Robert, Kate, Jake, Joe, Adam and Eoin turned up bright and early for the first Camino practice hike today. Meeting in Gormanston at 9am, unsure of the weather conditions that lay ahead, we hopped on the bus and arrived at Donard Park Newcastle Co Down just before 11am. In wet and drizzly conditions we wrapped up and began the steep but varied ascent. The first section of the climb was tricky underfoot as we crossed over the river Glen a couple of times amidst beautiful spruce and pine forest. We then reached an open stretch with the river on our left, the forest on our right, an ocean view behind us and Slieve Donard hidden from sight, but lying in wait ahead of us. We crossed over the river again using delightful stepping stones and the ascent to the saddle between Donard and Commedagh was steep and rocky. Nothing could stop those superhuman fifth years who made it to the saddle as a mere mortal huffed and puffed twenty minutes behind. At the saddle where the Mourne Wall stretches right and left, we met some hikers on their descent who tipped us off to the snow that covered the summit. Mist and fog rolled around us making it difficult to know how far the summit was from us. The intrepid Gormo hikers zoomed up to the top and waited for the last member of the party to arrive. The snow was glistening and the wind was both freezing and forceful so even though it was a fun and exhilarating experience, we did not hang around. The descent was far easier on the lungs and the muscles than the uphill climb had been. Robert and Eoin reached Donard Park first but still came back without any seeming effort to meet the stragglers.
These students are well on their way to being more than mentally and physically prepared for the Camino Pilgrimage next March. To be fair, their physical fitness was never in question (not like that of the organiser of the hike!!)
Here’s a slideshow with some photos from a great day with very cheerful and happy hikers: