Killarney Challenge

Detailed Itinerary

Sign in and final registration will be at Cronin’s Yard Saturday Morning.

After registering in Cronin’s Yard buses will begin transporting participants to the start of the trek in the  Gap of Dunloe.

Stats :
Total distance travelled: 25 kilometres. Total height gain: 2450 metres.

View the Main Route map here >>

After disembarking from the bus head East down the small Boreen (GR 881 891) – Lat 52°02.646N/Long 9°37.838W through the gate at its end and follow the signage sending you left through the gorse thicket before emerging on a worn trail which leads to a rising line of wire fence. Follow this on its right side now leading you onto open hillside beyond. Now head South, climbing through long grass, ferns and heather with your objective being the 568mtrs spot height.

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 SE for the col at the base of Tomies and after a steep ascent of approx 200mtrs through braken and heather and over loose scree arrive finally at the ancient cairned summit of Tomies  735mtrs – (GR 895 867) – Lat 52°01.349N / 9°36.620W

Now head South once again ticking off the spot height 695mtrs (GR 893 863) – Lat 52°01.127N / Long 9°36.720W while heading for the spot height 757mtrs (GR 894 858) –  Lat 52°00.857N / Long 9°36.662W on a well defined trail but taking great care not to stray onto the steep ground on your left & right.

Proceed along the ridge from cairn to cairn in a SW direction to arrive at the  summit of Purple Mountain  832mtrs – (GR 886 852) – Lat 52°00.510N / Long 9°37.318W

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.

NOTE : Extreme care is needed as you navigate South from the 832 spot height being sure not to venture right too early in error which as a result will put you onto extremely steep ground as-well as also being sure not to miss the right hand turn leading you to the beautiful high mountain lake of Glas Lough (GR 878 845) – Lat 52°00.127N / Long 9°37.987W

The path finally becomes 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 cut-off/check point at the Head of the Gap. (GR 871 837)  – Lat 51°59,680N / Long 9°38,595W    (Cut off time – 10:00)

The Gap of Dunloe is about 11 km long from North to South. Within it are five lakes: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough (North to South). 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 464mtrs – (GR 864 838) – Lat 51°59.763N / Long 9°39.202W  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 (hill of the bulls) 655mtrs – (GR 862 850) – Lat 52°00.359N / Long 9°39.431W

From Cnoc na Tarbh your next goal is now located to the North West and is the summit of Cnoc an Bhráca 731mtrs – (GR  858 854) – Lat 52°00.586N / Long 9°39.809W   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 leads to the West and North East. Be sure to check in at this check point.

Arguably one of the very finest treks in the whole of Ireland, the remaining route ticks off a total of NINE of the very highest mountains in the country, all over 3000ft with a total height gain of 1635mtrs. This walk truly provides you with what The MacGillycuddys Reeks has to offer in terms of awe-inspiring breathtaking views, thrills and hugely exciting challenges.

Heading West from Cnoc an Bhráca the ground begins to get rockier and steeper as you make your way to the next cut-off point/check point on the impressive summit of Cruach Mhór  932m (GR 840 848) – Lat 52°00.236N / Long 9°41.324W via spot heights 721mtrs – (GR 855 853) – Lat 52°00.517N / Long 9°40.082W, dropping on the way briefly to the the col of Eisc an Bhráca – (GR 851 851) – Lat 52°00.384N / Long 9°40.407W  before climbing once again and taking in the spot height of Cruach Bheag – 781mtrs (GR 846 850) – Lat 52°00381N / Long 9°40.836W 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. (Cut off time for here is 12:30)

After checking in here, rest 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.

Now it’s time for the notorious “Big Gun- Cnoc na Péiste” Ridge which lies directly to the South of the grotto 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. On the more difficult sections look for the more defined path lower down on the right and left of the ridge as it meanders back and forth.

N.B – Ultimate High Peaks Challenge marshals will be manning this arete 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 peak of Foilnabreachaun  939mtrs – (GR 840 845) – Lat 52°00.060N / Long 9°41.335W – more commonly known as “The Big Gun”.

From here leave the ridge on the left dropping slightly to the South onto a band of rock which takes you to a short gully and then again leads you back up onto the ridge. Continue along the ridge which now feels more defined and indeed “knife-edged” and ascend the final section to the next check point on the summit of Ireland’s 4th highest mountain – Cnoc na Péiste 988mtrs – (GR 835 841) – Lat 51°59.876N / Long 9°41.743W. From here if the weather is favourable and the cloud doesn’t obscure the view you may be lucky enough 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 and the trail ahead is relatively flat as you progress onto the summit check point of Maolán Buí 973mtrs – (GR 831 838) – Lat 51°59.677N / Long 9°42.057W and then onto Cnoc an Chuillin 958mtrs – (GR 823 833) – Lat 51°59.408N / Long 9°42.812W before  dropping steeply and then climbing again to the grassy summit of Cnoc Toinne 845mtrs (GR 815 835) – Lat 51°59.500N / Long 9°43.568W

Continue West from here to the Western summit of Toinne at (GR 811 833).  Before commencing your descent down the narrow shoulder leading you towards the top of be Devils Ladder, be sure to check in at another cut-off/check point. Cut off time for here is 14:30

From Cnoc Toinne you now swing to the North West down a boggy shoulder to end at the eroded col at the top of the Devil’s Ladder. From here begin the tedious slog up the well trodden track to the summit of Ireland’s Highest, Corrán Tuathail 1039mtrs – (GR 803 844) – Lat 51°59.964N / Long 9°44.568W. Check point/cut-off point. Cut-off time is 16:00

Congratulations and well done, a truly fantastic achievement already!!!

After resting on the highest point in the land and posing for the obligatory photograph, a marshal will direct you on your way toward your next objective – Ireland’s 2nd highest Mountain – Binn Chaorach (BeenKeragh) 1010mtrs – (GR 801 852) – Lat 52°00.408N / Long 9°44.790W  and accessible from this side only by traversing yet another phenomenal arete, the iconic “Beenkeragh Ridge”.

The peak of Beenkeragh is situated to the North and the initial descent to the connecting ridge is very steep and so you will need to exercise great caution. After approx 70mtrs of steep 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. Looking to the West you can see the beautiful Loch 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!!!

 Killarneys Ultimate High Peaks Challenge marshals will be positioned along this ridge section.

Climb, scramble and inch your way along the jagged ridge until reaching the next check point on the small cairned summit of Beenkeragh (Binn Chaorach – meaning the peak of sheep). This airy peak  is the 2nd tallest mountain in the whole of Ireland and stands at a lofty 1010mtrs.

On the more difficult sections of the ridge look out for the path lower down from the crest. This well-worn narrow track switches back and forth from the left and right side of the ridge and is recommended in windy conditions. If the winds are light you have the choice of how difficult a scramble you may wish to pursue. 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. The rocky high point of this ridge section is known locally as “The Bones” and stands at an impressive elevation of 959mtrs high. The final ascent before reaching Binn Chaorachs rocky summit is a clamber up a large and extremely loose boulder field so once again great care required.

You will now begin the long descent North East to the finishing line at Cronin’s Yard via the summit of  Knockbrinnea 854mtrs (GR 807 858) Lat 52°00.727N / Long 9°44.235 , the last and final peak of the entire Ultimate High Peaks Challenge !!!

The route from Beenkeragh to Knockbrinnea is relatively steep, rocky to begin with and over a worn track of sorts then grassy with little or no path and through dense bracken and heather.

En route, in the col marked on the map as Glóras you may pick out a distinctive rock feature known as “Airplane Rock”. Descending from Knockbrinnea be very careful in bad visibility to avoid the ridge that drops off to the East. This leads to precipitous and extremely steep cliffs known as the Hag’s Teeth and needs to be avoided. Instead head North East, aiming for the parking area of Lisleibane before veering East and picking up the junction of the track. The right fork of this leads to the metal bridge over the river Gaddagh and then shortly on to the final check point at the finishing line in Cronin’s Yard.

Well done, you’ve made it..!!! 

Congratulations and a fantastic well done to you on completing the 2019 and fourth momentous – “Killarneys Ultimate High Peaks Challenge”…

Over this exciting and hugely impressive day of High Peaks Adventures you have trekked, scrambled and climbed over 25km, ascended a total of over 2450 metres, ticked off many of the very highest peaks in the entire country, journeyed through wild rugged scenery and burnt an untold amount of calories!!!

Now after a welcome refreshing shower in Cronin’s you can finally relax awhile and enjoy a tasty barbeque, drinks, traditional Irish musical entertainment and the all important post event medal presentation. You can be extremely proud of your fantastic achievement and hugely memorable participation in Killarney’s Ultimate High Peaks Challenge!!!


Contact information

Killarney’s Ultimate High Peaks Challenge,
Beaufort, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Phone: +353 (0)87 744 0523

register for killarneys ultimate high peaks challenge
Route maps
2014-12-10 07.42.38
View in the foreground of the popular trail - Bóthar na Gíge known more commonly as the Zig-Zags

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