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

Happy Quarantine to you all! No, I didn’t break the 2km exercise limit and go mountaineering in spite of government guidelines. This climb was completed well before the current restrictions were put in place. Just in time too to keep me at a novice stage of climbing. I was just beginning to pick up the pace and actually want to go climbing again. Damn you Covid-19!
This walk/climb takes place on Church Mountain, Co. Wicklow. It is a scenic dream, with plenty of opportunity for pictures and rests. It can be easily completed in an hour and a half, and the ruins of a church (hang on a second) are a nice reward for your slog to the top.
I may be off the fags (cigarettes) going on two months now and I haven’t been spending the night before a climb absolutely sinking pints like I did at the start of the year, but I was still a sweaty mess.

Church

Preparations

K and I had been talking about doing Church for a while. She had done it before and remarked at how easy it was. I should have known then I was in for at least one almost vertical climb during the ascent. Also, K’s brother was over that weekend, which just so happened to coincide with all non-essential businesses closing down.
So…no shops, no cinemas, no pubs. Plenty of streaming to be done for Netflix et al but we were so fed up of just sitting on the couch, merging with the fabric and the tv at the same time, losing significance. We decided to do the complete opposite and become one with nature.
You could say that there wasn’t much preparation for this climb, except for the climb the week before. We went in trusting our gut and our legs. At 544 m of elevation and a 7.1 km round trip we were hoping that our trust would be repayed!

Bench carved in tribute to a familiar walker on Church mountain

Thoughts Throughout

We parked the car at the end point of the hike, where a path emerges from the forest and you meet the road. We walked up the road, beginning our loop, always rising. I was wearing a half-zip and a jumper and despite the slight breeze, I was shweatin’. Not sweating. This was worse. I was shweatin’. I didn’t tale off the half-zip though and I can’t remember why. Maybe it was the fact that all and sundry would have been able to see my sweat through my jumper. I’m a sweater guys. You’re gonna see it in every post.
We kept rising up, following the winding road up and up. Green shrubbery followed beside us, becoming thicker as we walked. Eventually, we left the road and began to see a more natural route. A gap opened beside us and we caught our first great glimpse of the surroundings. Fields, mainly, but still lovely from up high.
This brief moment of happiness was crushed and stamped out of me as we came towards a somewhat steep incline that seemed to go on forever. It looked like we were on the way to the land of the giants, ready to meet Jack and grab a bit of gold and a few magical harps and hens. Not in real life. In real life the rise seemed like it would never transform into a fall, forcing us to take breaks at three or four spots.

No turning back now!

Reaching the top was worth it, in fairness. Once we reached the crest of the hill we had a short walk through some marshy terrain to the church ruins. They were fairly interesting. Walking along the stones, you could be reminded of the beehive huts we used to see in our junior cert history books. My mind wandered to masses hundreds of years ago and whether this structure was around during the famine, and indeed if it could have survived the famine? It seems like the type of place (of worship) that would be destroyed by the Brits.
It turns out that while there is the foundations of a church and well there, the original stones were probably a tomb passage. There is also a triangulation pillar atop the summit, used for surveying and navigational purposes.

Legolas! What do your elf eyes see?

After spending some time taking pictures and walking across the hollowed out structure, we began our descent. We got a little turned around on top, forgetting which marshy ground we had come through. After setting ourselves right, the walk down was actually beautiful. Towards the end we diverged through the forest, dipping and diving underneath branches and lowering ourselves over mossy rocks. It was a sheer decline down so we were careful not to pick up too much speed on our descent. Before we knew it we were back at the car.

Afterthoughts

I think you know by now that I have a penchant for being dramatic. The climb, while tough, wasn’t as horrible as I make it sound. I suppose upon reflection on the way home from a climb or a walk you are happier for having completed your quest. The climb doesn’t seem so bad after you have reached the summit, soaked up all the history and made your way safely down to the bottom again. Just be prepared.
The ruins on top are really interesting. Have a look here if you want to read more about them.
All in all, a moderate climb with a challenging final km to the top, but it is worth it for the views on a clear day. We chose a mild one, unfortunately, but I will definitely be going back to get better views and soak up more of the history!

Steep climb up, sharp fall down!

I don’t know when I will get the chance to write another one of these trail reports. I still don’t know what the f**k I’m doing, and I rely heavily on K, but hopefully we will be able to get out and about on climbs and hikes again before the year is out. Stay safe out there, everyone!

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