People are ‘putting safety at risk’ by scaling scenic peaks just for the likes of Instagram
THERE HAS BEEN an increase in the number of inexperienced climbers trying to climb mountains in order to talk about it on social media sites like Instagram, according to a seasoned climber.
Gerry Christie of Kerry Mountain Rescue has been climbing in Kerry for 35 years. He said The newspaper that while people used to join a climbing club as a hobby, they now prefer to climb alone for a day, which can often lead them to put their safety at risk.
“I think mountaineering, to some degree, is now largely the daytime equivalent of a one-night stand. I don’t think it’s good or bad, it’s just how it happened,” he said.
“There is no preparation for, say, climbing Carrauntoohil or climbing Croagh Patrick, which appear to be the two iconic peaks in Ireland that need to be climbed. You have a try.
Christie said climbers are often inexperienced and lack the navigational skills to scale Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain at a height of 1,039m.
“They probably don’t even have climbing shoes, they walk in running shoes or tennis shoes or whatever. And most of them get to the top, most of them get their picture, most of them get their social media buzz, and that’s kind of everything in their mountaineering career,” did he declare.
People attempting to climb the mountain often take the route known as the Devil’s Ladder, an arduous 12 km walking route that takes between four and six hours. It features rugged terrain, few shelters and often unpredictable weather conditions.
Christie said the route is quite narrow “where traffic can’t come in both directions at the same time”.
File photo of hikers starting to climb the Devil’s Ladder to reach Carrauntoohil.
Source: Alamy Image Bank
“The penultimate Saturday I was guiding on Carrauntoohil, and there was a traffic jam at the top of the Devil’s Ladder around noon,” he said.
“The statistic that sticks in my mind was that for the first 16 days of August last year, Kerry Mountain Rescue had 16 calls. Now that’s an exception. Normally our call rate hovers around 60-70 calls per year That suggests about six a month on average, or about a week and a half.
“I think we had 68 in total last year but 16 of them were in the first 16 days of August so a lot of that would suggest a holiday period. Committed climbers, hikers, whatever you call them, they will climb winter or summer.
Christie said that in addition to losing the road, the problem is often underestimating the stamina needed to climb the mountain.
The whole journey from Cronin’s Yard, the traditional starting point for ascents of the mountain, to Devil’s Ladder and back is approximately 9 miles, including the “one mile” ascent to the vertical, in the sky”.
People get tired, and then when they get tired, they start cramping, then they start falling behind, and they’re under pressure. Then maybe a moment of inattention, they step on the edge of a rock they haven’t really seen and they twist their ankle, and now they need help.
“An accident doesn’t tend to be a big thing that happens unexpectedly. It’s a gradual progression of a lot of different things,” he said.
He said inexperienced climbers don’t tend to have major accidents like experienced climbers do, but experienced climbers have “very, very few” in comparison.
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Met Éireann has issued a yellow status rain and thunderstorm warning for Munster and Connacht until 6pm tonight. Christie urges people not to attempt to climb Carrauntoohil or any other peak in bad weather.
“I hope nobody tries it tomorrow in very bad conditions, but if they do, we will be there for them. Without vanity, the 36 members of Kerry Mountain Rescue can safely ascend and descend Carrauntoohil in poor conditions, as we have been working there for years and training.
He said anyone planning to climb or hike should wait for a day when conditions are dry and calm. “The mountain will always be there. It’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Christie also urged people to “break away from this narrative about conquering the mountain”.
“You don’t conquer a mountain. When you come down from it, it’s not humble. It is not conquered. It’s just a big chunk of rock. He will be there again next week. You are probably overcoming your own limitations,” he said.
“But if you want to indulge in that fantasy of conquering Carrauntoohil, start with lower mountains. You know the old adage, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment”. Make the bad judgments in lower, safer areas and learn from that.