I’m getting up in a few hours to drive to Kerry to climb Carrauntoohil and undergo a fitness test with Pat Falvey Worldwide Adventures. It’s a training weekend to see how my fitness is shaping up for climbing Mount Elbrus in July.
Already things have not gone smoothly. The plan was to drive down from Dublin this afternoon and get up early tomorrow, fresh and well-rested to tackle the challenge ahead. However, heading out on the N7 in the height of rush-hour, my 23-year-old car ‘Little Red’ got a bit hot and bothered and I ended up stranded in Dublin for the night.
So tomorrow I get up at the crack of dawn, drive to Kerry in a borrowed car, and climb a mountain – then on Sunday I climb it again ‘against the clock’ – and then head back to Dublin, to run the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon on Monday.
If I sound a bit sorry for myself…. I’m not, but I do feel a bit nervous.
I’ve been dogged by injury since February and I’m carrying extra weight, and I haven’t got enough training under my belt to tackle Ireland’s highest mountain. This has not been an ideal preparation; so I know tomorrow will hurt, and Sunday will hurt. I don’t mind if I find it tough – as long as I can do it.
Ok, scrap that. Rewind, change the record. Let’s put all this in an entirely different way. Tomorrow I WILL climb a mountain.
I’ve just heard from Travel Department that our walking holiday in Spain is ‘flying out the door’. We’ve been planning the trip since last year, but all of a sudden I feel it’s really happening and I’m getting a thrill of excitement about meeting new friends and ‘walking my way to fitness’ surrounded by blue skies, high mountains, plunging rivers, snowy white villages and a full week of adventure and exploration.
We’ll be staying in a tiny little hotel nestled above the Poqueira River that carries snowmelt from the ice-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains to the sea. We will walk along the river gorge to the abandoned settlement of Le Cebadilla and stay in the hillside town of Capileira, the gateway to the mountains and the highest village that public traffic can reach…. relaxing after each day’s adventure with wine and tapas at the hotel pool. Capileira is the highest of the ancient, little, white villages that appear to
cling to the mountainside as though about to slide into the Poqueira Gorge. At an altitude of 1436 metres, it is one of the highest towns on the Iberian Peninsular.
A holiday is such an important part of the year; we need to come back with memories that will last for a lifetime. I’m confident that Spain’s magnificent Sierra Nevada will deliver. We’ve signed up local walking guides to show us all the special places and answer all our questions. Along with the stunning mountains and river gorge we get to explore the fortress of Alhambra in Granada. Dating from 889, Alhambra was rebuilt to grace Muslim Emirs before being claimed by Christian Monarchs and then European scholars. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just one of the many adventures on our list. We travel to the coast to the beautiful Salobrena Castle, have a full day sightseeing and shopping in Granada and still have time to sit by the pool at our charming rural hotel Finca Los Llanos.
This is a holiday that combines walking, leisure and culture. We’ll divide the trip into different groups, depending on how active you want to be. I like to walk slowly and enjoy all the beauty of the mountains, so there’s no pressure to be ‘speedy’ if you’re coming with me. The average walking distance is 8k on hilly terrain with some steep inclines, so bring trekking shoes and a walking pole. There’s a discount on your equipment and clothing at Great Outdoors, Dublin, if you’re going on this trip!
We leave with Aer Lingus on October 1st – but the holiday has started booking heavily in the last week, so don’t leave it until the last moment. Visit Travel Department’s website and have a look around our hotel’s picture gallery. If you’ve got any questions, give me a shout on my email: email@example.com or on Facebook or Twitter. I’m looking forward to meeting you in Spain.
My leg is properly healed now and I’m training hard for Elbrus. I’m heading to Russia in July with Pat Falvey Irish and World Wide Adventures, to climb the highest mountain in Europe. Elbrus is a frozen volcanic glacier with a big reputation and one of the ‘Seven Summits’ the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
The odds are stacked against me, because I need to fit 6 months of training into less than 2 after being injured earlier this year. It’s a serious challenge and I’ve got an awful lot of work ahead. It doesn’t help my confidence when I keep finding little details like this on ‘about.com’…..
•Climbers regularly die on Mount Elbrus, as many as 30 a year. In 2004 alone, 48 climbers and skiers died on the mountain. Elbrus is considered one of the world’s most deadly peaks with a high ratio of climber deaths to climbers.
May the force be with me! I’m heading down to Pat’s Kerry Mountain Lodge shortly to begin training on Carrauntoohil. I hope I’ll be ready for climbing Ireland’s highest mountain. It will certainly show me how much work I have to do. Kerry will bring this challenge home.
Well the challenge is on. In the next two months I need to pour 6-months of training into just 8 weeks. In July, I travel to Russia with Pat Falvey Worldwide Adventures to try and reach the summit of Mount Elbrus – the highest mountain in Europe and one of the Seven Summits.
I’ve been planning the climb for close to a year, but falling and slicing my knee open in February wasn’t part of the plan. At this stage I’m not nearly ready, and have only started to resume the training plan that I should have been working on for the past three months.
I don’t know if I’m going to be ready in time, but the knee has healed well and is taking weight – and with two months left, I’m not saying ‘no’ just yet. Tips, hints, suggestions about rehab and healthy eating will all be very welcome in the coming weeks, as I crank up the race to be fit.
At some point I’ll have to make a decision about the safety of joining an expedition on a mountain where unpredictable weather calls for endurance, fitness and the ability to move quickly if nature throws a curveball – and all this at altitude. For now, I’ll just concentrate on getting fit. I feel like I’m 23 stone all over again. I have a mountain to climb.
Elevation: 18,510 feet (5,642 meters)
Prominence: 15,554 feet (4,741 meters)
Location: Caucasus Range, Russia. On the border of Asia and Europe.
Coordinates: 43°21′18″ N / 42°26′21″ E
First Ascent: 1874 by Florence Crauford Grove, Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, Peter Knubel, and Ahiya Sottaiev (guide).
Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia. At 15,554 feet (4,741 meters) it is also the tenth most prominent mountain in the world, and one of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Mount Elbrus lies on the geographical dividing line between Europe and Asia, but most geographers consider it to be the highest mountain in Europe.
‘Climbing.about.com reports that Elbrus is considered one of the world’s most deadly peaks with a high ratio of climber deaths to climbers, as many as 30 in a year. Considered an inactive volcano, Mount Elbrus is perpetually snow-covered with an icecap and 22 glaciers. Lava flows cover the mountain as well as 100 square miles of volcanic ash and debris. Pyroclastic flows of ash and mud, indicative of a powerful eruption that melted ice, also drain off the mountain. An 800-foot-wide snow-filled volcanic crater is on the mountain’s western summit. Elbrus last erupted around 50 A.D.
I sit for a moment in the car, huddled against the blast from the heater. Peering out through the misty windscreen I can see cloud shrouding the top of the mountain. I don’t normally need encouragement to get out into the hills, but this morning I feel that I need a cattle prod to get me moving. It’s the beginning of May and the start of the summer but the weather looks more like mid-November. It’s cloudy, misty and quite cold and I grimace as I open the door and climb out, reaching for boots and waterproofs.
The car-park here in Glendalough is virtually empty. That’s unusual for this time of year and a clear sign of how gloomy the day is looking. I sigh and surprise myself by considering a retreat, but I’ve driven an hour from the city to get here and it would be silly to turn back now. Adjusting my walking poles, I start to stroll towards the upper lake, and turning left, head to the bridge that leads towards the Poulanass Waterfall.
The plan is to stroll along the ‘white’ loop-walk; up over Spinc Mountain, across the bridge over the Glenealo River and down through the Miners’ Village to the Upper Lake. I warm up quickly as step out towards the wooded trail. Birds are singing everywhere in the rain dampened trees and the crackle and splash of the waterfall gets louder as I approach. It drowns out the patter of raindrops but the birds still pipe loudly through the cascade. Pausing for a moment I wonder about the power of the water dropping here to pools carved out of rock, from a hanging valley formed in the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. I wonder what the water feels like, how cold? I always promise to stop here during the summer when I’m warm and sticky after a long hike, take off my boots and plunge my feet into the white froth. Somehow I always forget. This year I’ll do it; definitely.
I reach the junction where I need to swing right for Spinc or left for the Derrybawn Ridge. I hesitate, with no sense of urgency in my mind. I meant to train hard today, to set a pace and work on my fitness, but I’m reluctant to push up into the cloud. Instead I potter around the river and take some photos of the water tumbling over the rocks. I’m familiar with the terrain around here and I have a map and compass; and so on a whim, I veer off the trail and into the woodland pushing ahead on an adventure and leaving the high trails behind.
Within moments, the roar of the waterfall is behind me, along with the brash, glare of the multi-hued, green riverbank. I’m entering into a carpeted, hushed arena beneath the bared bark of conifers stretching so high and thick above my head that the rain and cloud are banished. The change of atmosphere is dramatic, like stepping from the light and noise of a busy street into the sombre chambers of a cathedral. The light is amber, shaded by the canopy above and tinted by the russet carpet of fallen pine-needles and cones beneath my feet. Invisible birds make sounds all around me. I think I’m treading softly, but they hear the fine snap of twigs beneath my feet and clearly keep their distance.
I follow a gentle incline, moving steadily upward through the forest. I know Derrybawn is on my left and Mullacor is on my right and slightly ahead; but I don’t intend to push ahead that far. Reaching a fire-wall, I veer left, to meet a small stream rushing down from the ridge. I come back out into the light. There is no trail here and I have the river to myself. I potter around taking photos; and find I’m smiling and grinning at the sight of saplings and ferns unfolding, and clover in flower. This little glen has infrequent visitors and it’s showing no hesitation in sharing its secrets with me. I can almost imagine fairies dancing here in early morning sunbeams. Briefly I remember how it felt to lie beneath the yellow gorse in Roscommon as a kid fresh arrived from London; smelling the vanilla-scented pods of the furze, trying to whistle through stands of grass, watching fluffy clouds against a blue sky and dreaming of fantasy and wonder.
Eventually, I drag myself away from the magic glen and follow the river back towards the trails. I swing up left towards Spinc and climb the 600 wooden steps to the observation post high above the valley. Taking in the stunning views, I catch my breath. That will do for training for today! I swing down past Kevin’s Bed; the now inaccessible cave believed to have been used as a retreat by St Kevin and later for St. Laurence O’Toole; and down to the Upper Lake, past the 11th Century Reefert Church, the burial ground for the Clan O’Toole – the local kings or rulers.
Walking back towards the car to dump my damp gear in the boot, I glance at a teenage girl, dragging herself reluctantly from her dad’s jeep with a gloomy sigh. I smile as we pass each other, and I comment that I didn’t feel like going up myself this morning, but it was worth it when I got out there. “Really?” she replied. Not a bored ‘teenage’ reply, more hopeful and pleasant. Encouraged, I laughed and explained how I nearly drove back to Dublin without getting my boots wet, but ended up being thrilled by flowering clover, clever birds and silver spider webs caught in herbs and heather.
She smiled and said OK and headed for the hill. She may have been inspired, or maybe she thought I was ‘off with the fairies’. Although, I suppose, that could be inspiring too. Who can ever know what lies under a mountain of cloud and gloom? Like life itself, it’s often worth pushing on and giving things a chance. I may not have covered many kilometres of incline today, but I had fun and fed my soul. Sometimes it’s good to put the training regime aside and just enjoy the outdoors for its beauty and timeless simplicity. I’ve learned already, you can move mountains, just by ‘walking your way to fitness’.