Gerard on the descent from Ben Nevis

It’s hard to believe that exactly one week ago I was preparing to climb Ben Nevis. In the spring, a friend approached me to see if I’d be interested in doing a charity hike up the mountain. And, since I was beginning to take my fitness more seriously, I agreed.

So, last Friday (16th September), we arrived at the ferry terminal in Belfast and took a busy morning ferry across to Stranraer. And then a five-hour drive through the most picturesque Scottish countryside. On reflection, I think those epic bus journeys in both directions were more of a test of endurance than climbing the damned mountain!

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Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains

This past weekend, my hiking partner John and I went for our final practise walk in the Mournes. It’s all in preparation for a trek up Ben Nevis on Saturday 17th September to raise funds for the Ulster Cancer Foundation.

Walking in the Mournes has quickly become one of my absolute favourite passtimes. It’s not only the exhilaration of conquering summits and battling against the elements. It’s the incredible names that some of the landmarks have been given: The Bloody Bridge, The Castles (a breathtaking formation of rocks that crowns the back side of Slieve Commedagh), the Brandy Pad, the Hare’s Gap, the Trassey Track. Honestly, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear the place had been invented by J.R.R. Tolkien.

John and I revisited the “Three Peaks” route that we’d tried about a month earlier. That first time round, we’d taken the prescribed route, but ran out of time at the “saddle” between Commedagh and Slieve Donard. We were adamant that wasn’t going to happen again.Continue reading