Slieve Bearnagh was the second of the Wild Women Summer Challenges taking place this month (you can read all about the Slieve Donard Challenge HERE) and it too was a fantastic day out in the hills with an incredible bunch of women.
The day started off fairly misty with plenty of low clouds hanging around and when we departed from Happy Valley Car Park at 8am there wasn’t much visibility – on return several of the ladies claimed this was an added bonus because no way would they have believed they could complete that hike had they been able to see it beforehand!
It definitely is a mammoth walk, firstly to the col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg before descending into the valley and then taking on Slieve Bearnagh itself, but the group quickly pulled together and made conversation as we set a leisurely pace towards our first stopping point – the old shepherd’s hut along the trail. We were grateful to have a minute to catch our breaths, have a drink but unable to pause too long as the midges were out in force and rapidly became a nuisance – onwards and upwards we trekked as the clouds gradually lifted and revealed a beautiful, sunny day.
Once at the col we were able to catch our first glimpse of Slieve Bearnagh hiding in the clouds which still looked a long way away! The collective sentiment was that we would definitely give it our best shot – no-one other than myself had climbed Bearnagh before so everyone was keen to keep going and I couldn’t wait to share the glorious views from the top with the group. They were in for a treat!
Down into the valley we trekked before beginning the around the mountain ascent I prefer to use to reach at first a low rocky plateau where we were able to stop for lunch in the glorious sunshine. Once refuelled we were ready for the final push towards the summit.
Of course once there, the exhausting efforts and sweaty climb woes were soon left on the heather-coated slopes behind us as we marvelled at the majestic views. Amazingly, considering what a beautiful day it was we had the entire top of the mountain to ourselves for a time and made the most of the opportunity to explore the scenery in all directions and take lots of photos.
The climb downwards alongside the Mourne Wall is extremely steep but the group tackled it slowly and gently, taking caution on the crumblier sections and pausing when necessary. This is probably the most challenging part of the route and I think everyone was quite glad to make it back to the bottom of the mountain – there’s nothing quite like looking back up at where you’ve come from and feeling that buzz of adrenalin and of achievement. It definitely isn’t an easy hike but we collectively agreed that the personal sense of satisfaction afterwards makes the toil all worthwhile.
We followed the trail back up through the valley once again, pausing at the Meelmore/Meelbeg col to rest a little and simply sit back and appreciate the views and let it sink in what had been completed.
I personally don’t think I have ever laughed as much trying to get a group of people up a mountain! Such a lot of fun amid the physical and mental effort required. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me, some of these ladies hadn’t done much hiking before and made it all the way to the summit of Slieve Bearnagh in very hot conditions – no mean feat; it was not an easy hike but well worth it for the views and the craic! Thanks ladies for putting your trust in me to guide you on your hike safely and for a truly memorable day – you’re all incredible!
The final section of the journey back to the carpark was more subdued as tiredness set-in and as we walked along we began to process what a super day it had been. We finished off with cookies and a quick paddle in the river, grateful to kick off the boots and socks and allow the cool water to work its soothing magic – never fails!
The next Wild Women Wanders takes place on 29th August 2020 – these walks are suitable for beginners to hiking in the mountains and those wanting to enjoy walking with a group. Come along and enjoy a leisurely hike, meet like-minded people and enjoy beautiful scenery. Tickets available below.