easy to pass over it without recognising that you’ve crossed another summit. As far as I can remember, there was nothing to mark the top, and the misty cloud around us didn’t help, but we reached the summit somewhere in the vicinity of the next two photos. It was peak number five, and about five and half hours after we started out that morning, so we took our first real break here for about half an hour. At this point (being aware of the practice of going as lightweight as possible when hiking) I was stunned to find that my sister, on only her second real hill walk, had brought along a large, full, glass jar of peanut butter, with cutlery, in her backpack! Spread on celery, along with energy boosting chocolate bars, we were very content sitting on a rock, everything seeming very peaceful as we were cloaked in the clouds.
Cnoc an Chuillinn lost in the mists ahead.
As we sat and rested, the clouds began to clear in places below us, and not knowing how long it would last, I couldn’t help getting to my feet, and taking photos of the all the views I could get. Despite my efforts costing me some of my resting time, I was glad I did, as the cloud closed in again as we set off for Cnoc an Chuillinn.
Lough Cummeenmore below on the northern side of the ridge.
The veil lifting to give us a view of Lough Callee and Lough Gouragh, the huge wall of Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh hidden behind.
Around the summit of Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top, as we set off after our break, the cloud already gathering around us again.
Heading for Cnoc an Chuillinn.
As the cloud got thicker, I again experienced the same illusion as I had earlier in the day, where the next summit ahead, in this case Cnoc an Chuillinn, seemed to tower up above us, requiring a huge distance and height to be surmounted to reach the top. In fact it was barely more than a hop up from Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top.
A look back in the mist.
In no time we were on our sixth 900 meter plus summit of the day, Cnoc an Chuillinn. It wasn’t long since our rest stop, so we didn’t stay very long at the top, just having a quick wander around.
Arriving at the cairn on Cnoc an Chuillinn.
Cnoc an Chuillinn was the last of our summits over 900 meters high, and in just one walk we had reached six out of a total of fourteen Irish tops attaining this height. We had one more mountain to cross, the saddle shaped Cnoc na Toinne, 845 meters high. Although it was smaller than the preceeding tops, it seemed like it would require slightly more descent and ascent to reach than any of the others since we had got up on the ridge. I was definitely gettting tired by this stage, but as if to encourage me, the clouds again began to part, and although the distant views were mostly hidden, we always had some visibility for the rest of the walk. At times we were really able to enjoy the scenery below, including the valleys and glens to the south, along with the Dunkerron Mountain, stretching at times to the sea inlet at Kenmare. In the west was the bulk of Caher, Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh, and behind us, the ridge we had walked over to get here. To the north we could see the track leading back out to our starting point at Cronin’s Yard.
Cnoc na Toinne ahead, with higher peaks beyond still hidden.
A clear view of Cnoc na Toinne – the steeper edge of the northern side leading up to the long saddle shaped top. The actual summit is on the far side of the saddle, and we would avoid a steep climb up to this end by crossing the grassy southern slope at an angle, and meeting the saddle in the middle. I would have gone to this end of the top first but I’ve been on Cnoc na Toinne before and had already gone to both ends. I was tired enough now to make for the summit only this time.
Our first real views of the day of the south and southwest, as we came down from Cnoc an Chuillinn.
Behind Cnoc na Toinne, the cloud was beginning to clear from Beenkeragh too.
View over the Bridia Pass.
The Dunkerron Mountains, with a glimpse of the Kenmare River, actually a sea inlet, in the distance.
Cnoc na Toinne’s rugged northeast side.
The view to the north.
In the trough between peaks, moving up now on Cnoc na Toinne’s southern face, looking back at Cnoc an Chuillinn.
The Black Valley south of us.
Shifting light on the Black Valley.
Another view into the Black Valley as we took the slow incline up and across the southern face of Cnoc na Toinne.
On the long saddle on top of Cnoc na Toinne. It was practically all down hill from here! Later, when we made it down from Cnoc na Toinne, we would take the track, visible far below, between Lough Callee and Lough Gouragh, eventually taking us to Cronin’s Yard and our tents.
Waterfalls dropping off Carrauntoohil into Lough Gouragh.
At the higher, western end of Cnoc na Toinne’s long top, looking back along the chain of mountains we had walked.
It seemed incredible that we had walked up and over all those mountains behind us!
The Devil’s Ladder emerging on to the col between Cnoc na Toinne and Carrauntoohil, before the trail continues up to Carrauntoohil’s summit.
I was getting the best light of the day now.
Looking along Cnoc na Toinne’s long top.
As we reached the western end of Cnoc na Toinne’s top, it seemed like another definite “stage” of the walk had been completed. Our next stage would be to take the “zig-zag” track down from Cnoc na Toinne to the trail between Lough Callee and Lough Gouragh, joining it close to where it would start to ascend the Devil’s Ladder. We would follow it in the opposite direction for several kilometers to our campsite at Cronin’s Yard. We still had a good walk ahead of us, but already we were feeling a sense of satisfaction and achievement as getting over the famous ridge and “bagging” so many of Ireland’s bigger mountains.
Moving off the top of Cnoc na Toinne to the top of the zig-zag.
Fourth and final part of the walk to follow.