Thursday, April 18, 2013

Report on 38th Annual Maamturks Challenge 2013

Picture by Tim Leahy in 2007

On Saturday 13th April 28 members of the Club participated in the Annual Maamturks Challenge.  Completion times varied from 10 hours upwards but in truth this year it was all about the personal challenge from the perspective of fitness and navigation due to the atrocious weather from Maumahoge onwards.   For all the first timers(13) it really was a tough initiation after a few years of very pleasant weather – and, it can only get better.   Many clubs are amazed we have so many walkers of this standard but it does not just happen overnight. Much planning went into this challenge and we must thank the various leaders, the likes of Victor, Pat, Tom, Imelda, Julie, Michael, David, Ger, John & Dec etc who organised many walks aimed specifically at the event.  So take a well deserved bow.  All the walkers went into serious training over the past few months to achieve these levels of fitness.  As mention, we had 28 members participating and all finished.  The organisers reported 187 registerd walkers started with 134 finishing.
Bishopstown had almost 21% of the finishers – fantastic going. 

In no particular order our walkers were:
Declan O’Connor
Trish O’Connor
Deirdre O’Connell
Marie O’Brien
Imelda McSweeney
Kevin Finn
Catherine Duggan
Sharon Godfrey
Louise O’Leary
Eleanor O’Leary
Michael Henchion
Tom McCarthy
Colin Sweetman
Aiden O’Driscoll
Tommy McGreevy
John Hallissey
Mary Walsh
Pat McCarthy
David Clayton
Victor Hurley
Josephine Falvey
Michael Carey
Jerry Foley
Dermot O’Reilly
Pat O’Dwyer
Joanne Humphries
Harry Dillane
Tony Frawley

The majority of us stayed in the Leenane Hotel, an excellent base for the walk. And what service, with full breakfast available from 3.45am onwards Saturday morning.  The hotel is located immediately across the road from the finish so hot showers, baths may be had immediately – a great reward.  Excellent group meal and a few drinks Saturday night after we had all  cleaned up.

What of the Challenge itself: a tale of two halves
With a weather forecast promising some very nasty wind, rain and mist after noon we decided to strike off as early as we could with most getting going around the 5.30am mark.  The forecasters got it right with clear skies and a breeze to our backs as with head torches alight we struck off in the dark into a climb of over 500 meters to Corcog, (609m) followed by a quick decent of over 200 meters to be followed by another 240 meters up to Mullagh Glas.  By now you new it was a challenge.  And this is what the Maamturks is all about, with and steep ascents followed by as many steep decents.  Continuing on, we reached Maumean (St Patricks Well) in around 3 hours.  Ever conscious of the weather we skipped the usual stop and continued up to Binn Chaonaigh for our first real break.  From here it is a good stretch all the way to Maum Ochoige, which is approx. half way in distance and over 60% of climbing.  Onwards we climbed towards Maum Ean and we were starting to think of times at this stage but as forecast the weather had other ideas and soon we were met with gale force winds, rain and thick mist – from here on navigation became the order of the day and as luck would have it most of the Bishopstown walkers came together and it was like the usual club walk – not planned but a nice surprise.  We and a number of others trekked our way to the Col of Despondency, (at one stage I reckon there were at least 40 walkers in single file moving along pied piper style.)  Our final break before the final climb up Leenane Hill, nothing special on a regular walk but after about 9 hours it can hurt and this year it was waiting for us, as it were, with very severe south easterly gales all the way to the top.  Indeed, many walkers were bowled over on this climb.  Thankfully, from the top the wind was to our backs and the rain eased off and the descent to the finish in Leenane village was relatively easy. 

Suffice to say that after a couple of nice years the Maamtuks reputation of being one of if the toughest walk on the walking calendar has been reinstated.  Will we be back in 2014 – lets wait and see!!

Comments on the Walk: Whilst I understand that NUIG Monutaineering Club do this on a voluntary basis there are some issues which they might consider.  The walkers also put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the Challenge also.
  1. Registration – despite arriving at 5am it was after 5.30am before we got going due to a very slow moving queue.  As the majority of people pre-registered perhaps the Walk Cards could be sent out beforehand with walkers being punched in at the start.
  2. Start – Walkers would appreciate being bused to the start as happens with most of the linear National walks.  Leenane would benefit also as walkers would be more inclined to stay in the vicinity overnight providing much needed income for the local hostelries.  
I have tracked down some links from the day which you may find of interest.

There are very few photos available but a small slide show taken in the early stages are available here:

Some thoughts and comments from the day

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Women With Altitude

The Author at the Intro to Climbing course
   Women With Altitude Glendalough Wicklow 2013

Having first heard about the women with altitude weekend after it's first year in the Mournes mountains two years ago in the quarterly mountain log I had decided that I would go the second year.  Unfortunately in it's second year it was held in Donegal which was too far to travel to but after reading a glowing report in the mountain log afterwards decided that I would hopefully be able to attend it in it's third year.

Maureen O'Brien, Pat Brodrick, Melanie Murphy and I all decided that we would go the third year when they announced that it would be held in Glendalough, Wicklow to represent the female members of Bishopstown hillwalking club.

Firstly let me make it quite clear that Women with Altitude is not for die hard A walkers who want to run a walk at breakneck speed.  This is a celebration of women of ALL levels of ability including C and D walkers.

There was plenty of choice from the extensive weekend programme with the option of paying to do a specialized course on the Saturday as either a full day or 2 half day courses.  There was also hill walks to suit all level of abilities which were free.  I opted for a half days intro to rock climbing followed by an afternoon of technical climbing, Maureen was instructing on the basic navigation course, Melanie did a days scrambling in Glendalough and Pat did ropework for hillwalkers which she was supposed to follow in the afternoon with intro to rock climbing.  Unfortunately this was cancelled due to the weather and she opted instead for a river ascent.

Other courses available included lower traverse to St kevins bed, multi-pitch climbing, introduction to mountain biking, basic and intermediate navigation skills, walk and talk on the environment (flora & fauna) digital photography....the list just goes on and on.

Friday night and our guest speaker was climber Jane Gallwey who solo climbed "Lurking Fear" on El Cap. her talk was inspiring to others to say the least.  All participants attended a three course meal in the Glendalough hotel on Saturday night and a slideshow with guest speaker Orla Pendergast. 

Sunday then saw workshops which you could attend or just head out for the hills doing your own thing, both Maureen and I decided as members of mountain rescue to go to the Glen of Imaals new base and hear a talk about women in rescue, Melanie looked at how to become a leader and Pat looked at nutrition for the mountains, this is just a taste of the workshops that day as you could do two workshops each before lunch.

Before lunch we had a slideshow by mountaineering irelands access and conservation officer Helen lawless on walking in the Pyrenees and a talk on the up coming mountaineering Ireland alpine meet.

The participants came from all clubs and walks of life across the country, the instructors gave there time freely to reduce the costs of the courses and the organisers were exceptional.  I am pleased to say that  it was great to catch up with some old friends but also to discover some new ones after the weekend.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Maureen O'Brien, Pat Brodrick and Melanie Murphy for there company and the laughs...........

Check out the Women with Altitude website at

I am hoping to put a group of women from Bishopstown hillwalkers together for next years meet so if anyone is interested please do not hesitate to get onto me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No. 2 Gully Comeraghs Report

Whilst the wind was a cold south easterly the skies were blue and visibility was excellent as we made our way to Kilclooney Wood at the eastern edge on the Comeraghs. This walk was different in that we had a gully climb and plenty of scrambling to look forward to. Starting from the wood we ascended up the eastern ridge of Coumshingoun Lake to the plateau above the Lake and from there we crossed to Fas Coum, at 792m, the highest point in the Comeraghs, The black bog as it was totally frozen for a change.

We then made our way to the top of Mahon Falls and the base of what is known locally as Number 2 Gully. Given that much of the Mahon River was frozen we were concerned about the state of the gully but all was well and for the most part it was free of ice and it made for a wonderful scramble. There are a couple of tricky bits and it is not for beginners. Lunch was had at the top of the Gully in a nice windless area. From here we climbed to Knock an Piobaire, at 726m, and then to the eastern ridge above the Mahon river for another hour of scrambling.
The conglomerate nature of the rock makes for wonderful scrambling with lots for hand and foot holds. Having reached the southern end on the ridge we descended down and contoured north easterly to arrive back where we started in Kilclooney Wood. The walk took 6 hours with 980m ascending. Many thanks to Julie Reeves whose idea this was.
Thanks to John Cotter, Kevin Finn and Dan Mccarthy a selection of photos are available Here