The SAS have the Brecon Beacons.
TriHarderAR have Moylussa & Keeper Hill.
ULAC was again the location for a secret sortie of night-time manoeuvres last weekend.
Meeting up at the carpark a very excited Mike got to meet his new kayak which he carefully unwrapped before getting down to the business of the plans for the evening. With a bundle of maps showing CP’s from last year’s Beast and a strategy of bike, hike, kayak until tomorrow we got our gear and packs organised.
There were a number of systems being tested out; splitting navigation roles on the bike, with CP details (location etc) reverting back to the stand by NAV once Chief NAV had assumed command. Using map boards for the first time (we use Nordenmark map boards) we suddenly realised how easily life could be!! 🙂
Of course though, I had to have my cockpit set up ‘just so’ with my bike light and VIRB tucked in nicely underneath the mapboard on K-edge mounts I was happy out!
Leaving Ballina we cruised over to Silvermines village on the back roads adhering to the rules of the Beast and headed up “The Step”. Appropriately named piece of steep road that goes up and up! Over the top we then had a section of MTBo to find the first CP which was a stake in the ground. A little bit of hesitation as the maps were old versions and Coillte shift fire roads around a little. A little bit of recall from the forest map and gut instinct lead us up a narrow trail to turn right and up to ‘find’ the CP and dib in (1) on my GPS track.
Coming back from CP 1 the decision to rejoin the Slieve Felim Way by cutting across a section of bog was made (in hindsight correct though map not accurate enough to be 100%) following a brief bushwhacking we turned and went for the fast option of dropping down the trail we know and out…
Sorry for laughing….. 😀 😀
Mike in the lead…. just ahead of me…. retracing over the swampy bog… suddenly upended! It was like something from a cartoon the way he went in slow motion over the handlebars as his front wheel went hub deep in bog. Getting up he had the look of something alien as peaty black mud was stuck to his face, clothes and hands.
This is the second time this has happened to him, right in front of me…sorry! Oh how I wish I had the camera on for this one! 🙂
A quick check that he was ok, a squirt down with water to clean him, the bike & maps and we were dropping down through a lovely tunnel of overhanging branches. I really enjoyed this as I’d powerful lights and could really let rip on the descent. Awesome!!
Back on the Slieve Felim Way we quickly made our way around on the Keeper Challenge route to nab CP2 which bore memories of us standing in the rain last year, facing a team meltdown and a mini tantrum (ok a right throw-down tantrum) from me over not being able to pump up the bike tyres enough.
Finding the CP on the bottom of a post 12 months ago was like a pressure release valve! Easily found tonight 🙂
Not so easily found was the route we wanted to Keeper Hill from the backside. Again the GPS shows we were doing ok, and even going for high ground out of the trees we could see what our objective was. Unfortunately we did not trust the maps enough and also did not want to be allnight on the way to Keeper. We wanted sunrise over Lough Derg. Decision made to drop back down onto the main road and a nice big loop around to connect at Shallee and across to Ballina to ULAC for the transition to the hike.
05:52 / 71.5km / 1315m ^
Dropping the bikes and swapping over nav duties I took the lead for the hike section. The issue was this is so familiar to us at this stage it is hard to let go of knowledge and trust the map and compass but that is the point of the exercise so put memories out of mind.
Transition was slow as treacle. I changed shoes and socks as I wanted to try out a new combo. I also wanted long pants as with tick season on us there is no point taking chances with getting a nip on bare legs or arms. Definitely something to be worked on is smooth changes with a purpose.
CP1 on the hike was easily found even to the point of remembering the position in the bank on the tree. Continuing on we grabbed a quick snap of Lough Derg lighting up and a team selfie (lost forever 🙁 ) and rambled on up to tackle Moylussa. Funnily enough I felt tight and sore in my calves, I put it down to lingering Coast2Coast and not really backing off run volume, so the ascent was tough on my legs. I stopped and took another photo of Lough Derg using a post as a ‘tripod’ and retook the lead for the walk across the bog to the peak stone.
I would on any other day take a snap of Moylussa peak, but I have one. As destiny would have it I would probably have discovered here that my phone was gone and quickly retrieved it. I didn’t and as a result, didn’t.
We spun around and checked bearings to MP2 (Training CP2) and set off on a beeline over the mountain bog. Reading the vegetation I spotted water and potential bog holes so negotiated around them. The bracken is tough on the legs as you are having to high step over it. I called a decision to make our way to a track that on the map lead to the second peak and expecting something better than what we were in, lead the way over.
This was the wrong decision as the ‘track’ was a track but was mostly bog. We ended up hiking through the same stuff we had left and on a longer tack too. My bad 🙁
We got the BP3 which was much further away than it looked from Moylussa. Checking the map for BP4 we decided to cut it out and drop down to BP5. After a brief “it’s a cliff” objection we opted to check it out and leading the way we quickly dropped down approx 100m over bracken & brush and as I looked back to see the others I though “perfect photo! The team against the blue sky!!” reaching for my phone I discovered it was GONE!!
Not where I put it. A quick pocket check and pack check and I was gone scampering back up. The thought through my head was I’d promised to ring home at 9am so they’d know we were safe off the mountain.
I was gutted. I’ve never lost a phone. I went back to BP3, retracing my steps and carefully picking my way back down scoured the scrub for any sign of a nice, big, bright yellow phone.
No joy 🙁
Anyway pick it back up, it’s only a phone, and we finished the drop to the tree line which was deceptive from the top. Still rough, but a narrow belt of trees leading to a cleared area with young pines popping up.
I reckon we saved ourselves 2.5-3 hours of ‘easy’ hiking by dropping and beating our way to BP5 (4) skipping BP4.
From then on it was hiking around the trails working on skills like picking out features on the map and identifying on the ground and vice versa. Checking orientation and the like.
Nabbing the next CP and routing towards the last BP we spotted a potential shortcut. Identifying a trail that runs in the direction of the CP we could look to ford a stream to come into the back of the CP saving ourselves 30-40 mins of hike out and back. This worked out a treat and we ‘dibbed’ in and tracked back out and down to the lakeside for the next phase.
05:14 / 20.75km / 860^
Again we seemed to take forever on the transition from hike to kayak. More down to general jawing than anything else!
There was a nice little chop as we headed up lake. The boat was lifting and slapping down on the waves which thankfully were running perpendicular to our travel direction. Cutting across waves in these SIT’s is not pleasant and is a quick route to having to swim!
A little comms. issue had our boat heading straight up the Lough while Mike cut away to the left. He’d a nice tempo going and was moving along swiftly to the other island. We waited until it was clear which island he was going for and when we hit calmer water we cut across to meet him as he came around the island. Turning in the lee of the island was perfect, only a little roll in the boat but heading back to ULAC running with the waves and the wind behind us gave the illusion of not moving at all.
Despite paddling just as hard we seemed to be sitting still in the water. Weird sensation. Shortly after the turn Mike started to drop off quickly and looked very fatigued. We spoke about drafting and a tow but with no line (I intended rigging a line up and storing on board, just in case, but didn’t get time) he fell back quickly.
Paddling for shore my plan was to get a line and turn back for him however the current seemed to help as the waves picked up closer to shore and both boats rode in quite well on the surf so by the time I’d got the line and back to the boat he was pretty much ashore.
01:55 / 10.3 /
An executive decision was made and we called an end to the session. We had talked about cycling to Tountinna for a spin around the trail but lack of nutrition, fatigue and lessons to assimilate meant we wisely decided to debrief in the morning sunshine 🙂
We learned a few things overnight, we worked out some new tactics, some new nav techniques and the need to eat more!!!
…more to do”