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Howling Ridge - Corrán Tuatháil

Date: June 2011
Submitted by: Columba McLaughlin

I got a mobile phone call from the younger brother - Noel. ‘ I got a new rope’ says he. ‘About time’ says I. ‘What size did ye get’ says I. It must be Freudian but it seems that in climbing and mountaineering that size does matter. Anyway, Noel replied that he had got a 10.5ml rope. ‘Brilliant’ says I. ‘We must give it an outing in Dalkey some day’ says I. ‘Naw – I got it especially for ‘Howling Ridge’ on Corrán Tuatháil’ says Noel. ‘What says I – ye splashed out on a 60m rope????’ ‘Naw’ says Noel –‘it’s a 30m rope’.  ‘Yer mad’ says I. Nonetheless, we last climbed Howling in 2009 and he had planted the seed for another visit. J

  I soon found myself on the Rocky Road to Dublin on an Irish Friday evening in June 2011 with hailstones beating off the windscreen of my car. A curry in Noel’s house and we were on the road to Killarney. It was hailstoning part of the way and apparently there was a light snow covering on Corrán Tuatháil that morning. The forecast for the Saturday was Rain, Showers, More Rain and heavy showers. Nothing unusual about that – typical Gaelic summer weather predicted. In the morning, we awoke to a bright cloudless sky. After a big breakfast it was off to the ‘Leislebane’ carpark and the trudge up the ‘Hag’s Glen’ to the Heavenly Gates. The sun was shining and we found ourselves 3rd in the queue to climb the ridge. Also, there were 2 other parties coming behind us. So no time to waste. It took us just over 2 hours from the Heavenly Gates to the Narrow Árete where Howling Ridge abuts onto the Eastern face of Corrán Tuatháil. On two occasions we caught up with the climbers ahead of us and had to wait while they moved on ahead. We pitched all sections and divided pitches because of the 30m rope. We were well protected throughout and while gear placements were sparse, I used a wide selection of Medium to big Nuts, Friends from 0.5 to 3.0, Hexs – Medium to Large. I had 8 slings and used them all. I used walking boots throughout and Noel chose climbing rock shoes (but used Wellie Boots for the final scramble).

 Pitch 1: Is lengthy and we divided this into 2. It was great scrambling, Blocky, Slabby, Crap protection but 2 good belay stances.

Pitch 2: Is also lengthy and we divided this into 2. A shortage of protective gear placements but what is available is good. Mostly scrambling with at least one section of Very Difficult climbing.

  After Pitch 2 the ridge is well defined and narrow in places. The pitches are made up of towers and depending on the length of your rope – each pitch can be as long as you want it to be. We took it leisurely and pitched where necessary and enjoyed the views.  At times the exposure is extreme.

Pitch 3: The steepness and exposure really begins here and drop offs into ‘Collins Gully’ suddenly become a reality. The drop into the gully between Howling and Primroses Ridge is equally very apparent.

Pitch 4: This is a crux pitch with a poorly protected Severe move at the beginning. It is very necky and a pair of 'Liathroídi ás stíl' is required. Before we reached this pitch a light shower of rain came on and wetted the rocks. It is poorly protected and I almost came off a few metres up but made a good recovery and managed to regain my composure. I was very conscious of my backside overhanging a long drop into Collins Gully. This ridge is not the place for a panic attack.

Pitch 5: Also has a difficult start but superb belay position.

Pitch 6: This is a fantastic pitch and culminates with arrival at ‘An Droíchead’ – the bridge between Howling Ridge and Primroses Ridge. This is a superb stance with stunning vistas all around. The walk across ‘An Droíchead’ to the penultimate towers of ‘Primroses Ridge’ is spectacular.

Pitch 7: A short tower easily climbed and well protected.

Pitch 8: A narrow arête past a large Gendarme with the top of Collin’s Gully yawning at my feet. There is then a short final climb to gain the summit ridge.

  Howling Ridge is a brilliant mixture of rock climbing and high grade scrambling on the Eastern face of Corrán Tuatháil in Co. Kerry. It is not for the faint hearted and it is worth noting that recently it has been graded to Severe as a summer climb and a Winter Grade 4. The rationale for this is in Con Moriarty’s response to the UKC publication regarding an article they published in 2009 about Howling Ridge. In my opinion, Howling Ridge on Corrán Tuatháil is never to be underestimated and is steeper and much more difficult than Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. Walkers please note, this is neither a walking nor a scrambling route. But for competent rock climbers it is a sheer delight.

 We found that the 30m rope was OK, reduced weight and saved us carrying loads of coils. But a 35m rope would be better especially for the 1st and 2nd long pitches. I also had a 30m X 8mm rope in my bag as a 'Just in Casey'. Finally, in contrast to all weather predictions, we had a great day. It rained only once and the sun shone for the rest of the day. It is not too often that the boys from the Republic of Donegal have a classic day in the Kingdom of Kerry on the highest mountain in Ireland  J

Youtube video:

21 Jun 2011
Anthony Feeney

Good going Columba, sounds like a fantastic route. It was a close toss up between this and Arran for our recent trip but it'll always be there. Maybe later this summer.

08 Jul 2011

You and PJ will enjoy this route. Not too strenuous for you 2 but a route that is full of interest - enjoy :)

Photo of Route