We woke to a crisp morning and excitedly drove under a pink hued sky towards the snowy mountains. Our plan was to hike up Carrauntoohill, Ireland’s highest mountain at 1039m, via the Brother O’sheas Gully and back down what’s known as the zig zags. We had originally wanted to hike the challenging Coomloughra Horseshoe however it involved a couple of knife edge ridge-lines which we didn’t feel comfortable doing in the snow and ice, so this route was our happy compromise.
We parked up at Cronin’s Yard and were surprised to see quite a few cars there already, but it was the weekend and a rare day of blue skies and clear summits. The trail led us through the valley which was like a natural amphitheatre with mountains encircling us. Carrauntoohill was too our right, looking rather impressive with a rocky point to it’s summit. The climb soon began and we got a great vantage across the lakes sitting at the base of the valley below the snow capped peaks. Our route had a couple of mild, scrambling sections and some stone steps that led up a series of hanging valleys. The final valley had Cummeenoughter lough in the centre, which is the highest lake in Ireland. The lake looked black with the huge, jagged cliffs reflected on the calm water, but as we walked further along the shores it became crystal clear and an aqua blue colour.
Now it was time to head up the gully itself, an extremely steep track up the mountainside and soon enough we were walking through snow. The lake looked incredible as we headed higher up the mountain and eventually we were standing on the saddle with a view across the other side. Below us was a royal blue lake shaped like a figure of 8 and above us was the summit of Carrauntoohill. This next section was pretty wild, the ground was quite snowy by this point and any vegetation or rock poking out the snow was covered in thick ice. Before we reached the summit we got a fabulous view of a narrow ridge leading to Caher mountain. Cloud was beginning to form and billow behind the summit which made the whole scene look even more dramatic.
The summit was quite busy with people, I guess about 20 in total which was a lot to us but when compared to a summit like Snowdon in Wales it was positively quiet. The view was pretty jaw dropping in all directions so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Whilst most people hike up and down the Devils Ladder route, we ventured further along so we could take the Zig Zag path down and I’m so glad we did as we got some of the best views on this section of the hike. We had snowy mountains surrounding us and hardly a soul around which made it feel even more special.
We almost had to pinch ourselves to remind us that we were still in Ireland, I think so many people picture Ireland as being just pastures, sheep and beaches, not a wild landscape with snowy peaks. We ended up hiking for about 8 hours and had the best day up on the mountains.