A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don’t know what the F**k they’re doing! – Cardiac Hill

Why is the red path bigger than the other paths?

Oh, boys. Cardiac Hill/The Cardiac Steps are aptly named. 20 to 25 minutes of steps and uphill climbing and clamboring. Your legs are on fire straight away, your heart beating out of your chest. You look at your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner ahead of you and wonder would they notice if you quietly slipped back to the car? An elderly couple pass you out, smugly looking back as they haul themselves onto a fresh rock. “Tough ‘aul climb, in’t it?” The Kerry drawl stabs you in your chest, driving you to complete the climb out of sheer, Cork spite. That’s right. It’s another edition of my special guide to hill-walking and mountain-climbing! What qualifies me to write a guide to such activities in different locations around Ireland, you ask. Nothing. Nada. Níl.

Sugarloaf was a walk in the park, literally, compared to the steep and unforgiving climb on the other side of Torc waterfall. You can read about my first climb here.
This post is a much more honest version of the climb!


This time around I realised that a drink-free night before a tough climb for a newbie like me would be paramount in my preparations. We had a much smoother process this time around. I was slowly becoming an expert at packing for an hour long walk/climb.

  • Instead of heading out to ring in the New Year, we had an earlyish night in the beautiful city of Cork, soaking up the last bit of civilisation before braving the wilds of Kerry…
  • Myself and K are back in the gym and giving it socks to get fit again. She’s already incredibly fit but I need a bit more work! General exercise will make these walks seem like another challenge, but less of one. Just another notch on the bedpost of hill walks and mountain climbs.
  • Pack a lunch to have after the hike. We packed crackers, bananas, cream cheese, an Aldi wrap and some chocolate. Fill those water bottles!
  • I was better prepared this time and brought a small bag with me for our bottles of water, extra layer, hats, gloves and room for our jackets and hoodies if we got too hot on the climb up.
  • Drive all the way to Torc, park the car, brace yourself for the climb and realise that both pairs of hiking boots are sitting neatly by your back door. Success!

Thoughts Throughout

Only two options when you’re this high up: keep going, or try get back down the way you came!

I felt more confident in the lead up to this climb. Having been in the gym and getting a bit fitter each week I felt good. Read on and see how that hope was dashed, restored and dashed once again at the top.

  • Beginning: OK, not too bad. These are actually fine. Cardiac? Ha Ha. How I laugh at thee! Oh, what was that? These aren’t the steps at all and it’s just a rocky, muddy path that leads us to the steps?? Cool, cool, cool, cool…
  • 20 steps in: What have I done to you, Oh Lord?? Why have you forsaken your son, Father?!
  • Halfway: I am 90% sweat and 10% fiery muscle. There is nothing left in this world but steps. Steps are the Gods, the past, the future and most definitely the present. I give thanks to the steps, for they have given me stability in uncertain times. All hail the steps!
  • Three Quarters: Aha! Level ground! Fuck you steps, you motherfuckers! A few stray rocks are no match for me…..More steps! A steep incline?!! Noooooooooo!!!!!!
  • Top: I am Man. I own mountain now.


So…I’m still fairly dramatic! Did I question my faith and transfer my allegiance to the steps? Perhaps! Did I think it would help me on my quest up Cardiac Hill? Of course! Would I abandon my religion for a boost up the rocks? Definitely!
The initial ascent and climb up the steps is tough but it is manageable with a few breaks. A lot of breaks. Not long breaks. Just little ones where you catch your breath, put your hands on your hips, look around and simultaneously admire the view and your surroundings and curse them.
I had a great sense of achievement after this particular climb because it was physically challenging. My legs were on fire, my heart was racing but we got up there! I was admittedly in much worse condition than K but sure look, we’re a team 😀
It was a nice walk down. We stopped off in a grassy area just off the path. Tall oaks and various other types of trees dwarfed us under their leaves and trunks. I stood under them and duly obliged for another ‘candid’ photograph.
We finally looped down to Torc waterfall, joining other groups and families as they looked on at the cascading blue and white foamy water splash over the rocks.Everyone was happy, bar that one screaming child. His sister was smiling, though, so I assume she hit him or took his toy. Anyways, everyone was happy except that one child. It couldn’t be more Irish and perfect if I had envisioned it. One cranky fucker at odds with everyone else!

I don’t have any immediate plans for another walking/hiking/climbing adventure. My manager (who has never climbed the steps but claims “It’s not really climbing”) was talking about the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Carrauntoohil. They might be a bit above my paygrade just yet but we’ll find something in the next few weeks. I secretly love being dramatic if you couldn’t tell!

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