A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don't know what the F**k they're doing! – Mount Hillary Loop

Hello again from atop another low peak of a very climbable mountain. No, I’m not writing this from the uppermost point of a climb. I’m writing from the comfort of a couch on level ground up a small set of stairs. The climbing and hillwalking has kind of fell short in the past few months, much like my reading and writing and other positive habits. Ironically, the outbreak of the coronavirus and the lack of vices like pubs and restaurants has made us more aware of what the country has to offer. Especially, as it seems, the lesser known trails and tracks around Ireland.
There are three options for the loop. You can take it easy and do a 4km loop with a very easy rise. There is a medium climb of 7 km with some actual climbing through gorse, trees and rocks, and there is a hard climb of 10k to the very top of Mount Hillary. We went with the medium climb and thank God we did because while I might be a bit fitter than I was at the start of the year, I was panting and puffing like an asthmatic hippo not too long after the start πŸ˜€

Preparations

As I said above I am a bit fitter than I was at the start of the year. My gymming hasn’t been consistent but I’ve been exercising in some shape or form a few times a week. Junior B is back in full swing. For my American readers and followers, Junior B is a grade of sport for Ireland’s national sports, Football and Hurling. If you would like to hear more about these sports please let me know and I will write a post or make a video to explain it to you πŸ˜€ These Irish sports are extremely entertaining to watch when played right, so Junior B can be painful to watch for puritans of the game. I enjoy playing though, and it has inadvertently kept me fit over the past few months.

I have also completely given up smoking. I had one or two lapses while under the influence of sweet, sweet alcohol. Other than that though, I haven’t really had the urge to smoke. I don’t know if you know this, guys, but if you stop smoking you will feel better and you will regain your stamina and your coughing might stop! Who knew?!

Thoughts Throughout

This climb/walk begins with a very slight incline up a winding path. The first thing I noticed was that everybody who owned a dog in the whole of North Cork must have brought their pooing poodles to the beginning of the trail. It wasn’t loose rocks, tangling weeds or low-hanging branches I was manoeuvring, but steaming piles of dog doo-doo. Fresh lumps here and dry shells there, it took a joint effort from me and K to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge our way through the entrance to the climb.
Once we escaped the faeces it was an easy enough climb. It is mainly a general incline up a winding road with a small climb through bushes and rocks halfway. The blue (medium difficulty) and red (hard difficulty) paths diverge towards the top. The red takes an extra 3 km and another hour to complete. As it was our first climb in months we decided that the blue path was our safest bet.

The short climb through the bushes and rocks was the most difficult bit. Once we reached the summit of the blue path (Sounds much cooler than the medium novice climb) it was plain sailing all the way down. Dodging dog shit was the most arduous task we faced all day!

Afterthoughts

You wouldn’t know it from my red face, sweaty forehead and drenched back but the trail was surprisingly OK. K likes to walk a bit faster than I would normally care to which forced me to up my speed. The walk was supposed to take between 1.5 – 2 hours and we got it done in about an hour and 40. Not bad!

It was a generally easy climb. In saying that, we will have to go back and do the red loop and reach the summit next time. The views are meant to be gorgeous and it would be nice to add another summit, however small they have been, to the list.
On my way to meet K at the parking for the loop I ended up down an extremely narrow road with room for only one car. I’ve driven down plenty of these roads as I live outside the city in a somewhat rural area but this was an unknown area to me so I was slightly nervous. My fears were compounded so absolutely when I reached a massive red stop sign accompanying a closed gate. Inside of the gate was a train track with another gate opposite. I had stumbled upon one of the older train-track gates of the past which weren’t electronically automated. I physically had to get out of the car, open the two gates, watch out for an oncoming train, drive across the tracks, watch out for an oncoming train and close both gates again. If that didn’t get my adrenaline pumping and prepare me for a physically challenging walk then I don’t know what could have done the job!

Next up in this series of blogs will be about the beautiful and enchanting Church Mountain in Wicklow πŸ˜€

Pictures courtesy of discoverireland.ie and walkingroutes.ie and myself.

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