Ascent of Carrauntoohil on 2014-09-06

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Ben Lostracco
Date:Saturday, September 6, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:3409 ft / 1039 m

Ascent Trip Report

After a couple hours of sleep in Dublin the night before (stayed out until the pubs closed), I took a 7am train to Killarney to meet up with two of my farovite people in the world, Grandma and Grandpa. I arrived in Killarney at 10:30am, and we drove straight to the trailhead for the MacGillicuddy Reeks, where our goal would be to climb the highpoint of Ireland, Carrauntoohil (Carr-an-too-ill). Grandpa and Grandma had been in Ireland for 4 days already, and Grandpa had already bagged a couple of county highpoints.

I took a quick picture of Grandma and Grandpa at the trailhead, and Grandma was to stay down and hang out at the tea lodge while Grandpa and I set out for the day (we hit the trail at 11:20am. The day was very cloudy, low clouds everywhere, and we could not see the peak from where we were. We walked the first 2 miles in 40 minutes, which was a pretty good pace, considering the elevation gain (500ft at this point). The approach was really cool, passing between two lakes, through the valley of peaks. We took the well-traveled "Devil's Ladder" approach to Carrauntoohil, which is very steep, feels like rock climbing at some points. This route would be dangerous in wet conditions. I loved it though, sped straight through. Grandpa knew he would be taking it slow up this part, so he suggested that I go ahead and do a peak to the left of Carrauntoohil, which followed the ridge to the left after Devil's Ladder. I took his suggestion, leaving my bag at the top of Devil's Ladder, hoping Grandpa would see it and know that I had gone that way.

I ran up to the first peak, Cnoc na Toinne, with not much trouble, besides it being pretty muddy, and very low visibility (probably about 10 meters). Running this exposed ridge on a clear day this must be incredible. After about 30 seconds on the ridge peak, I decided to continue on down the ridge and keep going to the next highpoint, since I knew Grandpa would still be working on Devil's Ladder. Passing through an old sheep fence, I continued onto Cnoc an Chuillin, which was a longer ascent, and had a somewhat rocky summit. There was a brief moment of sunlight when I got to the top, which felt amazing. On my way back I noticed some bike tire tracks up on the ridge... seems like their some singletrack up here for mountain biking.

I made it back to the gap, and no sign of Grandpa. I asked a few people hanging out around there and they said that they had seen him walk up in the direction of Carrauntoohil about 5 minutes ago. I caught up to him and we walked together for a bit. We got lucky for a minute as the clouds cleared and exposed a good amount of our surroundings, which was fascinating. Several other hikers expressed their satisfaction of the slight view we were given. During this time, I took off towards the summit, hoping to get there while the break in the clouds was still in present, but unfortunately it had clouded back up by then and I got no views from the top. There were probably about 30 other people on the summit, all having a great time. There is a large wooden cross on the peak. I walked around the peak for a while, finding a geocache box under a rock... I took a tic tac and a twix out of it. I saw Grandpa coming out of the mist towards the summit, and I was really happy for him. Getting the highpoint of Ireland at age 76, up one of the toughest routes, is a pretty outstanding accomplishment. We got a photo in front of the cross, had our sandwiches and made our way back down the way we came up.

The descent was fairly technical down the Devil's Ladder, but I found it pretty easy. There was much more visibility now, allowing us to witness the beautiful landscape. About halfway down the steep descent, I noticed a rock "face" formation to the left which looked accessible. Grandpa stayed on the ladder while I climbed it, and snapped a couple of pics of me standing on the forehead. I got back down, and then again, I noticed an area I wanted to get to... a peak up ahead that pointed straight up like a rock spire to on the other side of the lake Lough Gouragh. I let Grandpa know that I was going to try to get up it, and meet him on the trail on the way down. It turned out to be a really tough approach, just to get to it, taking mainly goat/sheep trails, climbing over waterfalls, and steep grassy/wet areas. Making it to the formation, the terrain got tougher - loose large scree, which required scrambling to make it up. The top of the formation itself was pretty technical to get on top of... had to be sure of your footing... it was a serious drop in any direction. I pulled myself up to the top of the spire, and let out a great yell of satisfaction. Now, to get down. It was not obvious... basically had to scale down a cliff and run through patchy grassy/rocky areas to make my way down to the lake. Finally, getting back on a maintained trail, I shed all my layers, barechested and down to shorts, I started running, thinking Grandma and Grandpa were at the car waiting for me, and likely pretty mad at me. Not long after I started running, I came up on a guy taking a picture, who I didn't recognize until I got close, but it was Grandpa... he had stood there and watched me make it up to the top.

We continued our descent down to the car after a successful day in the Irish mountains, six and a half hours after we started, 12.8 miles, 5k feet elevation gain (for me). The day's trip really made me appreciate the MacGillicuddy Reeks (I had never heard of the area before this weekend), there is a lot to explore in this region, and although the hikes are short, they are by no means easy.

I was really lucky to have Grandma and Grandpa work me into their plans to make this trip happen. So nice to see them. Later that night we went to the Gap of Dunloe to enjoy some traditional Irish music and food and of course, some Guinness. Was a totally satisfying and unique experience. The band was amazing - as authentic as it gets - a Celtic guitar, Celtic flute, and an accordion. The place was packed, and everyone was having a great time.

The next day was beautiful - totally clear, and bright and sunny. Of course, this would happen to me, back to back weekends of climbing mountain highpoints in low visibility, followed by spectacular weather the next day... We visited the Gardens of Dunloe (which were beautiful), and then Grandma and Grandpa dropped me off at the train station in Killarney, and I made my way to Dublin, and then back to Cardiff. Great way to spend the weekend.

Lessons learned:
-When hiking with someone of different abilities, you can still challenge yourself enough to have a satisfying experience (if the other member(s) are willing to put up with your decisions)
-Hiking in the UK is much more popular than in the US
-Despite low visibility, the views are always amazing on a peak
-The MacGillycuddy Reeks are a unique range of mountains and can present a challenge to climbers of all abilities

Photos from the trip

Cherish every moment with people that you love, and make the most of experiences in every place you visit.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The approach trail on the descent of Carrauntoohil taken from Devil's Ladder (2014-09-06). Photo by Marcus Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4424 ft / 1348 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1500 ft / 456 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.8 mi / 20.6 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Weather:Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3924 ft / 1196 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2924 ft / 892 m; Extra: 1000 ft / 304m
    Loss on way in:1000 ft / 304 m
    Distance:7 mi / 11.3 km
    Route:Devil's Ladder
    Start Trailhead:485 ft / 147 m
    Time:4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:500 ft / 152 m
    Gain on way out:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:5.8 mi / 9.3 km
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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