In aid of Cancer Action Mhaigh Eo (registered charity no. CHY 15789) I will tomorrow attempt, as part of a group, to climb all three of Mayo’s highest mountains in the one day.
We will start with Nephin, at 806 m, with the ‘off’ at 6 am. Croagh Patrick (764 m) follows at 10.30 am. Connacht’s highest mountain, Mweelrea, at 814 m, wraps up the day, with a planned assault time of 3 pm. Hopefully, we’ll be down from Mweelrea around 6.30 to 7 pm.
Now I do quite a bit of walking, but most of it is on pretty flat terrain. The reason for this is that I have very bad knees. But I do love climbing mountains and regularly do so. The price I typically pay is a day’s painful knees and an inability to bend them, particularly the right, for a while afterwards.
So spare a thought for my knees tomorrow, but even more the day after …
And so, on Saturday last, along with around 55 others, I took part in the Mighty Mayo Mountain Challenge.
We started off in two buses from Castlebar and began the climb of Nephin, from the north side, shortly after 6 am. The weather was good and the climb without difficulty. Of course it was cold at the top, but any climb of any mountain in Mayo that you come off still dry is a treat. I took exactly 3 hr 00 to complete the climb and felt fine afterwards. My dodgy knees were still good.
We began the Reek after 10 am and, boy, was it packed. Not only was there the huge Gaelforce West event on, but there were also over 100 climbing in aid of Our Lady’s Hospital for Children, plus the usual individuals, couples and families that are on the mountain any given day during summer.
In fact, I found the Gaelforce guys not to be in the way, but very helpful at making me keep up the pace. With a competitor in front and a competitor behind, you actually didn’t have much choice but to keep moving. I completed it in 2 hr 35, which, while not that fast, wasn’t too shabby either. Maybe 8 years ago, I once did it in 1 hr 05 up and 48 mins down. Again, it was dry.
After soup and sandwiches in Croagh Patrick’s carpark, it was off to Mweelrea. The rain started to fall before we got there.
I had been climbing for 1 hr 30 when the group organiser, Vincent, called a halt to proceedings. He was right. It was far too rainy, far too windy, far too foggy and far too dangerous to continue. I had reached the end of the boggy terrain and just about to hit the rocky final ascent, around 30 minutes from the top. Visibility was much too poor and, in such circumstances, you must respect the mountain. I descended in another 1 hr 05 and was soaked through long before I even started to come off the mountain.
In 10 years, I have tackled Mweelrea 5 times and only ever reached the summit on one occasion. The mountain is right on the ocean to the west, with the Killary immediately to the south. Cloud rolls in incredibly quickly. Literally you can see the summit clearly one minute and not 10 metres in front of your nose the next.
I want to thank all of you who contributed sponsorship for this event. It was a great day in the mountains of Mayo. And the knees survived.