When I see the Mourne Wall it just screams ‘walk me’ and in October 2013 I did just that in 8hr 45 minutes. I walked it in a clockwise manner starting from Carricklittle car park, and I definitely learned a few lessons in doing so.
1. Pack even lighter
2. Zig-zag when going downhill, to save my knees and quad muscles.
3. Less energy gels and more solid food.
4. Shorter rest breaks.
I am running the Mourne Way Marathon in 7 weeks time, so training is getting serious and this run was brilliant practice for me and for my legs. With this upcoming event in mind I decided that I wanted to run the wall over Easter. The weather forecast for Easter Saturday was looking promising with sunny and clear spells throughout the day, so I got my kit packed, pre hydrated and treated my tastebuds to feast of barbecued food on Friday evening.
With lessons learned from my previous attempt – I packed as light as possible this time around. This time I brought the following equipment:
- Camelbak 10l rucksack
- Full 2L bladder (with SIS hydro tab with caffeine added)
- Rab beanie hat
- Lightweight windproof jacket
- Camera (no case)
- 2x water purification tabs
- 4x painkillers
- Mobile phone
- 3x SIS gels (one with added caffeine)
- 2x snickers
- Big packet of jelly babies
Saturday morning came and we began the start of our epic run at Carricklittle car park at 08:35am. The air was fresh to breath and the warming Easter sun cast a gentle heat over the land . This time we ran in an anti clockwise direction tackling Slieve Donard first and finishing with Slieve Binnian – which is apparently a more difficult way to complete the route as the majority of ascent made is in the last third.
The climb up to Long Seefin and the Bog of Donard was pulling the calve muscles out of me, I kept the pace at a jog, doing a brisk walk on the inclines. Slieve Donard was first up and it was a quick walk up to the summit, already there were hill baggers and others enjoying the view and having a snack at the top.
I knew from before that switching from uphill to downhill is tricky on the quad muscles, and for me personally, this is one of the most difficult parts about doing the Mourne Wall. Continuing with the steady pace we descended Slieve Donard and before we knew it we were refilling our water bottles at the water pipe on Commedagh. This was to be my last fill of water unless I needed to stop at the Silent Valley Reservoir, as there are no other sources of water between these two points on the route.
I was in my stride now and keeping the pace which would sustain me right to the finish, I hoped anyway. I was snacking regularly so as not to flatline which happens very quickly with me. The views were amazing but this was a day for keeping the head down and legs moving. The section over Slieve Corragh and Slievenaglogh is really quite nice, no big inclines and the ground is easy to pick your footing. The next three (Slieve Bernagh, Meelmore & Meelbeg) were steep and hard to pick your footing – especially so on the way down.
Loughshannagh and Carn were next after we had a quick stop for lunch, the climbs here are long but not steep like Slieve Meelmore. At this stage I was getting the usual aches and pains but all in all I was feeling all right. Hydration seemed to be going well, which on a warm day can easily be forgotten.
Slieve Muck was up next and I was feeling excited because I have yet to be on this mountain in good weather, today was my first and it gives stunning views of Spelga dam. By now we were meeting less and less people mainly because this part of the Mourne Mountains is less popular due to the remote area.
Last time I disliked the climb up Slieve Muck and Slievenaglogh, going down was the same, there are lots of boulders which make it awkward to descend. It is in this area of the Mourne Wall that you really appreciate the magnitude of this magnificent structure when looking back on the path you have taken.
Up next after tackling Slieve Much was the drop down to the Silent Valley reservoir then onto Moolieve, Wee Binnian and Slieve Binnian itself. I knew this was steep and deceptive section and had saved my last energy gel for it. The ground is rough and hard to find a good path up, which when you are tired is tricky to say the least.
At this stage I was as they say ‘getting it tight’ and my quad muscles were not too happy. Slieve Binnian was a tough slog, I struggled on this last hurdle as time was gradually getting ate up on this last big effort. Slieve Binnian was hard both going up and coming down, the cloud rolled as we reached the summit so no views were to be had, only a shuffle down the track and to the finish point of the route.
I had ate all my food and snacks and drank pretty much a full 3 liters of water. My legs were feeling good for most of the wall but the last three climbs just finished them off. Slieve Binnian from the south-western side has become a climb that is now my nemesis.
Taking on the Mourne Wall in an anticlockwise manner is is definitely a more difficult route in my opinion. The ground and climbs make for hard last third, but in saying that the start over the bog was nasty enough and then with Slieve Donard as a first climb is also tricky.
My finishing time was 08hrs 55mins and I feel that had I not blew up over Moolieve and Slieve Binnian, 8hours is definitely an achievable time. I had the usual aches and sore feet but no blisters my Inov8 bare grip 200 runners performed great. I thought they might be too ‘barefoot’ on the terrain but a thumbs up from me.
Either way it is a fantastic challenge and 20 odd miles on a beautiful Easter weekend was brilliant. I now want to do it again and not blow a gasket on the last section!