282 Irish mountain topsTuesday, 5th February, 2008 - Paul Nolan
282 mountain tops in a year
By Paul Nolan
Innocently, one evening while enjoying after-training pints in Lamb Doyle’s, I popped the question to Mark - "bet we can’t climb the 2,000 footers by Christmas". Challenging Mark Caslin is a dangerous thing, as I was to discover over the next 11 months. This challenge, part in jest, but mostly serious, resulted in the longest most physically demanding undertaking of my life. We poured over Discovery maps and started counting. 100, 200, 240, 270 … finally mid March we had 282 mountain names and heights on paper with a blank space for date ascended. So off we went to the hills of Wicklow for a good washing, the Comeraghs for a soaking, the Knockmealdowns for another washing. Twenty one rain-soaked peaks, this was not going to be the fun we imagined. Up to the Bluestacks for serious fun in serious snow. So much fun that I nearly broke my ankle. Cuilcagh and the Partries taken gingerly the next day.
Three weeks of intensive physio had me on two feet but things had gone from bad to ridiculous. Mark Caslin: "I think all this hill time will make us fit enough to climb the Irish Munros in 12 hours". The full meaning of challenging him back in January was now beginning to sink in. We had 250 peaks to climb and he wanted to do the highest ones twice!
Down to Dingle for Paddy’s weekend which became a five day, 41 mountain epic. The bleak
Next up, my personal favourites, the mountains of South Mayo/
Now I thought the Twelve Bens were hard work but two weeks later I was on my knees. Half way up Leenaun Hill, with the ‘Turks behind us I wanted so much to sit down and die. Still, we were first to the pub. The weather had been atrocious and few would finish. Most settled in front of pints and the pub fire, we drove to Donegal to climb Muckish, Errigal, Aghla and Dooish the next day, without any rain. Slieve League took the mind off the pain with spectacular views of sea and Two Man’s pass, honest, it wide enough to overtake. At this stage, bog was beginning to look just like bog and the whole thing was becoming a bit mechanical. But good news followed. While out for a Munro training run we passed the 141st mountain, Tonduff (a mountain I’d seen before having surveyed it for an orienteering map), the half way mark. To celebrate we climbed some more.
Now all we had to do was climb another 120 mountains. It was mid June, and the hottest summer in years brought the general populace and the flies to the hills. Even the lambs we had watched grow through the spring sat down and did nothing. It’s no fun walking in 30C heat.
More Mournes, before the second eye-opener of the year - the
As it turns out we managed to be on the hills for the hottest day of the year, the Nephin Beg range on the August Bank Holiday. Mark reckoned we drank six litres of High-5 each and needless to say we didn’t put on any weight. Next day down to what has to be the biggest mountain in the country, Maumtrasna, and the 13th Ben, the lone Ben as we called it, had been a thorn in our sides for months but we paid it its long overdue visit. Apart from Keadeen and Silsean we did nothing for the next six weeks. Time to rediscover our families and friends, even make some new ones. Time for me to take up a company scholarship and go back to college. The
November brought a semi-desperate clamour to "clear out" Wicklow. Lobawn,
A few weeks later, I found myself sitting in Mark’s car at 5 a.m. at the bottom of
Then we were back to Mangerton, which had already frozen us off its shoulders. I had lost all feeling in my feet and Mark for once was showing signs of fatigue. On our second attempt we hit its top but ice prevented us from topping Glencappul before dark. As it happened December 28th turned into something of a lap of honour. North Top and Glencappul in the morning before, with friends, climbing Boughil East. Mark and I waited for the others to hit the top before we cantered up the last of our 282 mountains. Standing there, taking in the view, the feeling of relief, the elation of completion, the satisfaction of being able to identify and have a memory for all the ranges we could see. It was a long descent but one that was made without any time pressure or care for detailed navigation. In the end we had finished our task with 81 hours to spare. We had climbed 68,673 metres and covered 911.5km just so as we could say we’d done it.