No better way to expel those Itera demons than to go back and complete some of the course. In saying that tackling the part of the course we did complete may not of been in my plans!
We set off from Kylemore yesterday and finished at our car in mamean 11 hours later. A really tough hike over some of the worst terrain imaginable in some more pretty poor conditions, but it was fun. The 5 of us, led by Frank from team ARSE, Sinead, Noel and Gerry decided early in the day to at least challenge ourselves to the Ben’s hike and depending on how we felt finish through the Turks. We started in Kylemore after a quick 6.30am coffee. Headlamps on and a tiny road trek before starting the ascent of the first of two Benbaun’s. Now for those that have never been up the 12 Ben’s in Connemara, you are probably like me and wonder why there are two named Benbaun. If anyone out there has an idea for this, please let me know! The first mountain ascent is always the worst. The legs take time to warm up and the lungs follow behind a while later. The morning was grey and misty but not cold. We summitted Benbaun and from there made our way to Benbrack before a steep descent and then ascent of Muckanaght. This included a long boggy valley ascent with little or no view, however the craic was mighty with everyone telling tales of past expeditions. In the good old days when we were fit, or when we hiked carrying 12 beers to the top in training for the alps. Extra weight is important yanno! These guys had lots of experience and enjoyed themselves along the way. Always nice
After a tough slog up Muckanaght we descended once again and hiked up Benfree before starting the ascent of Benbaun, the real Benbaun which tops the charts at 729 metres. The highest of the Ben’s, and you could barely see your hand let alone a view. It was cold in the wind so we didn’t hang around at any stage all day. Moving is key. The ascents are tough and you sweat like hell, meaning instantly cold bodies if you stop.
Once off Benbaun we descended quickly into a valley called Maumina and from here up to Bencollagh Duff, where things got very tricky in the conditions. We attempted to descend too soon and ended up climbing back up Bencollagh from 400 to 700 metres once again. We soon found a new bearing and followed a spur which would eventually lead us off the mountain. This was the original route for Itera before race changes. One awful decent. About half way down I went into a hole. I twisted my ankle and would hobble to the base for an hour, half on my ass as the rock, mud and boulders were so slippy. Noel, who has alot of hiking done said it was by far the worst descent of his life.
One of the descents.
Once off the mountains we still had 12km of bog, river crossings and road to deal with. Luckily my ankle wasn’t bad so I could continue. The bog was fun. One section included Lord of the Rings type terrain where we hopped from grassy patches avoiding the soft bog. Everyone got nicely boggy before we reached the river for some water and a wash.
The road hike was monotonous but the company was great. I look forward to more treks with this gang in the future. We decided against the final section of the hike, apart from Frank who was determined to finish it. I was mad to go but with ankle I thought it unwise to hike in the dark on the Turks. Another time all going well. It was nice to get back out there, test the body and most importantly, the mind.
A boggy stream crossing