Climbing Slieve Donard

Climbing Slieve Donard 22/01/17

Quite a while ago, whilst sitting in our Camper Van at Donard car park in Newcastle Co Down, Alan suggested that we walk through Donard Forest and up into the Mourne Mountains. At the time, for various reasons, the main one being I was very lazy and couldn’t see how walking that far could constitute any type of fun, I declined.

Fast forward at least ten years to late January 2017, here I was sitting having coffee just before embarking on my first ever climb up a mountain. That mountain was Slieve Donard, and we were going to start the climb through Donard Forest.

Just 24 hours earlier, I happened to mention the time we had spoken about going up into the Mournes, and one thing led to another, and here we were with Alan’s brother Phillip.


Myself and Phillip in Donard Carpark pic by Alan Fitzpatrick
Waiting by the gate

As I had never climbed up anything before, I was pretty apprehensive, not to mention badly kitted out for the journey. As I have mentioned before, lesson number one, Docs and jeans, are not appropriate ‘walking up anything’ gear.

Even though it was late January and the sky was grey with a chill in the air, it turned out to be the best weather we have had so far since then.

I loved the first part of the walk through the forest, even if it was a bit steeper than I was used to. I am very partial to trees, so anywhere near them makes me a happy camper.

Then came the second bit, where we left the forest behind and walked through a valley. It was only then that I copped that the curvy section just to my left, where all the people were walking up, was our intended destination.

This would bring us up to the Saddle, which is the section between the two mountain peaks, and the one disappearing into the sky was Slieve Donard.

My not-so-great love of heights, my sore legs, walking on the flat and up a mountain cannot be compared, and my slightly cranky humour ground me to a halt.

Ten minutes of negotiations later, Alan had managed to convince me to go as far as the Saddle. So I did.

I changed my shoes, ate a bit and looked up at both mountain peaks before I waddled back down again.

I can say my first experience was not as I thought it would be and very physically different than I expected it to be. But I had made it to the Saddle, the highest I had ever been up something, so it was a start, and now I could reference how long it would take to walk there.

Between our 1st and 2nd (almost) walks up Slieve Donard, we climbed Slieve Binnian.

Climbing Slieve Donard 18/03/17

For my 2nd attempt at getting to the top of Slieve Donard, we were better prepared; I had the walking boots and trousers, backpack and lunch. We even had rain gear, just in case.

Well, there was no ‘just in case’ about it, the first part, again in the forest, started well, with only a 30% chance of rain. After that, it was grey and overcast but pleasant.

2/3 of the way up, it started to drizzle, then the drizzle turned into a shower, the shower into buckets, and by the time we left the forest behind, it was a full-blown gale, where I was bending over to try and stand up straight.

Donard attempt number 2 ended in the valley. This time I didn’t even get to the Saddle.

Not one to give up, I muttered to myself, “next time”.

Short video of our 2nd attempt to climb Slieve Donard / Shot on an iPhone 5 & iPhone SE using a Gimble


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