The Art O’Neill Challenge 2014

One of the hardest hikes I have ever done but full of rewards. The route is from Dublin Castle to Glenmalure Valley. 30k on road, and 23k off road. Myself and my brother Trevor took on the challenge with Trevor having done the challenge the previous year had me sold. The hike started at the traditional time of 12 midnight, the same time as the dramatic escape of Art, Henry and Hugh from Dublin Castle. Following the same route as the escape,leaving the city and heading into the wilds and darkness of the Wicklow Mountains. We made really good pace on the first stage of the hike making it to the first checkpoint in the first group of hikers. At this stage we find our bags that were dropped off and change into our hiking boots and take a few minutes out by the fires to get some welcomed soup and sandwiches.

For the rest of the challenge we were with a guided group as navigation through the mountains at night is fairly difficult as a few participants found out. But thankfully because we were in the first group of hikers in we were with the fastest group and made amazing time with our excellent guides. Visibility at times got pretty foggy through the climb but when that first bit of light started to appear the boost was exhilarating. We continued on the the next checkpoint for welcomed porridge and a warm fire, we took about 15 minutes out here and then got on the path again with renewed energy. We made it to the finish line in just over 11 hours and ended up being 11th and 12th overall in the hiking category which was an amazing achievement for us both. It was as much a mental battle as it was a physical but the 3 – 4 pints afterwards were welcomed reward.

Thanks so much to the organisers and all the voluntary helpers it was an amazing experience.