How Hiking Ireland’s Highest Mountain Can Spring Many Surprises

After a 7 hour Journey from Northern Ireland we had finally reached the southern tip of Ireland. The dark silhouette of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrantuohill, stood over us like an imposing giant as we pulled up to the campsite at 12.30am. Things started to go pear-shaped nearly straight away when to my horror the small two-man tent that Jonny had promised to bring looked more like a 200 person Wedding Marquee.
Jonny, from Belfast, assured me that he was an expert survivalist, turned on the headlights of the car, and began assembling the tent, but It quickly became apparent that he hadn’t a clue what he was at as the tent repeatedly collapsed like a drunk man after drinking a few bottles of whiskey.
Another camper beside us in a pristine perfectly formed tent stuck his smug head out to try and see what all of the commotion was about, smirked, and then zipped himself back up inside his cosy sanctuary.  Any chance of rendering us some assistance? Absolutely f@#king not! A few seconds later it began pouring rain. I resorted in a fit of despondency to swigging from a bottle of spirits that Jonny had stashed in his Car.  But Jonny’s persistence paid off as after about 2 hours of fumbling about he assembled a makeshift sanctuary that looked more like a ramshackle hut that had been hit full force by Hurricane Katrina.
We settled in and got ready for some well-earned sleep. Just as I was about to nod off a piercing cry struck the night air and jolted me wide awake,  Baaa, baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. The unmistakable sound of a sheep who began marauding around the campsite and bleating with sadistic venom every few seconds.
At one point I heard a crunching and rummaging sound close to my ear and I realized that the Sheep had developed a taste for the tent and had began dining on it. I clenched my fist in anger and hit the sheet a thump which caused the animal to briefly scamper away but a few minutes later it returned and began chawing and eating like his life depended on it.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse the sound of a Donkey penetrated the night the air, Heehawww heehaaaww. “Oh, for fucks sake!” I heard Jonny saying from the other side of the tent. Throughout the night the Donkey and the Sheep appeared to be working in union like some perverse sadistic animal orchestra intent on depriving us of any sleep.  By the time dawn broke we had gotten zero shut eye and we wearily got our stuff ready for the 3,406 foot trek to the summit of Carrauntoohill.
Another Hiker we had met at the bottom advised us to get to the top of the mountain by using the Devils Ladder and to come down via the Zig Zag route. So we wearily set off towards the summit by hiking up the  Devils Ladder and as we made our way up the steep and rocky mountain we began to see some spectacular views of the countryside and stunning views of nearby lakes that eased the pain of our tiredness.
After an arduous 4 hour hike, we reached the highest point in Ireland where a huge steel cross marked the cloudy summit. After a brief stay we began our descent, Jonny who look totally spent, said that he wanted to go down via the Zig Zag route- I peered over at this passage that was covered with cloud and announced to Jonny that “You can Zig Zag down whatever way you want but I’m going down the way that I came.” Jonny relented and decided to take the safe option of  the ‘better the devil you know.’ Halfway down the Devils Ladder my lips began salivating at the thoughts of eating some sausages. My stomach growled its approval as Jonny took out a small heating stove and frying pan. But my anticipation soon turned to dejection as no matter how much we tried the stove wouldn’t work. After about a half an hour of attempting to spark the stove into life Jonny got the sausages and fired them away with a look of abject disgust on his face.  No sooner had he did this then we heard the sound of a rescue Helicopter that began hovering over some stricken climbers who had gotten penned in by clouds on the edge of a cliff on the Zig Zag Route. At least we weren’t them- be grateful for small mercies!
The two of us, exhausted, staggered down the mountain like a pair of zombies emerging from a war-zone where one trauma was inflicted after another. We had conquered our Everest, Ireland’s highest Mountain, but had been beaten into submission by a Donkey, a Sheep, and a dodgy Stove.