Monday, June 07, 2010

The Mourne 500, 5 June 2010

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." Michelangelo

Mourne 500 - Spences Mountain
Spences Mountain - the end of the line for us
The challenge

We’ve been lying low in 2010, so we thought it was time we hit some peaks with the bikes. Hence the challenge of the Mourne 500 was born... Every point in the Mournes above 500m, unsupported (no help from others, with supplies or anything), and of course in the company of our singlespeed bikes. We identified 35 points to be visited, and we set our route to try and nail it on 5 June 2010, with the intention of leaving a Tango and Cash calling card at each point.

How we got on

We failed! We started at 02:30 (yep, that’s 2:30am) from Carrick Little car park, and headed along the road on the bikes towards Finlieve, our first target point. The weather was dry, warm and sunny the whole time (after 04:55 anyway, when the sun came up).

Distance we travelled: 67 km
Vertical climbing: 3,562 metres

Mourne 500 - our failed attempt
Detail of our route, including escape point - click for large

In short, the mountains brutalised, battered, tore, wrenched and drained us, and we reluctantly decided to take ourselves off the hills after completing Spences Mountain (our 28th point), with 7 points of our Mourne 500 challenge remaining. It was soon to be pitch dark and, aside from feeling absolutely dreadful, clambering around on the side of in particular Slievelamagan with bikes on our backs in the middle of the night was just too darn dangerous, and we weren’t equipped properly.

So we peeled off our intended route below Rocky Mountain and took the path down to Dunnywater and back to Carrick Little car park along the road. Arriving back at the car at 22:30, that was exactly 20 hours on the mountains, a good solid day’s work-out by anyone’s reckoning, and boy we were in pieces.
A quick chicken and chips in Newcastle nearly didn’t happen, as chippy staff were concerned that we were a couple of near-comatose drunks! The drive home to Antrim via Belfast was completed at about 27 miles per hour, and on a number of occasions on the M2 we were very thankful for the invention of rumble strips!

Looking back over the map, we worked out that only about 200 metres max of our climbing was done with us actually riding the bikes. The rest of the time we were carrying or dragging them, and that was the case for lots of the flat and downhill too, given the tricky ground. We had lots of food, kit and supplies with us; with bike on back that was over 40lbs of weight to our packs, which was hard enough going in bits. Forget the bikes; it would be a really good challenge on foot, and we know a few folks who might be up for that...

Anyone who nails this one, it’s a helluva big achievement, and there’s a beer on us from Mourne Country’s own Whitewater Brewery (makers of Belfast Ale, at grid ref 260 171) for anyone who can do it. We’d love to see somebody give it a crack, so get in touch if you want any info.
Good to see Barry Tinnelly and his boys along the way (thanks for the Mars bar and brandy ball), also Rowan and Ian of 26Extreme in Trailbadger tops, who were scouting their big race for this weekend coming, the Mourne Way Marathon.
Dreadful bits

It was a hard day out, no question, but there were a couple of bits that were particularly tough going. Some of the terrain was woeful, especially dragging or carrying a bike, but none of the climbs have made our list!
  • Coming down off Eagle Mountain to Windy Gap – deadly steep
  • Descending Donard to Crossone – 300m very steep descent through thick vegetation and rocks
  • Finlieve to Shanlieve – peat hags, clambering them up and down, up and down, endlessly (until it ended)
  • From Doan to Ben Crom and back to under Meelbeg – more peat hags, long grass, real heavy going
  • Descending one of the Meels - can't remember which one, but it was hellish steep and tricky going from rock to rock
Choosing our target points
Anything that looked like it had more than 10m prominence (stickin up!) from the ground around it, we added to the list of points to be visited, and we threw in a few more that we were not sure about, just to cover ourselves, as some of the maps have differing data on them. We got this info just by studying the contour lines on the maps, nothing more scientific than that, and I know the nerds could probably pick holes in some of our choices. It’s worth saying, we didn’t clamber up on top of any tors (apart from Bearnagh main tor, which I nearly fell off), as rock-climbing ain’t our thing!

We were delighted to be sponsored by Antrim’s Pizza the Action for our Mourne 500 attempt. We started out with 48 slices of pizza, and we ate 38 of them during the day. Ham and pineapple was the best topping by a mile, and went down a treat. “Mighty Meaty” was a poor choice for one of the pizzas (our fault), so 3 slices of that ended up in the Ott car park, 2 in Bloody Bridge River, and the other 3 fell apart in the bottom of the rucksack, and they’re still there. The only other pizza remaining was 2 slices of chicken and sweet-corn, which was palatable but dry, and required a little extra seasoning. A huge thanks to Hugh of Pizza the Action for fuelling the fat boys in our challenge; definitely good grub for that kind of long day out.

The UN aid convoy made it through in the nick of time

Sunrise in the Mournes, circa 5:00am

A typical climb - slogging up Bearnagh

View towards Hen Mountain off the top of Cock Mountain

Only 47 more slices to go

More "Man from Del Monte" than "Man from Milk Tray"!

Davy snuggles into his final resting place, on top of Crossone, the end now close

A bottle of this stuff with our compliments if you can nail this route

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tango and Cash are now on Twitter!