Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Howling Ridge June 2013

Carrauntoohil as seen from Coumeenmore
Today I decided to take advantage of the good weather and I headed back to the Reeks in Kerry. It is always nice to revisit the best that Ireland has to offer, especially after my recent trip to the Pyrenees. Well one thing for sure is there is no snow to be seen here and the mountains are about one third the height of the ones in the south of France but what they lack in height the more than make up for in beauty. I had a leisurely start in the morning and I didn't get to the start of the route until almost noon. The day was surprisingly warm and as I set off into the Hags Glen I was regretting bringing my heavy base-layer today. Still it was great to be out in this wonderful natural amphitheater that never fails to inspire. There was a fair few people about which is not surprising really as the tourist season is in full swing and the fine weather will draw the crowds anyway. As I neared the lakes I turned west and started up towards Coumeenoughter. I passed a few who were struggling up and met some coming down against me and the one thing everybody had in common was the great mood that prevailed. I turned up towards the "Heavenly Gates" and enjoyed a couple of short rock steps that are near the start of the climb. Up the horribly eroded and loose trail until I reached the notch that marks the start of Howling Ridge.
Howling starts just left of center and rises slightly rightwards.
Now the fun starts. The ridge rises in a series of steps that provide excellent scrambling and some sensational situations. I often debate whether the route deserves its VDiff grading and after today I am still not sure. One thing I can say is that it is never really difficult at any stage but perhaps the fact that I am so familiar with the route is clouding my judgement. Exposure is there in spades but it is nevertheless a route I feel very comfortable soloing. I was still careful as you would expect and even after all this time there is still plenty of loose rock to be found, but where it matters there are lovely big holds to be found that inspire confidence. The only disappointing thing about the route is that it doesn't keep going all the way to the top. It unfortunately fizzles out about 150 meters from the summit but on a day such as this who cares. Anyway while I was on the rock I was engrossed and enjoying myself immensely. All too soon I reached the end and I slogged to the fairly crowed summit.
The start of the route

Rock steps rising

Steeper than it looks and one of the best sections...the finger

Some serious drops

The final interesting but loose section.
I was quite hungry when I reached the summit but unfortunately so were the midges which spoiled somewhat my lunch so I didn't delay too long and I was soon off in the direction of the "Devils Ladder" from where I headed up Conc na Toinne and once I was past the now very visible Zig Zag path I found myself once again in solitude as I headed for Cnoc na Cuillan. The slog up to this summit is never fun but the rewards are worth it and this in one of my favourite spots to be in the range. I rested a little while and I decided to descend via the north spur down into the seldom visited Coumeenmore. Height is lost very quickly and soon I was I was down in the floor of this impressive coum. It was nice to be walking on dry turf after the fine few days and I made rapid progress down the remainder of the way where I joined the track that returns to Lisliebane. In total the day involved about 1200 mtrs of ascent and perhaps 16 kilometers but the star of the day was undoubtedly Howling Ridge. I hope to visit the Twelve Bens in Connemara soon where some great routes are to be enjoyed as well. Bring it on.
Carrauntoohil Summit

The Brida Valley

Towards the Black Valley

The way down into Coumeenmore

Loving it.