Just over two weeks ago I was sitting at Charles De Gaulle airport bound for Ireland when a jolt of inspiration hit me: The Slieve Bloom Way would be on my doorstep. So as I pondered the logistics of how to make this happen, given I have zero gear for such an unsupported mountain endeavour, during the short flight over it was a puzzle I started fitting together. The Slieve Bloom Way is an 82km circumnavigation of the Massif of the Midlands. It was a playground for me and my biking buddies back in my teenage years but I fancied it on foot this time. I had no backpack, no trail shoes and no drinking equipment, the food carrying could be managed but my worry was running this in a pair or Saucony Mirage road shoes. I love this shoe but wasn’t sure a flat sole was going to help me out much, and it didn't.
With my ever supportive sister Alison taking care of the kids, my mum dropped me at the mountains foggy, eerie base at 7:30 last Monday morning. I had packed enough food and water to get me through the day, additional hydration would be provided by mountain streams. The first 30km consisted of meandering single track and gravelled roads which made the ascent to the mountain top a lot easier than I expected, the river flowed beside me as I power hiked up very steep and technical tracks. The momentum was ever changing but I had to play it cautious given my footwear, I could feel every muscle getting a thorough workout. Stopping for a two minute break at the top I wolfed down two bacon sandwiches, three tortillas smothered in Nuttella and set off on a 1,200 ft descent. My quads were feeling the strain but overall my form felt good. After I hit the 40km mark though it became a real struggle on the next ascent, the route became heavily forested and the underexposed floor was pure sludge after Ireland’s rainy summer. I got no purchase on the ground and slipped constantly, I could feel all the muscles in my legs being overtaxed with the strain and was sure I'd pull and hamstring or worse, fall down a ravine. The fun of the experience had now gone and I was too afraid to fall foul of injury again. 20km later, at a snails pace, I decided to cut the route short and head back down from the peak. I had trudged through ankle deep muck for close to three hours and it showed no sign of letting up. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story but suffice to say it was a day that taught me how to really live my life to the fullest. I think it's highly possible, given the right conditions and gear to nail this loop in a sub 9 hour push, gives me food for thought for next time.
Total distance 61.2 kilometres.
Elevation gain 5.315 ft
Time 7hrs 6mins.
|Good roads early on.|
|One of the many road/stream crossings.|
|Perfect technical trail.|
|Heading into bogland.|
|Cresting the summit.|
|Slogging to the top.|
|After 20km of this, I packed it in.|