Coomloughra Horseshoe Walk over Ireland’s Tallest Mountains
This is one of the most famous mountain hikes in County Kerry. It takes in the three tallest mountains on the island. I had been wanting to walk it for ages. I have climbed Carrauntoohil several times but never had I completed the full horseshoe.
When my friend Peter asked would I be interested in climbing Carrauntoohil with him my answer was “sure, no problem, but can we do the horseshoe?”. The forecast for today was okay and thus we set off.
We started from the Hydro Road car park where signs tell visitors dogs aren’t welcome and may be shot on the private farmland surrounding the Reeks. Of course we adhered and left Apache in the car. Hence any appearances of Apache on photographs today are my brilliant Photoshop-skills at work.
The walk start off with a steep track going up to Coomloughra Lough and thereafter up the slopes of Caher. Caher’s west top stands at 975 meter tall and was our first summit of the day. From there, Caher mountain, at 1001 meter tall, is an easy walk along a ridge and it took us little time to get there. Carrauntoohil and its cross at the summit are now proper visible as is the ridge that separates Caher and Carrauntoohil.
In the snowy conditions that today presented us the ridge took some attention as in places it goes downhill quite steeply. And on the other side of the ridge, all that altitude lost has to be regained on the upper slopes of Carrauntoohil (1039 meters). But after that, we had made it at last! The actual highest point in Ireland . However, after the obligatory pictures of the cross, we had to keep going and Beenkeragh (1010 meter) was the next task at hand. Over its scary ridge.
Two years ago I hiked up Carrauntoohil from Beenkeragh and thus it wasn’t my first time on Beenkeragh Ridge. At the time the conditions were similar (if not worse) and the Ridge was, well… plain frightening. Difficult uneven terrain, steep drops on both sides, the rocky mini-summit halfway called The Bones, and snow and ice made it interesting, to say the least. And again today I was rather intimidated by the terrain. I remembered how finding a route slightly below the ridge’s top made it easier and thankfully we were able to navigate the ridge without error. Typically, whilst the day had been mostly clear, visibility on our time on the ridge so it was great to have my Garmin GPS handy.
The weather quickly changed whilst we were hiking up the steep slopes of Beenkeragh and as the sun came back and the cloud lifted, the view was worthy of our endeavors. The way down from here looked a lot easier, too. Down towards Skregmore and from there on down towards Lough Eigher and Lough Coomloughra. From there it took us another 40 minutes to get back to the Hydro road car park. What an adventure!