Welsh adventures!

Just back from an exhilarating long weekend in Snowdonia! 

The Thursday before Easter I flew to Cambridge, and we set off the next day on a 5 hour drive across the UK. There were 6 of us (Irish, Italian, American, and New Zealanders), so we decided to rent a car in Cambridge, as it’s cheaper (overall) than taking public transport, and it gives a lot more freedom once you get to the mountains. It was tricky to find a car rental company that would rent a 7-seater to a 23-year old driver for less than £300 but we managed to get it for £180 in the end!

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Our first selfie of the weekend! L-R: Luca, Scott, Keith, Tricia, Aisling, Francesco

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From Wexford to Wales…

On an extremely clear day it is possible to see all the way to Wales from the coast of Wexford, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite that sunny when we went!

A group of us headed down to north Wexford to celebrate Francesca’s 18th birthday, and when we arrived it was absolutely lashing! We lit the fire (thanks Granny!) and hoped that the weather would clear up…

and it did!

View from Ardamine in the sun!

View from Ardamine in the sun!

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In search of the heart-shaped lake…

Last weekend I went on a hike with Trinity Hiking society to the Wicklow mountains. We decided to do one of the hikes from my favourite Joss Lynam book.

The route starts at the carpark at Glenmacnass waterfall, with a river crossing and a gentle hike to begin. The weather was amazing!

View across the river we had just crossed

View across the river we had just crossed

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My favourite hiking photos

These are some amazing trips we had in the past and it didn’t feel fair that they weren’t getting a shout out. So here are some of the best (and worst!) pictures from the last few years… Continue reading

Hiking in Donegal!

Here’s the promised post on hiking in Donegal! This is mostly about south Donegal, there is lots of hiking to do in the north also but that will have to wait for another trip! Continue reading

Save Money on Hiking

These are some ways of saving money that we have learned in the past. Most apply to hiking in the Alps but you can use the same principles worldwide!

  1. Camp! Accommodation can cost up to 50euro pp per night in Switzerland, and that’s only for staying in a refuge, in dormitory-style beds. If you’re looking for a place to stay in a less-hiked area your only option might be a hotel. So bring a tent with you! Just be sure to check the local laws, sometimes it’s illegal to “wild” camp below 2,500m. Maybe just check with the landowner whether they’re ok with it! And remember to leave no trace! Camping is also a lot more convenient as you can set up your tent wherever you choose, meaning you won’t have to deviate off your route. (Sometimes it can be worthwhile to splash out on a campsite, especially if you haven’t showered in a few days- hot water, running toilets… Sometimes you can even use their plugs)
  2. Bring food with you! Eating out is way overpriced, especially in touristy areas. Although sometimes it is definitely worthwhile to invest in a warm meal of mountain food after a long days hike. Bring a stove, food that you actually might like, make sure there’s water nearby, and hope it doesn’t rain! You’ll get such satisfaction from cooking for yourself.
  3. Hike in a group! This has many benefits, but for the point of view of this post, you can save on buying food (e.g. buy carton of milk for breakfast between 5 people in the mornings, as opposed to carton of milk for 1), and also on costs such as petrol. You can even split the costs of some of the overheads, e.g. camping stove, first aid kit.
  4. Fill up bottles as you go! Don’t buy bottled water, what an effort to carry it… However, I managed to get an odd infection after drinking glacier water for 2 weeks (some kind of infection of the lymph nodes, very strange altogether). So maybe consider investing in a purifier or whatever. Personally it won’t stop me from doing it again! Just keep an eye out for some clear streams, or fill up near the source of a river. (Platypuses are great for this!)
  5. Don’t get a guide! For us this was one of the most obvious ones. We were all pretty comfortable using maps and compasses, but for trails like the TMB, navigation is barely used. This does not mean that you should set off alone if you don’t know what you’re doing. Visibility can get bad very quickly, and in an emergency a knowledge of navigation is ESSENTIAL. But if you’re a confident hiker, going without a guide cuts a huge amount off your cost- same goes for bus services/luggage transport. Unnecessary!
  6. Shop smart! Gear does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Ask around your friends, family, neighbours, friend’s family’s neighbours etc… It’s worth investing in a decent pair of proper waterproof hiking boots that fit perfectly, but otherwise second hand gear does the job! Just check for tears or rips before you set off. If you need to invest in new gear, don’t be afraid to shop in the sales. Who cares if it’s last season, once it’s waterproof! Also there’s no need to over-indulge. One of everything is enough! For your own sake it might be wise to bring a couple of pairs of socks, undies, maybe 2 tshirts (wash one and wear one) but otherwise you should be good! Your backpack will also thank you. As will your back. And your knees.
  7. Get there cheaply! So far we have always flown Ryanair, to take advantage of the low fares. For those wanting to come to the Alps from further away, try to book your flights well in advance. Use a handy tool like this to find out when is best to book.
  8. Avoid Switzerland! (I’m only kinda being facetious). Switzerland is crazy expensive. I had never been there before, and I was shocked. Groceries were a rip-off, shops were not very well-stocked, and internet on my phone cost 7euro/mb! Just take precautions, try to stock up in Italy/France before you cross the border (and the food will taste better too!)
  9. Go to Decathlon! I swear I’m not being paid to say this (I wish!) but this is my favourite shop for gear. Everything is so reasonably priced, and they will have things you didn’t even realise you needed! Hello biodegradable toilet paper! Find your nearest store here. Also you can’t bring gas canisters on an airplane so buy them here once you’ve landed.
  10. Have common sense! Don’t get lured in by the fancy equipment they have in outdoors shops. You don’t need freeze-dried astronaut pasta! Or super-technological antibacterial antiviral antifungal sun-protecting shampoo. Bring a bar of soap! Don’t buy the pre-made first aid kits, they are designed to rip you off. Invest in a decent dry-bag instead (which will last forever) and buy all the items individually in a pharmacy. Have a google to see what you’ll need to bring. Don’t buy waterproof matches/notebooks, just put the things you’ll need into a ziplock sandwich bag. Voila!
  11. Make sure you’re insured! All EU citizens should bring their E1H1 cards to prove that they have medical insurance. Any non-EU hikers should check their insurance policies before they travel, you don’t want to end up with a hefty bill if you need medical treatment!

Planning our next trip!

We haven’t updated this in quite a while!

We are planning our next adventure for Summer 2014. It looks like it’s going to be the Tour de Monte Rosa in July (if we can all get the time off). We are even looking into summiting Monte Rosa itself (4,634m) if we can find the money! We would need a guide to accompany us on this part of the trek as it’s quite technically difficult, and seeing as most of our experience is in wet/boggy Ireland, we’re not very familiar with glaciers.

It’s a similar format to our hike from last summer, approximately ten days of intense walking, and we plan on carrying all gear with us and camping out as we did before. We will be investing in the Cicerone guide of the route, as it was brilliant last time. We’ll make a few changes as we go, especially about the type of food we bring, bringing a pair of earplugs for the thunderstorms… Things like that!

Here’s a link to a blog that we have been using as inspiration during these cold winter months!

In retrospect we have had a quiet few months hiking-wise recently. Alan, Carl and Aisling have been hiking a good bit with Trinity Hiking Society, and have just recently returned from a fantastic weekend in Connemara.

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View from the top of Ben Lettery (Binn Leitrí) in Connemara

We really enjoyed our trip to Carrauntoohil back in September, even if it rained for the entire weekend… We hope to go back at some stage when there’s better weather so that we can actually see the scenery!

Luca and Aisling are going hiking and camping in Donegal in a few weeks, either to Mount Errigal or to Slieve League/Sliabh Liag on the coast. They’ll make sure to post some photos up here after their trip!

Happy hiking everyone!

Mont Blanc Reunion

We’ve just been reunited! The famous five are on their way to Kerry!

We met up at the Red Cow this morning at 8:20 (8:35 for some) and Carl is driving us down in his Golf. It’s a 300km drive to Killarney (we’re staying in Fossa overnight) and we hope to get a bit of hiking in today before our ascent of Carrauntoohil tomorrow!

We’re past Naas already and we’ve stopped for a bit of petrol…

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and a few kinder bars!

It’s going to be a long drive…!

The last post…

This will be the last update to our blog!

Tour de Mont Blanc is officially completed! We got back to Milan last night and had showers and a delicious dinner of pasta and ragu, spinach/courgette frittata, and cotolette. Then we went out for icecream (which was much cheaper than the alps!)

We all slept extremely well, and woke up this morning to a breakfast of fresh coffee and croissants. Then we headed to the market where we bought fruit as well as presents for our families! Alan left for his bus to Zurich so there are only four of us left… We’re playing mariokart and heading to the local swimming pool for a bit before Carl and Aisling fly to Dublin tonight.

Thanks to everyone who read the blog and thanks for all your comments and messages of support! The TMB is something we would recommend to anyone and we hope to do a trip like this again next year. We have already arranged a reunion hike up Croagh Patrick in the autumn!

Happy Hiking!

The famous 5

We’ve made it!

We just completed the Tour de Mont Blanc!!!

We’re just in the car back to Milan now feeling pretty chuffed! We’re also hugely looking forward to showering as we’re very smelly….

We have a few days to post about as we had no signal for a few days! So here goes…

Our last update was just before our massive ascent, which we survived! It was just as tough as we expected, and every time we thought it was over we’d find we had more to climb. Anyway, we finally made it to the top and had a cooked lunch- such luxury! We had gnocchi with tomato sauce and sausages, and spent far too long lying on the grass, exhausted…

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Here’s the view from lunch

It turned out that spending too long at lunch was a bad idea, a very bad idea… As we washed our plates and pans with snow, a thunderstorm started! We were really exposed and had to run down the side of the mountain. Alan wasn’t feeling well so this was a bit of a disaster. Suddenly it started pouring down and we had to leg it down to a bridge for some shelter. There was a river flowing under the bridge but we thought we’d be alright for a while, until it started to leak! Muddy brown water was pouring on top of us and our bags as we tried to pull our waterproofs on. This got so bad that we decided our best option was to continue our hike in the rain, rather than wait it out.

Finally we made it to our camping site for the night (which was free!). After the challenging day we had just had, we decided to eat at the local auberge for dinner (the thunderstorm was coming in waves). They would only take us for dinner at 7:30 so that meant we had to sit at a table playing card games for 2 hours while starving! Remember, we had been up since 5am… Finally we had a dinner of Beaufort tart, rabbit with mustard and tiramisu! Nice way to end a long day! We had the chats with some other hikers, guides, and even other Irish people!

That night was luckily uneventful and we woke up well-rested the following morning…

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Ready for a day of hiking

We stopped by a local goat’s cheese shop in the morning and stocked up on fresh baguettes, cheese and nectarines. Great way to start a day!

Off we went towards Col de la Seigne, which is the border between Italy and France. It was a really warm day so we had a lot of ‘suncream stops’…

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Cooling down in the shade

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Beautiful Valley

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Checking the road signs

The Italians got very excited at the border (the anthem was sung more than once) and we stopped for lunch soon afterwards.

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The border

We hiked down to Rifugio Elisabetta, where we set up camp (Well, the boys set up camp).

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Francy watching the boys sort out the tents

We ate a wonderful meal of pizza and risotto and pork and potatoes and cake!

Unfortunately we didn’t sleep too well due to ANOTHER thunderstorm and also the fact that we were on a slope near the top of a very windy valley!

We woke up this morning and quickly packed everything before heading up to the refuge for breakfast. Then we began our final day! As we were so wrecked we elected to take the cable car down (Carl’s first time!!) and cooked our lunch on the stove in a car park… Cringe…

Final update this evening!