Hallelujah and praise the Lord! On the 29th of June the travel restrictions in Ireland will be lifted and we will be able to go anywhere in the country. My biggest grievance with the lockdown was that I had just gotten back into doing different nature walks, climbs and trails. K and I had sensed the impending limits on our freedoms and hurriedly did the Mount Hilary loop in Cork and Church Mountain walk in Wicklow in the space of a few weeks. I was uncomfortable with breaking these new laws and the extent of my walking was taking different routes around Naas. That has changed in the last few weeks.
About a month ago now K and I, inspired by something I had seen on Twitter, decided to try and walk at least 5k a day for 100 days. We haven’t made it out every day but we have made up the missing kilometres on subsequent walks. While I went into previous hikes with little to no exercise done in the weeks prior, this time the longer walks in the evenings started to build my endurance a bit. Mix in a few runs, the odd Joe Wicks workout and very, very intermittent weight training, I was the most prepared for a walk than I had ever been.
Two weeks ago we walked a 13km trail around Blessington Lake. I may write about that next week. Although it was not a challenging walk, the distance did help prepare for this weeks’s walk.
The last time K and I had been to Glendalough was the 4th of May 2019. That was the first weekend we met up after meeting in Lourdes. For some reason we hadn’t been back since, despite talking about it at least once a week. Glendalough will always hold a special place in my heart because of this and I can guarantee that we will not be waiting another year before we come back to do another trail.
We rocked up to the map at the top of the park by the lower lake. We took the Spinc walk, marked by white arrows as you move along the path. According to the map, the trail would be 9km in length with an elevation of 380 m. We weren’t too fazed and set off, hoping that our evening walks and HIIT workouts would serve us well.
I am not sure if people would view this as good or bad news but the majority of the 380m is overtaken before you get onto any narrow boarwalks on the mountain. You almost immediately climb up a steep, winding path alongside the Poulanass waterfall. The trail then slightly levels out, allowing you to catch your breath and fool yourself into thinking that you will not have to climb like that again for quite some time. Following another slight incline you jut off to the left and cut through a clearing to a man-made zig-zag path to the first viewpoint. The zig-zags reminded me of the road up to Hvar Castle in Croatia. Hundreds of out-of-breath, hungover tourists trudging up the trail hoping to get one good picture for Instagram. We were on the hunt for good Instagram pictures here, too, but at least we weren’t hungover…this time.
We took a few breaks on this part of the climb. We knew that going downhill would be a piece of cake compared to this uphill struggle. We were also aware that this was our first climb in two months and that we shouldn’t over-exert ourselves for fear of injury or embarrassment.
Once we reached the top of this section we took a few pictures at the first viewpoint. The first boardwalks were a short walk up a bit more. Once we stepped on to the helpful boards it was level walking for a while, which we were thankful for. Our calves were burning but our breathing was OK and we weren’t exhausted. It began to rain and lightly hail so the jacket went on for a few minutes. We dealt with all four seasons on this walk. Rain, sun, hail and miserable wind swept through us on this, the easiest part of the climb.
There was another viewpoint at the end of this part of the walk. The lower lake lay to the right and we caught an impressive view of the way we had come below. To our left lay the Glenealo valley, an impressive mess of rock and water. Thus began the next climb. We knew we were close to cresting the peak of the climb and that kept us going. Once we did start to travel a bit downhill, dodging other climbers and sheep dung we spotted a rock that would give us shelter while we ate our lunch. K made little mini-wraps; chicken for me, falafel for her. You might think that we were being a bit extra bringing a lunch on a three hour hike but hey, we enjoyed it and we’re both absolute beasts who need the nourishment!
Going downhill was extremely fun. At one point we both took off running, leaping over rocks and puddles. The wind was pushing against us so we weren’t in danger of going too fast and we were both wearing boots so our ankles were safe. But in that moment it was like we were weightless. We could’ve been any age between five and 12, just running downhill, laughing uproariously without a care in the world. I wouldn’t recommend it as its quite dangerous but luckily we got through it OK!
The walk down takes you by another waterfall, over some choppy rocks and finally past the old miner’s town to bring you back to level ground. Watch your ankles on the suddenly steep decline, but all in all, as with all climbs, the descent is far better than the ascent.
People talk about runner’s high all the time. That feeling you get after a run, long or short, is heavenly. However, I’d say that the feeling you get after completing a climb is better. God knows what feeling I would get if I did a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder! Maybe next year will be the year?
If anyone is wondering whether they would be able for this climb, do not worry. I got through it without much difficulty and there is not much actual climbing. There is no traversing over rocks. There is a lot of incline but it is all on calm ground and wooden boards. The only choppy bit is on the final descent. Make sure you have your boots on tight to protect those ankles of yours. There were a few families and young enough kids that looked like they were enjoying the walk so keep that in mind if you ever go and try and choose a route.
Personally, I was really happy with the climb. All of the walks and rare workouts have upped my fitness. While I always sweat, this time I wasn’t uncomfortable. We had a great time together, as we always do, and battled through the elements without complaining and with a smile on your face. Doing these walks, both locally and in parks like this, have been great for my mental health. I would recommend getting out for even a short walk around where you live and then building up to longer walks and eventually climbs and hikes. You won’t be able to get over the feeling of accomplishment you get when you get back on level ground.
We hope to get back to Glendalough soon to take on the more difficult routes. No matter the difficulty or the length, it is always worth it to see the lakes and the valley in the background when you complete the loop. Stay safe everyone and happy trails.