Blackstairs Chalenge 2017

The Blackstairs Chalenge 2017

"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. 

Straight off, the learned community of MountainViews will no doubt be cringing at the earlier bad grammar so brace yourselves, there's more to come, but for a half honest reason! 

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?? 
Well considering that this was my tenth outing on the Blackstairs Challenge - one would imagine that at this stage I should be able to find my way to Glynn handily enough. . . but alas, driving through Shillelagh and then arriving at Kilinure House I noted to myself how I couldn't remember coming this way before. Then realising that I needed the Killanure with the letter "a" (not the letter "i") I had to pick up the pace to a fashion "quite gingerly " so as to make the departing buses. Once arriving where the Satnav at least, was happy, I began to think . . Jaysus lads, this looks familiar . . . the penny dropped - this is the Start - but not where I was supposed to begin! 
Nothing else for it, I was out of time, I would have to park up and start at the Start. At this point I should emphatically command that the adjective "Gobshoite" did absolutely, not enter my mind at all, at all!

In my mind set I could see ever so clearly, all the times I have reiterated the Walk details on the MountainViews website - I even manage all the relevant "Full Information" for heaven's sake! So priding myself on my navigational skills becomes comical if I can't even find the beginning of the day's adventure! Like I said, "Gobshoite" did absolutely, not enter my mind at all, at all! 

No doubt the reader may well be wondering "what on Earth has any of this got to do with Hillwalking, let alone the Blackstairs Challenge . . .?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll talk about mountains and clouds in a bit. 

Well at least here is where we arrive at the reason for my bad grammar . . . and it is the recurring phrase . . . "You will meet the completest of strangers who become the bestest of friends". 

An arriving steward (stewarding for the first time) spotted my predicament and assured me a solution would present itself. I couldn't accept, too embarrassed - but I thought here is a complete stranger to me, willing to help, willing to be a friend. 

Good friend Ronan sets us on our way. 

The Blackstairs Challenge is off and running. . . 
There is many a familiar face here today that over the years I have come to know as friends. 

A quick chat with Paddy - I instruct him to stop chatting and tear away - which he does by running off (up a hill), the man is part gazelle! 
A quick chat with Gerard who has become a powerful walker, a good friend to MountainViews, a fearless organiser of the Fei Sheehy Challenge . . .  and is ALL gazelle! 
Later I meet Ray, share a Big Hug, and realise that this man is a man no more!!!  This man eats gazelles - he has become a cheetah! 
I meet a man on the better side of some serious operations yet is blazing a trail - (another new friend). 
Then I meet Paul - a stranger to me. 
Being a well-read and learned chap, he quickly figures out my earlier logistical debacle (without me moaning about it) and straight away (and I mean straight away) has offered a three way solution involving other friends so as "not to see me stuck". 
This Gobshoite was Gobsmacked! 
Not three minutes after having met Paul, it was as if I had known him all my life! I walk out the Challenge with Paul and our Chat whilst a-bogtrotting solves near on half the problems, of the known world. Everything from "The Merits of the God-Fearing Man" to the late, great Rudolf Nureyev is discussed an solved to the Q.E.D. standard! 

Also, so as not to leave the story on a cliffhanger - I owe it to the reader to close the thriller without fear of a B-Movie remake and tell that in the end my very own Wifey undertook the task of the Special-Ops extraction . . . meaning that she drove down with her own mother (making a jant of it) and braving enemy fire saw all troops back to base safe and sound. For the ladies it was a grand day out as the more elderly of the party used to live down this way a hundred years ago - she's about two hundred years old we figure at this stage. May need to remove an odd slice and count the rings to be sure . . . 

Anyways, back to our potter . . . 

As I'm getting older I'm obviously getting slower, but what harm, I'm getting to cross paths with more unaware walkers who initially worry on meeting me, whether if it is actually possible or not to be actually "talked to death" 

Later I meet Michael who has eaten all the chocolate crisp and Stephen who has eaten all of his famous homemade cake . . . bad form chaps, even if I say so myself! . . . only that we're friends! 

So oh yeah, yeah - the Hillwalking lark . . . 
The mountains were big. 
The clouds were grey. 
The rain had hailstones in it. 
The jellies were delicious. 
The tea was mighty. 
The stewards were full of cheer. 
If I'm missing anything your allowed fill in the gaps yourselves! 

So yes indeed, on the Irish Challenge Walk . . . "You will meet the completest of strangers who become the bestest of friends". 

Then of course there were the forty odd other friends on the day (as in true friends to the world of Hillwalking and indeed Challenge Walks) - The Wayfarers . . . who continue to make every Blackstairs Challenge a most memorable occasion for runners, walkers, beginners, friends, strangers and Gobshoites alike! 

Many, many thanks, 
Jim Holmes.