The sun setting over Connemara – the Twelve Bens are to the left of the picture, and Diamond Hill and Kylemore Lake to the right.
It’s amazing how quickly one forgets a painful experience. The Galway Walking Club have been encouraging members to participate in the Maumturk Challenge in April this year. The Challenge involves hiking across the entire Maamturk range before swinging across to Leenane hill to finish in the village.
The last 3 “A” walks organized by the club covered the entire route – the idea was to give members an idea of the course while only having to cover a third of the route on any one walk. Hmm – did I say a third ? The first two chunks covered Corcóg to Mám Éan, and then Mám Éan to Knocknahillion. Which left the trek to Letterbreckaun and then on to Leenane, which damn near killed me on Sunday.
I did the Challenge two years ago, on a beautifully clear, sunny Easter Saturday. I remember with fondness witnessing sunrise from the top of Corcóg and having lunch at midday by the lake at Knocknahillion. What I had forgotten was the sheer drudgery of the route beyond Letterbreckaun – when your route includes geographical features called Heartbreak Ridge and the Coll of Despondency, don’t expect too much fun.
It’s about 10½ miles in distance, and around 1800 metres of climbing in total – the dispiriting part of this section of the route is that one is faced with a steep descent followed by a tough ascent three times – and since this is the last part of the route, walkers are already tired when they start this section. It is also nearly half the route in distance, rather than a third – there are just less peaks to summit.
I took the picture while shivering in a sharp breeze on top of Leenane Hill. The walk served two purposes – I got some nice pictures (which you will be subjected to, over the next few weeks) . And as I trudged home (should hill-walking that makes you miserable be called trudgery ?), it reminded me of how much I hated the walk the last time, and extinguished any lingering ambition of mine of doing the Challenge again.
Having said that, don’t let me put anyone else off! Simon Stewart has the complete Maamturk route. Well, not entirely complete – he doesn’t emphasise the misery enough for my liking.