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July 1, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Climbing Carrauntoohil peak to the top of Ireland

Climbing Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland, was one of those out-of-body experiences where you don’t realize what was accomplished until reaching the base. The mountain is part of Macgillycuddy’s reeks in Killarney National Park, and stands at 3,414 feet above sea level. While it’s not that high compared to worldwide mountains taking days to climb such as Kilimanjaro, the weather, terrain and incline make the hike much more difficult than I had anticipated — which I loved.

Looking up at Carrauntoohil from Macgillycuddy Reeks, Killarney, Ireland

Looking up at Carrauntoohil from Macgillycuddy Reeks, Killarney, Ireland

Imagine climbing (and worse, descending), strategically jumping between rocks to try to avoid your feet (or body if you slip) sinking one to two feet deep into muddy bogs on the mountainside while also keeping your balance on the slippery surface. Walking through typical Irish rain and wind while rock jumping is takes it out of you, and at higher elevations it turns into walking through clouds full of intense wind that, when not pelting you in the face with hard rain, is nearly knocking you off your feet while climbing. Meanwhile, it’s freezing. And despite gloves (which get soaked after your first slip), your fingers can barely open a water bottle.

On top of Ireland, 3,414 feet above sea level, Carrauntoohil Peak, Killarney, Ireland

On top of Ireland, 3,414 feet above sea level, Carrauntoohil Peak, Killarney, Ireland

The best part of all of this? I loved it. None of the above is complaining about the climb, it’s more pride for and the excitement of the entire adventure and knowing I’ve overcome a physically and emotionally draining challenge. Sure, that may sound like masochism, but talk to any climber or adventurer, and I’m guessing you’ll find the same mindset. (My dad, who climbed Kilimanjaro, has it … so just like small feet, sensitive stomach and love of cereal, I know where I got my “if it’s a mountain, I’m climbing it” spirit of adventure).

The climb itself was six hours total, going up and down the route known as Bóthar na Gíge, or the “zig zag path”. This led us up the summit of Cnoc na Toinne before heading across the Reeks to make our final ascent up to Carrauntoohil’s peak. While clouds ensured I didn’t get to view all of Ireland from the peak (here’s a talented photographer who has, though), I did get to see something equally as important. While climbing the last few steps to the top, the only two things I could make out through the fog were the landmark cross on the highest point of Ireland, and a Boston Red Sox hat on an Irish climber. Red Sox nation at it’s finest.

Macgillycuddy Reeks, Killarney, Ireland

Macgillycuddy Reeks, Killarney, Ireland

Sure, it would have been nice to see the country from its highest point, but climbing Ireland’s highest mountain without rain or cloud just wouldn’t feel right. But don’t worry, God knew I needed to get my full fill of pictures from the mountains, so He gave me a combined hours work to do my magic (which I thanked him for at St. Mary’s Cathedral mass that evening). Here’s a little bit of that magic, that can only come from climbing the tallest mountain in arguably the world’s most beautiful country: Ireland.


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