Our own Darkness Into Light

In August, we found ourselves with a bit of a gap in the challenges and had to go looking for something else to keep up the pace. We've climbed the highest mountains in mainland Spain and Scotland and we plan to climb the highest mountain in Europe, so naturally we couldn't leave out the highest in Ireland. Step forward the Killarney Ultimate High Peaks Challenge.

The Killarney challenge was not on,y perfectly timed to fill the gap in our schedule, but it's a genuinely challenging event of 25km with 2500m of climbing. That's a big day out. To fit all of that in, the event started with a 5 a.m. bus to the Gap of Dunloe, making it our second Darkness Into Light this year. Having battled through the gorse and ferns low on Tomies Mountain, we got the reward of the sunrise, a beautiful and welcome sight. The sunrise also created a weather phenomenon known as an inversion, which fills the valley with a sea of clouds and leaves the peaks standing like islands all around. It's one of the most inspiring sights to be found on the hills.

The challenge took us along the ridge east of the Gap, over Purple Mountain and back down to the Gap. From there it climbed again and took us up into the cloud. Sadly that meant no real views for the rest of the day, but it did make for an exciting and challenging mix of ridge scrambling and navigation, a real big mountain day.

Once over the last big climb of the day on Beenkeeragh, the challenge
took us down to the headquarters at Cronins Yard, a great spot that has seen generations of climbers start and finish their day on Carrauntoohil. We joined them in being glad to see it again after a long day.

For the final hour I had been dreaming of a fizzy drink, but knowing me had none at the tent. As we finished, we were speaking with the organiser, Paris Kelly. His daughter turned up with a soft drink I eyed enviously. I tried not to be too happy when she was informed she wasn't allowed such drinks and I could have it instead. Sometimes your luck is in.

That was far from the only good thing Piaras did for us that day, the whole thing was perfectly organised, from the slick bus transfer to the barbecue and beer after and the excellent, supportive marshalling all along the course. I couldn't recommend it highly enough if you want a very satisfying challenge.

It was also a perfect training day for us to take us towards our next challenge, Elbrus. We'll let you know how we get on, though let's face it, it won't be a patch on Piaras waiting for you with a cold, fizzy drink and a burger.