Mountain View states that the Great Sugar Loaf ( or GSL), in Wicklow, is Ireland's 457th highest summit, has a height of 501 metres and is the most easterly summit in the Dublin/Wicklow area. Although I was not armed with this information this morning, I set out for the Great Sugar Loaf with Janna, Valpot and Pinky. The weather forecast (which proved to be accurate) proclaimed that the morning with be sunny but that rain would move in towards the afternoon. As a result we set off bright and early. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It was mild, the sun was bright and warm and it was dry. I was surprised at the amount of people at the GSL when we arrived. Cars lined the narrow country road for as far as I could see and a steady stream of people - parents with young children, groups of friends of all ages, men and women with their dogs - were moving up and down the mountain (or, technically, the hill). The GSL itself is a barren conical shaped structure, named after the archaic mountains of sugar that were once common in grocery stores and which it resembles in appearance. The lower slope is covered in short grass and furze, with sheep and mountain ponies grazing in the fields, while nearer the summit the ascent is more precarious with lots of scree and an almost perpendicular slope. The sky was crystal clear and we had a fantastic view over Dublin bay and the city as well as the nearby Powerscourt. It is weird to see, only a few minutes drive outside of the city, rolling hills of green spread out like a playmat at your feet with dark hedgerows and stone walls separating the verdant pasture, cotton buds of sheep grazingand the azure bowl of the Irish Sea embracing the horizon. The bird life was sparse. A few crows were visible, I saw a Bunting of some kind (I think Reed) and the air was alive with the beautiful song of high flying Skylarks. I was hoping to see some hawks, but I had no luck. I was doubly glad that the weather was fine because as we began to climb it became evident that a stream wound down the mountain in wetter times and it would have made for more unpleasant going. I found the weather and the views invigorating, but the climb was hard going. You know those moments when you begin to question your sanity and the advisability of starting on your chosen task? Well, I had one of those moments. It was very obviously highlighted that I am not as fit as I thought I was as I had to stop and rest on the steeper slopes, suffering the humiliation of young children and men hampered by baby backpacks (an unusual luncheon choice) racing past me. When the same people passed me going down who had only moments before gone up I began to get worried. However, I did not mind that I held up badly in comparison to the others on the climb. I am very proud that I was able to do it, that, despite finding it tough I persevered and that I didn't once give into my vertigo and dislike of slopes even though at times I could feel panic trembling at the edges. Near the summit the wind grew very strong which, combined with the narrow path, the steep incline and the number of people both coming up and down made it very unpleasant. Thankfully, the route down was a lot easier than the way up as gravity aided the descent and before long we were back at the car. Despite wishes to be air lifted out by a rescue helicopter, it was not necessary and we all managed to make it down under our own steam. My highlights of the day were 1. how well Janna performed, racing up the mountain after her ball (and Valpot) and then running back to me with a whine and a kiss to make sure I was holding up ok. 2. Seeing a man carrying a baby on his back who was moaning constantly. It was funny seeing the little tike complaining as her daddy reassured her 'almost there'. I also wondered why she was complaining when she didn't have to do the hard work and was being carried. 3. Seeing (what I think was an elderly) Collie dog sitting down half way up and not budging and feeling pleased that I had managed to make it further than this tired canine. 4. Managing to climb over terrain that I found both physically and mentally challenging. 5. Listening to the skylarks. 6. Last, but by no means least, Valpot and Pinky's company.
While I would like to climb the GSL again, I think it will be awhile before I attempt it again and I also now know that it will be a while before I can even think of attempting Kilimanjaro or Everest. Sigh.