The Adventurer's Guide: 'It's not my mountain, but I feel like it is…' – Piaras Kelly

With Rough Guides recently lauding the Reeks District as one of the world’s best places to explore in 2019, there’s a real buzz around the region the travel bible described as simply “spectacular”. Piaras Kelly (pictured) runs Kerry Climbing (kerryclimbing.ie) with his wife, Catherine, and takes people walking, climbing and scrambling up the mountains. Here he talks about his favourite places in The Reeks and beyond…

“I love Carrauntoohil. Obviously there are lots of different routes up to the top – my personal favourite is a rock climb called Howling Ridge. That goes up the north face, and it’s doable for everybody with even a half decent level of fitness, even if you’re never climbed before. We do get people who are a bit nervous, but part of my job is helping people get over their fears.

“We often get people who have come down to do Carrauntoohil for the first time, and one of the more straightforward routes is probably the Devil’s Ladder. Once they’ve done that a few times, they often come back to do Howling Ridge with ropes, helmets and the full kit.

“The Brother O’Shea’s Gully route requires the same level of fitness and time, but the only difference is it has more sections where you need to use your hands. It’s not rock climbing, but you definitely couldn’t do it with your hands in your pockets. A rough guide for any ascent is between six and seven hours, up and down.

“You could have a view of your feet all day if the cloud is down, but on a half-decent day all the routes have stunning views. I know it like the back of my hand, I’ve climbed it thousands of times – there are routes that I’ve pioneered, and it’s literally on my doorstep – I live at the foot of Carrauntoohil. It’s not my mountain, but I feel like it is.

“Kayaking is my other passion. I live pretty close to the lakes of Killarney, so when I’m not on the vertical I can get onto the horizontal fairly easy. I’ll paddle down the river, finishing in Killorgan, and many other stops along the way. There’s a lot of history there, on the lakes, and Inishfallen Island. We’re just blessed. We have the mountains and the sea, the rivers and the lakes.

“For kayaking, I would probably recommend Irish Adventures (irishadventures.net) which run trips in Dingle. They’ll take you out to see Fungie, and they also do sunrise trips out in the harbour, which are pretty special. I’d also highly recommend the Cappanalea Outdoor Education Centre (cappanalea.ie) in the Reeks – they do stand-up paddle boarding, white-water kayaking, bush crafts and stuff for kids too.

“A tour of Muckross Lake would probably be my favourite cycling trip – you can cycle the whole way around, and there’s a lovely little hunting lodge-turned-coffee shop called Dinis (facebook.com/diniscottage), so you can break up the cycle with a coffee and a nice bit of cake.

“There’s also a beautiful area called Glencar, just on the other side of the McGillycuddy Reeks. Everybody’s very familiar with the side of Carrauntoohil near the Gap of Dunloe, but not many people know that if you continue on for another couple of miles, you’re really in the heart of the Reeks district. If I was to tell someone how to get off the beaten track, I’d tell them to go to Glencar.”

In conversation with Nicola Brady

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