Carrauntoohil by Howling Ridge – Roped Climb
The raw wildness of Howling Ridge attracts climbers from all over the world to take on Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, on a rope climb. Admittedly, it’s not the most difficult rope climb around, but the wild setting and stunning location are what make it so special.
The path is a steep one that takes on the northeast face of Carrauntoohil. In summer it’s a very difficult route becoming severe in winter depending on the varied conditions on the day.
Con Moriarty and John Cronin were the first to climb it, making the first ascent only in 1987 – and the climb takes its name from Moriarty’s dog Grimsel, who waited at what are known as the Heavenly Gates at the start of the route, howling, as the pair began their climb.
The route starts from Cronin’s Yard, a popular parking spot for climbers taking on the various routes to the summit of Carrauntoohil thanks to its changing facilities and availability of packed lunches.
The track from here is well worn onto Hags Glen, before crossing the Gaddagh, a class five white water mountain river. After 2km, it is time to leave the track and ascend a series of steep rocky benches, where occasional scrambling is needed, before reaching the grassy plateau of Coimin Íochtarach.
A nearby stone shelter with an earthen roof is a good spot for a break and the chance to appreciate the huge rock face that towers above. From here a steep and eroded gulley leads to a notch in the cliffs of Carrauntoohil’s north-east face – those Heavenly Gates mentioned earlier.
The climb in earnest starts here, with 350m of scrambling and climbing over loose rocks. The first pitch is an easy scramble up to a flat bench. The second pitch is very difficult climbing, with some awkward moves required in spots. From here, the exposed ridge continues for another 300m with steep pitches, scrambling, and flat areas.
Loose rock, on the eroded sandstone ridge, adds to the excitement and exhilaration. This is wild climbing where the conditions change quickly and the surface can be unpredictable. Near the top of Howling Ridge is a large left slanting slab of rock, known in Gaelic as “An Droichead” which translates as “The Bridge”. Having climbed the last steep pitch to the top of the ridge, a large boulder field marks the final 150m to the summit of Carrauntoohil.
The summit is spectacular, with panoramic views across the Kingdom of Kerry. On busy days, dozens of people reach the summit via an array of routes. However, few will have tackled Howling Ridge and experienced its challenges and ultimate rewards.
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