Having never climbed any mountains before this year, I definitely made up for it during the month of March. Every weekend we climbed a mountain, as listed below and I have linked each mountain to the corresponding blog post here on my website.
March 4th Slieve Binnian
March 11th Croagh Patrick
March 18th Slieve Donard
March 25th Maumturks (this blog post)
After I climbed, or rather half climbed Slieve Donard I decided that I really needed to know more about mountain climbing/walking in general, so after doing some research online we discovered we could do a Mountain Skills course over a weekend in Connemara.
A complete list of course dates and providers is available at http://www.mountaineering.ie/TrainingAndSafety/ClubTrainingAndMountainSkills/MountainSkillsTraining/
View of the Maumahoge Saddle
We completed Mountain Skills 1 over the last weekend in March, which included climbing the Maumturks, where we learned to read and navigate using maps, mountain climbing safety, how to call in exact coordinates to the emergency services just in case anything happens, appropriate gear to wear and what to carry in your ruck sack i.e. food, first aid kit etc.
In general I would definitely recommend doing this course, there are many course providers out there and they are all listed on the Mountaineering website, see the link above.
I would also recommend chatting to the course provider before signing up for the course, just to check on overall fitness levels required and to see if the course is suitable to you.
As I am new to mountaineering I did end up being the slowest in my group and spent a lot of time in the back catching up, I will definitely need to up my fitness level.
Louch Rua & Louch Leitheanach to the left of the pic as we walked up the Maumturks
That being said I learnt quite a few tips and things not to do over the past month as follows:
- Good quality mountain boots are a must, I wasn’t fond of anything around my ankle but they will keep your ankles safe. Don’t wear Docs as I did on my first climb.
- Always carry a whistle, if you blow on it 6 times it signals you need help, anyone climbing near you that hears it has a duty of care to respond. They will respond by blowing on their whistle 3 times. Keeping blowing with a break every 6 whistles so as they can navigate to you. (Note: Never blow your whistle unless you are in trouble and need assistance) This I wish I had known from my first climb.
- Be realistic about your level of fitness, I have been walking daily for over a year now, and can easily walk 20km on the flat but up a mountain is a different kettle of fish all together. I am very slow, which I need to factor in when I am timing a hike.
- Wear layers and bring rain gear, especially in Ireland.
- Bring food and a flask for a warm drink.
- Always tell someone the route you are intending to take and the approximate time you expect to be finished at.
- The weather on a mountain climb can change dramatically, and it is much more extreme as you go up, even on a small mountain. See my post about our second climb on Slieve Donard, at sea level the wind was 11km per hour but in the valley I couldn’t stand up straight, wind speeds can double in certain areas as you climb.
By far our final mountain walk in March had the best weather, really sunny with blue skies in all directions. It was also my most challenging, there was no defined path as in the other three mountains, we hiked up the right side of the mountain around the lake at the centre and back down the Maumahoge Saddle. It total it took about four hours, parts of the way were quite steep (challenging for me as I’m not too fond of heights), areas were very boggy which led to wet feet, good waterproof boots are a must, but the views were spectacular and I would definitely do it again.
Lake at the top of the Maumahoge Saddle
So basically to sum up my month of climbing mountains:
- It was challenging and very worth it.
- Even as fit as I think I am I have a fair bit more to go.
- I do actually have short legs, after pacing exercises I discovered my hubby walks 70 steps for 100 meters and I walk 80 steps. Explains why I’m always pottering behind everyone.
- I do suffer from the donkey syndrome of being immovable if I decide on it, but I am slowly over coming it, thanks to my carrot-toting hubby.
- In all I’m really glad to have taken on something I never in a million years thought I would ever do and even though I don’t have a desire to climb every mountain I see, or maybe ever get to the top peak, I really enjoy doing it and look forward to more mountain climbing over the summer.