Clock is ticking as county climbers reach for the peaks

READ it carefully. Today, 15 teams bid to scale the highest peak in each of the 32 counties in 100 hours or less.

The event is sponsored by Bayer Ltd Ireland and overseen by former seven summits world record holder, Ian McKeever.

The monies raised go to charities such as the Aids Partnership with Africa and the Sophia Housing project. Each team must raise in excess of €4,000 and pay their own costs during the week. One of the teams, Go Explore, consisting of Norma O’Driscoll, Roy Collins, Darragh Quinn, Pádraig O’Keeffe, have been preparing diligently for the mental and physical endurance test since Christmas. Collins and Quinn are no strangers to such daring trips with experience in West Africa, Russia, Mongolia, China, Tibet, Nepal, South East Asia, and Peru. Their summer holidays last year consisted of a 12,000 miles trip in a Land Rover, named The Lady Oscar, from Tipperary to Dakar climbing 10 mountains along the way, to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society and Info Nepal.

O’Keeffe and O’Driscoll though are coming from very different perspectives. O’Keeffe is a former member of the French Foreign Legion and saw action in Cambodia and Bosnia and later worked on security missions in Iraq and Haiti as ‘a hidden soldier’ while the team’s only female member is an acclaimed sports masseuse who also holds down a day job with Cantwell, Keogh and Associates in Cork City.

Said O’Driscoll: “It is a huge, huge challenge. This is something Roy and Darragh have done before, but this is new to Pádraig and myself. The lads are the main climbers but we will give it a go.”

So how do you prepare for something like this? “With insane training,” she laughs. “I’m doing something twice a day whether that be cross training, swimming or spinning classes. Then at the weekends we are on the mountain themselves, usually we head to the Galtees as they are closest.

“We had a big training session about two weeks ago when we headed to Carrantouhill. We started out from Cronin’s Yard at about 10am wearing trail runners, shorts and a dry-flow base layer top, and a hat. We all carried a small backpack with a water carrier inside, a light jacket, a few energy bars, and an isotonic drink. We began running up the trail at a handy pace until we came to our first river crossing. Everyone was looking for somewhere to cross and stay dry at the same time. That proved impossible so we all ran through the river and were saturated after five minutes!

“The second river crossing was more arduous as the current was really strong and the volume of water was much larger. We braved the currents up to waste level and created a chain link bridge making it safer for everyone to cross. Once across it was a steady run to the base of the Devil’s Ladder. Things started to get really tough then. The Ladder is a very steep gully climb to the saddle on top but making matters worse it had become a waterfall with the amount of rain. Weather conditions were dismal at the top, coldness quickly set in, so it was a quick turn around at the top and we were on our way down.

“Great care was required on the route down the Devil’s Ladder as the water had dislodged a lot of loose rock and debris. A couple of slips and falls later, from the bottom of the Ladder we ran at a solid pace out off the mountain. Concentration is crucial at this stage for foot placement. It is all too easy to put one foot wrong and literally its all over. A human chain link bridge was made again to cross the ever growing river.

“We had 20 minutes rest at Cronin’s Yard, re-hydration drinks, a little bit of food, and we were off again for more of the same.”

Carrantouhill will be the first challenge at 8am this morning, so at least the biggest and hardest will be out of the way first.

Not that that makes the task, or the thoughts of the next five days, any easier for O’Driscoll to stomach.

“We will climb 26 mountains — but we will be in every county — as some of the ranges straddle a couple of counties. We will climb five on the first day and hopefully we can work on from there. We have a sponsored car from Great Island Motors and we’ve had great help from The Edge Sports Shop, Cork Outdoor Store and Inspire Sport Ireland and there are hotels providing us with accommodation.

“But I don’t think we will be enjoying much sleep.”

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