Tag: mountains

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

So with Derry Marathon now confined to the memory bank, it was time to find myself again for a few weeks before launching into another marathon training phase.

Not one to stick with the mundane, I set myself a challenge on a whole new level. The Mourne Walking Festival. Lets face it, I love the mountains, I’ll never run in them but I do love getting lost in my thoughts as I trek my way over them, never walking the same step twice.

It might sound a bit odd that I would take myself off on a walking festival- sure is it not for retired people? WRONG! I arrived to be greeted by those who like me just wanted to get up the mountains. People from all over the country, from across the water in England, Belgium, Germany and even as far afield as the US.  It was very multicultural and with that came the mutual respect for everyones beliefs, values and a common goal to enjoy the experience.

Being my first walking festival I was feeling very out of my comfort zone surrounded by people I didn’t know and no idea what lay ahead in the coming days.

Day 1- Spelga over the Mourne Way to Rostrevor.

So after a cracker few weeks weather’s.. .the weather gods decided it would be perfect to open the heavens and let it rain.

Standing at Spelga it was minging. But the Mourne Way was calling and with a spring in my step I was off. It wasn’t long before I found myself surrounded by those who were my pace and unlike running, I was in the lead group.

  I am convinced that I couldn’t even get that wet in the shower. However the craic was mighty, the stories and journeys of those out enroute where interesting and as we came down of Rocky (the mountain that I had a few weeks earlier watched runners catapult themselves down) I knew the track ahead well having run it a few times, including in pitch black at the 26 Extreme 10k Night Race in January. 


With it being a mixed ability group we stuck together between the guides. But day one was done and that evening I had the best shower ever! 

Day 2 Carricklittle Annalong to Ott car park, Slievenaman Road.

So this was the big Challange of the weekend. Right across the heart of the Mournes from one end to the other. There was going to be some big climbs but as always I kept in mind what goes up must come down.

Day 2 started with seeing all those drier versions of the people I had spent the previous day with. The sun had come out and knowing the route I couldn’t wait to get to Binnian and look over the middle of the Mournes. By far my favourite mountain ever.

We set off and as the first hour passed the group split up into those who where out to walk and those who where out to walk and take in the views and photo’s. A natural split in the group was welcomed and as we sat on the side of Binnian overlooking Ben Crom eating lunch, I felt that mountain moment set upon me. I relaxed, I felt calm and counted myself lucky to be apart of this festival. I love how the mountains are able to do that to your mind.

Discovering the actual way down from Binnian to Ben Crom was a tick on my list of things I wanted to figure out but the descent was short lived as we began the ascent back up at the other side of the Dam on the approach to Doan. 

Over marshland we went, navigating the bog cotton, hidden trenches and rivers we arrived in what I would say is the heart of the mournes as we where surrounded by the main mountains associated with the Mournes. On the climb to Loughshannagh the sky was clear and the rain from the previous day had left the ground green and glowing. 

Adding on an additional 2 peaks to the original route was welcomed by me as we climbed Carn and Ott before descending onto the Slievenaman Road. 

Growing up at the other end of the the Slievenaman Road it made me think about why it took me so long to get up the mountains in the first place. Maybe having them as your back garden I took them for granted but finishing that day I knew that I’d be back on that route again soon. 

The walk was finished off with a cool bottle of locally brewed beer with thanks to Mourne Mountains Brewery.  Perfect end to the day.

Day 3 The Rostrevor end of the Mournes

There was a choice to go for as multi peak walk on the Sunday but I had enjoyed the weekend so much and with an impending half marathon in 5 days I opted for the moderate walk and this time I had brought along Michael for company.

Lesson learned…never take someone with fresh legs with you on the last day of a walking festival. He was motoring up the tracks and cross country mountains with ease and although my legs where still hanging in rightly. I was glad when he finally took the pace back and realised it wasn’t a race and more an experience. 

With some members of the group recovering from the blister ball the night before and others who had been by my side for the past few days. 

As we made our way from Ballintur to Knockshee across the skyline we could see Slieve Martin in the distance. Again another hill and Dale classic where I wondered what lay beyond Fiddlers Green that had runners looking so ruined on the way back down. Although the weather wasn’t as nice as the previous day, the ground was still tight and as we went up and over many smaller hills and mountains it was let’s say, refreshing. 

With views out into Carlingford Lough to one side and the whole collection of the Mournes to the other. We could see the Tors of Binnian, the scene of the previous days adventure. And across the way Slieve Gullion poked out from behind the Cooley mountains. 

As we descended down past Cloughmore stone and into Kilbroney I was saddened that after nearly 5000ft in elevation gain and over 20hours out in the mountains that the weekend was coming to a close. 

Of course we finished the day off with another cool one and toasted a successful weekend where new places where visited, new friends made and where I saw through a challenge which was not only tough going  but enlightening and restored peace in my mind and body. 

Remember that time is ticking on the chance to vote for me in the Dublin Rock n Run Idol competition. As always scroll to the bottom and vote for Siobhan Grant!

http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

Binnian Bitches

Binnian Bitches

So Binnian. ..A mountain I’ve wanted to get up now for a few months.

It has also been a long time since Lauren and I set off on a mountain adventure. Life just got in the way so sitting painting the fence yesterday evening it dawned on me that I fancies a wee trip up the mountain…Cue snapchat to Lauren at 7pm “Binnian?” And from there an adventure was born.

Within 10mins we where in The Bug with an additional passenger in the form of our now Ozzy family member Rachel who because she lives at the otherside of the world got to finally be an active part of Siobhan Stories. I know it’s been a life long dream!

Having never been up Binnian before I was excited as I heard the views where the best in the Mournes and a hands and knees type of climb. 

Literally as we entered into Newcastle, Lauren said it’d be great to have a wee drink up the mountain so Rachel jumped out of the car and ran in and bought 3 cans of Magners. 

As we hesitantly approached the road to the car park a bit of the Lion King soundtrack in the back round got the excitement going. We did pull the car in to make sure we were on the right road to “bunnon” as the other driver called it. And within minutes we were on the ascent. 

Even as we bagan the path the views where fabulous 

Looking out towards the back of Donard and Commeadgh, you really couldn’t beat it. However we looked at the task ahead…It looked a long way up. But as always just focus on the next 5 steps ahead. 

It had more of a path than I had thought, I was expecting another trip like Boggy Bernagh and guessing the route. I also had the panic in the back of my mind that sunset was on its way and the one thing that scares me more than mist on the mountain is darkness.  So it was an onwards and upwards sort of hike.

Great laughs where had and action shots taken to prove to the world that Rachel was climbing a mountain . 

A few wee stops for water,gathering thoughts and tricking our legs into thinking we’d finished when there was still a bit more to go. Lauren, forever the optimist, was always looking at how we had only so much to go and me with pretty much ruined legs from Shore 10k the night before was thinking this wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had. But in true TOB style we took it slow and steady and made it.

In the last 20 metres, I found a lease of life and ran the end. Telling myself I will never make a hill and daler as my legs where busted about half way up. I guess the trick with doing mountains is never to look up at the summit. Keep telling yourself you will get there and each step is a step closer. 

As I came around the corner I caught sight of “that view” Silent Valley, the heart of the Mournes and right over to Donard, I even got to curse Bernagh, the mountain where there is no love lost between us.

  And as we sat and took in the view those 3 cans of well earned Magners where a refreshing treat at the top 

But sadly our time at the top was short. It was now nearly 9pm and we could see the rain rolling in over the mountains and sunset would come within the hour. So we took the drink with us and headed down.

When I say down, I mean we couldn’t see anything infront of us as the misty rain had caught up and our only navigation was to aim down and hope we find the wall. The wall will always get you home.  

I do panic in the mist and Lauren is well aware of my hatred for it. BUT I can be grateful that we actually got to enjoy the view, something I usually don’t get the joy to do as the mountains hate me. 

The mixture of knowing we where heading down and no more climbing involved, paired with a wee drink made the descent some craic. We did find the wall and shortly after it started, the rain did ease off and give us the beautiful views back.

No need to right the world’s wrongs this time. More chat of the good aul times and what we could remember given that at the best of times we were all in some shape back then. 

Both Rachel and I had had our feet submerged in the boggy parts of the mountain on the ascent. However Lauren was to get a soaking of her own as we neared the end by slipping on a rock through a deep puddle and having both feet soaked to the core.  I swear a perfect end to a perfect hike…put a dampener on her optimism.

So what did I learn from Binnian;

Best views of the Mournes by far

It does have an excuse for a path

Morning hikes require Avonmore, evening hikes…Definitely Magners.

Nothing beats an unplanned spare of the moment adventure

Hikes are always awesome when done with friends

Finally. ..I wish Rachel didn’t live in Oz as we’ve so many more mountains to climb but glad we had her for this one! One is better than none

 

Lost without moving

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View from the bottom of the Trassey Track

Nothing beats the early morning sunshine.
Ireland was blessed this week with a few days of Spring and with it came daily clear views of the mountains. I’ve had very little luck this year with the joys of getting a cracker view from any of my mountain walks…mist and clouds seem to follow me. However getting up at 5.30am and hitting the mountains as the sun came up yesterday was the best decision I’ve had all year.

Of course wee Lauren got talked into it…well let’s face it , I suggested it and she didn’t hesitate to agree to come along. So the yellow bug picked me up shortly after 6 and we headed for the Trassey.

We couldn’t believe our luck. Pure blue skies and no sign of even a low lying hill mist. Today was our day. FINALLY!

Off we set with our hearts set on settling a score with Slieve Bernagh. A few weeks back we had done the same mountain however it was miserable and I’d fallen and badly hurt myself.  So today we were going to recapture the love for Bernagh.

There wasn’t a sinner about and as the birds sang and the low spring sun came up over Hares Gap, you couldn’t help but just settle into the landscape.

The thing about Bernagh is…There is no clear cut path to the top like there is with more popular mountains like Donard or Commedgh so it’s a keep walking and hope you make it, with some hands and knees scaling up the side of the mountain.

We were soon thinking we were onto the right path and then ending up being

surrounded by bog. Although the sun was shining, it hadn’t been for a few weeks and this became very evident as we tried to head up the mountain. Slowly we gained elevation and with that came a whole new perspective on the Mournes.

We where in the actual heart of the Mournes.  With Donard to our right, Binnan in front of us and views right as far as Rostervor to our left. 

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Nearly at the top we found a non boggy, non heather covered tuff of grass and sat down to enjoy breakfast with a view.

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The sun beamed down, the air was still and the view breathtaking.  I could have easily sat there all day and watch the world pass  by.

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You can easily get lost in it without moving and not a word was said between us. The feeling was obviously mutual. I’ve spent many an hour up the mountains but it was the first time I felt in a completely different world and a new sense of respect for the world around me. Here we were literally only 6 miles from home, surrounded by an absolutely stunning area of outstanding beauty. Without any other person, no cars, no noise and none of lives distractions. Just us and a huge pile of granite.

If I never ever go up the mountains again I won’t feel cheated or that I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve had that experience and count myself lucky that I was able to do it.

Our way back down off the mountain had us realise that there is no easy way to tackle, the now appropriately named, boggy Bernagh. We talked about the next adventures up the mountains and of course the impending Down Rose Selection on Sunday. There was the usual stumbles and falls alongside the craic but thankfully no injuries. 

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It took 3 and a half hours before we came across human life form again. The feeling that at 10am we’d already been up and down the mountain and people where only starting out, gave me a huge sense of achievement.

So that’s a big ✔off my list and looking forward to when I can head up again.

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