I am not climbing Carrauntoohil today. I am in Kerry, I am in Killarney, I am staying at the Mountain Lodge of explorer, adventurer and mountain mentor Pat Falvey; but I am still not climbing Carrauntoohil today.
Pat has a group going up alright; all anxious and excited with crampons and ice-axes, in search of snow and ice in Curved Gulley. I envy them a little, but I am not going with them. I haven’t been on a hill for a couple of months, and halfway through a six hour hike in winter conditions is not the time to discover you’re not hill fit. Especially when you know the answer before you start.
I did get the invitation to join them though, and I couldn’t resist the lure of at least walking in to the foothills.
I had a late and sociable night, finally rolling into my duvet around 2am. When the alarm kicked up a racket at 7am it was still inky dark outside. I shivered, punched my pillow, and considered rolling back into the arms of sleep. A little part of me wondered ‘what was the point of joining the hike if I wasn’t going to climb the mountain’.
The smell of Continue reading
The beautiful mineral blue waters of Lake Cummeenoughter have fascinated me for many years, ever since I spotted the corrie lake on one of my first hikes up Carrauntoohil with mountain ‘mentor’, Irish adventurer Pat Falvey. Depending on light and conditions I have seen the lake sparkling emerald green, deep cobalt blue, and ominously Continue reading
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.
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.
Well it’s a week to go to Uganda, so if I haven’t trained enough by now, I’ve just left it too late. I’m excited, but I’ve got those pre-expedition ponders – when you just can’t help going over the last few months in your mind, and wonder… if only. If only I’d tried hot-yoga, it would have helped me prepare for the heat. If only I’d spent more time on the hills, more time on the bike, more time in the pool. But in fairness, I drafted a training plan several months ago, and I’ve pretty much stuck to my plan. I’ve cycled 15k into work and back, most days – I’ve lifted weights in the gym twice a week, I’ve joined Wild Water Kayak Club and learned the basics of how to paddle, I’ve got my level 2 cert to prove it. I’ve climbed Carrauntoohil twice, and Purple Mountain and Tomies – as well as several training runs up my beloved Spinc in Wicklow.I’ll know very soon if I’ve done enough to tackle the altitude on Mount Elgon, whether I’ve done enough to keep up with the rest of the group as we cycle over 200k through the African bush, and whether I’ll be able to Kayak well enough, when we get to the Nile and Hairy Lemon Island.
This was my very last weekend for training, and it’s been a howler. A day’s climbing in Wicklow yesterday, followed by climbing at Awesome Walls last night – and a day out on the Liffey kayaking today – and all with a film crew shadowing every move in preperation for “Get Off the Couch”, a programme I’m presenting for Athena Media on Setanta next year, which aims to encourage people to get up and get active and get outdoors into our lovely countryside. Thanks to Barry and Paula and Rob and Helen – you were all brilliant this weekend and I’ve learned so much already from you all.
I really don’t know whether I’ve done enough for Uganda on Saturday – I really hope I have, I hope I do Concern proud. But at least after today, I feel a lot more confident about the paddling. I’ve had a real mental block over paddling over weirs into white water and was gutted last weekend when what should have been my last training session didn’t come off the way I wanted it to. I decided to have one last shot and the guys in the club pulled out all the stops for me and got me in the water again this weekend. Last night I kept telling myself I could do it – even though I didn’t really believe it! Today I told myself the same thing, and eventually when the time came, I popped over Wrens, and stayed upright….then did it again… and again. Andy, my WWKC instructor was with another group downstream, and he told me later they all heard me screaming with jubilation and they laughed as he said “ah, Teena’s made it down Wrens!”
I’m so grateful to Wild Water Kayak Club. To Andy, Aidan and Dave – who first showed me the ropes, to Andy again who never gave up on me, and to John Judge and Sean who took me out today. Thank you to adventurer, friend and mentor Pat Falvey, to Wicklow Mountain Rescue buddy Ronan Friel, ATI ‘City Kayak’ chief Donnchadh McCobb, to gym guru David Dunne, to my own fantastic radio station 98FM, to Howth Coast Guard and all our ‘forces’, to the most patient dad in Ireland, to my brother who’s prepared a detailed list of all the spiders I need to avoid in Africa, to the Albany Clinic who gave me millions of injections for a very tiny price and no bruises, to Great Outdoors who always support me and who are on P41 of my book!, to swimming ‘Chanimal’ Fergal Somerville, and to everyone who hiked and climbed and encouraged and motivated me over the past couple of months. So many friends, including my FB & Twitter supporters, I’m so very, very lucky. And thank you to whoever told me to fake-it till you make-it… ‘cos today I faked my way over Wrens until I suddenly made it! If it turns out that I haven’t done enough for Uganda, I guess I know what I have to do.. 😉
Well an early start for the hills…. fumbling around in the dark, so that I don’t wake up my friends – in the bedroom at the Crowne Plaza where we all collapsed around 3am, after the Community Counts Fashion Show. I put on my bra, only to discover it’s Fiona’s. Ooops, sorry Fee. I put it back neatly on the floor beside your knickers. I hope you found it!
My head is not exactly healthy, although I don’t remember drinking that much wine – but perhaps that’s the problem. Down to breakfast and I bump into Vera and Andy, the hostess with the mostess, and our DJ and soundman from the night before. Cheery greetings and I grab a plate of beans and mushrooms, with a slice of black pudding, and deny myself the sausages! (I am supposed to be training after all.) It’s 8am and I’m pushing off shortly to join some of my old Mountain Rescue buddies on a mountain in Wicklow for a day’s hiking.
I’m climbing today with www.irishguidedwalks.ie and the target is ‘Lugalla’ or ‘Fancy’ Mountain. So good they named it twice. It’s a long, slog up – heading up past the old Guinness Estate and lake, then a climb along a ridge, a water crossing, and back down again to the cars. I start out on the upward climb to the ridge and I quickly realise the pace is fast, a bit too fast for me. Instead of huffing and puffing, I take off a layer of clothes, drink some water and drop back. Ronan’s a good guide and he’s going to stay with the slowest in the group, so I’m happy that I won’t find myself under ‘unreasonable’ pressure. As it happens, the fast pace killed some of the early starters and they dropped back – leaving me about 2/3rds of the way down the line by the time we reached our first summit.
I wonder if I will ever be fast? I never seem to have that pace that pulls ahead under a head of steam. Maybe that’s my short legs (I’m 5ft), or maybe I’m just not fit enough yet. But where I’m building confidence is with the conviction that I don’t generally get tired. I have a slow, but steady pace and I’ll just keep plugging along. My knees are dodgy, but I use walking poles to get me through the most difficult bits; and so far, I’ve been lucky. Everything’s held up.
The hike takes about 3.5 hours to cover just over 8-kilometres of mixed incline, at a pretty reasonable pace….a good little training walk, to keep me ticking over for that volcano we’ll be climbing in Uganda for Concern in less than a month’s time.
The sun was beaming, all traces of the night before evaporated quickly, and it was good to be back on a hill with friends. A girl finds a lot of answers on a mountain, and tripping over the heather was just what this girl needed this weekend! 🙂