Series of Short Interviews about the Galtee Challenge

1. Sheila Lenihan

Sheila Lenihan is aiming to complete the Galtee Challenge for the 18th time this year. She only missed one year, due to a wedding, but completed the walk at a later stage that year.

We asked Sheila a few questions about the Challenge.

What are your favourite memories of the Galtee Challenge?

“For the first few years the Challenge was confined to the Club only, which meant we all trained together, and on the day we all walked and encouraged each other. The Challenge never gets easier but the sense of achievement is unbelievable. It was also memorable to get the gift at the end. In recent years it was great to meet and chat with new walkers, and, of course, to recognise others from previous ones.”

What advice would you give to participants of the Challenge?

“My best advice is not to think of the distance, but to walk at a steady pace and to enjoy the views.”

2. Joe O’Brien

We recently caught up with Galtee Walking Club member Joe O’Brien and asked him about his take on The Galtee Challenge:

How many times have you done the Galtee Challenge?

“While officially I’ve only ever done the challenge on 3 occasions I’ve done it unofficially on several occasions.”

What drives you to do Challenge walks?

“Challenge walks are high on my priority list. It’s a great opportunity to see the wonderful country that we inhabit. I actually find it quite addictive, last weekend I completed the 48km Dingle Way Challenge and next up is the Tom Crean Challenge on Mount Brandon. Then our own Galtee Challenge and to wrap up the month the Sligo Camino beckons.”

What is the toughest part of the route?

“Without out a second thought the toughest part of this challenge is the summit to Temple Hill. It’s the last pull on a mountain that takes no prisoners.”

Have you any advice for those doing the Galtee Challenge for the first time?

“What I would say about taking on any challenge of this magnitude is to try and relax your thoughts about it, drink plenty of fluids (not alcohol) the few days before. I find the Electrolyte tablets Zero very beneficial for keeping your system hydrated. Most importantly ensure that your walking boots are well broken in and of course a good pair of hiking socks are essential. Your feet are what is going to get you through the challenge, Oh and of course don’t forget to clip your toe nails at least 5 nights before the walk.”

3. Thos O’Neill

If you want to hear about the history of the Galtee Challenge, then look no further than Thos O’Neill, as he and Pat Ryan have acted as sweepers on the route every year since the event started. This year will be their 19th, and we looking forward to seeing both record holders on the start line!

Pat and his brother Eoin were instrumental in setting up the Galtee Challenge, which is now a major highlight in the Galtee Walking Club’s year.

Speaking to Thos earlier, he mentioned how weather-dependent the event is, and how conditions can have a huge bearing on the day. Last year’s weather was not ideal but a year he particularly remembers was when they had sleet on Galtymore, despite the day starting off nicely, with many in shorts. He also remembers being soaked by the time he got to the Bane, the first peak of the Challenge, on another occasion about 15 years ago. I wonder what Mother Nature will have in store for June 24th 2023!

Thos enjoys meeting all the people on the Challenge and encouraging the last few to ascend the final steep climb of Temple Hill.

4. Fiona O’Leary

This time we caught up with Fiona O’Leary, who is no stranger to Challenge hiking in Ireland and further afield. She’s always in good spirits and a pleasure to walk with.

How many times have you done the Galtee Challenge?

“I’ve only done the official Galtee challenge twice.”

What inspires you to do such walks?

“The challenge walks are a fabulous way of keeping your fitness up all year. There’s always something to work towards. I love the comradery amongst hikers, the craic and banter along the way and it’s a fabulous way to meet new people. ….and of course the bit of bling or certificate at the end of challenge walks is a nice incentive 🏅 ..”

What’s the toughest hike you have ever done?

“The toughest single day challenge I would say so far was the Mourne Wall. It was extremely warm the day we did it…. But the buckle we received on completion made it worthwhile…see, I’m all about the bling 😄..We laughed our way through it also which helped. “

Tell us about Mount Kilimanjaro

“I summitted Kilimanjero in Feb 2022. Standing at almost 6000 meters, hiking at altitude is a different gravy ..sleeping in tents at -10 degrees was amazing.

My favourite part of the expedition was the simplicity of life on the mountains. No phones, no running water, no power. It’s the most humbling wonderful experience and I’ve never known kindness like that of the Tanzanian people who took care of us during the trip ensuring that all our team summited safely. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing the sign sayings “the roof of Africa “..”

Have you any advice for Challenge hikers?

“My advice for hiking challenges would always be “it’s not a race “.

Take your time and don’t forget to look around and take in the views and enjoy it. Stay hydrated and well fuelled up on snacks. Oh and hiking poles …they’re paramount on long challenges. “

5. John Lonergan

Next up is John Lonergan, Chairperson of the Galtee Walking Club and part of the committee along with Breege, Ciarán, Danny, Denny, Emily, James, Pat and Tom. John is no stranger to Challenge walks, and last year possibly became the first person to hike 22 of the Galtee peaks in a day …. well it only took him half a day!!

How many times have you done the Challenge?

Officially 6 times but I do it 3 to 4 times a year. I have also done it a few times by night, once under a full moon and it was fab!

What is the toughest hike you have done?

I can’t say any one hike was the toughest as all hikes present there own challenges, i.e. weather, terrain, and visibility.

What’s the best hike you have ever done?

The 12 Bens has to be the best.

Where is on your hiking wishlist?

The GR20 in Corsica and the Appalachian trail in the USA. On Irish soil my plan is to do the traverse of all the mountain ranges.

Tell us about the 22 peak challenge

The 22 peak challenges came about by speaking to two hikers on a hike one day. It involved lots of planning to get best route. Knowing the mountain range well a big help in this planning. ** See last Winter’s Mountain Log for a full article on this hike.”

Any advice for walkers on June 24th?

“For anyone doing it for the first time pace yourself and don’t be tempted to keep up with those faster than you because you will suffer later if you do. Don’t over think the Challenge – if you have the training done, go out and enjoy it. Look back on a regular basis to see what you have achieved.”

6. Goretti Campbell

Here we catch up with Goretti Campbell, who is a great promoter of the Galtee Challenge!

How many times have you done the Challenge?

“11 times”

What’s your favourite memory of it?

“The wave of the bog cotton, The bleating of the sheep, Witty conversations, O’Loughlin’s castle in the fog, Paddy Bourke’s chocolate biscuit cake on Galtymore, The magnificent famine stone wall with the DNA of generations passed, TEMPLE HILL, one step at a time.”

Any advise for walkers?

“Be prepared for all 4 seasons on the mountain. Be mountain ready with your climbs and the distance.”

7. Michelle O’Mahony

Here we hear from Michelle O’Mahony, who leads walks with the Galtee Walking Club and Munster Hiking Group.

How many times have you done the Galtee Challenge?

“I’ve conquered the Galtee Challenge twice, a true delight on both occasions. Moreover, I’ve tackled it a few more times unofficially. Whenever I’m in need of a challenging hike, it eagerly awaits at my doorstep. How fortunate I am!”

How did you get into hiking and Challenge walks?

“Ah, those special moments of hiking with my dad are truly ingrained in my heart. He would take me away to the mountains, and together we would embark on our own little adventure. The bond we shared while traversing the trails was a true gift. During those hikes, my dad would share his wisdom and perspective, reminding me that the troubles of the world were insignificant compared to the vastness of the mountains. We would contemplate life’s mysteries and find peace in the beauty that surrounded us, like a faithful friend always there when I needed a hike and a chat. As I grew older, my love for nature grew stronger. The stunning scenery and the incredible people I meet during the challenge walks continue to captivate me. It’s not just about completing the journey; it’s about embracing the beauty of nature alongside like-minded individuals. Witnessing breath-taking landscapes and feeling a sense of camaraderie is truly special.”

What is your favourite mountain?

“Asking me about my favorite mountain is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Each mountain holds its own unique charm and character, making it impossible for me to pick just one. From the invigorating struggle of trudging through high heather up the Slivermines to the exhilarating scramble of conquering Crib Goch, every peak has its distinct qualities and adventures to offer. Just like children, mountains have their own individual personalities, and it’s the diversity that makes them all so special.”

You’re very fast on the mountains, how do you maintain such a high level of fitness?

“You’re onto my secret! Yes, I’ve built my own battery-charged hiking boots that give me superhuman speed on the mountains. Just kidding! In reality, it’s all about my sheer love for hiking. I enjoy it so much that I can’t resist going on hiking adventures frequently. The more I hike, the more my fitness levels naturally improve. So, it’s a combination of passion, consistency, and a dash of hiking boot magic, But seriously, I just can’t get enough of hiking, and that’s what keeps me going!”

What makes a good hike?

“When it comes to a good hike, it’s a delightful blend of a joyous gathering of friends and the enchantment of nature’s loughs. The companions you walk alongside, whether they’re long-time buddies, newfound friends, or casual acquaintances, fills each step with laughter and camaraderie. And oh, those loughs! Ah, I simply adore them! They’re like precious jewels nestled amidst the landscape, inviting you to pause, admire the scenery, and perhaps even dare to dip your toes in their waters.”

Any advice for those doing the crossing for the first time?

“Ah, you’re about to take on your first Galtee Challenge? Well, here’s a big secret tip: Make sure to bring a jetpack along! Trust me, it would be quite handy when facing those Galtee peaks or are in need of a speed boost. Alright, perhaps jetpacks aren’t available just yet, but worry not! Just take it one step at a time, stay hydrated, and don’t forget to bring your sense of humor. Laughter makes for the best hiking companion, especially when you accidentally veer off to the Blackrock Valley or get stuck in the bog on the col between Lyra and Temple Hill. Enjoy the adventure, embrace the challenge, and remember, it’s not only about reaching the finish line—it’s about having a blast along the way! So, have fun and savour the journey!”

8. Tom Lyons

Here we caught up with Tom Lyons from the Galtee Walking Club committee.

How many times have you done the Galtee Challenge?

“I think around 10 times.”

What are your favourite memories of the challenge?

“My favourite memories each year are meeting fellow walkers from different parts of the country.”

How will you be involved this year?

“For this year’s challenge I am helping out with sign in in the morning and stewarding on the shorter route.”

What’s your favourite route in the Galtees?

My favourite route in the Galtees is the Glencush horseshoe loop – the best walk in Ireland – I think I might be biased😊.

Your young daughter also hikes – what’s her favourite walk?

“Amy’s favourite walk is Lough Curra the best – part of the hike is the picnic at the lake she says.”

What advice do you have for walkers?

“My advice is to enjoy the day and to take one step at a time. If the day is hot take plenty of liquid and don’t wear a new pair of boots for the first time.”

Interviews compiled by Emily Gleeson, PRO Galtee Walking Club