In his book ‘Reach for the Sky’, Pat Falvey describes his first hillwalk in Ireland. He was in a deep depression following the failure of his business. The banks were circling like crows to take his home and everything he had. His secretary’s father, Val Deane, persuaded Pat to join the Cork Mountaineers on a climb of Mangerton to ‘take his mind off things’. Pat didn’t want to go but kept his absently-minded given word.
Pat describes how his indifference and depression lifted, and how rising exhilaration set in as he climbed higher and higher. “Behind me the spell weaving beauty of Muckross Lake and Lough Guitane and below, deep in the glen, the necklace formation of Lough Garagarry, Lough Managh and Lough Erlogh drained all negative thoughts from my mind..” Pat describes his feeling of elation as he stood on his first summit, Mangerton. He also describes the breathtaking view, including the Magillicuddy Reeks to the west. When Pat discovered they contained the highest summit in Ireland he climbed Carrauntoohil the following week.
Pat is clearly a man who strives to be the best and ‘reaches for the sky’ - climbing Ireland’s highest mountain on his second ever day hillwalking attests to this relentless drive to the top- and a admitted compulsive nature. (He also describes in the book starting a 13 hour Alps climb in an ‘ alcohol-induced fug’ after three hours sleep that resulted in a dramatic rescue for him and his team). His description of climbing Mangerton is worth noting, especially his dawning recognition of hillwalking as a source of positive mental and physical energy.
I was thinking about Pat as I climbed higher on my own first ascent of Mangerton last week. Despite cold and wet weather I enjoyed the long haul up from the north, following the rising trail up to the Devils Punch Bowl. The cloud boiled and swirled in the cliffs and crags to my left as I climbed the final section to Mangerton’s boggy plateau. Later I sat on some rocks in the col between Mangerton and the North Top. As I sat on the boulders I met four members of Bishopstown Hillwalking Club as they arrived up the hill. One of them was a lady called Kathleen who one of her friends described as ‘well into her seventies’ and who has had two hip replacements. Asking her if she was enjoying the walk she commented ‘it wasn’t this wet when I came up last week’. I was struck by what Kathleen was achieving – not only to be out walking in tough weather conditions on a big mountain, but to do so in her seventies and with two replacement hips!
Pat Falvey is inspirational in his ‘reach for the sky’ and ‘anything is possible’ mentality. This will appeal to, and inspire those who dream of conquering the world. But for those with lesser, but equally valid, ambitions of simply overcoming adversity and returning to normal, then people like Kathleen are also an inspiration and a role model to us all. Well done Pat and Kathleen. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/25/comment/14929/