2017 : A Year in Review

2017 : A Year in Review

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. One of the first out of the blocks is The maumturks challenge which is absolutely, one Walk that is always oversubscribed, with the World and his mother claiming it has always been on their "bucket list"... and all to a letter have told me how it was years of Reports on the MountainViews challenge Walks calendar that sowed this seed of wonder. The tickets themselves (now being managed by a third party event management) actually sold out faster than U2 tickets for croke Park 2025!!

With just short of the full complement of "registered" walkers on the morning - the challenge also saw many "Undocumented" walkers... not wanting to miss out on the day. So this year on the Turks sees the capacity rise to 250 Walkers! "...And the day was spectacular...! 

"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 freshest of breaths spill in from the Atlantic and the Pale Quartzites can quite simply, reflect the full spectrum of light on any given day..." (Excerpt from Jim Holmes' report on the Maumturks challenge 2017).

The blackstairs challenge and many others too, sold out in record speed and were full to the brim with many a new and welcome face.

"...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 you’re allowed fill in the gaps yourselves..." (curious excerpt, but with reason, from Jim Holmes' report on the Blackstairs challenge 2017).

Is to complete the "Triple crossing" on the fei sheehy challenge the toughest ask within the calendar...?

"...Initial whiteout never lifts; I choose a lower route at first and drop too low, too late (this is where, somewhere, God only knows where, I came accross the above photo) . . . This choice which I correct as soon as I can costs time and effort and now means I will spend the day walking solo without sight of another soul till the road to Ballyporeen at the very end! This is especially true as after a vicious summit at Knockmealdown Mountain I break at the lower Col so as to pick up a track below the Vee car park...  I had mused should I potter up out of the mist so as to find another living soul... but of course the plan was to drop a gear and try to simply push on through the tough day that was...  so alas, no chat today...! " (Excerpt from Jim Holmes' report on the Fei Sheehy challenge 2017).

Always, always a full day's entertainment - the lug Walk has the ascent and the mileage... it actually has more mileage in "old money" than many a challenge Walk's distance in "new money" I don't doubt that half of the readership doesn’t have half a clue where I'm coming from with this... BUT I'll wager that there is a half that do... think we're down to about a sixteenth at this stage (math was always a struggle back in hedge school ("... could do better")).

"...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...!" (Excerpt from Jim Holmes' report on the lug Walk 2017).

The above excerpts no doubt sound plenty familiar to many a report... but here's the thing! There was an absolute different story to each of the days... 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!! And to think all of this can happen on a challenge Walk! All of these reports and the true "behind the scenes" stories... and more, can be found and enjoyed at https://mountainviews.ie/challengenews

So be sure to chase up those incredible accounts. Mmm, so that boys and girls, can be your homework till we chat again... which of course means - "I rant and rave" and you get (no choice given) to listen. Questions WIll be asked... And there may even be a Test!

At both ends of the challenge Walks spectrum there were new developments that are welcome additions that will resolutely continue to build within the Hillwalking world in general. The first was the inaugural outing of the highwayman challenge, where be they heroes or be they confirmed myths - but long time MountainViews legends Jackal and Bleckcra now play host to a new challenge later in the year (October) over the knockmealdown bandit trails. The perfect challenge for beginners! The second addition, which can only be described as "inspired", is the formation of Na sléibhte hillwalking club. Whilst most clubs hope to host one challenge Walk a year (and as such this will be their flagship event), which of course, of course, of course is absolutely to be supported and encouraged... na Sléibhte Hillwalking Club have knocked the socks off this prerequisite! "The idea is to offer members strenuous, Challenge type walks, across mountain ranges throughout Ireland as opposed to being based in one particular area..." (Gerard Sheehy PRO na Sléibhte).

A now strong and established club, every one of their days out, will see well over half of their membership turn out to both support and build on their club's success and complete a full challenge Walk in the process! Very successful challenge Walks were also enjoyed throughout the Fair Isle from the knockmealdowns challenge to the comeraghs crossing and from the Joyce country challenge to the mourne seven sevens... Up and down the country Walking Festivals too reported a higher number of participants than the norm - with many of the Festivals featuring an "A" type led walk. "led Walks" absolutely play a very important role in nurturing Hillwalking and especially for those who wish to graduate to "challenge Walk High School"!

Everyone has to start somewhere and never should potential walkers be hindered!

We can all remember the unique Irish logic... "... Sorry. you're not allowed in if you're not a Regular!” "... But how are we supposed to become Regulars if you won't let us in?” A fight would usually then ensue!

And so Troops - Onwards and upwards towards the forthcoming challenge Walks calendar,

Keep Safe and enjoy your day... And don't forget about your homework! 

Jim Holmes