On Saturday I got to join the Roving Soles Hill Walking Club for part of their Glenmalure Challenge. I got to finish 6 summits and around 24k in 7hrs – they went on to complete 10 summits and 33k. We started from the Glenmalure Lodge, Drumgoff and headed south on the Wicklow Way, taking a forest road for our assent of Carrawaystick Mountain to Corrigasleggaun, to the Saddle of Lugcoolmeen, and up to the summit of Lugnaquilla, Leinster’s highest peak at 931 metres. We descended via Cannow Mountain to Camenabolologue, and I cut out at Table Track for Glenmalure, as the group continued on their way. Thanks to everyone for such a warm welcome on the hill, especially with me hobbling along with my knee braces and sticks. Extremely lovely group… and the bubbles were a bonus!
From Wicklow, I drove to Cork city, catching dinner with a friend before heading on to Youghal where I camped near the sea, ahead of an early 6am start for the DipInTheNip. Close to 200 people joined on a beach near the town to drop their kit and run for the waves, in aid of cancer charities. Old radio buddy PJ Coogan from Cork 96FM led the charge. After a breakfast roll on the beach, I headed for Kerry, pitched my tent in view of the mountains, met briefly with friends, took a two hour stroll in Tomies Wood and finished off a perfect rest-and-recovery day with a plunge into the beautiful ice-cold O’Sullivan’s Cascade, a stunning series of waterfalls and grade 5 kayak route plunging down through the mountains to the lakes of Killarney. Always a magical place for me.
On to the Galtees on Monday, for a tough 8.5hr training hike over 5 mountains with Tony Nation, in preparation for my challenge to climb Elbrus in Russia next month with Pat Falvey’s Irish and Worldwide Adventures. Tony had warned me in advance that today would be tough and he certainly delivered. It was an arduous route, but so incredibly beautiful that it was hard to feel anything other than joy to be out on the hill. We made our way up on to the mountain with a tough climb onto Temple Hill, and climbed up and down around the horseshoe across Ladhar an Chapaill, Carraig na Binne, and Sliabh Chois na Binne, over to Galtymore and exiting down the BlackRoad. Later we heard on the news that a couple of climbers had been rescued after getting caught in a Rhododendron forest, not too far away on the Knockmealdown Mountains. It was a cautionary tale, as I’d been admiring the purple flowered shrubs all day, but Tony had been warning me about their rampant, vigorous growth across the mountains.
Tuesday brought another adventure, when myself and a friend provided kayak-cover for a group of swimmers who were making a crossing from Malahide to Lambay Island, as part of a top-secret art project. We had kind permission to land briefly on the island, which is a nature reserve, and it was a wonderful privilege to have just a fleeting glance at this wonderful, magical place. It was a beautiful day as we headed off into a clear, calm sea, and the crossing was delightfully uneventful until moments before we reached the island. A sea-mist sprung up in seconds, shrouding our landing point in mist. Our approach was marked by dozens of curious seals who heralded our arrival and followed us in to the star-fish spangled beach. We stayed just moments before slipping back into the sea and leaving the peaceful island to it’s misty mystery. A magical experience to add to my list of special memories of Ireland.
A good weekend of training, celebrating friendship and being glad to be alive. Reality returns when I visit the physio tomorrow and get some advice on my injured knee. The Elbrus Clock continues to tick.
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.
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.
I’ve often thought that learning the basics of anything, is the toughest part of the gig! Learning to ride a bike, or ride a horse, or balance in a kayak – they all involve periods of instability and discomfort, while you learn the basic skills. Then once you’re rocking and rolling – you have two choices. Continue practicing the basics PROPERLY or rush to the next stage of having fun, the adhoc way, just making things work to get further and faster, as quickly as possible. The second option is probably the easiest – but then you end up running out of steam when the going gets tough. Like throwing a javelin badly, it arcs high and falls short, and unless you go back to examine your grip and body position, you’re not likely to improve.
I felt a bit like that when I ended up on a snowy hill with Keith McDonnell from ExtremeIreland.ie. I’ve walked with crampons and ice-axe before, and I’ve walked on snow and ice. But I knew my winter skills needed work ahead of my big challenge on Elbrus later this year. Heading out to my first Munro after flying into Edinburgh a couple of hours earlier, I was amazed to see how quickly we drove from green fields to snowy mountains.
I first met Keith, on my first hike up Lugnaquilla in Wicklow with Mountain Rescue’s Ronan Friel and some other mates. That was a couple of years ago, but ironically, that was a snowy trip too. This time, Keith and me weren’t just hiking – this was a training mission. I quickly realised that Keith is big on basics. We hit the snow line, and Keith showed me different walking techniques for going up and down snow and ice. But we left the crampons in my bag! Now that was tough. No nice, sharp, spikes to grip in – instead it was down to me, my boots, my basic technique and the strength of my kick! Despite the freezing cold wind, I was sweating in minutes and had to lose a layer of clothing before we continued. Before long the crampons and ice-axe followed, and as we got higher, we lost visibility.
I’ve read about ‘white-outs’ and written about ‘white-outs’ – but I realised in Scotland that I hadn’t a clue what a white-out meant, until I was caught out in the spooky, scariness of not being able to see a thing in the distance. Google or Wiki will tell you that a white-out is caused by blowing or falling snow, low-lying mist, or an atmospheric condition where the light coming off the land is equal to the light around it, making shadows disappear, and with them, the horizon.
Unless you’re walking in those conditions, you really can’t imagine how strange it feels. My nerves were stretched tight to screaming point. I felt the snowy ground under my feet would disappear at any moment, into a gaping chasm. I felt any moment that I would walk off the edge of the cliff, and plummet down the 900 metre slope that I knew was lurking out there in front of me….. so I walked behind Keith!
Later I told the poor man that I had a complete rescue-strategy formed in my mind for when he disappeared into oblivion. In other words, I would dig a snow-hole, like he’d shown me earlier, get warm and comfy, out of the wind and mist, and hope that my phone had a signal to phone for help. Lame? perhaps, but at least I was able to tell him where we’d gone on the map – and that, for me, was a major step forward and a credit to his navigation tuition. When it came to navigation, I was seriously impressed. Following a map on a sunny day in Wicklow is one thing, but pacing in a whiteout and finding your way off a spur, around invisible rocks, and back onto a spur to retrace your way back down off the snowline – with no visible markers – that was remarkable. Well for me it was remarkable. I want to be able to do that, to have the confidence to use map and compass, and come out on point. That’s a skill worth having.
Other skills include walking effectively and safely in crampons on ice. I need to perfect these skills before I head to Russia this Summer, to climb Elbrus – Europe’s highest peak and one of the Seven Summits. I need to know how to walk in steep, icy conditions without slipping, and if I slip, I need to know how to safely ice-arrest, and stop my slippery slide to the bottom of a slope. That means being able to correct myself and stop my fall by getting the ice-axe into the snow as a brake – without stabbing myself in the process or letting my crampon spikes catch in the ice to break my legs. I need to be able to do that regardless how I fall or how I slip; that could mean head-first on my back heading down a mountain and gaining speed with every second. Ok, maybe I’ll stop thinking about that for a little while. I’ve made a start, and the next stage is working on my fitness and practicing that ‘digging in’ kick. I obviously don’t have snow to work with here in Ireland, but I have an idea that climbing sand-dunes might give me an opportunity to get the power into my legs.
My first Scottish Munro was an experience, which I’m anxious to repeat. The challenge is there Keith. Next year, I’ll join your regular winter walkers, and I’m determined I’ll keep up. You might even get me to navigate…..
Onwards and upwards….
As an adopted Dub I’ve always been thoroughly intrigued and inspired by the Liffey Swim – and I’ve always secretly longed that one day I’d be able to give it a go. This year, I got the opportunity to be part of the event by paddling ‘kayak cover’ for the swimmers. It’s a big responsibility and for me it was also an amazing thrill. I cannot tell you how it feels to be paddling alongside these gutsy swimmers, admiring their athleticism and thanking the universe for my own ability too. It’s only a couple of years ago since I was driving along the banks of the Liffey on my way home to Blanchardstown – looking at the coloured kayaks in the water near the Strawberry Beds, thinking how much fun it looked, and enviously wishing I could be part of that world. At 23 stone I never even dreamed that I could have a go, and joked to myself that I wouldn’t even fit in the boat, and would sink it if I did. If there’s anyone out there thinking the same, can I assure you that there is ALWAYS a boat to carry you, if you fancy having a go. Message me on Facebook if you want to find out more or check out the Irish Canoe Union or my own Wild Water Kayak Club.
It was an intensive weekend of kayaking for me. 4 hours in the water on Saturday (I went out to paddle in Bray after the Liffey Swim), and 6 hours in the water on Sunday when my club, WWKC went paddling at Castleconnell in Limerick. We navigated our way over more than a dozen natural features on the river; rocky waterfalls, rocks and drops. I swam a few times (fell out) but stayed in a lot of times, and it all helped my confidence as the weeks count down for my big challenge; the Liffey Descent on September 28th in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice in Leopardstown.
Back in Dublin on Monday I tried out a totally different type of kayak, than the river boat I’ve become used to. The Sprite pictured in the river shot here, cuts through the water cleanly, like a knife, and I felt a kind of speed that I hadn’t felt before. I wish I could explain how the river looked too. It was one of those stilly evenings when the world is perfectly reflected in the river below and I felt like I was paddling into a picture. It was my first proper training session with ‘Kipper’ AKA Ciaran Maguire, AKA ‘Mr Kayak’ – who I’m partnering for the ‘Pedals to Paddles’ challenge for the charity, when we cycle 40k from Dublin to the K-Club before getting on board for the Liffey Descent. We’re going to spend around 8 hours between cycling and kayaking – hence the ‘pedals to paddles’ tag. We’ve got a brilliant sponsor in Sasta Fitness, but we’ve also got a MyCharity page and appreciate any donations you can make. Check it out at: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/weirsnwheels/
Weds Aug 21st: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) – Running (ish) up Ticknock Mountain with the Irish Mountain Running Association
Thursday Aug 22nd: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C / Full Moon night hike on Kippure Mountain with mates.
Friday Aug 23rd: 20 Minute jog from home.
Saturday Aug 24th: 4 hours kayaking (Liffey Swim and Bray with GOTC).
Sunday August 25th: 6 hours kayaking in Limerick & 4 hours dancing with Cannonball!
Monday Aug 26th: 1 hour kayaking in a Sprite with Kipper Maguire.
Tuesday Aug 27th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).
Wednesday August 28th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).
Thursday Aug 29th: 40 minute weight-lifting in gym.
Back in February, six ordinary people from around the country met with myself and a production crew from Athena Media. We went for a short walk in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, while we discussed our plans to get out and get active in the great outdoors. It was our first day of filming for a six-part television show that will be broadcast on Setanta TV this September. In the months that followed, we ran and trained, climbed mountains, cycled bikes, learned to swim, took part in triathlons and became firm friends.
When I started this project, I was widely enthusiastic, exhilarated by the opportunity to preach my message once again – that if I could lose 13 stone and get healthy, anybody could. For me, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle have exploded into a life full of passion and colour and I can’t help but get carried away when I talk about the joy of waking up each day with my new-found health. I hoped my group of six ‘Get Off The Couch’ participants would have a similar experience; but I could hardly have imagined the outcome.
I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re not just talking about six people who got fit and healthy, we’re talking about new jobs, a return to college, a major sports deal, giving up smoking and whole families changing the way they spend their leisure time together.
Strictly speaking, we finished filming back in June. But on Saturday we met again, to catch up, and because I wanted to show them my lovely Spinc Mountain that I had been bragging about throughout our months of training together. They were invited to bring friends and family, but I was a little concerned when I saw the youthful bunch that turned up – our youngest walker was just 4-years-old, and I confess I didn’t think they’d last 5 minutes. To my amazement, they hopped around the mountain covering a 9km hill-walk with a climb of 380m in just under 4 hours; and 4-year-old Charlie was the most energetic of all of us. It just goes to show that sometimes our kids can be limited, not by their lack of strength or maturity but by the preconceived and erroneous notions of us boring old adults.
Thanks to my GOTC gang for a fabulous day – to the kids for the life lesson – and to Joan Kavanagh (local historian and member of the Glens of Lead Project) who met us on the trail along the way to introduce us all to ‘Paddy Byrne’ (wooden miner model) and to tell us about the history of the old lead workings and mines at Glendalough.
After a ‘Last Supper’ with the team, several of us went back out on the hill again for a night climb on Spinc – as part of my climbing mate Vera Baker’s preparations for a Concern hike to Kenya later this year. Staying in Wicklow overnight, the Concern trainees were back out on their bikes for some cycling exercise on the Sallygap on Sunday, and then I was back up on Spinc for a 3rd and final climb on Sunday afternoon, before I returned to the city and prepared for work and the gym on Monday.
My own training intensifies next week. I’m preparing for the Liffey Descent kayak and cycle challenge that I’m doing this September with ‘Mr Kayak’ Kipper Maguire, to raise funds and awareness for LauraLynn Hospice – Irelands ONLY childrens’ hospice. If you have a few bob, please drop it into our MyCharity page here – and please pass it on….
Allan Dixon is the last Irishman standing, in a race for the best job in the world (Outback Adventurer, Australia).
He’s made the shortlist and he’s got Mark Pollock and Bear Grylls behind him; but I’m not sure… so I’ve issued him a challenge to bring me hiking ‘off trail’ in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains this weekend.
If he doesn’t lose me – he has my recommendation for @TourismAus. If I come back in one piece… will you support him too?
Check out Allan Dixon on Facebook, and @daxon on Twitter.
I wish they weren’t so nude down on the Royal Canal…. I cycle along the muddy track most days on my way in and out from Blanchardstown to work in town – it’s a good length of a cycle (around 15k). It irons out the kinks, especially after a weekend spent hiking or running. But they’re all stripped bare and it’s beginning to get to me. Holly’s different and Ivy too, in fairness… but then they’re always game and ready to show off their best colours all year around. But it’s more than halfway through April and you’d think the rest of the trees and shrubs would be wearing leaves by now! Never mind, the Met today said the winter was gone and the worst of the cold is over for 2013, so pretty soon, those small buds that started appearing today, will burst into a flood of life and I’ll have a ‘greeny’ canal back again. Like the trees, flooding with energy and ready to burst into life – I’m feeling strong and energetic for the first time since my surgery in January. It’s been a tough start to this year, but like the forecaster said today about the weather – I feel I’m over the worst.
This weekend was amazing. All those horrid nights out running in the cold and dark with my ‘Couch-to-5k’ buddies at Le Chéile Athletics Club in Leixlip, finally paid off. I’d signed up weeks ago for the Spar Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park here in Dublin, and although I was nowhere near ready to run 10k I was happy to have a bash and walk and jog the distance. My plan was to walk 1 min and run 4 the whole way round. That’s what I did and I came back in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes – which was ten minutes faster than my best time for a 10k last year. So I’ve definitely bounced back and now I can start to build on my new fitness. The running techniques I’ve been getting at Le Chéile really helped get me around the course, as did the brilliant coaching session with Catherina McKiernan that I was fortunate to have the benefit of, while filming a couple of weeks ago with my ‘Get Off The Couch’ TV project. You can’t get fit without some hard work, but technique really goes a long way to getting there safely and efficiently. Le Chéile’s Sharon Ashmore has been nagging me for weeks to run the club’s 5k on May 4th – I suppose I really don’t have any excuse now. It would be great if you joined us – you can register on Facebook or on this link: http://www.lecheile5k.milanet.biz/
The 10k wasn’t the only burst of activity for the weekend. On Saturday I got some pre-race preparation in, with a 5.5hr hike up Lugnaquilla for Concern. ‘Lug’ as it’s affectionately or sometimes painfully referred to, can be a bit of a slog. Saturday was no exception. A coachload of climbers poured out at Fenton’s pub in bright sunshine at 10am – and within a couple of hours, we were knee-deep in snow, and slogging our way up the mountain against an increasingly violent headwind, freezing cold, driving rain and almost zero visibility. The leaders turned us all back down the mountain within shouting distance of the summit – deeply frustrating, but the right decision – in light of the dreadful and worsening conditions. It was an excellent exercise for seeing how well or how badly our equipment, clothing and boots all worked – and a reminder that you must always be prepared in the mountains.
Well that’s an Irish spring for you – but the weather’s definitely turned the corner. A couple of weeks ago, my TV gang and I were out on the Liffey rafting and kayaking with Irish kayaking legend Kipper Maguire and rafting.ie which is based at an old mill in Palmerstown. The sun was beaming down and you just felt that powerhouse of energy that comes from having the sun on your face in the great outdoors. We were out on the river from 7am to sundown, and I ended up in that well known and gorgous watering hole The Anglers’ Rest – the perfect end to a perfect day and one which I’ll be writing about in detail for Outsider Magazine later this Summer. I’ll be taking a look at the river from the Strawberry Beds right down to the Jeannie Johnson at the IFCS where City Kayaks are based. I’ll be finding out what adventures are going on there, right under our feet – in particular, right under O’Connell Bridge.
So welcome Spring, welcome Summer, and welcome to a whole new year of adventure. 🙂
I had an enforced ‘rest’ week between my active Paddy’s Day weekend and The Easter Bank Holiday. Close family visiting, a deluge that flooded and blocked the N11 to Wicklow, a truly unseasonal avalanche warning in the snow laden Mournes and a rather nasty tummy bug, all combined to keep me off the hills and out of the gym. Then an invite came to get out on Spinc Mountain on Good Friday with Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker, and I decided to push all thoughts of weakness aside and ‘just do it’. I was so pleased afterwards. It was a beautiful day in Wicklow with blue skies and bright sunshine, despite snow and ice underfoot; and it really stopped me feeling miserable and sorry for myself! Vera and her mate Lisa were just starting a new round of training for their latest charity appeal in Kenya later this year, and it was good to be out with them, as they bubbled and planned, all full with the sense of a new adventure.
When invite number 2 came to join Mountain Rescue volunteer Grainne Ryan on a trek up the Galtees on Saturday, again it was hard to refuse. I was probably quite weak after my tummy bug and I decided to take the train to Thurles rather than drive; the guys agreed to pick me up and drop me back afterwards to the station, which I felt was much easier than driving when I was feeling tired. It took the pressure off a bit, but I was still feeling a little nervous. I hadn’t climbed with Grainne or her mate Kevin before, and I wasn’t sure about my hill-fitness or strength. I just hate the thought of getting in ‘over my head’ and slowing people down. It’s always about picking your pace – but it doesn’t stop me getting a bit apprehensive first time out. Grainne reassured me they weren’t planning any hill-running…and off we went!
We headed first for Galtee Beag; intending to then skim the ridge and move on up to climb Galtee More 919m (3018ft) snow, ice and wind permitting. The pace was manageable, the company good, and the scenery stunning. Again another perfect climbing day, with snow underfoot and blue skies above; made all the more special by a natural phenomenon which I hadn’t seen before. As we left lunch and Galtee Beag behind and pushed on for Galtee More, we came out of the lee and the force of the wind hit us. Pushing onwards and upwards the cold was biting and it felt like being in a wind tunnel. I was using walking poles and could actually feel the wind tearing them from me as I walked. But I walked with care, staring in amazement at each footfall. I was nearly crying as I stepped on and smashed through these lovely snow crystals on the way up. Rime, Grainne called them. It was like walking through a bed of brittle diamonds… I’d never seen that before, the delicacy of the wind-blown ice formations on the frozen bog; I felt like an elephant in a china shop…
The last few measured steep steps to the summit; then walking across the flattened top to the cross, straining against the wind, leaning forward into it at an angle and pulling my fleecy buff up around my nose and mouth to try and help me breathe through the frosty air. We scrambled down a foot or two among the rocks and suddenly the wind stopped and I realised it had been roaring in my ears. Suddenly as if someone flicked a switch, we found ourselves in stark silence as we snuggled in to sit down among the frost-sparkled rocks, like ice-thrones in a winter wonderland at the top of the world. Swiftly turned to Ice Princess – I surveyed the 360 views of Tipperary, Limerick and perhaps Cork far off in the distance, with bright sunshine cutting through the bitter cold, now sheltered from the wind and feeling so incredibly grateful to be here.
My perfect Easter weekend didn’t end on the hills. I splashed my way through large waves in Malahide in bright sunshine on Sunday morning with Fergal Somerville and the Low Rock swimmers. I’d actually turned up with a wet-suit, but I was shamed when I saw them all getting into the surf in their swimming suits, so I decided to leave it in my bag and take the plunge – literally. It was icy cold. 4 degrees apparently, but it was beautiful being bounced around by the icy waves in bright sunshine. I didn’t last long; getting through about three swells before turning around and swimming like the clappers for the shore. But as my skin burned with fire afterwards and I drank hot coffee and pinched someone’s chocolate biscuits, there was no doubting I was alive.
Monday the holiday continues and I’m still off work, so I’m hitting the gym in the morning – then meeting the ‘Get Off The Couch‘crew as the six participants in our new TV series on Setanta go through their paces on the track at the prestigious Morton Stadium with Triathlon trainer, Eamonn Tilley. It’s our second session and I’m dying to see if we’ve made any progress. Last time we were training with Eamonn, the wonderful Katie Taylor gave us a pep talk and that really fired us up. The show’s taking 6 men and women from around the country and encouraging them to get out and active in the great outdoors. After my exciting ‘holiday’ break, I’ll have plenty to talk about!
Today kind’ve hurt the body, but fed the soul. But I knew in advance it would be like that, and it was a glorious day in the snowy Wicklow hills. I’d been sick and my fitness left a lot to be desired, but the snow was here and that was just too good an opportunity to miss.
A group of hardy hikers, we set off from the Glendalough Visitors’ Centre, trekking through the parkland then across the carpark and back out to cross the road, and then simply headed up into the woods in the direction of the snowline and the Camaderry summit.
The first incline through the trees was pretty steep and pretty slippy, and I danced over my boots, carefully picking where I placed my feet to avoid an unexpected slide. My breathing was pretty rough, a witness to my lack of presence of the hills lately. My dodgy knees felt well though, although I was using sticks to help them and I could feel the tension in my shoulders from the poles and my rucksack. But as we found our rhythm, old muscle memories came back and the skills picked up in the hills in the last couple of years kicked in. I shortened my stride, relaxed my shoulders and lifted my head a little to help the air to reach my lungs. I’d forgotten how good this felt, when your body lines up with your mind and works as a team, at one with yourself and the mountain around you.
As we reached the snowline, the chance of slipping eased and the new challenge was to step over the deep snow and into the footprint of the climber ahead. The snow was 9 inches deep in places and the joke was who would come looking for me, 5″foot tot that I am, if I completely disappeared in the snow. Such sympathy and empathy from my climbing buddies!
We got the ‘science’ along the way from Everest Summiteer Ian Taylor and Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue buddy Ronan Friel. As we got higher, our boots crunched through hard-crusted snow to sink deeply to the ground below. The height and cold was freezing the top layer of snow, and the lads explained how layers of soft and frozen snow can build, become unstable, and depending on the incline and what lies below, can cause an avalanche. But not today in 9 inches of snow in Wicklow. Thankfully.
As we left the treeline the mist cleared and gave spectacular views across Glendalough. I always think views like these are the reward for the hard slog, but you don’t always get them, and that makes them extra special when you do.
Within moments the snow had descended again and we pushed on towards the summit in a white-out. I’m always hugely impressed at the skills of people like Ian and Ronan, who can unerringly find their way to a chosen point regardless of the weather and visibility. I’ve got my MS1 and should be able to navigate, but I’m not; mainly because I’ve been too lazy to practice. That’s something I must tackle this year.
On cue, the stones that mark the summit, pushed up through the snow covering them and the mist surrounding them. Time for snow angels and lunch, as we grab fleeces and layer up. So quickly the chill sets in when you’re not moving and before long we were striding out again, back towards the treeline.
Today wasn’t a long hike and it wasn’t a particularly hard one, but it was hard for me. I wasn’t panicking about that though. I haven’t been able to exercise properly for nearly a month, and I realise that it’s natural to expect a lack of energy after surgery, a fever, and weeks of drips and pills. The main thing is that the mountains haven’t gone away and there’s a whole year ahead to get fit and strong again and enjoy these hills and others.
Today was a very good day.