Individuals ‘placing security in danger’ by climbing scenic peaks only for Instagram likes


According to one experienced climber, there has been an increase in the number of inexperienced climbers trying to scale mountains to post about them on social media sites like Instagram.

Kerry Mountain Rescue’s Gerry Christie has been climbing in Kerry for 35 years. He told The Journal that people who used to join a climbing club as a hobby now prefer to spend a day going to the top alone, which can often end up putting their safety at risk.

“I think mountaineering has become, to some extent, the day equivalent of a one night stand. I don’t think that’s good or bad, it just is,” he said.

“There is no preparation, for example, for climbing Carrauntoohil or climbing Croagh Patrick, which seem to be the two iconic peaks in Ireland that must be climbed. You have a try.”

Christie said climbers are often inexperienced and lack the necessary navigational skills to scale Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain at 1,039m.

“They probably don’t even have mountain boots, they walk in running shoes or tennis shoes or whatever. And most of them get to the top, most of them get a photo, most of them get hit up on social media, and that’s it in their mountaineering career,” he said.

People attempting to climb the mountain often take the route known as the Devil’s Ladder, a strenuous 12km hike that takes between four and six hours to complete. It offers rough terrain, little protection and often unpredictable weather.

Christie said the route is quite narrow “where traffic can’t come in both directions at once.”

File photo of hikers beginning to climb the Devil’s Ladder to reach Carrauntoohil.

Source: Alamy Stock Photo

“The Saturday before last 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 for the first 16 days of August last year, Kerry Mountain Rescue had 16 calls. This is now an exception. Typically our caller rate is around 60-70 callouts per year. That would average out to about six a month, or about a week and a half.

“I think we had 68 in total last year but 16 of those were in the first 16 days of August so a lot of that would point to a holiday season. Dedicated climbers, hikers, whatever you call them, they climb through winter and summer.”

Christie said that in addition to losing the route, the problem often comes from underestimating the stamina required to scale the mountain.

The total journey from Cronin’s Yard, the traditional starting point for ascents of the mountain, to Devil’s Ladder and back is about 14 km, including climbing “a kilometer straight up into the sky”.

People get tired, and then when people get tired, they start to cramp and then they fall 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 is usually not a big deal that just comes out of the blue. It’s an incremental evolution of many different things,” he said.

He said inexperienced climbers don’t have as severe accidents as experienced climbers, but experienced climbers have “very, very few” in comparison.

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Met Éireann has issued a rain and thunderstorm warning with yellow status for Munster and Connacht until 6pm this evening. Christie urges people not to attempt to climb Carrauntoohil or any other peak in inclement weather.

“I hope nobody will try it on tomorrow in very bad conditions but if they do we will be there for them. Without being vain, the 36 members of Kerry Mountain Rescue Carrauntoohil can safely get up and down in bad conditions because we’ve been around for years and we train.”

He said anyone thinking of doing a climb or hike should wait for a day when conditions are dry and calm. “The mountain will still be there. It’s going nowhere,” he said.

Christie also urged people to “break away from this narrative of conquering the mountain.”

“You don’t conquer a mountain. If you come down from it, it’s not modest. It’s not conquered. It’s just a big boulder. It will still be there the following week. You’re probably overcoming your own limitations,” he said.

“But if you want to indulge in this fantasy of conquering Carrauntoohil, start on lower mountains. You know the old thing, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” Make the bad judgments in lower, safer realms and learn from them.”