Ireland – Carrauntoohil

I’m always up for a good hike, and it often turns out to be a great way to see places most people don’t see.  One of the places people recommended I visit in Ireland was the Ring of Kerry.  As luck would have it, the tallest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, is within the Ring of Kerry.  I did a bit of searching and learned about an alternate route, the Coomloughra Horseshoe, which starts from a different place than most people who hike Carrauntoohil and makes a loop that tops the three tallest mountains in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, Caher, and Beenkeragh.  I was hoping to do the complete Horseshoe, but was also paying very close attention to the weather.  The route between Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh involves a climb over a razor back ridge that seemed like a bad idea if it was raining or cloud covered.

I got up early, had a hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs at my B&B, then headed to the trailhead.  No one else was parked at the trailhead, but I assumed some others would be coming along later.

I had okay directions from several websites, but knew I had to do some route finding along the way.  Alas, the clouds were still hanging quite low when I started the hike and, by the time I reached Cottoners River dam, I was in the clouds and could only see about 50 feet in front of me.  I knew roughly which way I was supposed to go, so I headed that way and tried my best to track my route on my GPS.  Here’s a short video of what it was like hiking on the lower part of Caher before I crossed the vegetation line and was hiking just on rocks:

I eventually made it to the top of the first mountain, Caher, and was quite impressed with the elevation gain and ruggedness of the mountain.  It was turning out to be a fairly challenging hike. Plus, the humidity in the clouds led to condensation all over me:

Me at the Caher summit with condensation on my hat.

Me at the Caher summit with condensation on my hat.

Unfortunately, at this point, I had the crazy notion that the trail turned slightly on its way to Carrauntoohil.  Not sure why I thought that, but I got off the actual trail and spent about 30 minutes wandering off the horseshoe before I realized I was off the trail.  Thanks to Google Maps and my GPS, I got back on track and headed toward Carrauntoohil.

Just as I reached the summit of Carrauntoohil, about 30 minutes after I regained the trail, I noticed two individuals on the summit – two Russian-speaking priests in full priestly garb performing a ceremony that included chanting, praying, reciting, reading from books, and so on.  No one else was on the summit, and I’ve never experienced that on the top of a summit.  It went on for about 10 minutes after I arrived and I didn’t really know what to do, so I just kind of sat there, waiting:

After they finished up, I confirmed that they were priests, then took a few pictures as the sun had finally broken through the clouds.

On the summit of Carrauntoohil.

On the summit of Carrauntoohil.

I spent about 20 minutes on the summit, then, because it was still very cloudy, I opted to go back the way I came rather than try the razorback.  It was so cloudy I immediately took a slightly wrong turn and headed down the standard route.  I hiked for about 30 minutes before I realized my error and had to hike back to the route I had taken, which added another 30 minutes or so to my hike.  Once I made it back to the trail, the clouds started to break and I finally started to get some nice views of the area.

Near the summit of Caher once the clouds broke.

Near the summit of Caher once the clouds broke.

The valley below Carrauntoohil once the clouds clear.

The valley below Carrauntoohil once the clouds cleared.

A panorama of the three peaks.

A panorama of the three peaks.

The rest of the hike was quite pleasant and I finally passed a few other people on the trail.

After the hike, I headed back to the B&B, showered, rested a bit, then went to the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club for a delightful dinner of fish and chips:

Fish and chips at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.

Fish and chips at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.

Here’s my route from the hike: