We met at 8pm on Friday night and jumped into parents’ and scouters’ cars to head 1 hour North to Carlingford in Co. Louth. The plan was to get there in time to watch a live stream of the Late Late Toy Show. Luckily everything went to plan and Bugsy even produced a 32” TV out of the back of his van (not dodgy at all) for the scouts to watch it on. Scouts are probably a bit old for the Toy Show and it showed as after about an hour, it was turned off and replaced by some tunes on Spotify while the PLs and APLs worked on our route card for tomorrow’s hike. We were staying in St. Michaels Hall where the local scout group meet. It might not be the most luxurious accommodation on the planet, but a roof, 4 solid walls and flushing toilets is far superior to our last overnight in Turvey in October.
The plan was to get up early and get moving as light is at a premium this late in the year. Cereal and Juice for breakfast and we were out the door by 10 – not really that early, but our hike started right there. Again, like last week, the scouts were leading stages of the hike. Zoe was first. It was 200m to our first check point at the end of the road, where Molly took over to take us up the hill. It was a steep, but short hill and we were surprised to see some of the scouts struggling to get up it. We were less than 1Km into our hike at this stage. Molly nominated Sofia to take over at the next checkpoint. A cross roads. She had to use the route card and map to figure out which way to bring us. It was a 3Km stage, so she needed to get it right.
After 3Km we came to a road. There was a bit of debate as to whether we were at the finish point as it was supposed to be a car park, but Sofia confirmed we were where we were supposed to be. The care park was just above us. Sometimes it pays to have a little look around to make sure you can verify exactly where you are.
The next stage was on open mountain side. We were under the steep slopes and cliffs of the north side of Slieve Foy. Patrick was leading this stage. He was looking to bring us to the second waterfall marked on the map. The terrain was rough and we followed along the fence by the edge of the forest.
The idea for this hike was to work on the fine points of navigation. To identify exact locations using the map and corresponding features. Patrick stopped after a while thinking he was at the destination. Upon closer examination, he discovered that he was about a kilometer away from where he thought. A small rocky outcrop and steep drop was the identifying feature that corresponded to a small change in the contour lines on the map to help identify the location. It is so much easier to see on the mountain than when you are looking at the map in the scout hall on a Thursday night. That’s why we get out to give real life experience.
The second waterfall was clearly identifiable when were at it, but hidden from view until you were almost at it. Alex took over next. He was to bring us up to a track junction. Again the terrain was rough and boggy under foot. Using the corner of a forest and a stream, Alex identified that the junction he was at was no the one he was looking for. Again using all of the visible physical features helped determine we had a small bit to go.
At the next checkpoint, some of the scouts were given a chance to head down the hill if they wanted. They were not feeling 100%, but all elected to keep going. Robyn took over as hike leader and took us at a blistering pace up on to the saddle. The track was clear and relatively smooth so that helped us make good time. From the saddle the summit was in view. Yarrick, one of our new scouts took over and followed a bearing and the track to take us up to the gullys at the foot of the summit climb. It was tough going with large boulders in blocking the way so we stopped for some lunch.
We didn’t hang about too long as it was quite cold, but in the gully, we were sheltered from the wind. We pushed on to the summit. It was a bit too much from some scouts who elected to stay back a bit. Others elected to stay with them to keep them company and take in the amazing views back down to Carlingford and across the Lough to the Mourne Mountains of Norther Ireland. The decent was swift but careful and as we headed back out from the gully on towards the saddle, the campfire songs broke out – led as usual by Zoe and Alex.
At the saddle Ruth took over the navigation. She had a choice to make. Go on over the next hill and continue the loop we had initially planned, which might take a bit more time, or head back down the way we had come up. She put it to a vote. It had been a long enough day and most of the scouts were happy to take the quicker route home that didn’t involve any more climbing. Ruth led us down the mountain to the end of the open track. The last stage of the hike was led by Leah, another new scout. Her job was to take us down the final stage and bac into the town, which she did with ease.
It was great to see our scouts using the skills they have gained over this intensive month of hillwalking skills out on the mountain. They might not have been super confident all the time, but they definitely learned loads and might even have enjoyed the hiking part of it all.
Back in the hall, it was time to relax. We made it back by 4pm so we had plenty of time before the dinner needed to go on. The leaders, however, were making a marinade for their beef stir-fry so they had to get chopping and prepping almost immediately. There was chilli, lime, ginger, onion, garlic, peppers and soy sauce. Jamie Oliver would have been proud of it.
The patrols got to work on prepping their veg etc. for their dinners. 3 of the patrols were having Spaghetti Bolognese (because they are really adventurous) and the other a chicken stir-fry. After a bit of a panic about how to turn on the hob (feckin’ child locks) the Bolognese was on. The stir fry would have to wait as there were not enough pots/pans or space on the hob. The chefs worked diligently to prepare the food while the rest of their patrols set the tables. When it was served, there was enough pasta to feed an army. Hopefully lessons will have been learned about portion size.
Following dinner and wash-ups, we headed out for a quick stroll to catch the night air. We went to the pier and had a debrief about the day. Everyone had actually enjoyed the hike very much and really liked the way the scouts encouraged each other especially when they were not feeling 100%. We had a short Scouts Own as Brendan remembered the last time he was there a few years ago with the PLs and APLs on a training weekend and how unfortunately one of them has now “Gone Home”.
On the way back to the hall, we stopped off at the chipper. Well we did miss out on it last weekend. It was time for a well-earned rest after a great day out on the hills. Just after midnight, Sean decided to pay Fairytale of New York and the scouters had a good old sing along. It was officially December so we can’t object. Card and Hobnobs were the order of the day.
The following morning, Brendan hit the ugly lights just after 8am. Sue ducked back into her sleeping bag like a grumpy teenager. It didn’t go un-noticed. We had to be up, dressed, breakfasted, washed-up and out the door by 9:45 as we were going for a fun Ziplining activity with Carlingford Adventure. Our instructor, Ian, brought us back up the hill we had climbed out of the village yesterday. Somehow it didn’t seem as bad. Everyone got geared up with harnesses and hair nets. There we met another instructor, Darragh. They led us up into the trees to a training course and showed us how to use the carabiners and trollys on the various elements of the zipline course. Then we were let loose. It was cold standing around waiting for your turn, but the instructors said it was better than in the summer, when the place is infested with midges.
There were whoops of delight and shouts of CLEAR!!! Ringing through the forest as scouts and scouters finished off elements of the course. There were 3 enormous ziplines over a quarry, which were especially fun. We were back down in the village for 1:30, which gave us 45 mins until parents were due to arrive to collect. We threw together some sandwiches and snacks and hastily cleaned up the hall. We were done and dusted and hit the road just after 2:30.