Blackstairs Chalenge 2016

Blackstairs Chalenge 2016


On Leinster’s Mount above the vale, the nine stones standing proud

A blackbird perched upon a rock, his song he sings aloud

The tombs of kings and chieftains, they lie many on the land

From Borris to Rathvilly towns, they built by naked hand.

From Clonegal to Ballon town, you’ll find no finer sights

And south to Ballymurphy, beneath the Blackstairs heights

The Abbey of Saint Molling where they bowed their heads to pray

As the sun, it rose above the hills at the dawning of the day.


Carlow by Brendan Harding


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. 

You’ve two very good climbs over the course of the day. As challenges go, it’s an attractive one for a number of reasons. i) It’s not terribly difficult to navigate, ii) two good climbs won’t break your heart as much as the multiple ups and downs of other challenges, iii) if you’re stepping up from Club ‘A’ walks it’s a good test, iv)  it’s a nice route for a trail runner and v) it’s a good one to challenge yourself on with a time if you’re so inclined.

The route itself is pretty distinct but a high level of concentration is still required. There’s no continuous flow in your step for much of the route, as you lift and place your feet carefully between the rocky terrain. 

It’s 8.5km to the summit of Mount Leinster, from the starting point. You’ll have climbed about 700m by the time you get to the checkpoint under the 122m mast.  You’re then ‘free-wheeling’ all the way down to the Scullogue Gap when you’ll have 14.3km of the 31km done. I see Frank coming in the opposite direction, just before I reach spot height 593m. “Yo-Yoing?” “Yeah” “Well done”. You don’t need to be wasting energy on conversation if that’s what your plan for the day is. There’s a sugar rush and water available at the Gap.

A further 4km with 650m of climbing will have you on Blackstairs Mountain. If you can do it in an hour at this stage of the challenge, in full kit, you’re very hillwalking fit. You catch your breath eat some checkpoint jellies. 


If you’re a runner or having a lash at a PB then this is where you’ll ‘take-off’, as you’ve 12km to the finish with a moderate 200m of height gain standing in your way. If you’re out for the day and the weather is pleasant, you’ll espy the Comeragh’s, Galty’s, Slievenamon and the  Knockmealdown’s to the West. Time to just relax knowing that the heavy lifting is done.


The granite tors of Caher Roe’s Den catch your eye on the descent. Your curiosity is aroused: ‘What’s their story then?’ You must ask someone about that or look it up later. I’ll save you the trouble.

Apparently, Caher Roe (Red Outlaw) was a bit of a ‘Robin Hood’ in his heyday and this is where he used to hang out to evade his pursuers until they caught him in 1735 and he was hanged. A similar scéal to William Crotty in 1742 - Crotty’s Rock on the Comeragh’s. I’ll leave to search for both men’s buried treasure around these sites to the rest of you.

It’s getting hot now. ‘Did I bring enough water?’ There’s a checkpoint at Carrigalachan Gap. There’s also tea, coffee, a variety of sweet sustenance and a top-up of water available. Two cups please.

Final checkpoint, before the finish, at Ballycrinnigan Rock ahead. It’s all downhill from here. The cairn that marks the way towards Dranagh is well marked, as is the rest of the way home. You’ve seen some folk with shorts earlier in the day and you’re wondering if the abounding furzy vegetation, to knee height, will bother them. Will they even care? Probably not, as they’re practically home.

The buffet and banter beckon. Another successful and well organised challenge under the belt. “Where’re you heading next?”   

A huge thanks to the Wayfarers for putting the event on and the local landowners for their kind permission. It’s great to meet so many positive like-minded souls on a challenge traverse like this.

Gerard Sheehy.

Gerard Sheehy is a long time MountainViews member and avid Hillwalker.

Gerard is also the organiser of the amazing   FEI SHEEHY CHALLENGE. . . . .