Top of IrelandMy wife and I spent the first week of July 2006 in southwestern Ireland and realizing Carrauntoohil 1038m(also spelled Carrantuohill and Carran Toohil but pronounced 'Karen Tool') the highest point on the Emerald Isle was right there in County Kerry, well we had to give it a try! The weather was cloudy but pleasant all week and armed with only a paragraph of tourist information we set off on July 4 to the 2 euro trail head on the north side standard "devils ladder" route.
The first challenge was just finding the parking area and trail head. I mistook a sign on the road from Beaufort to Glencar marking the turn to Carrauntoohil, as indicating that one should continue 5km toward Glencar. Nope you should turn left (south) at the sign to the starting point (150m elevation). I should interject here that I took detailed GPS waypoint information on this trip including the above turn and if you're interested I can send you the information: [email protected] Otherwise you can be adventurous :-). I would highly recommend taking a GPS though, since the weather can be foggy anytime of year and many hikers have lost their way on the descent. Though the standard routes are not difficult there is a lot of potential for serious cliff falls if off-route.
The hike is straightforward to the twin lakes and you walk through gorgeous treeless sheep country. About a mile after you start you should cross the Gaddagh creek on your right to gain access to a nice road and save the delicate tundra on the left side for the sheep. After passing between the two lakes in the northeastern basin of Carrauntoohil you head straight south to 'devils ladder' which is more ominous sounding that it really is. By the American classification system it's no worse that 2+ with maybe a few class 3 moves, and the rocks are pretty solid. Mark the top of Devil's Ladder on your GPS. We're glad we did because the pass can be easy to miss in fog, which we had, sending you down the wrong valley. From the top of Devils Ladder you've only got 350m of elevation gain to the summit to the northwest. After a short grassy section there is a good trail to the top marked by a 5m iron cross. No view to reward us on this fine Irish Gortex Day :-) though we did have parting views on the approach.
The round trip was only 6 hours.