Good – clear skies, wet rivers, dryish ground, foliage (mostly) reasonable,12->
25 deg C w mix of overcast and strong sunshine
With the bald facts out of the way time for the
Paul and myself have been friends for many many
years but hadn’t actually had a long day in the hills or a good chat in ages as
I have been doing shorter time based activities whilst he has continued with
the longer stuff. Paul gave me great support in a recent cycling challenge and
my wife Orla was keen for me to repay the favour. With the official approval
out of the way I was good to go!
The original plan was to go bag some Munros in
Scotland. When that plan fell through I
was looking for alternatives closer to home.
It’s been a while since I camped out in the Mournes, so a couple of days
hiking there sounded good. But which
part? Not the same challenge as hiking
up a Scottish Munro since I’d been over most of them before, but then the seed
was sown … Kathleen’s recent completion of the Rankin Round … spend two days
recceing the full route with a possible overnight camp. The decision was made. Planning was kept fairly low-key to say the
I love the mountains. I enjoy running, climbing and occasionally falling in the mountains. Do I know my way around the mountains? No, not really. I know some of them, the Skyline route mainly and I’d say another ten maybe, some by name, some not. After some discussion with mountain encyclopaedia Sean Nickell a while back we talked about giving the DRR a go.
Rankin round had been on my radar for little over a year. Having recced all of the course at various
times this year and after an injury free season I felt it was a good time to test
myself. A quick mention of the challenge in early June to club mate Gavin Hynds
along with the irrefutable code word and he was sold! A date of Sat 29th
June was set, recces were planned and both our excitement and panic levels
stuffed full, checked and checked again and an early night was called for. With
alarm clock set (I’ll come back to that one later), restlessness started to creep
in, along with an irrational fear that I was going to lead us up the wrong
mountains. After much checking of the route map on my phone, I managed to dose
off into the deepest sleep, only to be woken by someone knocking on the front door
thirty minutes after the time I was meant to be up. In a haze of sleep I
realised it was Gavin and that my alarm had not gone off. I quickly got dressed,
was handed a take away sugary tea (thanks Helen!) and we set off. Gavin laughed
about it most of the drive to Newcastle, but I was still in shock about the
I should probably start by saying this was
not my first attempt at the Denis Rankin Round.
Several weeks before my round had been cut short at the first hurdle by
what I can only describe as apocalyptic winds.
So much so that I questioned if the Mourne wall would still be standing
in the morning.
Fast-forward to the 23rd of March and things were much different. Still the same revving of engines and screeching of tyres at Donard car park but this time my car wasn’t shaking with the gusty wind. I started at 2300 hours. The plan was to start at midnight. However, the wind was forecast to pick up around 2/3 am so I brought it forward an hour to get a head start on the weather, which couldn’t have been better at that time. It was a beautiful crisp, clear night with a full moon but for a small shaving from the bottom right corner. Going up Donard was very peaceful. The only problem being that my young son had been playing the England Euro ’96 song all week and it was well and truly stuck in my head.
The first summits came easily. These were mountains that I had been over many times. Going up Binion was a bit more eventful. I think it was just a lack of concentration but I wasn’t really climbing anymore and the path had disappeared. There was nothing else for it but to make a 90degree turn and start scrambling up boulders. Eventually, I reached the trail again and I was back on track. Heading up to the South tor I saw the biggest, brightest shooting star. I made a quick wish that the now heavy, icy wind would ease and returned to my earworm of ‘Football’s coming home…’