Hillwalkers rescued from Devil's Ladder in eight-hour operation
HILLWALKERS are being urged not to set out unless they are equipped for alpine conditions after a dramatic eight-hour rescue from the "Devil's Ladder" on Ireland's highest mountain.
Kerry Mountain Rescue Team -- one of the country's busiest rescue organisations covering the south-west region -- has issued the warning after it rescued two parties from Carrauntoohil at the weekend.
Two Irish men in one case and two Eastern Europeans in the other had to be led down the mountain by the team. The operation lasted until the early hours of yesterday morning -- and involved 25 members.
Spokesman Damien Courtney said those rescued were not equipped and did not have proper winter gear, boots, or clothing and there was "a real risk of hypothermia".
The two parties went past large warning signs alerting them to the possibility of avalanches and asking them not to go on the mountains without crampons -- or spikes in their shoes -- and ice axes.
The signs were erected last week by the team following a number of "alarming episodes" on the MacGillycuddy's Reeks the previous weekend.
On Saturday, one of the parties took a long slide on hard snow on the descent towards the Ladder and were badly shaken.
They were not able to tackle the Devil's Ladder -- treacherous in the best conditions. A further pair also got into difficulties in the same area.
"These are alpine climbing conditions," Mr Courtney said.
Meanwhile, also on Saturday, team members came upon a number of bizarre encounters on Mangerton Mountain off the Killarney National Park.
A number of young people had ascended the mountain poorly equipped and five young men were observed by team members walking on the iced-over Devil's Punchbowl, a deep high glacial lake. This was despite the fact the ice was cracking around the edges of the lake, said Mr Courtney.
The team has also warned risks on the mountains will persist even when conditions improve lower down.
"As the roads improve the hills will become more accessible. Alpine conditions on the hills will persist at altitude, possibly for weeks," Mr Courtney added.