Groucho Marx said once - "I wouldn’t join a club that would have me as a member!" But it takes Clubs and the comradery that they generate, to get the job done! No doubt you've heard this famous quotation more than once from me . . . but definitely, definitely last year, more than ever, it had a commanding resonance! In this vain, congratulations to the Lagan Valley Orienteers who expertly took on the mantle of running the Mourne Seven Sevens for the first time this year and ensured an invigorating event was had by one and all! But such a great Walk simply could not, not happen! We are Challenge Hillwalkers, with an abundance of brute force and ignorance to help move mountains to get any job done!

We tend not to be swayed, for the most part, by bad weather either. At this stage we all have our dry-gear and rain-gear down to a fine art. When it rains there's a certain pagan poetry to the acoustics of the day . . . and when it pours . . . I hear every raindrop collide with an explosion as it crashes to the ground. Think it's what we audiophiles call a Blood Harmony! And yet before we can labour the pains of the Day, we have to arise at a God-forsaken hour . . . . .





The weather gods smiled most kindly on hills of the Joyce Country - no rain at all and light to moderate winds.

The aroma of fresh toast and hot coffee wafted from the community centre in Finny as the first band of walkers lined up to receive their walk cards. Spirits were high as walkers greeted each other and the organisers as everyone looked forward to a great day out. The smell of sun cream soon added atmosphere of expectation.

With walk cards and compasses at the ready the first walkers headed into the cool morning in the direction of Maamtrasna. Groups from all parts of Ireland and hardy individuals soon spread out across the geological wonderland from Maamtrasna to Knocklár and on to Devils Mother. From here the views of Killary harbour and the village of Leenane were the backdrop to many photos on the day . . . .





So now, "Tell me this and tell me no more . . ." Can you remember back to when you were a young boy or girl and when you were out with your Mommy and saw a great big dirty puddle?? Well, what happened next?? Yeah, that's right - you took a running jump into it!! Way hey!!

Such was this year's Highwayman Challenge once again, as what seemed like a hundred brightly coloured wellies as worn by a gang-load of incredibly enthusiastic young children all tore off at a rate of knots on the "C" Walk. As all their high-vis colours dazzled off into the Wilds, there would not be a single utterance of complaint. No Way! This was pure, honest excitement to be out celebrating a Free-Range Hillwalk!! It was "Multi Colured Swap Shop" (Google it!) at the summit of Knockshanahullion where it must have felt like the top of the world to little legs.

The "B" Walk too was not to be found wanting in eager enthusiasm . . . and all this despite inclement weather! . . . .




     2017 : A Year in Review

One category that we are proud to support here at MountainViews is the pursuit of Challenge Walks.

At the risk of repeating what you've already heard before - the challenge Walks calendar seems to become even more successful each year after year. But this is honest and true, with near on every hosted challenge Walk last year having more interest than capacity! A good complaint I suppose!

On the Maumturks we discovered the story behind the love and loss between a daughter and her father... on the Fei Sheehy challenge we discovered the story behind the love and loss between, in this instance, a father and his daughter. On the Blackstairs challenge we discovered the honest goodness of the company of strangers... and on the lug Walk we learnt of the incredible adventure that befell the reviewer, which wasn't for the faint of heart and required a "waiver of rights" by the intending reader, to his or her emotional well-being, before reading . . . .





A new and very welcome addition to The Challenge Walks Calendar is the Highwayman Challenge.

" . . . A steady climb to the plateau of Knockshanahullion gave us the measure of the group and no one was found wanting. At this stage we headed north off the Blackwater Way for the summit of Knockshanahullion passing the standing stones in thick fog. It was the first experience for some of the walkers of navigating in pea soup across featureless bog, but we managed just fine and after a brief look around the summit we headed south to re-join the Blackwater Way. Downhill east then heading generally for Knockalougha, can we stop for a bite to eat I was asked, “no “said I “we want you to experience the full misery of a challenge walk, eat while you’re moving “so off we rocked leaving a few perplexed faces . . . . "

With MountainViews members Jackill and BleckCra at the guiding helm - this Walk serves as the perfect introduction to the world of "Eating on the Hoof" and never, ever thinking to complain!!

John Fitzgerald reports on the great adventures had by all . . . .





Cross the length of the Comeragh Mountains. Cross the length of the Galtee Mountains. Cross the length of the Knockmealdown Mountains . . . . .  

"If you surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, you run the risk of generating energies that are contagious. This is what happens when hillwalkers assemble in numbers. You just get swept along in a happy place . . . "  (Gerard Sheehy)

Indeed, traverse the length of all three mountain ranges over three intense days. This is the ask, so as to complete the Triple Crossing that is the Fei Sheehy Challenge. Since its inauguration in 2014 the Challenge has gone from strength to strength and this is primarily due to the inspirational Hillwalker Gerard Sheehy. Gerard, who has now become a legend in his own lunchtime on the MountainViews website, has traced and shared some of the most incredible tracks from the Maumturks to the Canary Islands. He truly is a powerful Hillwalker . . . But this wasn't always so. So an incredible ask . . . three mountain ranges over three intense days . . .  so how does the Challenge Walker even begin??  





     THE LUG WALK 2017

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Hillwalker has been touched on more than once within the pages of the Challenge Walks Calendar website . . . and for good reason. 
As one of the toughest Challenge Walks in Ireland (see earlier declaration) this is a Walk that will always command the greatest of respect!
Its total ascent is certainly close enough to 2500 metres (especially if peat hags have their way) but what can't be ignored on this Walk is the total length of 37 miles in old money! 
What this inevitably translate to, is the very real scenario whereby hours can pass without the Challenge Walker seeing a single soul. 
Hence, with heavy mist enveloping the Start, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Hillwalker would dictate the next 7 hours of walking as the eighty odd individuals disappeared into the Whiteout and became separated further and further along the route. 

Not until Wicklow Gap did the weather lift. Meaning that these first 7 hours of the Walk required constant navigation, this would test the hearts and minds of all. Even though I use my very own GPX track, that's been well-honed over years when conditions were perfect, I still managed to veer off track on a regular basis . . . . . .  





"The company of strangers" I always thought was a curious . . . . goodness, I don't know what you would call it . . . . phenomena perhaps? But anyways, this ding-dong is the cornerstone of all Challenge Walks that I have reported on. . . and at the fore of this entity has always been The Blackstairs Challenge, as proudly hosted by the The Wayfarers Hillwalking Club. 

On a beautifully dry and fresh May morning, over two hundred walkers begin to arrive at the Walk Start on a convoy of buses, having left the town of Glynn (where the Walk will end) a little earlier. This is probably the most common way Challenge Walks are run - at the crack of dawn you drive to the Finish, where you are then bused to the Start, and as such you traverse over the hills back to the Finish and your own Balthazar (my mode of transport - don't laugh, doesn't MountainViews member Captain Vertigo (legend in his own lunchtime) call his mo mo "Ham" (Noah's second son, as in Noah of the Ark and deluge fame) but anyways). 
"So what can go wrong?" I hear you say . . . . 





A very cool, almost freezing fog was to greet over 200 walkers as they arrived at the first Checkpoint of Corcogmore.

A beautiful mountain which scores a very high grade of 89% on the MountainViews website for good reason. . . its views are spectacular. Although the darkness of the night sky has yet to pass and there is still low lying cloud . . .

And yet, not even before Binn Mhór something incredible starts to happen. . . Walkers are starting to describe how their silhouettes are being projected forwards into mystical looking rainbow spheres . . . . they are describing Brocken Spectres!!

There is an enchantment up here atop the Maumturks that is known to many. The freshests of breaths spill in from the Atlantic and the Pale Quartzites can quite simply, reflect the full spectrum of light on any given day. There are sound definitions of what is at work here. . . but nevertheless, the more you walk over these mountains - the less you come to understand. They both enchant and mesmerise. With only the highest peaks of the Twelve Bens visible over an enveloping cloud inversion . . . over here on the Turks, the day will remain beautifully clear and bright. 
It is now out of this clearest of sunshine that I meet Holly . . . .




     2016 : A Year In Review

Within all sports there are many disciplines, within all leisure activities there are even more. Over the years, indeed near on ten now, The Challenge Walks Calendar has gone from strength to strength! originally the brainchild of Simon Stewart - the Calendar followed the template of "The long distance Walks" as were and continue to be, very popular across the pond.

It was evident from its earliest of incarnations, that The Challenge Walks Calendar was very much, a required herald, for this discipline in its own right. And what a unique discipline Challenge Walking is indeed, within the great fraternity of Hillwalking! Concerns Initially there were some who had concerns over Challenge Walks...! Conservation issues and even worries over "crowd control" (I kid you not) were muted about during the initial Calendar years - so many a Hillwalking Club had to truly fight their corner so as to be even allowed host their respective events...! but all these years later and all the hosting Clubs up and down the country have shown how Challenge Walks are exceptionally well organised events with respectful participants... and thanks to their enduring efforts - now, very much a respected discipline in its own right.

Under the auspices of the WAI and Jim Holmes, the Calendar then took on a more regular and informed layout but soon it was time to pack-up and move to new, larger premises within the MountainViews community. The rest, as they say...! Go-to resource Challenge Walks tend to be the flagship event of various Hillwalking Clubs in Ireland (no doubt we're all now aware of the criteria required to "qualify" as a true Challenge Walk) ... but one thing that they all have in common is how they play their part in the nurturing of Hillwalking in Ireland and how they all attract Walkers (friends who haven't met yet!) from all of the thirty-two Counties... and beyond . . . . .




     THE HART WALK 2016

No official Hart Walk . . . This will hardly deter a couple of Hardy Bucks!! Gerard Sheehy reports . . .

First off, I wasn't with the lads. Just sharing the info. . . . What’s not to like reading about the trials and tribulations of fellow walkers who are deliberately self-testing themselves to the extreme: and then basically ‘reliving’ the walk (and pain) with them.

If you’re a challenge hill walker you’ll have heard of, met or seen these two lads on the ‘circuit’. If there’s something big you want to take on and need a bit of company on the walk, then these are two of your likely candidates. I don’t think that the Hart Walk track is on this website so I’m putting it up on their behalf and the text below is based on a few messages from them. Andy (Owens) put out the word on FaceBook that he was trying to organise a few people to do the Hart Walk. I’m not sure how many expressions of interest that he got but, seeing as it’s so rarely done, he can’t have been expecting folk to be chompin’ at the bit. I mean, July/August would be a good time to have a cut off it but end of October? Hardy bucks.





There’s an innate decency in every person that has supported the Fei Sheehy Challenge. The walkers, those that registered but couldn’t make it, the crew on the ground, the product/prize sponsors, those that donated and sponsored walkers, and everyone else who provided assistance in making the event happen. It’s a great testament to the Titans and Titanides of the hillwalking community.

At the end of the day, it’s a fundraiser and we’re doing it for someone else. 

I could write paragraphs on the weather over the three days, but we defied it without incident and that’s what matters. 

What I will say is that, the forecast was ‘Monsoonish’. Friday granted us an armada of cloud with the odd ‘cannon’ fire of rain but all agreed that it could have been worse. Saturday was a day that you’d find in an Antarctic explorers log book and it was ferociously difficult to plant the toes of the rear foot in front of the advanced heels on Galtybeg. Sunday was a ‘pleasant’ day, considering what went before. . . .





A new finishing point and a month's precipitation in the previous two days - would be the dominant greetings to this year's Comeragh Challenge which starts just outside Clonmel, then traverses an honest 45 kilometers back towards Dungarvan across the majestic Comeragh mountains with all its peaks, corries and plateaus . . .

Just under two hundred "decent 'oul skins" (this is a prerequisite for being a Challenge Walker) took part in the great day that has numerous options for grades of pain on the given day. On the toughest of these (The Challenge) numbers were a tad down  (30 walkers) . . . but these are the elite boys and girls at the top of their game . . . . . 





The setting for sign-in is beside the (in its day) state of the art defensive Cahir Castle. Galtee Walking Club members are here since 06:00 getting ready for first arrivals around 07:00. It’s damp but not cold.

As we’re setting up, conversation turns to numbers. The forecast/weather will put a few off but, will the FRA V IRL match. There are two walks on the day; the Challenge for the self-navigators and the Crossing led walk. There’s 51 on the bus for the Challenge and 64 for the Crossing. We move out of Cahir on the Challenge bus at 07:56. . . . .





It’s like this; if there’s something worth seeing in this Country then someone will have a bit of a poem or song written about it. The Blackstairs Mountains are no different. You get a good indication from social media these days about how well attended a challenge is going to be; and the signs were good for the 36th annual Wayfarers Hiking Club - Blackstairs Challenge. Much chatter about the weather as the week went on, but sshur what else would we be talking about? Boots, gear, how fit we were? I think not. It turned out to be a splendid day, with 283 smiley, happy people on the hills from all corners of the Country. There was a bit of fog from Black Rock Mountain to Mount Leinster, early in the day, but after that it was ‘Feck!!, the sun cream is in the other bag’. The hillwalker with the brolly was smarter than we thought, what better to protect yourself against the UV sunlight.  . . . . . 





With an almighty bite to an incoming Atlantic Breeze, 198 walkers set off over a two hour stagger in what would be the 41st Maumturks Challenge as hosted by NUIG Mountaineering Club.

The first of the walkers start off at 5am which ensures a full run of the day (always a clever play). The second wave tend to depart around 6 (ish). Now at this hour there isn't the need for head torches, as sunrise at this time of year checks in at 6.30am . . . and what a sunrise greeted the 41st Maumturks!!! Then for the most part all walkers are off and running - with an element quite literally "blazing a trail" by 7 in the am . . . Taking around a hour, Corcogmore has the first welcoming checkpoint where already 20% of the day's ascent has now been completed. . . this is why many a matured Challenge Walker veers way left so as to allow for a more gentle gradient (it's all in the pacing you see!). . . . . . 




     2015 : A Year in Review

One category that we are proud to support here at MountainViews is the pursuit of Challenge Walks.

I suppose the best way to appreciate Challenge Walking is as a different (and unique) entity within the great fraternity of Hillwalking. In the same way that there is a world of difference between a ten foot mad Jamaican who lives on nothing more than chicken nuggets and breaks the land-speed record over 100 metres . . . and say a 5 foot nothing, forever smiling Kenyan who has actually never stopped running (not even to sleep) since his eighth birthday - who simply glides along every stride of his (new personal best) 26 mile-odd marathon . . . Challenge Walks slot into their very own niche and as such attract a slightly different disposition of Hillwalker!!!

Challenge Walkers need to be early risers with a 3.30 wake up call not being unheard of! Being a chatterbox is always a great help! Especially when coupled with a good Buddy, who over the course of up to twelve hours, can listen to (and appreciate) all your earthly moans and whines!