We continued our Hillwalking month at the weekend with a long hike. We met at 8:30, jumped into cars and spun down the M1 and around the M50 to Rathfarnham. Our starting point was the Merry Plough Boy pub, familiar to many we are sure who have camped in Larch Hill. We checked that everyone had proper boots, rain gear and high vis vest as we knew it was going to be a wet day and that we'd be finishing in the dark. The plan was to hike over Glendoo and Prince William's Seat and pick up the 44 bus in Enniskerry to take us back to the city centre to catch a train home. It was ambitious, but very doable.
We set off up towards Masseys Woods. The hike had been broken down into stages and the scouts who were working towards their stage 3 and 4 badges were to take turn leading each stage.
Our first stage was to Crugh Graveyard and should have taken us 11 mins according to the route card. We arrived their bang on time. The scouts were impressed that the route card was so accurate.
The next stage was up the start of the woods. The access road to the woods looks like a private road so the scout leading this stage didn't take it and continued on the main road instead. When they were called back, it was explained to them to stop at any junction they were not sure about and consult the map or ask someone with experience of the area.
It was a long steady climb up through the very muddy woods. In fairness the stage leader did stop at a few track junctions, just to be sure, but we emerged out the top again pretty much on time. All was going great so far. A quick snack and drink and we were off again.
We crossed the road and picked up the Dublin Mountain Way heading across Cruagh Mountain. The mist was descending, but we knew we were staying on this fire road for about 28 mins before we took a track up on to the open mountain side of Glendoo.
We ascended the sleepers and came out of the forest in to the mist. Brendan let everyone know that we needed to stay together and check our compass bearing every few minutes as it is easy to get disorientated in when you can't see more than 30m in any direction. This was rh scouts first experience of hiking on open mountain. This means no tracks or trails. In Dublin/Wicklow mountains this means deep heather with potholes so we had to be very carful where we stepped. We followed our bearing for a while and got to what we believed was the top of the mountain. It was difficult to tell as the area was very flat. We were on time again so we had another quick break to refuel. We didn't want to hang about for too long on this exposed plateau.
Following a new bearing, we headed for Cloghnagun. It was very boggy going and not being able to see made it seem very gloomy indeed. After we had been walking for a while, we came to a river. We crossed the river by jumping it with the help of Sue and Brendan. Then up the hill on the other side.
In the mist we missed the summit so it was decided to take a new bearing and head for the woods and the Wicklow Way trail. This was our original destination, but time was getting on and we wanted to make sure that we were well off the open mountain by the time it got dark. The woods stretched along the East side of our route so we knew that we'd hit them eventually. It was a long slow trudge through the boggy heather, but the whoops of delight when the trees appeared out of the mist was a great moment. We picked up an old bog cutters trail along the edge of the woods and sped along it until we found a suitable place to stop for some lunch. It was now after 3pm and although we had been snacking along the way and taking drinks of water, a chance to sit down and have a proper rest was very welcome indeed.
Spirits lifted with some hot chocolate, soup and sandwiches. There were jokes and songs. The next section was a tricky decent down through the woods along a path with some lose rocks and boulders. It was very tempting to run, but cautious minds prevailed and there were no injuries. By the time we got to the road it was dark. We got out our high vis vests and head torches and headed single file on the road to Enniskerry. It was about 4km so would probably take about an hour or so.
Plenty of cars passed us by, but they all slowed down when they saw us all lit up. Sue led at the front and Brendan was at the back with the big torch. The thought of the salt and vinegar soaked chips from the chipper spurred everyone on and we made good time arriving in Enniskerry just before 6pm.
Unfortunately, the chipper had closed down. It was a crushing defeat. The bus was leaving at 6:30. We made use of the toilets in the PCA Hotel (thank you kindly) and went to the shop to get change for the bus. We hoped on the 44 bus and headed for Dublin. 5 minutes into the journey there was a cry from the back of the bus - "Oh no, I Ieft my phone in the toilets". A quick scramble of calls andit was discovered by the barman who left it in lost property to be collected during the week.
We got off the bus on O'Connell St. in Dublin city centre. There was time for a quick dash to McDonalds for those that wanted it, but it would have to be eaten while rushing down Talbot St. to get to Connolly station. You get all sorts down there on a Saturday night and this was probably the most dangerous 5 mins of the day.
At the train station there was a rush to get tickets. Some scouts had never done this before so it was new and exciting for them. Others when asked for their ticket said "What Ticket?" so back we had to go to the ticket machine to get one more. We have no idea what they were thinking when everyone else was buying theirs. Somehow they also managed to find time for a quick song on the piano at the station. Our scouts are so talented. Long story short, we jumped on the train and made it back to Balbriggan at 9pm.
We had set out over 12 hours erlier. We had walked more than the 17Km f our planned route due to the lack of visibility on the mountain, but everyone had had a real adventure. It was tough. Very tough especially for some of our new/young scouts who have very short legs. The heather was very challenging, but now they have done it and they will have learned from it and that is the main thing. All during the day, the scouts were there for each other to support and encourage each other. There were some very tired bodies arriving home off the train, but it was a day the scouts will never forget.
Quote of the day: I went to the shop to get change for the bus. I bought a share packet of jellies, but nobody sat beside me on the bus, so I had to eat them all myself".