Killarney’s Ultimate High Peaks Challenge is an exhilarating and unique one day event in which participants will self-navigate their way along a pre-planned route across the highest mountain range in Ireland – The majestic MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. During this memorable day, participants will trek over 25km of wild and rugged mountain terrain ticking off many of Ireland’s highest summits with a total height gain of almost 2,500 metres.
This is not a race but a challenge event where participants will test their personal navigational skills, fitness, determination and stamina… Have you got what it takes?!?!?!
Registration for the 2017 event is now open and numbers are strictly limited for this event, book early to avoid disappointment!
Total distance: 25 kilometres. Total height gain: 2,450 metres.
High Peaks Challenge Outline
After final registration at Cronin’s Yard on Saturday Morning you will be transported by bus to the beginning of the event at the mouth of the stunning Gap of Dunloe.
From here you will follow a boreen to the East which leads into open hillside and the wide slopes of Tomies mountain. Head South, climbing through long grass, ferns and heather to the summit of Tomies.
The ground begins to get steeper as you climb and soon levels out to reveal, weather depending of course, your first view of Tomies and Purple Mountain. Head South East and after an initial steep ascent of approximately 200 metres through bracken and heather and over loose scree arrive finally at the ancient cairned summit of Tomies.
Now head South once again on a well-defined trail.
Proceed along the ridge from cairn to cairn in a SW direction to arrive at the summit of Purple Mountain.
Rest here a while and appreciate the stunning views down into the Black Valley and West to your next objective, the magnificent MacGillycuddy’s Reeks beyond.
From here you now begin to descend south-south- west through loose rock and boulders and down the rough spur towards the beautiful high mountain lake called Glas Lough. The path becomes more and more obvious as you descend and now winds in a more westerly direction leading you to Glas Loch. Continue around the right hand shore to where the stream leaves from the loch, beside the remains of an old stone wall and fence. A little further along you will pick up the more defined path that will gradually lead you westward down to the road and the Head of the Gap.
The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is about 11 km from North to South. Within it are five lakes: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough. These lakes are connected by the River Loe. Between the first two lakes is an old arch bridge called the ‘Wishing Bridge’ so named because it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true!
From the Head of the Gap, and without losing elevation, turn to the West and climb up over a series of rocky ledges and benches to the summit of Drishana. There is no defined path so take great care not to stray too far to the right (East) as it is quite steep on this side! There are many false tops and in poor visibility it may be difficult to pin point the exact summit but do not be concerned by this as your ultimate goal is in fact the boulder strewn summit of Cnoc na Tarbh.
Start of The Reeks Ridge
From Cnoc na Tarbh your next goal is the summit of Cnoc an Bhráca. This peak is capped with an impressive and well constructed two-metre high stone cairn and is the beginning of the Reeks walk proper and so has a well worn path to the West and North East.
Heading West from Cnoc an Bhráca the ground begins to get rockier and steeper as you make your way to the impressive summit of Cruach Mhór dropping on the way briefly before climbing once again and taking Cruach Bheag and finally reaching the summit grotto on Cruach Mhór which was built over the course of two years by local man, Tommy Sullivan as an act of worship. Rest here awhile and revel in the magnificent mountain vista with truly majestic views of Lochs Callee, Gouragh and Carrauntoohil to the West with your remaining route stretched out far ahead.
The Big Gun & Cnoc na Péiste
Now it’s time for the notorious “Big Gun- Cnoc na Péiste” Ridge which lies directly to the South and is a series of large boulders that form chimneys, slabs and peaks. This sensational airy traverse, one of the best of its type in the entire country, is an extremely steep and narrow arête which contains an elusive path but still requires plenty of scrambling sections and a comfortable head for heights.
N.B. – Ultimate High Peaks Challenge marshals will be manning this arête section and although they will be offering you any help or assistance all participants are still required to be competent and comfortable on this steep precarious scrambling terrain.
Half way along this ridge is the jagged peak of Foilnabreachaun, more commonly known as “The Big Gun”. Continue along the ridge which now feels more defined and indeed “knife-edged” and ascend the final section to the summit of Ireland’s 4th highest mountain – Cnoc na Péiste. From here if the sun is favourable and the cloud doesn’t obscure the view you might be lucky to see in the corrie lake far below the wing of the USAF plane that crashed on these slopes early on a December morn in 1943.
From Cnoc na Péiste the ridge widens as you progress onto the summit of Maolán Buí, to Cnoc an Chuillin and then dropping before climbing once again to the grassy summit of Cnoc Toinne.
From Cnoc Toinne you now swing down a boggy shoulder to end at the eroded col at the top of the heavily eroded Devil’s Ladder. From here begin the tedious slog up the well trodden track to the summit of Ireland’s Highest, Corrán Tuathail.
Congratulations and well done, a momentous achievement already!!!
Here a marshal will direct you on your way toward your next objective – Ireland’s 2nd highest Mountain – Binn Chaorach (BeenKeragh) and accessible from this side only by traversing yet another phenomenal ridge, the iconic Beenkeragh Ridge.
The peak of Beenkeragh lies to the North and the initial descent to the connecting ridge is steep . After approximately 70mtrs of descent and traverse the ridge levels off for a short section at an obvious worn notch being the exit of Brother O’Sheas gully. This spot provides sensational views far North to Dingle bay and East to the lofty peak of Caher, the countries 3rd highest mountain. Looking to the West you can see the beautiful Lough Leane and looking down the steep gully on your right to the stunning high mountain Lake of Coimín Uachtarach nestled far below. Another wonderful view is out across the beautiful Hags Glen to our earlier peaks of the day of the Eastern Reeks.
How far you have come- WELL DONE!!!
Climb, scramble and inch your way along the jagged ridge until reaching the cairned summit of Beenkeragh (Binn Chaorach – meaning the peak of sheep). This rocky peak is the 2nd highest mountain in the whole of Ireland and stands at a lofty 1010mtrs.
If the winds are light you have the choice of how difficult a scramble you may wish to pursue along the ridge. The more adventurous of you will want to follow the ridge crest all the way, whilst the walkers may want to avoid the excitement of the exposed areas.
Finally you will now begin the long descent North East via Knockbrinnea, the last and final peak of the entire Ultimate High Peaks Challenge!!!
En route, in the col marked on the map as Glóras you may pick out a distinctive rock feature known as “Airplane Rock”. Head North East, aiming for the parking area of Lisleibane before veering East and picking up the junction of the track leading to the metal bridge over the river Gaddagh and then to the finishing line at Cronin’s Yard.
In summary over this exciting and hugely impressive day of High Peaks Adventures you have trekked, scrambled and climbed the highest mountains in Ireland. Altogether you have treked over 25km, ascended a total of over 2450 metres, ticked off the majority of the very highest peaks in the entire country, journeyed through spectacular wild mountain scenery and burnt an untold amount of calories along the way!!!
Now after a welcome refreshing shower in Cronin’s you can kick back and finally relax and enjoy a tasty barbeque, refreshments, traditional musical entertainment and the all important post event medal presentation. In short you can be extremely proud of your fantastic achievement and hugely memorable participation in Killarneys Ultimate High Peaks Challenge!