What a tough but thoroughly rewarding hike on Saturday 9 February. It was the second time for the Camino group to take on Slieve Donard, but this time a more challenging route was taken. The starting point was Bloody Bridge and the hike continued along the course of the river with the same name. Bloody Bridge River is a spate river – meaning in dry weather it is just a trickle and easy to cross, but in rainy conditions it can be a torrent. Crossing over the boulders was a bit tricky indeed as the river flooded around them.
It was onwards and upwards through the mist and muck. As we rose higher, spatterings of snow were all around and it was hard to resist throwing snowballs. The mist lifted briefly for everyone to enjoy crossing through a stone quarry with a gushing (but small) waterfall. The hike up was tough among the stones and heavy muck. Even the most experienced hikers in the group could not avoid a slip or two.
Reaching the Mourne Wall was a relief, but only because no-one had a clue of the mossy, stony, and horrendously steep trek to the summit. There were sandwiches and snowballs before the gruelling ascent began. Despite the exhaustion, a great sense of achievement was felt by all to finally reach the 850m peak of Donard. It was just barely possible to see the sea from the top.
Downhill might be pleasing to the mind, but was in fact quite tricky on the body with a few more slips by some. At the saddle between Donard and its neighbouring peak Commedagh a major snowball attack took place. Liam and Sean H on one side of the wall were a strong match for everyone else! After that the group headed down the valley of the Glen River in more rocky and rather slippy conditions.
Fair play to all the students on the hike and to Adam’s mam for coming along too. Despite the wet, cold and mucky day, everyone was in good spirits and certainly enjoyed the challenge of the hike.
One guarantee – the 155km trek along the Camino will be a walk in the park compared to the preparation hikes undertaken by the best bunch of students ever! Here’s a slideshow of that difficult hike: