The Lug Walk 2017

The Lug Walk 2017

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Hillwalker










Voted the toughest Challenge Walk on the Challenge Walks Calendar (by me! Judge's decision final!) - this year's Lug Walk celebrated its fortieth anniversary, as proudly hosted by the Irish Ramblers Hillwalking Club. 
The Walk itself is held every second year, except one year when owing to our "Foot and Mouth" fiasco a couple of years back, it had to be cancelled. So this year's outing would be its nineteenth inception and would be my eighth. 

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! 








On this very same walk I know that I have previously reported my now universally accepted theorem of what a Challenge Walk commands . . . so to recap, it is 40% fitness, 40% Stubbornness and 20% Luck. Q.E.D. 

"Fitness is obvious. The work has to be done to even think about attempting a great walk like the Lug. And yet on many a year I've seen incredibly fit eighteen year olds and even fell runners become demoralised and drop out when the weather takes a turn for the worst!
This is where stubbornness earns all of it's 40%. Knowing that no one else can do the walk for you and that each and every footstep or even summit, is one more in a list of the days labours that is now "chalked off" -  is of gargantuan importance, and goes a long way to keeping spirits high.

The 20% luck becomes even more evident if you find on a given day that navigation in whiteout is at a minimum or you are presented with a free "bounce" with every trot across Conavalla's famous boggy approach instead of "Acme Quick Drying Cement". Especially true is that with a walk that traverses over 50km - conditions could quite realistically feature everything within the weather spectrum! 
20% well-earned I say!"

Approaching Wicklow gap the clearing of the day did indeed lift the Spirits. Mist and rain left the Lug on its anniversary, to leave a wondrous sunny crisp afternoon. The next 6 hours takes the Walker up to Lough Firrib, over to Table Track, on to the mighty Lugnaquillia itself and then down to the Finish in the Glen of Imaal.
As the air is now pristine in its clarity, views are simply spectacular. The patchwork quilt of thousands of farmed fields lay themselves out below. In the far distance ahead I can see other walkers in their travels, I see others far far behind too. Yet up here at the highest realms of these Leinster mountains there is a distance of two hours between both parties! 
Arriving at the highest of the checkpoints, Lug itself, will always be rewarding. An honest hour should see all home safe and sound from here. On this day it would take me two! 










So now is the time to look away if you are, or ever have been, labelled as one of the Faint Hearted or indeed if there are small children present!
I was in two minds whether or not to share the rest of the story . . . but this is a Challenge Walk and as one of the toughest days on the Calendar, it warrants that the truth be told (warts and all). 

Things had been "ropey" to say the least up until now. But within minutes of leaving Lugnaquillia I became crippled with awful diarrhoea. The cramps were horrendous, my handful of Huggies wipes (gentle for you and your baby) were expending fast! 

At every 50 metre marker I became doubled up with pain, could go no further and had to find a large rock with great haste! 
Indeed my dose of the Trotskys had me realising how I was now in more pain than being in labour! - this is especially true as we all know that it's harder for the Daddys nowadays and that they come out on their own!  This is no doubt Q.E.D. no.2 in this report! 

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Hillwalker would pack a knockout punch today. 

A handful of steps further and the same scenario would present itself.
But alas here in all of my misery, the last of Mr. Huggies gentle kindness was but a memory. Later on and further down the track I would come to make a mental note of how the grass here was softer than the grass higher up the mountain . . . Don't Ask!! 

At the final Checkpoint where well rewarded certificates are drawn up, just before Fentons, the kind hearted steward couldn't fathom as to why her kind offering of fun-sized mars bars weren't for me! 

Crawling around the corner l spotted one of the now-departing buses and literally jumped on the getaway stagecoach outta Dodge. . . 
Leaving the plains of warfare behind, I saw many a friend who would have been oblivious to my labours and wouldn't have even known I was even on the Walk . . . ! 
80 walkers spread out very thin over 54 kilometres!  Samuel Barbers' Adagio for Strings in G Minor resonated and I entered a peaceful slumber . . . .

Surprising myself no end . . . I didn't actually die on this day. I live to tell the tale. 

Is the Lug Walk really the toughest challenge walk. Well the honest answer is twofold. As a walk in its own right it is totally different from the Maumturks. The Turks is an intense, hard-hitting strenuous day, the Lug is all about endurance. Both walks require their own unique discipline within Challenge Hillwalking, but to be absolute. . . It all depends on the day! 

Many, many thanks to the Irish Ramblers Hillwalking Club on continuing to host such a powerful Walk . . . I'll be back for the fun-sized mars bars . . . I counted how many were left! 

Jim Holmes.