There used to be a time when I would scoff at the idea of doing anything productive on New Year’s Day. It was a day for the hangover and an evening for the bed. Sure look, you might be cheeky and go for one or five pints in the evening but that’d be it. The 2nd of January was always the day of reconciliation and getting back on the right track. Perhaps, depending on the day that the New Year fell, you might only start thinking about getting your act together on the following Monday.
This year, though, I joined a lot of others and made sure that January 1st was going to be a new start for me and not just the calendar year. Yes, I went out for New Years with my girlfriend, Katie, and we had an absolute blast. We weren’t out too late and were home at a semi-reasonable hour. We had plans for the New Year and we were going to stick to them.
I wrote a little bit already about climbing the Sugarloaf. I’m talking about the one in Wicklow, not the one in Brazil. Neither a hurling stronghold. I think that the world needs something like a guide for people like me when it comes to outdoor hiking (as opposed to indoor hiking) and I’m willing to give it to them. So folks, count yourselves lucky as this is the very first edition of ‘A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don’t know what the F**k they’re doing!” This week I give you my preparation and thoughts and feelings as I traversed the mighty cliff!
First of all, I did not for a second think that drinking a fair amount of alcohol the night before was a good preparation for my first proper hike in years and my first of 2020. However, it worked, so here is a provisional list of stuff you need and things you need to do before your first climb.
- Have a bit of a night out beforehand, as a treat. Nothing too mental, mind. Have a few pre-drinks, a nice meal out and maybe four or five double whiskeys and you should have just enough of a headache the next day for the fresh air to feel good in your battered body and mind.
- Now, you should have your clothes ready, or at least have an idea of what you’re going to need. Most important are your shoes. I had no idea of the exact terrain we would be facing but I assumed a bit of mud and a few rocks. So, naturally, I went for old runners with half the sole worn off for maximum mediocre grip. Sorted!
- You’ll also want to misjudge the weather and completely disregards weather apps by wearing at least two layers of coats and jackets, a hat but no gloves and light pants. Your legs and hands will be cold but your body and head will be burning up!
I journeyed through a thousand human emotions during this relatively short walk. I saw the face of God on top of that summit, and it was glorious. Alternatively, I stared into the sun for too long and almost collapsed. You decide.
- Beginning: This actually isn’t that bad. It looks like it gets fairly steep at the top but Katie said it’s fine and I trust her. I’ll be fine. Grand.
- First Slope: Oh God, I taste whiskey and duck empanadas at the back of my throat. Why did I get the last double when we were leaving? I hate myself. It’s so muddy!
- Final Climb: I tweaked the muscle at the back of my knee there a minute ago. Ah fuck. I don’t want to tell Katie, though. I’ll be fine. The Gods blessed me with a spare knee, right? Oh, I’m light headed.
- Summit: This is genuinely lovely. First achievement of 2020. This is my year. This is my decade. I am just in the happiest place right now. The climb wasn’t even that bad.
- Descent: I am going to absolutely brain myself on one of these rocks. What fucking shoes am I wearing??!! OK, just slow down your breathing behind this random lady and her baby, you don’t want them to think you’re some ragged animal hunting them.
- Bottom: Sweet Hallelujah, sweet level ground how I did miss you!
You know, I’ve recently found out that I can be a tad dramatic. Just a small bit. Just a smidge of overreaction. I didn’t voice any of this on the hike and a lot of this is exaggerated. I did have a little moment of, ‘Oh God, this isn’t that bad but I am still incredibly unfit.’ Maybe the excess of drinking, smoking and takeaway isn’t beneficial, even if it feels so good! That’s another topic for another post.
The Sugarloaf is easy. I was short of breath after reaching the top and the final climb over some rocks is a bit tough for my first climb in years but it is worth it for the views and the intrinsic sense of worth upon completion.
This weekend Katie and I are going to tackle the Cardiac steps and lads, I’m a bit nervous. The word ‘CARDIAC’ is in the name. She has assured me that they’re actually not that bad. While I trust her, she warned me that the Sugarloaf was fine and I almost died there….although I am a little overdramatic!