hill walking

Second Spring on a Mountain…

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Love Heart Lake, Wicklow

I’m off on a new adventure and I don’t quite know the way. I’d grab a map, but I can’t seem to find a grid reference. Menopause is something all women experience ‘at a certain age’ and yet I can count on one hand the number of women who have ever mentioned it to me.  I’m now getting a taste of these life changes myself and I have a suspicion that I’ll be talking about it a lot! 

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Slievenamon sunset

No night sweats or massive mood swings as yet, but I’m definitely more scatty and forgetful than usual.  My cycle is shifting and I got hit with cramps and illness that sent me back to bed last Friday and robbed me of a trip into the hills with the girls. Very annoying.  

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JuJu Jay & friends, Mall Hill

Realising that my body is changing, I hesitated before posting about it on Facebook. I think I felt embarrassed, I felt perhaps I was getting old. The notion lasted all of ten minutes. A few hormones didn’t ruin my transition from chick to hen, and they’re not going to stop me getting my butterfly wings.  

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Vera Baker on Scarr

I am glad I decided to talk about it. Within the hour, my friends on Facebook had put me wise about nutrition, remedies like red clover and vitamin B, and I had been put in touch with a very uplifting website called www.mysecondspring.ie. A site dedicated to supporting and celebrating women entering menopause.  

I lost one day on the mountains, but that didn’t last long. I’ve had a wonderful few weeks; the 33k Walk The Line for Dublin Wickow Mountain Rescue, a beautiful full moon hike with MountainZone on Slievenamon, an 18k trek across the Wicklow Mountains with JuJu Jay and a lovely trot up Brown Mountain and Scarr with climbing buddy Vera Baker.  

IMG_2095.JPGThis beautiful sunny Easter weather has also served as a reminder of how wonderful Ireland is, and how beautiful our natural resources.  I can’t feel bad with all those green rolling hills calling to me.  Nothing like a brisk walk to reset a girl’s perspective. New shoes and a fresh new haircut didn’t hurt either! Control, Alt, Delete; that’s my reboot right there.  Come on second spring; let’s be having you.

I’ll let you know how I get on..

Galloping Across the Galtees

IMG_3704Climbing The ‘Big Hill’

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. woodland1

Dreamtime meets Denial

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 chunkCottage 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.

Signing the Visitor’s Log Tony

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.

A Bit of Ducking and Diving

I got here

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.view galtymore

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.view of galtymore

Meeting a Man on a Mission

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 galtymore crosshimself, 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)

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Cooking Up A Storm in Kerry

GapPhoto1My thighs hurt, my calves hurt, my shoulders hurt, my ankles hurt, my fingers hurt….   what’s wrong with me?   Oh yes, I’m back from training in Kerry’s high peaks. My neck hurts too..  in fact, the only thing that doesn’t hurt is my knee – which is great news, because that’s supposed to be my weakest bit. So I’ve kept my dodgy knee safe, and worked everything else. Result.

I have 31 days left, before I head off to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus with Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures, and after getting injured earlier this year, I’m really running out of time.  I’m back in the gym, doing yoga, cycling, using weights, running and swimming – I’m doing everything I can to be fit in time. I’m fairly confident that I’m fit enough to train properly now, but I’m running out of time to get hill-fit, and every day counts. All my friends have been called into action, to give me company out on the hill. It’s all to play for, and I’m not giving up.

A Heaven Sent Tuna Wrap

This is the second weekend I’ve spent in Kerry.  Last weekend, Pat Falvey and Alpinist John Higgs, invited me to Carrauntoohil for a ropes and crevasse rescue course.  This weekend Pat and instructor Tony Nation had me back out on the hills – this time at 2am, beating back the rain and mist to find sunrise over the Kerry Reeks, after many hours of climbing and ploughing through bog. I was piggy-backing with a gang of girls who are training for a trip to Kilimanjaro. It was tough going, and when we reached the summit of Cnoc Na Braca, all I was fit for was huddling into the rocks and feasting on a tuna-wrap, which tasted a bit like mana from heaven.brekkie

Six hours of hiking through darkness into a relentless Kerry rainstorm was enough to test the best of gear and spirits, but as we got to the top, the rain eased, a brief shimmer of sunlight emerged and the mist lifted just long enough for a few photos while we ate lunch, giving us a tantalising glimpse of the beautiful view over the Black Valley, before closing in again, shutting down, and punishing us the whole way back down the hill. Kerry can be a bit like that at times. I found going down harder than going up, and was relieved to reach the valley floor and head back to Pat’s Mountain Lodge for a full Irish cooked by the boys, which was a truly unexpected treat!

 

Bagging Some Peaks

For a while I thought I’d made a mistake going out with the group. I’ve been letting my leg heal for a few months now and I was worried that perhaps the long haul over the uneven, soggy, bog, would have caused new damage. But I woke up this morning, stiff everywhere else, but ‘sound of knee’, so I’m relieved, and ready to keep stepping up the pressure. bootcamp

It could have been a lot worse of course. Pat had ‘threatened me’ with his ‘Survival on Carrauntoohil Bootcamp’ to help with my fitness. I got to see how that looked when the Adrigole GAA team turned up on Saturday morning at Cronin’s Yard. The guys were faced with Pat Falvey, Tony Nation and two Military Instructors who put them through their paces.  I watched as they carried ‘casualties’ across the mountain, using shovels and pick-axe to dig out channels, dragging under camouflage canopies, and struggling through icy mountain streams, as the mist and rain beat them back into the bog. Those lads were WICKED.

Parting shot from Pat as I left the lodge?  “Goodbye now girl, and you know, you could try climbing a few mountains…”  I guess I’m heading back to Kerry next weekend.

 

 

Testing Times Tomorrow…

7. Training Carrauntoohil (2)Ireland’s Highest Mountain

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.

A bit ‘hot and bothered’

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.

Countdown to Elbrus

 

 

 

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Cranking Up The Kayaking….

LS1As 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 CastleconnellCastleconnell 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.

spriteBack 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/

IMG_8786Training Record:

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.

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An Ice Princess At The Top Of The World…

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 Couchcrew 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!

  • Good Friday March 29th – Climbing on Spinc Mountain
  • Saturday – Climbing in the Galtee Mountains
  • Sunday – Splash and Dash at Malahide with Low Rock Swimmers
  • Monday – 45″ gym session with David Dunne @ Westpoint Gym, Blanchardstown – running training @ Morton Stadium
  • Tuesday – 45″ gym session with David Dunne
  • Wednesday – Le Chéile AC  – Couch to 5k
  • Thursday – 45″ gym session with David Dunne
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Rafting with GOTC TV team
  • Sunday – Running training with Catriona McKiernan for GOTC TV
  • Monday – Running 3 k
  • Tuesday – 45″ gym
  • Wednesday  – Running 3k
  • Thursday – 45″ Gym
  • Friday – Rest Day
  • Saturday – Lugnaquilla / 5.5 hr hike in winter conditions
  • Sunday – Great Ireland Run – 10k

 

 

Getting Hot with Santa…

No better way to wind down the year than a mulled pie darkness hike from Pine Forest/Tibradden to the Blue Light pub. After last night’s storm, today dawned dry and bright and it was a pleasure to get out into the woods. We had lots of layers squashed into our rucksacks, in preperation for the cold windy bits we’d find at the top, and we needed them – it was like being in a wind-tunnel up there.  We all brought head-torches too, and spare batteries; because we knew we’d be walking from daylight into the dark.  Thanks to Brian O’d and a score of hardy hikers for a great day (& night) out…

Got to say, when we all set off from Rathfarnham I felt a little grim – that was a hot pace, and there were lots of big people with long legs! I’m just 5″ and those long legged yokes are the bane of my life. 😉

Actually, if the truth be known, I haven’t been on a hill since coming back from Uganda and I simply wasn’t hill-fit.  The first 30 minutes were tough, I was sweating like a dog and panting like a cart-horse. I couldn’t understand why I was so over-heating so much.  But after a while, I had enough ‘cop’ to take the Santa hat off – and I cooled down a bit.  Doh!!!

Mousse and Mist On A Mountain..

So the challenge was to climb the beautiful but often brooding Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain at 1.039Mtrs/3,123Ft.  But in fact, my climbing and Concern/Uganda buddy, Vera Baker and I were to summit two of the highest peaks in Ireland, in just one day.

Along with a group of close to 60 walkers we approached this weekend’s Concern training walk with a certain amount of trepidation.  Both Vera and myself were aware that we were a little deficient in training times for this big climb.  It wasn’t due to any laziness or lack of organisation on our part, but we had needed to devote time to learning to Kayak and building up miles on the bikes for our multi-challenge adventure in Uganda for Concern this November, and getting out on the hills had suffered as a result.

Today we would find out exactly how much work we had to do.  The route chosen for the climb is considered to be one of the easier, or at least ‘safest’ ascents to Carrauntoohil.  We were staying on a completely different side of the mountain to the much talked about ‘Ladder’ route, which was badly eroded, and had been turned into a virtual river of mud and rock in the recent rains.  With such a large group, a solid route was vital.

This was Vera’s first attempt at Carrauntoohil, and though I am a familiar visitor here, this approach from the West side of the mountain, was a first for me too.  We drove up in pouring rain, resigned to a long, wet and misty hike – well wrapped up for the weather and determined to enjoy ourselves despite the wet and damp and the lack of views.  Our walk began by following The Hydro Road, presumably named for the resevoir that we shortly passed by, and after a while we realised that the heavy rain had been replaced my a light mist.  I joked to Vera that my iPhone App which had defiantly been declaring sun all morning, might in fact be right.  I didn’t for a moment believe my own humour, as the long range forecast had confirmed the rain was down for the day.

After an initial sharp climb on road, we made our way for close to an hour across steaming bog and took a break and food, before bracing ourselves for the sharp ascent to summit Caher Mountain,  we were about 45 mins away from the top of Ireland’s second highest peak at (1001 m/3000 ft).  Reaching the Summit and congratulating Vera, we discovered we needed to wait on top for the group to catch up, I hurriedly fleeced up as the gusting wind whipped around my gortex shell, chilling me extremely quickly.

Caher Ridge was the next challenge.  The spiny, winding, dinosaur tail that stretched beyond into the wildness of the Kerry landscape before sweeping up to our most majestic peak – our final destination – Carrauntoohil.   Stepping down the exposed narrow descent from Caher Mountain to the ridge was not for the faint hearted, with severe drops falling away to our left. However the mist which had spoiled our views up to now, proved to be our friend – masking the depth of the fall on either side, and allowing those with a less than even head for heights (me) to make our way through, in blissful ignorance of what lay below.  Although I’d been in these hills long enough to know instinctively that careful footwork was a wise precaution!   As we gained the more level passage of the ridge itself the wind magically gusted the mist away and we grasped an emerald flash of green – swept away in seconds, before other climbers just seconds behind us, had a chance to raise their heads.  This ‘peek-a-boo’ through the mist continued as we made our way along the ridge, gasps of amazement, foiled by almost instant sighs of regret as the views disappeared – cloaked again by the cloud, as it played out its burlesque peep-show for the climbers making their way to the summit.

And then we were there.  We’d been speeding up for the last 15 mins with the huge iron cross that marks the highest peak in Ireland ever-present as conditions continued to clear, drawing us closer to it, faster and more confident.  We’re laughing and congratulating each other, as our group of 40 climbers pass through a descending group of around 20, as we embrace the summit in bright sunshine, with superb views in all directions.  I’ve been up here often enough to know how lucky we were to see conditions clear like this, and I congratulated Vera on her first, highly successful Carrauntoohil summit.

Lunch with Vera has to get a mention here – this is the only time I’ve had a multi-grain salad with a chocolate mousse on top of this mountain – and Vera can take care of the lunches for ever into the future!  We were the envy of the mountain, and I apologise to all those who salivated at our fare!   Food played a huge role in our climb.  There was more stopping and more eating than I’m used to – because of the size of the group and the need to keep us all together.   I found it difficult, because I’m used to plodding off and up and getting there, without breaks – and I found that halting my progress and getting cold was more difficult for me.   But I’d never climbed in a group this large, and I learned a lot about managing a large number of people in uncertain territory.  The leaders were skilled, confident and cheerful, and I’m hugely impressed at how they kept us all moving as one.  We made it up in 4hrs 15 and heading back across the ridge the way we had come,  it was close to the same to come down.

8hrs is a long time on the mountain, but apart from a few stiff ankles and general tiredness, we were in pretty good condition.   It was a good day, we tested ourselves well, and we learned a lot.   Not least, we learned that we haven’t done nearly enough to prepare us for climbing the extinct Volcano, Mount Elgon, in Uganda this November.  So it’s back to the hills and back to our lovely Spink Mountain in Glendalough to step up the hiking part of our training regime.  We’ve got about 6 weeks left.  It’s enough.  Perhaps we’ll see you out on the hills this weekend?…

Reaching your Peak…

Hiya…. I’ve got an interesting challenge that you can help me with.

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: teena.gates@98fm.com

 

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