Home » My article in The Mountaineering Ireland Magazine June 2021

My article in The Mountaineering Ireland Magazine June 2021

It’s always been about the challenge …

The first time I went up any real hill was about ten years ago, taking on the beautiful Slieve Donard.  This was a foreign world to me, I was an ex All-Ireland competitive Irish Dancer, what was I doing dragging myself up the side of a mountain? I couldn’t be any more of a novice if I wanted to, however I was instantly addicted. This new world had just opened itself to me and I instantly felt at home. The views from the Summits, that fresh air, the amazing people you meet on the trail, the whole energy of it all, I loved every bit of it. The one thing though that I embraced more than anything was the Challenge… The Challenge of turning this 5ft 1” ex Irish Dancer into a fierce mountain climber seemed to engulf me !!

Soon after this I was regularly hiking all over Ireland and taking on all sorts of Endurance challenge hikes, including the Mourne sevens and the famous Art O’neill winter challenge. I remember after one such challenge not being able to climb the stairs at home and having to sleep on the sofa, it was hilarious and I loved it. I continued to push myself, gaining experience anywhere I could. Every weekend I was taking on navigation courses and improving my climbing skills with many of the wonderful climbing communities we have here in Ireland. There wasn’t an empty weekend, I was constantly pushing and challenging myself to see how far I could go with this insane exciting new hobby. 

The next real Challenge for me was to improve my actual climbing skill set so I upped my game and set off to learn a whole new level of skills over the next few years doing all sorts of climbing courses in the mountains of Kerry, Scotland and the Alps. Quite often feeling terrifyingly out of my dept, I kept pushing and learning, taking everything in, working on building my confidence, adding to my knowledge, gaining much needed experience with every upward step. I was constantly as happy as I was terrified, which my brother informed me was the perfect mix for my adventures. 

Armed with my newly acquired skills and confidence my dreams took to the world stage bringing me travels and experiences that I had only read about. Nepal, the Alps of Switzerland, Italy and France, back again to the Himalayas and finally snow white plains of Alaska awaited. Every one a new adventure, everyone a new challenge and everyone a new achievement. Every one of these challenges brought its own distinctive set of difficulties but they also brought their very different distinctive type of rewards that outweighed any negatives. That was how I tackled every challenge and adventure, I saw every difficulty as just another step that had to be taken to achieve my goal.  On my very first trekking  trip to Nepal in 2012 I like everyone was blown away by the sheer scale of everything and while others around me struggled in a variety of ways I felt right at home. The people were so friendly and I learned so much from many of our guides and sherpas. Small details, little tricks like how to deal with the Khumbu Winds that can easily cut the throat from you and end many a climbers ambition before it began. Breathing methods, pacing and staying calm, I absorbed everything knowing that soon I would return, Island Peak was now on my radar.

The following year I hooked up with Jagged Globe and set my eyes on Mont Blanc, however the weather didn’t play ball and the Summit would not be bagged. After spending a week around the majestic town of Arolla in Switzerland upgrading our skills on robe work, crevasse rescue and always working on altitude we were eager to test ourselves again so our guide took us to climb the Cosmiques Ridge up to the Aiguille du Midi. This is a popular tourist destination which can be accessed by cable car. This particular climb will forever stay with me as I was so far outside my comfort zone yet seemingly capable, pulling my tiny self up the rock faced side of this 3842 metre mountain to finally come into sight of the viewing tower where I was greeted by a host of tourists taking pictures in amazement as we made our way up the mountain face. I was seemingly capable and photogenic too!

Being as stubborn as I am i soon came back to tackle Mont blanc and again we were denied an attempt at the summit due to weather but again i embraced everything that came my way and we made our way to the Italian alps and successfully submitted the tallest mountain in Italy, the Gran Paradiso, standing at just over 4000 metres. I felt as mentally and physically on top of my climbing game as I’ve ever done and I knew what was the next step and the next challenge. The Himalayas awaited !!

In 2017 I set off with Ian Taylor Trekking to Climb Island Peak, all 6189 metres of her. i felt instantly comfortable being back in Nepal, I love the people, the energy of the place is so peaceful it almost makes you forget of the treacherous challenges ahead. I had planned and played this climb out a thousand times in my head, over and over again with my team of friends and family at home. I knew I was physically able for this and once I was mentally focussed and strong enough my body would follow me all the way to the summit. Despite having  to climb over bottomless crevasses on metal ladders roped together while you carry a full pack with crampons on, in the dark or climbing the near vertical ice wall to the summit ridge, these were all things I had trained for and was ready for. The altitude and how it affected you was something altogether new to me and was easily the biggest challenge of this climb. It’s here where your trust in your process, your journey to get you here stands to you and in my mind I knew I was able to do this, I just had to focus and believe in myself.  On the 23rd of October I stood on top of Island Peak exhausted beyond words I have to describe but there I was. After overcoming what was the toughest yet most rewarding challenge of my life I found myself getting involved in ‘The Ireland on Everest’ Team project, with three excited team mates which included 2 other wonderful climbing ladies, Jen and Suzanne and of course the wonderful Shay. (sidenote maybe) Our goal was to push this team of everyday individuals with very real lives outside the mountaineering world towards the summit of Mount Everest and while we did a lot of our training and prep together, our timelines became greatly different. My journey after a much needed rest and financial juggling took me to Denali in Alaska in June 2019. This was something new again to me, something very different to the challenges I had done before.  Everyone on my team was male and over six feet tall and here I was half the size of the sledge I was pulling while carrying rucksacks that were almost half my body weight, I loved it! I was standing up and proving to myself again this was where I belonged. Denali was the greatest challenge  I’ve ever taken on and despite not making the summit I without any shadow of a doubt had proved myself worthy of being there. The experience has only added to everything I’ve already done and cemented my desire to continue to push and challenge myself all over again. Who knows where this will take me, buty I know I’m going there without fear or regret. You should never see it as any sort of failure or setback not reaching a Summit, it’s all about how you approach something, how you set yourself against the challenge, this is all part of the love affair you have with the mountains. Just stay focussed and stay the course and enjoy the moment of every step you take, as for the summits they will always be there, so just enjoy your journey.

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