In May 1997, the Friday after the local elections, John and I boarded a plane at Manchester and flew to Cork, Ireland. We hired a car and drove to the Climber's Inn,
Glencar. Our first encounter of Anne & Johnny Walsh, the proprietors, made us realize we had picked the right place. Johnny was a real character and his family was well rooted into mountaineering. Johnny's father, also called John but Jack to his friends, had done some climbing in the Pyrenees
and his memorabilia was proudly displayed throughout the pub. Johnny seemed to be controlling everything but still found time to tell jokes to his customers. The Climber's Inn is exactly what its name suggests and much more! It is also a post office, petrol station, and general store to name but a few. You can hire bicycles, play golf or go on organized walks. Just about everything. It also was not far from the start point of our climb. The first night we had a meal and then studied the maps for tomorrows climb. Johnny came over and asked us what we were intending to do. He showed us a circular route he called the 'horseshoe', which took in two other lower peaks. We decided to take Johnny's advice. He also advised us not to start too early as the cloud will be low in the morning and will clear later.
We started the climb just after ten o'clock. Possibly too early. There is a major difference in climbing in Ireland compared to the UK. In the UK on any weekend there are possibly two million people doing it. In Ireland on the busiest bank holiday weekend of the year there are only about ten thousand. Consequently, there are no well-trodden paths so you need orienteering skills. We made good progress on the way up resting once at the first of the lower peaks. In less than two hours we had reached the summit of Carrantuohill. A very large iron cross marks the summit. It was time for lunch. Unfortunately, Johnny Walsh was right. The clouds were down and we did not have a view but we did see many fine examples of mini rainbows formed close to the rocks. There is a meteorological term for this condition but it just escapes me. They are formed by the sun's rays shining through the water particles in the atmosphere, reflecting off the rock and back through the same droplets. The result is a near full circle of rainbow, quite spectacular.
After lunch and full of confidence we started back down. The mountain was very steep, loose and wet. We really had no choice about the speed of our descent. After descending about 1000 feet, in no time at all, the cloud began to lift. We could see quite clearly two Loughs down below. John checked the map and quickly realised that we were on the wrong side of the mountain. We had not taken a compass reading at the summit.
We had two options either to carry on down the same route but we would have been about forty miles from our car or to climb back up. We chose the latter. We started immediately but the steep and slippery scree made it near impossible. We skirted around to the east. We could see clearly a huge valley down below called Hag's Glen. We decided it was best to go down into the valley as it had a well-trodden path. The descent to Hag's Glen was horrendous. We used a natural watercourse for most the way. Being shorter than John, I came down most of it on my bottom. Once we reached Hag's Glen we studied the map again. The path ran the full length of the massive valley. To the south was 'Devil's Ladder' but that took us away from our car again. To the north was a winding path back up to a ridge that was close to the summit. We headed north. Climbing the ridge was strenuous. We met a climber half way on his way down. He assured us we were on the right track. At a really steep section my mobile phone rang. It was Sylvan back in the UK. Our conversation was brief. We finally reached the ridge and decide that the best thing to do was to find the path that we should have been on from the summit. That was easier said then done. We could see a small Lough recognized it as one we had passed on our ascent. We simply made a 'bee line' for it. Once down we could see the way clearly. We got back to the car tired, wet but relieved. The entire climb took nine hours.