It can be strange to revisit your home mountains after visiting somewhere like the Alps. After 13 wonderful days hiking in the finest of mountain scenery I was a little apprehensive that I might go to The Reeks and find them somehow lessened or diminished in my esteem. I needn't have worried. When I went back on Sunday in a glorious weather day, I was enchanted and excited even as I drove into Cronins Yard.
|Starting up towards Cruach Mhór|
|Always an inspiring sight Carrauntoohil|
The way Cruach Mhór towers over the valley as you drive in never fails to inspire. It definitely is the best way to approach these mountains. It being such a nice day I was determined to make the most of it so I decided to have a go at doing the "Three Ridges". This, as well as offering one of the best hiking experiences in the country also can I guess be classed as a mountaineering day as in the middle of it you climb Howling Ridge, a classic VDiff route. I parked up at the super busy Cronins Yard. Carrauntoohil has become something of a circus these days. The numbers climbing it on a fine summers day can now be numbered I would guess in the thousands at the weekend. There is booming industry surrounding the mountain with guiding companies being kept very busy year round. Cronins Yard has been at the centre of life on this mountains for many decades...first as a place that offered access and sanctuary to the mountain rescue whenever they went about their vital work and also as a place to park and meet old friends. They have been expanding their facilities over the years until today, wonderful tearooms, toilets, changing facilities as well as self catering and camping can all be enjoyed. Parking costs just €2 per car which is super value and this is in stark contrast to parking costs in Wales and the Lake District.
|I was tempted to go for a dip|
|From the summit across the glen|
This all changed of course when after a quick lunch stop on Cnoc na Toinne I reached the Zig Zags which is fast becoming the descent route of choice from Carrauntoohil. As I neared the Devils Ladder the numbers heading up the eroded trail to the summit could be seen. It is not a place for quiet reflection. I headed towards the Heavenly Gates and was once again in quietude. I always feel a sense of excitement as I near the base of Howling Ridge. It is set among a series of spectacular ridges and there is definitely a high mountain feel to the place. As I reached the base I could see a group higher up that were pitching the route. I hoped they would be easy to get by when I reached them. In my less than practiced state when it comes to climbing I was feeling a bit of self doubt before I set off up but I reminded myself to take my time..be sure of each hold and I would be fine. This I did and indeed I was. Soon all that matters is the rock before you and I was once again engrossed in and enjoying the climb. I reached the group and climbed up past them. They were being led by two seasoned campaigners from Killarney Mountaineering Club who I used to climb with in the past. I pushed on through and all too soon I was up at the pinnacles and then it was all over. The 150 metre climb to the summit was tough but passed soon enough and I was once again in the hoards as I stopped for another bite to eat.
|The Cnoc na Péiste Ridge|
|Big crowds out...people lining the track all the way to the top|
|A group heading up Howling Ridge|
|The group at "The Finger"..Spectacular place|
Monday July 15th
I had camped overnight in the village of Glenbeigh and my aim today was to to the Coumasaharn Horseshoe. The amazing weather of yesterday with the clear blue skies was absent and a warm muggy cloudy morning greeted me when I exited my tent. I drove in to near the shore of the spectacularly situated Coumasaharn Lake and started my hike from there. Starting so far into the glen kind of limits the range of routes you can do as to do an extended hike from here would mean walking a fair old way on the road at the end. Today I decided to keep it simple and just do a circuit of this lake. Thankfully all but the highest top was cloud free so navigation would be simple. Straight away the climbing is steep as I took a direct line up through the craggy ground of Knocknaman. This got the blood pumping and I even managed to pick out a few nice scrambly bits on the way. After 400 steep metres the gradient eases right back and easy walking follows as you head towards Meenteog. The broad spur offers fine views across the huge and complex coum towards Drung hill. The Reeks were shrouded in cloud and distant views were hazy at best.