[RACE REPORT] Trekking the #BeastofBallyhoura (see what I did there? ) – Part 3

It’s just after midnight and the moon is out.

Friday – 31st July

Ok, so we’re on the road from the Coasteering to the Ropes sections. We’ve bypassed Stage 7: Foot Orienteering on Tramore Sandhills and Stage 8: Coasteering 6km has been pulled. We got the required C13 and merged seamlessly with the next cycle stage.

Stage 9: Bike (62 – 85km) Maps F, G & H – Annestown to Ballymacarbry
After a long day of paddling, swimming and coasteering teams will be glad to stay dry for a while.
This cycling stage includes a ropes section at TA6, and then continues on to TA7 at Ballymacarbry.
At TA6 teams will have access to their climbing gear and follow marshals instructions.
Teams continue on their bikes to dib at B21 before finally heading for TA7

Remembering that we were on Max points plan we collected 1000points at B14 and rattled on to look for B15. We mixed it up a little with a few teams on the road ahead and behind of us. As we came down the hill towards Ballyvoyle we saw teams coming up the road; we were on the look out for a viaduct so looking for a railway line ideally.

We turned left, the direction the other teams came from and followed a high embankment around to the shore. We realised we were gone too far and 10 mins later were back at the junction. We spotted a gap in the ditch and a railway embankment but with another team on our tails it was #GoDark time so we stopped for a ‘comfort stop’ allowed them up the road and dived with bikes and all for the ditch where a quick hike a bike onto the hard-cored greenway had us finding the lcoation of B15 to be told it was in the tunnel 1km up the tracks (I think the Beasties wanted #GoDark moments so rather than teams loitering giving away the position of B15 the moved it out of sight 😉 )

We followed the tracks into the coolest tunnel ever! Found the CP, grabbed another 100points, high 5’d and kept going picking up B16 as we left the greenway and headed on the roads directly to the Ropes section. We’d initially planned one bonus (B19) but opted to skip that, grab B20 (1000points) and get on the ropes at Kilmacthomas.

There was one moment we had to check out though. We were neck and neck (no idea about points) with one of the other teams at this point and as we pulled up at the junction  with the E30 the route book warning “….and Teams cannot travel along Green roads during this…” ringing in our ears we skidded to a halt while the other team definitely turned right, travelled along the Green road and turned left off it (directions of arrows).

Beast of Ballyhoura 2015
McGrath’s Cross – when a crossroads is not really a crossroads.

In planning I had suggested a hike-a-bike straight across the road which was allowed and join the same road on the far side of the Cross, but we opted to back out and follow the slightly longer road around (10 mins journey time) and roll into Kilmacthomas ready to throw ourselves off a bridge!! 🙂

So TA6 In, pull on our harnesses & helmets and a brief hike up to the top of the viaduct where we were checked in pairs. Shane & I were first to go over, while Shane was rigged I clipped into the scaffold and chatted away with Alan and the other army personnel manning the rigging. In no time Shane dropped out of view, missed the parapet and was shortly on the ground.

Well it was that or he fell, the rope was pulled in sharpish enough and it was my turn to go drop off a bridge.

Clipped on with my belay, wide stance, lean back and giving myself a good bit of leeway I dropped off to clear the arch. Nothing worse than barking your shins by missing your footing. Feeling like a Ninja I zipped down the line, 2m off the ground I stopped, bounced and dropped again landing like a pro 😀

I want to do that again!!

Dibbing with Roxanne (Ropes – 1000 points)under the bridge, we watched Kate and Mike follow us down before dragging them off to get back on the bikes again. We cycled on through the dawn, we stopped for a 15 min power nap on the grass verge in front of someone’s house at one point and continuing on we soon ran out of road.

This section from The Paddock to the Gap was cruel.

We called Ivan all sorts of names but ultimately agreed that we by our actions were enabling him to fulfill his sadistic love of hike-a-bike.

The Gap (B 21 -1000 points) turned out not where we thought it was and very soon there were 5 or 6 teams lined out on the hill with bikes across our packs trudging up through tight sheep tracks and knee deep heather. 1.5 hours is not long in the greater scheme of things but 1.5 hours with a backpack full of gear and a 10kg mountain bike on your back is not easy.

Our expectation of a super fast MTB descent was shortlived as we were on technical, rocky trails that had us on and off more times than a fridge light at a party. We dropped down to the exit trail and soon found ourselves back on the road flying towards TA7. I finally started to come strong on the bike and ended up towing a line of 7 bikes at pace into the village and transition.

Dropping the bikes we dived right into our food bags for recovery shakes, tuna rice salad and then curled up for 2 hours sleep in the astroturf hall.

Stage 10: Trek (49–75 km) Map I – Ballymacarbry to Ballymacarbry
Trek in Comeragh mountains. The Comeragh mountains are a glaciated mountain range with several interesting features including many coums, bogs and historic sites.

We awoke to a bustling hall and changed into our trekking gear, refilling the bladders (backpack ones!) and packing enough food to get us through the  long day ahead headed out the door and back onto the roads to the Comeraghs.

Tiredness or eagerness had us miss the turn we planned and a brief scenic detour later we were back on track heading into the heather and bracken to pick up R22 (1000 points) located on a little wooden cross. You can see in this little clip how the conditions were starting to deteriorate up here.

Stage 10: Trek - Ballymacarbry / Comeraghs / Ballymacarbry
Stage 10: Trek – Ballymacarbry / Comeraghs / Ballymacarbry

In our planning we were assuming the worst for underfoot (ala Rogaine) and prepared the easiest route. This meant we stuck to roads or trails where possible but often gave us a longer trek. Its all marginal though and leads to the same endpoint.

We got up to R23 (1000 points) and caught another team on the way back out around to R24 (1000 points) where we started to wrap our way up the steep cliff side to get onto the plateau. For some reason, despite taking stock of where we were and the direction our CP was in we went South South East rather than East (larger blue arrow pointing SSE). We realised our mistake at the cliffs over Mahon Falls and discovered our lead compass had become demagnetised. Falling back on my orienteering compass and watches for bearings we found the location for R32 (0 points) but no sign of a CP which was a massive pity considering we walked right along the cliff edge as a massive gale was blowing. We abandoned on safety grounds, though I was scrambling around for a few minutes determined to find the cursed thing!!

Leaving slightly dejected I was hanging at the back and noticed that in the cloud and rain we were drifting off course. We started to conduct a big circle  and over the course of the next hour it started getting scary up there.

We were getting cold and wet and the wind was picking up more and more. We had to get down out of the cloud. Remembering a technique we used for setting out fence lines I got the team to work together leapfrogging in a straight line (**) on a bearing we knew, until we safely found somewhere we would recognise and could get off the hills.

We came out of the cloud overlooking the corrie lake at R23 which placed us in ‘familiar’ territory. We dropped quickly down to better conditions and opted for abandoning the points we missed (we went in with a plan for more, but took what we got) in favour of moving on.

It was a long trek back to TA8 and with the trudge along the road mirroring the section we had biked in on hours earlier we unfortunately knew exactly how far it was to the TA.

This was definitely a low point for the team and the Sleepmonsters started coming to see Mike. He introduced me to his little green witch and was chatting to green poodles in the hedges. We were very glad to make it into transition, more or less 12 hours trekking for just 3000 points (we earned the same in 30 mins in Waterford) and our feet were getting quite tender from all the road walking and without too much discussion we headed to the cold astroturf for 2 hours kip.

We’re leaving this section here on a low, but with us sleeping over midnight the hope is we are rejuvenated a little when you come back in a few hours to continue the story.

Thanks for sharing the journey so far.


Cover Image Photo Credit: Beast of Ballyhoura Facebook Page

%d bloggers like this: