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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-05-16 06:44:11

Carrauntoohill

Carrauntoohill

Guiding hand: Adventurer and explorer Pat
Falvey has climbed the world’s highest peaks

THE JOURNEY TO THE TOP BEGINS
might not be up to the weather
CTLOITMHBEINTGOP I arrived down to Kate Kearney’s conditions of the climb. What he The best feeling in the
cottage at about eight o’clock on really said was: “I bet you bought world – kissing the big
CARRAUNTOOHILL a Monday evening, excited and the poshest stuff in Ireland girl, grey cross on the top
terrified in equal measure. I met all colour matching and the like of Carrauntoohil
Sometimes journeys take you to places you have never been before. Climbing Ireland’s up with Pat and a friend of his, and nothing practical in any of it.”
Joe O’Leary from Cork – a regular Anyway, after a thorough inspection, One step at a time:
highest mountain was a journey of the mind and the first step in Norah Casey’s ambition mountain guide and, as I was to everything (apart from the climbing Myself with Moira and
discover, a fount of knowledge and Rachel Stilbern and
to reach the top of the world’s highest freestanding mountain. a brilliant storyteller. A mother and “Many have lost guide Joe O’Leary
daughter were also accompanying their lives in these
Climbing mountains is probably city below rather than the business at hand. nothing compared to the almost paralysing us, Moira and Rachel Stilbern – both mountains with Facing fear: I
not something you should do if And I can’t for the life of me understand primeval fear of clinging to the side of a had done climbs before, but hadn’t regular alerts never imagined in
you haven’t a “head for heights. the architectorial masochism of building mountain with nothing but your white done Carrauntoohil. Pat’s Mountain and rescues” the world that I
So I am dumbfounded at my elevators on the outside of a building, Lodge is a 10 minute drive away would be able to
newly developed fixation on where you are catapulted in a precarious “When I kissed that and I lost an hour or so wandering boots) passed the Falvey test. The climb at this height
climbing them and, more specifically, why pod up a wall with full visibility of the drop big grey steel cross, around the rooms looking at his boots were okay for a light hike, he (expecially with
I feel the need to get to the top of one of should the mechanics fail. Heights scare the it was the most amazing collection of photographs said, as he bent them almost in two, manicured nails!)
the highest peaks in the world, Mount bejesus out of me. exhilarating feeling and memorabilia. You get used to “but do you see that… that’s your
Kilimanjaro. But I learned something about in the world” Pat telling you startling things as ankles bending all over the place
myself in the past few weeks and I can So of all the things I should challenge though they’re everyday occurrences. when you’re climbing over rocks”.
promise you, if I can climb a mountain, so myself to do, I don’t know why I chose manicured nails digging into tight ledges Expeditions to the North and South I learned that the hard way a few
can you. mountains. Maybe the bit of me that is to keep you from falling. But I reached the Pole, various climbs, Everest every hours later! He brought me off to
addicted to achieving in business transferred top and when I kissed that big grey steel which way, tribes he spent time the store closet and showed me the
What close friends know about me seamlessly over to conquering a fear that I cross, it was the most exhilarating feeling in with, letters from presidents and sturdy pair of leather boots I should
is that my head is definitely not one for have scarcely acknowledged. the world. I had help from one of Ireland’s royalty… He’s lived some life, and have bought. We headed off with
heights. I don’t think I have full blown top adventurers and explorers in the form as I am writing this, he just texted to backpacks stuffed with waterproofs,
acrophobia, but I definitely have something In recent weeks, I scaled Ireland’s highest of Pat Falvey and I couldn’t have done it say he was within hours of reaching fleeces, sandwiches, peanuts, water,
more than the discomfort most people feel mountain, Carrauntoohil. Using the without him. the summit of Kilimanjaro with an walking poles and a lot of grim
in high places. I’ve learned lots of rituals term “scaled” might be a bit far-fetched 80-year-old man. You have to be determination on my part. It was
and tricks to stem the panic when flying. because there were parts of my ascent in the full of your health to spend overcast and a heavy mist shrouded
I have found myself at meetings in New that were more akin to regressive animal- time with Pat, and if you aren’t, you the peaks. A light rain was falling
York at unspeakably high levels where my like scrambling on all fours. That anxiety soon will be. He’s at warp speed as we drove into Cronin’s Yard
fixation is on the dizzying spectacle of the and mild panic I sometimes feel when the even when he’s not conquering where we parked the car. Joe and
plane starts to lift from the runway was mountains so being in his orbit is Pat chatted away about the weather
like getting caught in a spinning and the possibility of it clearing,
whirlwind. When you’re around they talked of similar days when the
Pat, you can imagine yourself doing sun had broken through and other
great things. So as I slid between the times that it hadn’t and visibility was
sheets that night wondering what on poor. The weather is all-important
earth possessed me to be thinking of when you’re out for a day on the
climbing Ireland’s highest mountain Reeks. There are many memorials
the following morning, I knew there on the route to remind you of how
was only person to blame. And it many have lost their lives in these
was him. mountains with regular alerts and

I woke to bellows from Mr Falvey
about eggs and coffee and the threat
that he was coming to inspect my
gear, which he strongly suspected

118 IRISH TATLER AUGUST 2015 AUGUST 2015 IRISH TATLER 119

A swim with a rescues. There was a consensus were almost immediately numbed view. We were at the top looking out “You can smell
view: A quick dip in however, from Pat and Joe, that it was by the frigid water because I got as over the magnificent peaks alongside us the success of
Ireland’s highest lake going to be one of those days when far as my knees before shrieking in and, stretching off into the distance, the getting to the top
the sun burned through and at just pain and fright and jumping straight panorama of the Black Valley, Molls Gap and, however
In 2011 a bridge over the right time – about two hours into back out. Moira and Rachel decided and the fields and lakes of Killarney bathed hard it is, you will
the Gaddagh River was the trek. They should have their own to join me and while I was wimping in brilliant sunlight. It was a spectacular do it because it’s
erected in memory of TV weather spot because they were about on the edge of the lake, Moira day with crystal clear views. Pat and Joe within reach”
Angela Kenny, a 27-year- absolutely right. glided gracefully in and put me told us that you could climb Carrauntoohil
old school teacher who completely to shame. She’s a tough 50 times and not get a day like it.
drowned there The one thing no one tells you Donegal woman and I was in awe
about climbing Carrauntoohil is that of her during the whole trek, but “I have never felt more
everything from a ridge to a saddle never more so than when she swam inconsequential - an
to a scramble has a name. It’s like around the ice cold, glacial-still, lake. infinitesimal speck
learning a new language, so you get Eventually I plucked up the courage on the summit of
used to hearing mention of Heavenly to hold hands with Rachel and we a mountain”
Gates; Devil’s Ladder, Hag’s Glen; took the plunge together. When we
The Final Stretch: Joe O’Leary Brother O’Shea’s Gully, and Howling were finally wrapped up again we Tired legs, aching arms, broken nails catching me when my feet slid downwards to Cronin’s Yard, the sun had moved to
points back towards the route Ridge. The name sometimes doesn’t had lunch, and for the first time and skinned knees were a testament to on the loose scree. After about 10 minutes, the other side of the mountain, casting
upwards with the glacial lakes below bear much relation to the severity I got to see my nemesis in all her the physical endeavour, but the euphoria every muscle in my body was sore and my deep shadows on the land, relieved by
or otherwise of that portion of the spectacularly beautiful, broody glory. of achievement is enhanced by the sheer knees and calves were screaming for a rest. dramatic light-filled valleys as we navigated
Gully Climb: A one hour scramble to climb, as I was to discover first hand A blue black glassy wonderment. I delight of having got there on my own two And we still had an hour to go. I was tense the rocky, boggy fields and trails. I was
the edge of the final ridge – with a view don’t think I have ever eaten with feet. I have never felt more inconsequential. and uncertain of my footing so the drops tired and happy to listen to Pat chatting
of Cummeenoughter Lake far below us The first hour or so of the journey such a spectacular view. An infinitesimal speck on the summit were jarring my joints and my hands were on about all his adventures. All that was
where we swam is a really nice hike with stunning of a mountain that was carved from blistering from grabbing the rough rock too going through my mind was how quickly I
views of the landscape and time On we went, and it was amazing the landscape over millions of years of tightly. Pat continued to guide me (hand- could climb again and would I be ready for
Talk to Joe: At the top of Carrauntoohil with to chat. Walking with Joe is an how quickly we climbed. Pat just glaciation. The old red sandstone rock that holding!) coaxing and nudging me to get Kilimanjaro later in the year.
guide Joe O’Leary - a font of knowledge education in itself, part stand-up kept urging me on, one step at a I had walked and crawled to get to the top into the rhythm of the descent, to trust the
about the Reeks and local folklore comic and part school teacher, there time. His mantra is: “Focus on your began life some 400 million years ago way footholds and use my body for balance. Carrauntoohil was my first and will
isn’t much he doesn’t know. I loved feet and your steps, look just far before the dawn of mankind. And here’s About half way down, I got it – the rhythm, remain a special journey for me. And
this part of the journey mainly enough ahead to see where your foot the thing: I was whopping with delight on that is. I was more confident about letting although it is the highest in Ireland, at
because I was still able to talk! this giant piece of rock feeling all of that go of one ledge while testing the next. I was 1,038 metres (3406 feet), it doesn’t come
“I thought only of smallness, knowing that tens of thousands using muscles that I didn’t even know I had, close to my dream goal of climbing the
I have to take a detour to tell you my feet, my hands of others had stood there before I was born to be honest, but it was far better than the 5,895 metres of Mount Kilimanjaro, the
that the night before (and admittedly and the surety of and many more would be there after I die. jerky awkwardness of the first part of the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
after a glass or two of red wine), the footholds as I And at the same time, I felt big, almost descent. But it felt like an eternity to navigate
Pat told me that himself and Joe pushed upwards” magnified as a human being because I had our way down over those jagged rocks, If you want to try it for yourself, then get
had taken a few hardy souls up to done something I never thought I could do. slippery wet stones and narrow ledges. in touch with Pat, and if you want to climb
swim in the highest lake in Ireland, will land, don’t look upwards any Kilimanjaro, you’re welcome to join us.
Cummeenoughter Lake, and that further, don’t look down.” And it was THEN THERE WAS We still had two hours or so of walking
we would be passing in on the way wise advice. Eventually my breathing THE GETTING over rough stones and streams, but the Pat Falvey Walking & Adventure
up to the top. So a little seed was steadied. I cleared my mind of all BACK DOWN... worse was over, and I can testify that going Centre, Gap of Dunloe, Beaufort,
planted in my head that it would the clutter and thought only of my down was far harder than going up. Killarney Co Kerry, Ireland +353
be quite something to swim in the feet, my hands, and the surety of “Okay it looks much worse than it is so don’t 646644181; www.patfalvey.com
highest lake and climb to the top the footholds as I pushed upwards. freak out, it’s just a bit frightening when When we reached the final stretch back
of Carrauntoohil on the same day. The sun had broken through as you see it first”. That was my introduction
I had no swimsuit but, undeterred, I promised but the heat added to the to the appropriately called Devil’s Ladder,
took a change of underwear and Pat exertion of the climb and I tried not which many go up and only a few go down.
brought along a towel. Moira and to think about the layers of clothes We were the latter. Surely getting to the top
Rachel wisely hedged their bets. that now weighed me down, sticking meant the worst was over? How wrong I
uncomfortably in all the wrong places. was. There was another route down called
SWIMMING An hour later, Mother Nature paid Heaven’s Gate – the name alone would
IN IRELAND’S back tenfold for making the effort. have led me to choose that over the Devil’s
HIGHEST LAKE The view was incredible. We stopped Ladder, especially when I saw what they
to catch our breaths and drink some wanted me to climb down (there was
We crossed the Gaddagh River and I water and pushed on for the final nothing “ladder-like” about it). This was a
had my first experience of scrambling stretch. You can smell the success of sheer drop of giant boulders that stretched
as the path wound steeply upwards. getting to the top at this stage and, downwards at an impossibly steep angle.
About an hour and a half later, we however hard it is, you will do it Pat, seeing the panic in my eyes, grabbed
reached O’Shea’s Gulley, home to because it’s within reach. hold of my hand and pulled me down the
Cummeenoughter Lake. Buoyed by first huge grey rock, finding impossible
my success so far, I urged the others Then, finally, the huge five- footholds, testing precarious rocks and
to join me as I quickly stripped and metre high steel cross came into
encouraged Pat to get the camera
ready for this once in a lifetime
moment. As I stepped into the water,
it took a moment or two to identify
the sensation. I think my toes and feet

120 IRISH TATLER AUGUST 2015 AUGUST 2015 IRISH TATLER 121


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