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.
“Ninja Midges” – that’s what we dubbed them, as the dying throes of the soon-to-be infamous ‘Summer of 2013 Heatwave’ burned deep into the reddening Roscommon skyline. As we gathered around the citronella flares that marked the heart of our Wild Water Kayak Club tent village, dodging dive-bombing beasties with fangs – I scratched lazily at the rising bumps on my legs and arms – and pondered that my weekend in Cootehall would be memorable to me for a host of reasons.
I’ve had two days of open canoe fun with old and new friends which has come as a timely kick-start to training for my next adventure – a Liffey Descent and Cycle challenge for LauraLynn Hospice (which you can read about by clicking HERE). I’ve also randomly found myself back near Ballyfarnon, where my dad owned a pub when I was 8. We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I’d nearly forgotten about living here – so a weekend of driving and paddling through this old familiar territory has stirred up a whole bunch of memories. The surprises continued when I met with one of my LauraLynn challenge SASTA sponsors who lives down here – only to find she was also an old school-mate back in the day!
The club’s canoe weekend saw us out on the Shannon and paddling from Cootehall to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday, which was around 12k of water covered – more if you include the messin! Sunday saw us move the boats to Lough Key Forest Park where we paddled the whole way out to the island with the castle on it, that I used to stare out at as a kid. Then we paddled further again, to picnic on yet another island even further out in the lake. I just love the way canoes open up the waterways to allow for a whole new range of adventures. Someone had camped on the island, or had at least lit a massive bonfire and I stared in envy – wishing dad had brought me here when I was 8. But maybe I’ll bring him, now he’s 88.
I tore myself away from Roscommon with a heavy heart and a whole heap of new questions about how life could have turned out if we’d stayed in the pub. It was known as the Cosy Inn – in case you’ve ever raised a glass there. It’s closed now I’m told. All those laughing voices and clinking glasses faded into memory.
Back in Dublin, Monday brought no muscle soreness, which is a good sign that I’m off to a flying start for my Liffey Descent training. I need to get my cycling legs back now, build on my current fitness, and lose a stone in the next two months. Then I’ll be ready. No problem – Gulp!
These fun-filled, action-packed weekends can only help. Exercising is so much better when you’re having fun with friends. It’s my secret weapon for getting fit and keeping fit. Last weekend I climbed Carrauntoohil for Concern to support climbing buddy Vera Baker who’s heading to Kenya with the charity this year. We followed the hike on Saturday with an adventure on Sunday which saw us in Tomies Wood in the Gap of Dunloe – with legendary Irish adventurer Pat Falvey and Eamon Waldron from ‘Get Off The Couch’, the adventure programme that I’m presenting on Setanta TV this September.
We spent about an hour hiking through some of the country’s oldest oak woodland, breathing in the earthy tones and feasting our eyes on the 40-shades of green mosses, herbs and ferns of this magical ‘Alice in Wonderland’ trek. Thank’s to Pat’s excellent stage-management, we suddenly stumbled with gasps of delight into a shady glade that thundered with the sound of O’Sullivan’s Cascade – 1.5kilometres of waterfall tumbling through the woodland and down to the lakes of Killarney National Park. We girls couldn’t resist taking a dip in one of the ice-cold plunge pools; feeling like wood-nymphs in a fairytale, or maybe the girls in a Tomotei advert. It’s easy to let your imagination run away with you in a magical place like this…
Folklore tells us that O’Sullivan’s Cascade is where the chief of the Fianna, Fionn MacCumhal stashed his personal whiskey store, before a row with invaders saw the precious drop turn back to water. Later, we turned the water back into wine, over a bowl of chowder at Kate Kearney’s Cottage.. 😉
Can’t wait for next week’s adventure.