Swinging off the M8, we park ‘Blondie’ my dad’s car on the ‘Black Road’ near the village of Skeheenarinky. This is the starting point for the normal route up Galtymore. In Irish, Cnoc Mor a nGaibhlte is the appropriately named ‘Big Hill of the Galtys’. This is Ireland’s 14th highest peak, the tallest inland mountain in Ireland and the only inland peak to exceed 3,000ft (919m).
Slamming the car door and grabbing my kit and boots, I turn my back on Galtymore and jumping into my climbing buddy Tony Nation’s car, we drive away in the opposite direction. My heart is a missing a few beats as I wonder just how tough this day is going to be. We are not heading up the Black Road to climb Galtymore, instead we’re going to climb 4 other mountains first, hiking our way around in a sweeping crescent, to finish on the ‘big hill’ and reclaim our 1st car.
Tony, my long-time friend and climbing guide is chuckling a little as we drive towards a glen nestled beneath Temple Hill. As we leave his car and start to boot up, tie on gaiters and check our packs, he comments again that we have a long, day ahead. I don’t really need the reminder. I’ve climbed Galtymore several times before. It’s not difficult, but it’s steep and a good hike. I can see the length of the ridge ahead of us, and I can hardly comprehend that we will be covering all that ground on foot before the day is out. I remind myself that biting off too large a chunk is the easiest way for my mind to give up. So I break it down and put the knowledge of what lies ahead on hold. Being in denial can have its advantages!
On our approach to Temple Hill, we drop down through a small patch of woodland, into a lush, long-grassed pasture. Within minutes of leaving the road, I’m walking through a hidden copse, stepping into a snapshot of lives gone before. A stone-wall cottage, long abandoned, and sunken deep into the earth, buried in memories and pine needles. I stand in the sunken portal where the doorway once welcomed guests and I feel like a giant, dwarfed beside the disappearing house. The light is green and still, the air sharp with pine and moss, and in the distance the crystal noise of falling water. Here stories are made, and written. I want to return with a pad and pen and dream about who lived here and how their lives played out.
We take a few pictures and wander downhill to meet a small river that marks a start to the climb up Temple Hill. The climb ahead is grassy but steep, to reach 785m. We start off slowly, ‘expedition pace’ comments Tony as we start to ascend. It’s a truly beautiful day and I know I’m blessed, imagining how different this would be in the mist and rain. The views are already gorgeous and climbing here is no penance, every step takes me higher and shows me better views. I feel alive and strong and happy and grateful to be out on the hill.
We topped out and then followed a gentle moorland sweep towards a stony area and the summit cairn and trig pillar. Sheltering at the cairn, Tony pointed out something I’ve never seen before on an Irish Hill. From the rocks, he pulled out a ‘visitors’ book and pen, wrapped carefully in plastic, inviting hikers to leave a note and date their climb. I wrote down my thoughts and returned the book to Tony who careful replaced it for the next walkers to sign.
We pushed down into the saddle and turned our sights on our next target, Lyracappul. Careful not to lose too much ground we ducked the dive-bombing Swifts, who were clearly unimpressed to have their silence disturbed. They puzzled me a little, I don’t know a lot about them, but I know they spend much of their life in the air and don’t like nesting on the ground, so where are they basing themselves? In the cairns?
We began to climb again, and Tony reminded me about taking small steps and keeping my centre of gravity as neutral as possible. I’m training for climbing Elbrus with Irish adventurer, Pat Falvey, later this year; and these steep grassy slopes are ideal for mimicking the gradient of the long climb up the twin-peaked volcanic domes in Russia. I imagine climbing through the heather also gives me an idea of how it will feel to climb for hours, lifting my feet to push through several feet of snow.
We summit Lyracappul and take a breather at another stone cairn, higher than Temple Hill, at 825m. We’re sitting in the sun, munching on energy bars, when another party of climbers arrive. There was conversation, craic, and discussion about expeditions and foreign trips, before we all said our goodbyes and pushed off in different directions, leaving the Swifts behind.
We head along the ridge, dropping down and up between Carraig na Binne 822m and Slieve Chois na Binne 766m. The views of the valley below are stunning and we pick up the 4km Galty Wall as we head up again towards ‘The Big Hill of the Galtys’ for our final ascent to 919m. I know I’m blessed with these views and I drink in the green sloping valley on our right; while soaking in the corry lakes and cliffs on our left, pondering on the potential danger of stumbling around up here in the mist. You could easily get yourself into difficulty if you strayed too close to some of those sharp edges.
It is a long walk, but it is very beautiful and I slug into the final stretch, tired but confident. I know we are nearly at the final summit and I’m familiar with the long trek ahead down the Black Road; and every step is worth it. I want everyone to see what I see, but no picture or photograph can recreate this view, you just have to get your boots on and come and discover it for yourself. 360 degrees, with mountains and counties in all directions; on this clear day it is simply stunning. Tony points out the Glen of Aherlow to the north, the Knockmealdowns to the south, and he claims the faint blue line in the distance is my beloved Kerry Reeks.
With a burst of energy, I gallop up the final few steps to the iron cross that marks the summit of Galtymore. We are not alone. I meet a fellow Dub who has just finished his own personal pilgrimage to climb the highest peak in every county. He did it for himself, to get fit, to stop getting old and just for the sheer hell of it. He’s here eating a sandwich, enjoying a lonely celebration and totally at peace with himself and his world. We chat for ages and wish him well before we all prepare to say goodbye to our day’s final challenge.
The county boundary for Limerick and Tipperary runs across this summit. I’m not exactly sure where the line is – but I fancifully step astride where I imagine it might be. I am here, standing on the border, with one foot on each of the highest points in two counties. It’s enough for one day. I take a final sweep around at the view, before following Tony down the ‘big hill’ to the Black Road and home to Dublin. (7.5hrs)
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.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting St. Patrick’s Boys National School in Drumcondra to talk about the fun of getting healthy and getting active. They are wonderful lads who know lots about sport and mountains and what happens at altitude. They are great at science and geography, they know the height of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. They are polite, enthusiastic, intelligent and very talented. They had lots of hints for me, and explained that I’ll enjoy running more if I run with a friend, and if I run as much as I can and then run a little bit more. They also told me it’s good to have a reason or a goal to run for. I’ve taken their advice and accepted their challenge to run a 10k in the Phoenix Park by the end of the Summer. They tell me that I can do it – and I believe them. The boys also had a surprise presentation for me, and performed a couple of rap songs that they had written for me, about food and healthy eating. Their work is so good that I just had to share the lyrics with you. It’s a pity I didn’t bring my GoPro camera along to video them – because they were great. Maybe next time 🙂
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese.
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese. x3
Carrots are good
Potatoes are too. Song
Sugar is bad
Salt will kill you!!
I wanna eat some cake
Which I’m not allowed
So let’s eat some rhubarb
Which I am allowed
We’ll go into the kitchen Rap
And take out all the junk
Get a bit of rhubarb
Add some cheese
Go into the sitting-room
And eat with ease.
Every night at tea-time
I eat bread
It is brown
Then I add some flora
Not butter song to the tune of Titanic
It is bad.
Sometimes I have white bread
But it’s full of sugar
And salt and faaat.
I live with an apple beside my bed
I can’t get this junk food out of my head. Tune of ‘Monster’
I’m going for runs but I keep losing my breath.
I’m trying to get fit, I’m to get fit, because I care.
Heyyyyy brother, there’s a KFC around the corner
OOOOhhhh we can share a mighty bucket for 2 Tune of ‘Brother’ Avicii
Then there’s nothing in this World we couldn’t do.
Put your hands in the air if you don’t care
Eat KFC and squash your chair (Tune of ‘Put your hands in the air’)
Do a dance, do a dance
Lose your breath AHHHH!!!
It’s a little bit spicy
And a little bit hot
I might need another penny to get a cookie
But then I realised you had a cookie so I ate it instead.
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I ate you cookie
But it tastes so wonderful that it’s in my belly.
Now I quit junk food I put it in the thrash
I feel a lot healthier that I’m not eating hash-browns
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I threw out your cookie
But it looked so tempting I couldn’t control me.
We came, we ate, we did not wait
For our calories to burn
Don’t you ever say that I’m overweight
I will always crush you.
I’m the same size as a wrecking ball
I’ve never been so fat before
All I ever ate is KFC
I pretty own the company.
Someone told me about broccoli
I finally can see my knees
And I’ll be as fit as Muhammad Ali.
I have low cholesterol
I can now run to Donegal
I can now get up when I fall
I can now kick a ball.
I ‘Walked The Line’ and I proudly get to wear the T-shirt, and raise the mug – thanks for a brilliant workout from Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue. Their mega annual fundraiser had two challenges, a navigational chase and a straightforward 25k hike for those who were willing to follow the signs! I chose the latter, but the physical demands were no joke. It was a tough, long day out and I came home delighted in just over 6 hours. To be honest, I had a secret weapon, the latter part of the hike was down through Spinc – my favourite mountain. I was actually heard to say ‘this is my patch’ as I trotted down the stones towards the Miners’ Village – and you know I meant it. Yep I guess I’m declaring it. Spinc is MY mountain – so there! (I’m not actually being facetious – that mountain rescued me from being 23 stone and stuck in a cell of my own skin, and my own making. I owe a lot to that mountain). The other benefit from ‘Walk the Line’ was accidentally turning up just 2-minutes before registration closed, and ending up ‘walking the line’ on my own, which I hadn’t really planned. It left me picking out way-paths and finding my way around the hills in a way I hadn’t done before – and I learned a lot – lessons that came in handy later in the week….
A trip to Lough Sheelin cooled my heels after Wicklow – when I turned up to provide boat cover for my brave ‘Get Off The Couch’ colleague Karen Bowers, who swam her first 1k ‘wild swim’ in the beautiful County Cavan lake, surrounded by master swimmers and the fantastic long-distance swimmer, Fergal Somerville, who turned up to coach her, after recently adding an elusive North Channel Crossing to his previous English Channel crossing. That man is inspiration in a set of speedos, and I have permission from his wonderful wife Margaret to say so. (Incidentally that woman is the best power-bar chef this side of either channel!).
A couple of days later I was back in the water again – this time in Donegal. In bright sunshine, myself and buddy Vera Baker ‘Girls on Tour’ headed north with kayaks strapped to the roof of her heroic Jaguar and two bikes jammed inside, along with wetsuits, paddles, running gear, hiking gear, and high heels. What other way to travel? Well as Vera’s son commented wryly as he saw us reverse out – “it wasn’t that we couldn’t do it – but probably that we shouldn’t“!
We hit the ground running when we arrived in Donegal in bright sunshine and instead of heading for shelter and our lovely home for the next three days, we made straight for the beach and launched the boats. It was a good call too; we woke up to winter conditions the following morning, with the mist so thick we could hardly see our boots as we made our way towards Errigal. That solo-navigation stuff in Wicklow helped with my confidence, as we strolled back down the mountain on a bearing and walked straight into the car park to our absolute delight. Boasting to my Mountain Rescue buddies may have been a calculated error however – I’ve been told I’m navigating next time out!
Lots of thanks are due to lots of people after my last set of adventures. Love you all and hugs will be distributed in due course. x
I love days like this.
Training today wasn’t about the gym (although I know I have to do that too)….. today I trained with good friends, spending an hour kayaking on the Liffey in bright sunshine, and then a couple of hours hanging off a sunny rock in Dalkey.
The arms and core muscles had a good workout paddling against the tide on the Liffey, down at the Jeanie Johnston where City Kayaking operate their new watersports business off the pontoon – which will be great fun when the Tall ships hit town! Myself and fellow Concern Uganda adventurer, Vera Baker, paddled off down-river first, to check out the talent (ahem, I mean the crew) on our Navy Patrol boat the Eithne, which was docked near Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Then we paddled back up past the Samuel Beckett Bridge – straining against a pretty strong current – until we reached our turning point and then surfed the tide back to the pontoon. Sunburned and happy, we skip off to the car and head for Dalkey.
I’ve heard my climbing friends talking about the city’s climbing Mecca, Dalkey Quarry, since I first tied onto a rope at the Trinity College Climbing Wall; and yet this was my first visit. The invite came from climber Niamh Gaffney, who was looking for ‘newbies’ to clock up teaching hours for an evaluation. I was happy to oblige and I dragged my mate Vera, without really tellling her what I was getting her into. She was a natural, which was fortunate – because we remained friends afterwards – which was fortunate, because she was driving me home! Wicklow Mountain Rescue hot gun Ronan Friel joined us with Charlie the dog, and both offered lots of encouragement.
It was a sunny day, with lots of climbers clinking as they walked past in their toe-pinching skins, jangling metal carabinas and different ‘protection’ blocks rattling off the metal hoops in their harness. It’s a distinctive sound, like the clinking of the sailing lines on the masts of yachts at marinas. It’s the kind of sound that goes well with warmth and sunshine, the smell of hot grass, drying thistles… and good feelings.
I’m climbing the beautiful Carrauntoohil in Kerry, on September 16th, with the Concern team that are heading out to Uganda for their tri-adventure challenge this November.
The charity has said we can invite some friends along to climb Carrauntoohil with us – if they fill out a sponsorship form and raise some squids for Concern.
It’s the highest mountain in Ireland, so it’s definately worth raising a bit of sponsorship – it also requires anyone tackling it, to be hill-fit with decent gear, boots, waterproofs etc.
There probably won’t be that many spaces available, because we’ll need to match numbers to guides etc… so if you have your boots greased, and you fancy joining me, don’t hesitate, email now and let me know on: firstname.lastname@example.org
What an exciting week. Watching Katie storm to victory has inspired a nation – and a few ladies I’m sure, like me, have been moved to embrace their own, secret, inner Olympian; the suprise ‘you’ who occasionally pulls out all the stops to exceed expectations – your own and others! It could be running a mile, swimming that little bit faster, or achieving something unexpected at the office or with your kids. You don’t have to ‘climb a mountain, to climb a mountain’ – if you know what I mean!
It’s been a week of PB’s, or ‘personal bests’. I’m getting very familiar with the expression now after watching Team Ireland in the Olympics. I pulled my own PB, cycling home to Blanchardstown, to catch Katie’s fight on TV with my dad, who’s 87 and was watching the bout ‘home alone’. I got delayed at work, and dashed desperately for the bike with 15k to cycle and not enough minutes on the clock. My current best time for the ‘race’ home was 40″mins, and it just wasn’t enough, but I had to try; at least I’d catch the end… maybe.
As I huffed and puffed across the Phoenix Park and down the canal, the Irish summer arrived, and as the hour ran out of minutes, the sun beamed and I began to melt. I looked at the roads and the park emptying around me – and considered stopping off at a pub along the way – sure of a welcome and a cheering Irish crowd. Then I thought of dad and pushed a bit harder, putting the minutes out of my mind and licking the salty drops dripping from the end of my nose.
I swung up the path to the house with 5.03pm on my wrist, sure I was too late. Then I saw the big-screen TV flickering through the lounge window and realised they were still standing in the ring. I jumped from the pedals and dashed to the red-front door grappling with the key, and bursting into the room as the judge thrust Katie’s fist into the air – along with dad’s – and my own, as we all joined in jubilation…..together.
I’d made it home in 35 minutes – 5 minutes faster than expected. A town, a city and a nation cheered. Mna Na hEireann. It was Katie’s day….. and mine. 🙂