Mount Brandon and the Pilgrim’s Path

Having planned a week in Kerry in February, the question of what would I do for my marathon training was a key one. We’re lucky to be able to use my Auntie’s house which behind it has Mount Brandon, the tallest mountain in Ireland outside Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the ninth highest peak on the island.

The weather for the Sunday looked good, and so we decided it was time to try and climb Mount Brandon for the first time. I’d downloaded and printed various information before going, and off we set. A short drive up the lane took us to the small car park and we set off.

A lack of knowledge on our part meant we didn’t know a “grotto” is the name for a religious area with the Virgin Mary at the start of the path. There was some construction work going on at the grotto which was just visible up the hill, but we carried on at valley level and went straight on following the obvious path. After a short while the path petered out and we weren’t sure where to go. Without knowing we’d missed the path (on the way down we found there was a sign but you needed to be looking off to the right to see it, it wasn’t on route or that clear), and knowing it did go along the top of the ridge, we decided to start climbing straight up the Faha Ridge.

Part way up, we saw other walkers a fair distance to our right, but on we struggled as we’d climbed significantly by then. It was steep and hands and knees climbing in places, and with hindsight if we’d known that was the path we would have retraced our steps much earlier and taken it. We eventually made it to the top of the ridge, and started taking the “normal” path which was considerably easier!

Having climbed about 500 feet “straight up” for want of a better phrase, and having tweaked an existing groin strain from training, it wasn’t much fun. We made the decision about 75% of the way up to call it a day, which I think was sensible and probably the right (but if not frustrating) decision in the circumstances.

We completed 5.88km in the end and whilst we didn’t see all the glacier lakes and the summit, it was still a reasonable effort with beautiful views. We also discovered an engine from a Luftwaffe Focke Wulf 200 ”Condor” which had crashed on the ridge on 20 August 1940 with all the crew surviving (read more here.)

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