Well, I’ve decided to mix it up. I’ve found a new way to travel and see Ireland off the beaten path: Maura and I joined the UCC Mountaineering Club. In a burst of outdoor-sy-ness, I happened upon the Mountaineering club on the school’s website. Making a fairly snap decision, we transformed almost overnight into ambitious aspiring mountaineering folk, outfitted to the nines in some seriously attractive waterproof pants; thick, high socks, and of, course, the awesome boots.

Hiking the Paps!

This past Sunday we got up before sunrise and had a hearty breakfast before embarking on a journey to County Kerry for our first expedition with the UCC mountaineers. After wandering for quite some time down a scenic (but paved) road with some lovely sheep decorating the scenery (and by wander I mean practically jog- they like to wander rather quickly apparently), the road just sort of ended and we found ourselves facing a lovely green mountain: our destination.

on the way up...

Now I thought the guide was consulting where exactly the trail was, but to be honest I have no idea why he even bothered with the map, because it was at this point that I vastly broadened my mountaineering education. The primary difference between Irish mountaineering and our American ‘hiking’ appears to be that the Irish like to rough it, and mountaineering actually means that you will be exploring the mountain any way you choose, because there are no trails. This mountain at whose base we stood expectantly was one of The Paps, the two mountains we climbed that day. As we climbed the cliff, ascending from the green sheep filled fields literally into the clouds, our guide gave us a fun Irish cultural legend lesson.

Antarctica? Heaven? What did we get ourselves into?!

The Paps are actually twin mountains that were named for an ancient Celtic goddess of nature, and these mountains were said to be the breasts of the goddess. As some point, some association of Irish mountaineering-park ranger type people (presumably a collection of men with a sense of humor) decided to erect rather large stone structures at the top of each peak. This goddess-breast humor is apparently the sort that is international, because the American, Irish, French and German boys in the climbing group found this hilarious and made the event a highly photographed occasion. We reached the crest of the first breast- a rather rough challenging trek I must admit and found ourselves in apparently the arctic- there was ice and snow and high winds oh my!

I swear- its NOT fake! I also swear that this is the same moutain!

Quickly we descended into the cleavage (again, international male humor- many jokes made here). Then we climbed the second peak and stopped for lunch at the top- leaning against the oh-so-lovely nipple-esque stone pile. We made our way down after that at a leisurely pace through a vast diversity of landscapes- fields of hay and rocks and more snowy patches and a bog- pretty much any landscape I could imagine-  certainly there was no lack of things to look at! We reached the bus again, and stripped off mud covered layers (Again, the boots and waterproof pants were a very, very good investment). After a stop at a pub, we drove off to home in the sunset, fighting and being beaten by exhaustion as sleep and darkness enveloped the weary mountaineers. A fine day for certain, a fine day indeed.

tired indeed- but well, well worth it!