“5:30am and the ten of us had been climbing for about an hour. We turned, looking behind us and saw the most stunning sunrise with the sky pinker than the “I AM Girl” t-shirts we were wearing. This raised our spirits as we pushed on to the top of Slieve Donard, the first summit of the 4 Peaks Challenge. As we enjoyed commanding views out over the sea and on to the Isle of Man, there was a strong sense of “we can do this” within the team. By challenging ourselves we were able to see a little further than the rest.
The drive to Mweelrea took longer than expected so we had to push hard up the steep slopes to regain the lost hour. Any further loss of time would have cut into our already short night’s sleep. Mweelrea passed off without major incident and the weather, thankfully, held off, allowing us to look out to sea and over Clew Bay. There was a notable silence on the bus from Mayo to Limerick as the events of the day began to catch up on us.
Four and a half hours sleep in the impressive Ballyhoura Hostel and we were off again. Our committed driver and 11th member of the team, Eduardo from Paddy Wagon gobbled up the final miles from Ballyhoura to Carrauntoohil with skill.
Our walking was more laboured on day two as the toll of the first two mountains was visible in everyone’s gaits. The Devil’s Ladder provided an adventurous challenge, particularly as the jerry can, symbolising the journey young Ugandan girls need to make daily to collect water was still in tow. Fatigue began to set in as we reached the top of the Devil’s Ladder. Nine of us pushed on to the top, rewarded again with humbling views.
The descent was hard and took longer than planned, costing us another hour. Eduardo came to the rescue with his driving skills once more and we clawed back some of what had been lost. Lugnaquilla awaited us as the final hurdle. It was a race against time, not just to complete the challenge within the 40 hours but also a race against daylight. We speed walked the 6.6km steep incline to the summit and managed through sheer grit and determination to put nine of us on the top. Breaking into a canter we made it back down to waiting friends and families with only 11 minutes to spare, completing the round Ireland trip in 39 hours and 49 mins.
3627m of climbing, 1171km of driving and 41.31km of walking. It had been a whirlwind weekend since the motley mix of “travel light” and “bring the kitchen sink” climbers assembled in Dublin’s city centre on the Friday evening. We’d all grown up in a youth group together and now, as adult men, were regrouping to do what we could for those still in their youth. We’d climbed 4 Peaks together but in many ways, everyone had climbed their own mountain, be that the discomfort of fundraising, the sting of fatigue, the fear of heights or even the responsibility of guiding. Events like this should challenge and stretch us and we should return changed. If we are to be leaders and change makers in our generation, able to see a little further than the rest, able to be the voice for those who aren’t heard, then we need to be able to step out of our places of safety and comfort and allow ourselves to be challenged. Only then, with a sense of our own limitations, can we begin to appreciate the limitations others face every day and proclaim from the heights, it’s time for change.
As was true for the 10 of us on the mountain, we all need each other, we all need to say, “I am you”, “you are me”, “I AM Girl”.
P.s. the target of €18,500 has been achieved!
– Graham Kinch, 4 Peaks Challenge