Green rolling hills, wild flowers, rain, and accents are the three major components I used to think of when I thought about Ireland.
Living here for the past four months has changed my perspective quite a bit! Yes, there are a lot of green rolling hills, wild flowers are now blooming due to the rain, and of course, there are the accents. Those wonderful accents. However, now when I think of Ireland I think of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been and most of all the mountains!
I never knew how many beautiful mountains were in Ireland and I never thought I’d be climbing them! I have done many hikes now (we head out each Sunday) and every single hike is different. The most recent and my most favorite hike so far happened while my best friend from home came to visit me. We hiked the highest peak in Ireland: Carrauntoohil mountain, which stands 3,406 feet high!
It was terrifying and exhilarating. When I was halfway up I never thought I would make it to the top. The usual Sunday hikes consist of some hefty hiking up steep inclines but mostly all grass lands. But not this hike, this hike was more of a rock climb. We hiked for 12 miles on rigid, uneven rocks that were held down by nothing. My knees were shaking, my heart was beating and the only thing keeping me going was looking back down the mountain seemed even scarier. Every time I looked back I felt as though I would fall off of the mountain; we couldn’t stop climbing because the incline was so steep we had no where to stand. If our foot slipped, there was no stopping us from rolling straight to the bottom! Talk about a rush!!
Once we reached the first of the two mountains we climbed that day, we sat on the top and enjoyed lunch in the clouds (literally). There was nothing but clouds to see, it seemed like with each bite of my sandwich I was also eating the clouds. I couldn’t believe how high up we were! Little did I know we were nowhere near the end.
After lunch we began our trek to the highest peak and we walked along the edge of a cliff to lead us up. Looking down made me queasy so I just kept looking forward and laughing and joking with my friends. I have never laughed so hard on a hike before! Having my friend from home visit me and be able to be there for that hike made me so happy. She got along so well with all of my hiking buddies and became friends with them as we went through this seemingly traumatic yet amazing experience. (I know that sounds dramatic but we were terrified).
Needless to say, we did make it to the top of the mountain where a cross stood next to a rock fort. The view again consisted of clouds mostly but we did get some glimpses of how far we had came and the view was breathtaking. As we started to make our way down the other side of the mountain, we realized it’s much easier to climb up uneven rocks than it is to go down. We had to walk leaning back to keep our balance and watch the ground the whole time. At one point (a very long point) we had to climb straight down gaps of rocks in between parts of the mountain to get back to the trail. It seemed as though it would never end.
As we got closer to the bottom, there was a shelter in case an avalanche began and we had nowhere to go. It would have been more comforting except for the fact that there was about 50 of us and the shelter could maybe hold 6. By the time we made it back to salvation, it was 9 at night and we had been hiking since 10:30 that morning. It was a long day but the view and the laughs were worth it. We all felt so accomplished once it was over and now I can proudly say that I’ve hiked the tallest mountain in Ireland!