22 Jun 2023: Since my junior cert was done, it was time to get back into hill-walking - and what better way to do it that by tackling the The MacGillycuddy's Reeks Mountain Challenge. We were joined by Vinny McInerney, who is currently in training for the The Kerry Way Ultra. Vinny is a fellow competitor in the All Ireland Hillwalking Championships and goes by the username "Nomountainsinclare" on Peakhunter.
We would be following our usual route from The Hydra Road, although this time we would finish up at Kate Kearneys Cottage rather than our usual finishing point - The Gap Of Dunloe. We met up with Vinny at Kate's and he left his vehicle there for later, travelling with us to The Hydra Road.
The conditions were excellent to begin, with a comfortable sunshine shining down on Dad, Vinny and I as we ascended the first mountain of the challenge, Cnoc Íochtair. As we reached the ridge, we discovered a moderate wind, which accompanied us as we walked, appearing and disappearing depending on the surrounding geography.
We were met with a small fog on Carrauntoohil, where we found it strange to be the only ones on the mountain - then again it was a Thursday evening!
We traversed the entire eastern ridge in a thick fog - even the big gun! Rain was forecasted for 8 O' Clock, but as we crossed The Big Gun at 9:30, I was glad of the incorrect forecast!
As we headed from the final mountain of the challenge, Cnoc na dTarbh, towards Kate Kearneys Cottage amidst darkness, the rain finally arrived. We had to cross a long boggy section until we met a so-called "path" following fence. To be fair it wasn't much of a path, just a slightly drier area of bog!
We eventually met The Strickeen Path which led us back down to the road near Kate Kearneys where Vinny had his car parked. He gave us a lift back to our car at The Hydra Road Car Park, where after saying our farewells to Vinny we changed out of our rain-soaked clothes and headed for Kildorrery, arriving home concluding our adventure just after 3am, with 153 points in the bag for The All Ireland Hillwalking Championships
Today we met up with Carolyn Mckinney and her son Oscar to tackle Knockmealdown, Knockmoylan and Sugarloaf Hill. Oscar is only 8 years old and Knockmealdown was his 2nd last County High Point so he is soon to become the youngest person to climb the highest point of the 32 Counties of Ireland. Well done Oscar! We were blessed with the weather, a lovely sun complemented by a light breeze at the peaks.
The family are no strangers to the County High Points with Oscar's older brother Jai completing them recently and his Mam Carolyn having become the fastest woman to complete them during her back to back challenge last year. It was great that we bumped into fellow All Ireland Mountain Challenger Deirdre McEniry AKA Nan on our descent, a brilliant talk was had!
What an amazing day to be on the hills, especially in the company of Carolyn and Oscar, who we wish the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.
07 Apr 2023: At 6:30 in Anglesboro, I took the first steps of my hardest run yet; 29km taking in all 10 peaks of The Galtee Mountains Challenge with 2,254m of elevation gain.
It was tough from the get-go, my legs strained as I headed up the lung-buster Temple Hill. It was interesting to see how the climbing & different terrains affected my pace, I found myself walking a lot of the steeper sections.
I was extremely lucky with the weather. Apart from a light bit of fog at times and the occasional gust of strong wind it was a clear day that made navigation easy and views spectacular.
After just over 5 hours of activity, I finally emerged from a forestry road onto the R639 just below Kilcoran Lodge, concluding an enjoyable but testing adventure.
18 Mar 2023: My third time running off-road, I decided to up the ante and increase both the distance and elevation gain by tackling the Knockmealdowns. Dad dropped me at "Crow Hill Car Park" and I set off running towards Knockshanahullion while Dad drove to The Bay Lough Car Park and headed for Knockmealdown (walking) from there. My uncle Johnny joined Dad for the walk. They had just turned from Knockmealdown to return via Knockmoylan and Sugarloaf Hill as I was just approaching Knockmealdown, the fifth of the eight Sport Hillwalking Locations I had to complete. The morning rain had cleared to reveal a beautiful sunny evening. I found it tough going, and the strong winds on Knockmealdown definitely didn't help. I continued my run and arrived on the Newcastle to Mellery road while the lads still had half the descent of Sugarloaf Hill to do. About 45mins later they arrived to pick me up and we all set off for home.
I ran a total of 17km with 1,200m height gained in just over 2hrs 25mins.
16 Mar 2023: I decided to start St. Patricks weekend off with a bang by going for a run. Wanting to change things up, I cycled over to the Kilcruig forestry entrance to start my adventure.
I really enjoyed bounding along the trails compared to the usual slog along the roads. I logged Kilcruig and Castlegale before heading onto The Keale River Walk which brought me to Ballyorgan, from there I passed the Ballyorgan forestry homes and continued on to the other side of Glasure Wood. See my route below!
Here are a few stats from the 8 months we spent competing in High Point Ireland All Ireland Hillwalking Championships this year and going on to become "All Ireland Hillwalking Individual Champion", "Irish Highpointeer of the year" and "Irish Challenge Hillwalker of the year"
More details, pictures and videos to come!
22 Aug 2022: With the goal of getting over 1000 points by the end of round 3, Dad and I elected to head for an easy evening of local climbing to bag a few extra points to get us closer to the line. We knew both Seefin and Knocknaskagh like the back of our hands by this stage, so we were able to walk without worry and just soak up the scenery of this beautiful evening.
19 Aug 2022: All that planning on rainy days when we were stuck inside was about to pay off. We were in Wicklow, about to tackle The Wicklow Mountains North Challenge. Our plan was to complete the challenge over two days, but still within 24 hours by starting on Friday evening late and continuing on Saturday after some sleep.
On route towards Wicklow we logged Cupidstown Hill since we were passing it and then went on to the Sally Gap to hide the bike for the next day. Some very high heather and a deep dry drain came in handy as a hiding place.
Then it was off to the start of Seahan next and as planned we walked past Seahan and Seefinigan to log Kippure first as darkness began to take hold. It had just gone 9pm when we got Kippure logged and that was the start of the challenge for us officially so we just had to have the remainder done by 9pm on Saturday. We then returned again via Seefinigan and Seahan but logging them this time as we passed. Almost 18KM later we were back to the car by 11pm.
We drove over to the spot we had planned to park and sleep only to discover that car parking was no longer allowed there, so after checking a few other spots we settled at the Kippure Mast entrance and headed to sleep in preparation for Tonduff in the morning.
Tonduff from this side was a boggy affair, Dad was up to his knees in bog before he was even 10 paces from the car! The sky was lighting up spectacularly with the pinks and oranges of the sun, as we passed many little grey "beaches" dotted along the route. We had our first log of the day by 06:00 and back at the car 40 mins later and headed to J.B Malone's Carpark without delay to tackle our next mountain - Djouce
The trek to Djouce from J.B Malone's carpark is simple, making use of the Wicklow Way boardwalk. Once we had Djouce logged we continued straight on past it until we reached War Hill and after logging that we turned on our heels and headed back to the car amidst light winds, especially on the boardwalk!
However, it was only now we realised a critical mistake. Both of our phones mobile plans had ran out at the same time, meaning we had no mobile data or credit to text or call anyone! So no Google Maps for driving or online Peakhunter. Somehow, Dad was able to send an email (No idea how it got through) to Mam and she was able to top us up. So by the time we were back in J.B Malone's carpark, we had Google Maps working and so proceeded onto Scarr
We followed a well worn track to Scarr from Glenmacnass Waterfall, which while steep at first evened out fairly quickly offering an enjoyable walk in the new-found sunlight. But we were here for points so we continued at pace and were back at the car after just an hour and 20 minutes. We could also have tackled Tonelagee from here, but instead elected to drive over to Turlough Hill carpark for a shorter climb.
Tonelagee was our last individual high point that we needed to log for the day. It was only when we set off from the car we realised that we were actually pretty hungry - but there's no turning back so our only option was to log this mountain ASAP! Lots of runners were heading down against us as we walked, who we later learned were artaking in the IMRA Stone Cross to Lug Race. We were glad to dig into a bit of grub when we got back to the car, filling our previously-empty stomachs to the brim.
The final seven High Points were all located along one ridge, so it made sense to tick them off in one go. We left the car in Ballyknockan and made our way to Silsean, following a road which led onto forestry road which eventually gave way onto open mountain, allowing us to navigate our way to Silsean.
After Silsean it was a simple affair of dropping down to a saddle and climbing back up the other side to reach Moanbane.
As we headed for Mullaghcleevaun, we discovered that we were all but alone on these mountains. The first thing we noticed as we descended off of Moanbane were two bulky figures duckingand diving between Peat Hags as they traversed the mountain. As we got closer, we saw they they were actually two military men in full kit!
So, when we saw another pair of people amongst the peat hags, we just assumed they were also with the military. They had "hidden" themselves behind a peat hag, and us being Curious George's were trying to get a closer look. It was only when one of them popped their head up above the peat hag for a quick look at us did we realise who it was - How could we not recognise the trademark curly hair of one of our competitors, Mountain Mike, along with Ida Lazewska (Who would go on to become the the All-Ireland Hillwalking Woman Champions), and they were on the mountains for the exact some reason for us - to complete the The Wicklow Mountains North Challenge! We had a quick chat and of course got a picture before heading our seperate ways, them to Moanbane and us to Mullaghcleevaun.
A short walk took us from Mullaghcleevaun to Mullaghcleevaun East Top
After such a long day, it was a long and endless drag to get Duff Hill, Gravale and Carrigvore logged but we persevered never the less.
From Carrigvore we descended down to a small carpark on the R115, right by the Sally Gap. Dad retrieved his bike (which we had previously hidden) and cycled back to Ballyknockan to get the car and drove back again to collect me. We concluded the epic adventure with some chipper food in Blessington before heading home.
12 Aug 2022: We had an action-packed weekend in store for us, with hopes to complete The Derrynasaggart Mountains Challenge, The Mangerton Mountains Challenge and The MacGillycuddy's Reeks Mountain Challenge, with a few extra mountains thrown in to maximise our points gain!
We started off on Musheramore, an easy and straightforward walk that gave us a taste of the extreme summer heat. We had it logged by 15:50, providing ample time to tick off a few more mountains before the sun goes to bed.
Then it was onto Caherbarnagh, the first mountain we decided to tackle from The Derrynasaggart Mountains Challenge. This was our 3rd visit of the year so we knew the route like the back of our hands. The dry conditions made the going easy underfoot but we sure were sweating thanks to the heat!
Luckily, the gates to the mast road for Mullaganish were open! So after a quick drive up the steep and winding road we arrived at the top and were on our way back down after a quick log.
All that was left to complete the The Derrynasaggart Mountains Challenge were The Paps. This was also our third visit this year, so we were able to zip up and down logging The Paps East and The Paps West, completing our first Mountain Challenge of the weekend as the sun started to set.
To conclude day one of our adventure, we headed over to Crohane which is part of The Mangerton Mountains Challenge. We decided to get it done this evening as it was a fair bit out of the way from the rest of the mountains on that challenge. There was a gravel road most of the way to the top from which we could watch the end of the sunset over Lough Guitane. After a final steep climb we logged Crohane at 22:12. On our descent a beautiful red moon made an appearance and we could see fireworks outside Killarney. (Land owners permission was requested before we used this route)
By midnight, we were asleep at the start point of Mangerton getting some rest for what was sure to be an epic day 2.
First up in The Mangerton Mountains Challenge was Mangerton North Top. We followed the extremely popular path which leads to the 'The Devil's Punchbowl'. We didn't make it that far though, turning off a bit earlier to climb up to Mangerton North Top. Despite a set off time of 6:13, the heat had already set in and the sweat had begun to pour. We had made sure to pack lots of water, the downside of this being the extra weight in our bags.
Next it was onto Mangerton itself, passing The Devil's Punchbowl as we walked.
The next 2 mountains on our list, Dromderalough & Knockbrack, were pretty akward. We had to walk almost 4km out to them and then walk back to almost the exact same spot to continue on. Nevertheless we ticked them off after a battle with the tough underfoot conditions and on the way back ate a bit of lunch before refilling our bottles in a small stream.
Once we had that awkward leg of the trip completed, it was fairly easy to reach Stoompa, the final mountain of The Mangerton Mountains Challenge.
On the way down, I decided to cool down with a dip in Loch Garagarry, a lake that sits below Stoompa. After a nice swim and a small few navigational issues, we arrived back onto the mainstream path which led us back to the car, wrapping up our adventures for day 2.
We headed into Killarney for a bit of grub and a bit of ice-cream to cool us down! Once we had our bellies filled we drove to hide dads bike on the Black Road, our finish point for the reeks. Then we headed for the Hydra Road Car Park for another sleepover. We planned on starting early again the following day so once we watched the sun setting we tried to get some sleep.
We woke up the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to tackle The MacGillycuddy's Reeks Mountain Challenge for the 2nd time, having already completed it last season. We caught a beautiful sunrise from Cnoc Íochtair and met a mad crow on top of Beenkeragh. We passed lots of goats on the way to Carrauntoohil, where we met a hiker who had camped overnight in a tent.
The route familiar to us by now, we headed over and logged Caher before tracing our footsteps back to the slopes of Carrauntoohil. This was the last out and back section of the route.
Throughout the remainder of the walk, the biggest issue we encountered was swarms of flying ants crowded around the mountaintops exactly where we needed to log. We navigated the big gun perfectly but couldn't hang around thanks to our flying foes. From there it was smooth sailing back down to The Gap Of Dunloe not only finishing our traverse of MacGillycuddy's Reeks but also concluding the weekends adventures.
Once back on the Black Road, Dad set off on the bike to collect the car at the Hydro Road car park and return to collect me and the bags. It was great to have another lake dip, this time in Auger Lake.
Then with fresh clothes on we were off to McDonalds for some well earned grub.