Training for le Alps. Howling Ridge and Curved Gully, 2010.

Well while I had been getting into climbing back home, I hadn’t exactly done too much mountain work beyond the odd hike and ramble in Kerry or Cork. So with the spectre of the summer trip to the Alps looming, Gahan made sure to get the boot out and kick a few of us up the rear to get out again. In my defense I was 18 and probably focused a bit too much on alcohol and socializing.

So over a few ales in Scotland, I’d drunkenly blurted out that I wanted to lead Howling Ridge. Turns out it had already been decided by the lads that it would be happening and since I’d just been crag climbing, it was good for me to get back to the mountain. A carload of us would head down. Mac was going to solo it, Jen and me would be one team and the two Judiths would make up the others.


Smiles all round at the car park.

Day  was a bit wet and miserable (to be honest I can recall few sunny days in the Reeks). Drive down wasn’t too bad now. Its around two hours from Limerick to Killarney, quick stopover there for some snacks and a toilet break, then down to the Reeks. I’m always struggling with my layering system so just had a baselayer and the jacket for the stroll in.


Weather kept off as we entered the Hag’s Glen, it seems to get done faster and faster, year by year.

We moved fairly fast, taking one break in the Glen and another at the Eagle’s Nest. We admired the little survival hut and headed up the Heavenly Gate, the route beginning right at the top of it. And since other hikers were going by, we got to look pretty cool as the ropes, harnesses and helmets came out.

Howling is quite notorious for its loose rock (or “chotty” as a Dublin climber explained to me in the Alps). Its a VD but feels easier, its just awkwardly protected for a beginner, I’ve always found it hard to find stuff. Myself and Jen took turns leading it, taking it easy and enjoying the climb. Having a view this time really helped. We’d taken in coils so we just moved together, placing in the odd runner where we felt it appropriate. Since we were reasonably close together, we just took it handy on any of the more exposed parts.

Poignant enough, we spotted a lamb across from us at one point, stuck out on a pinnacle. It was an eerie feeling listening to it bleating, especially when the cloud moved in and it echoed around the hills. We felt guilty but a sheer gully between us meant it was near impossible to get over to.


Great route and plenty of exposure. The author in the black admiring the view across the Hag’s Glen.

Mac was supervising the two Judith’s with us following behind. We took a lunch break together at an oddly angled ledge but decided to belt on as we were doing great. Looking back, we were probably a tad too cocky as we tended to place little gear at all. We flew up it and picnicked on the summit as whenever theres three on a rope, they do tend to be a wee bit slower than a duo!


Jen and myself doing some surveying from our first break. It’s rare to get a clear day, at least I’ve always found that!


So that was my first lead on Howling Ridge but being the brooding neophyte I was, I was quite shocked to discover there were apparently other rock routes on Carrauntoohil (To think a mountain can be climbed from more than one direction? Ye gods what heresy be this!). Primroses being notoriously wet and slick, that one would be off the cards for a while and still is.

So in accordance with our training for the Alps, Conor being the good leader he was, ordered us down to Kerry for another weekend. Since it’s my home, I’d to depart for another day but I was able to make the first one. While they’d bivvi or camp up by the survival hut near the Eagles Nest (a delightful little stone structure), I’d be able to head on home to hot food and a shower. Naturally I made sure to look crestfallen at the prospect.

So Darragh and a few others were to swing onto Howling Ridge as they’d missed the craic a couple of weeks previous. Two ropes would head over to where O’Shea’s Gully would be, cutting up to the peak prior to reaching it so we’d go up a route called Curved Gully Ridge (naturally named as its the ridge next to Curved Gully). Quite cool since I’d never been to that side of the mountain beyond going up Caher. Heavenly Gate and the Devil’s Ladder were my usual stomping ground.

Always heard bad things about O’Shea’s. Like people taking tumbles on the scree there (its littered with it) and it looks as steep as the Devil’s Ladder. So interesting to hang a left and be roping up on what looked to be oddly angled ground. I have to digress here because I always find it strange how you’ll climb steeper and steeper ground till you stop and realize….shit….thats a long way down. And right then the little ledge seems like heaven.


Jen belaying me up the last section. Oisin is posing down below.


The climb itself wasn’t too bad. We did it in three pitches as otherwise poor Ois would have had to tramp up O’Shea’s on his own. So shorter pitches but we all took a turn. It was scarily loose, worse than Howling Ridge but doable in boots. We brought rockshoes just in case but while it got a little bit hairy, you could muscle your way up. Very ledgey with lots of short little climbs, you’d haul your way up maybe six feet onto the next “flat” part and repeat ad nauseam. The hardest part was ensuring your gear was secure for when your partners began climbing.



The author modelling what is a sterling example of a Petzl helmet and OPC oversized fleece.


Not much to say about it, but a nice climb overall and great to see another side of Carrauntoohil. Been up it over a score of times in the last four years I’d say. And it’s different everytime.

About Ropaire

Dia daoibh agus fáilte go dtí mo bhlag! My name's Fearghal and you can find my musings and ramblings split over and I hope you enjoy it.
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