Devil’s Bit Mountain, Co Tipperary – 24/03/2013

It really did seem like a good idea at the time, and I thought I was ready for it.

It was my idea, I wanted to do it, and I pushed for it.

01 Devils Bit Loop

Laying in bed the night before, listening to the wind howling around the cottage, I pondered my acceptable excuses for not going, for staying home and lighting the fire.  I decided that we wouldn’t go if it was raining.

It was cold and dry the next morning, and the husband started digging out his rucksack, sorting through his clothing.  I gave in to the idea that we were actually going ahead with this.  I sorted out some sandwiches, and filled a flask. He was in the unenviable position of still fitting into all his proper walking gear from when he used to climb serious summits in the highlands of Scotland etc.  I never managed such feats, even in my fitter and slimmer past, but I did previously have my own share of decent walking gear, for the less strenuous lowland hiking I used to enjoy…some of which was in my old VW camper van, sadly stolen December 2010, (including a really decent pair of hiking boots, my walking poles, beloved ankle gaiters and the best ‘plus-size’ 3-in-1 jacket I’ve ever found that actually fitted me comfortably, and a collection of fun & colourful hats I’ve collected over the years).  What remaining clothing I did have didn’t fit.  It may go without saying, if it did fit and I could still use it, it would have been in the camper van to be used whenever we were away…and so I was left with hubby’s ancient spare thinsulate hat, some mittens I knitted myself, a pair of leggings I typically wear under my jeans when I’m trading at outdoor craft fairs in cold weather, and some light trousers that I think I paid €6 from the ‘sale rail’ in my local Tesco.  I did have an old outer-jacket from another 3-in-1 set I had, that was just about useable, and I found an ancient old Berghaus fleece that would just about do up over my expanded waistline…not ideal, but we were hardly heading up Carrauntoohill, so I figured I’d survive!  To be honest, until that morning, I hadn’t put much thought into my lack of proper clothing :-/

We decided to bring Monty.  He’s a 12-year-old Jack Russell, robust for his years, and always up for a fun day out.

Taking the back lanes from Moneygall, up through Derrycallaghan, and around the sides of Benduff, Borrisnoe, and Kilduff mountain, I consoled myself that I could still call this off, and we could be satisfied with having a nice drive out…the other part of me looked up towards the summit of Benduff and wondered when I’d feel ready to attempt that…

In the car park at the trailhead, and a van pulled in.  A young couple nodded to us as they started up the steep track out of the car park.  OK, we’re really going to do this.  As we go through the kissing gate, I look up the track to see how far the young could have got, to find they are running….yes running….up that track.  I know I’m not fit, and I know I’m going to struggle…but I hope that even the fit amongst you, who know this track up out of the car park at Devil’s Bit, will agree with me that it is steep, and its a reasonable effort to walk up it, even for the fit & healthy…and these two were running.  I felt intimidated, I felt embarrassed, and without even starting, I felt like a failure.

A quarter of the way up that first section of track, and already I have to stop.  My legs hurt, I can’t breathe and my lungs are on fire.  I’m frustrated, because my walking at home has got so much better, and I really thought I’d cope better than this.  I decided that if we got to the top of this track, I’d be happy enough with that effort, and we could call it a day.  It was harder than I ever imagined, and I felt utterly pathetic.  I’d take 10, 20, 30 steps, and stop to catch my breath.  It must have driven the husband crazy, I could tell he just wanted to get going.

We got to the top of the track, and I decided to go along to the forestry gate, to check out the next bit of the trail.  OK, if we went up the next bit of trail to the next marker post, I’d see how I felt.  I was satisfied that I’d made a good enough effort having come as far as I had.  We went up through the forestry bit to Carden’s folly (AKA The Rock Tower), moving from marker to marker.  I was puffing loudly, and clearly puce in the face, when the young running couple passed us on their way back down.  I know I possibly (probably) imagined this, but I can’t help thinking that they cast pitiful looks at the mess I was in and the struggle I was having in just walking up the mountain they had just literally sprinted up.    The path up through the forestry is boggy and wet.  I’ve one wet foot from a particularly muddy section that was deeper than it looked.  My walking shoes have mostly coped, but have proved to be not really up to the job once you get off nice, hard packed trail paths.

At the folly I want to sit, rest, and ponder whether I want to go on or go back.  Have I achieved enough that I can go back to the car park and be happy with what we’ve done?  But the cold wind in this exposed area is causing the husband to be grumpy.  He (quite rightly) wants to either keep going, or for us to move somewhere a little more sheltered for me to do my pondering.  A quick check of the trail map against out surroundings, suggests to me that the next section is on forestry tracks and certainly starts off downhill.  I look up towards the peak of the mountain, see people up on Little Rock, looking at the base of the cross, and decide that I have come this far, I’ll just go a little further and see if I really can get up there.  At this point, we can either head straight on and go up to the summit (this option is quicker, I’d reach the summit, and then we could just turn around and go home), or we can follow the National Loop Walk map and turn left (this option is longer, but we’d complete the full 5k loop walk that had been my original intention). Feck it, in for a penny in for a pound, we turned left.

We were heading down a gentle slope on a proper forestry track.  Finally I could walk out properly, and not stop in a gasping heap every 50-100 yards…but in the back of my mind, I know that ultimately this loop walk is meant to bring us via the summit, so any ‘downhill’ trail we follow just means we’re going to have more ‘uphill’ to deal with further on.  But for now I didn’t care, I could walk, and walk properly, and not feel such a useless and unfit lump.  The dog was having a ball, and I found I was finally starting to enjoy myself.  Even then I knew that if I decided I had had enough, I could turn back towards the car park with no shame, and all was good.

Devils Bit Loop 005

Some of the forestry track had been ‘resurfaced’ with very coarse rubble, so for a few stretches we had to carry Monty.  He was struggling to find an easy route ‘through’ the track, and we were becoming conscious that he’s not a spring chicken anymore.  Finally we turned right off the track, and onto a softer path, upwards through a tunnel of forestry.  Just so incredibly peaceful, and I reckon on a bright sunny day, the sunlight filtering through the tree cover overhead in the forest glade would be breath-taking.  Then we were out in the open again, and the temperature was noticeably cooler with a light snow flurries all around us.  Small puddles were iced over, and there was a real bite in the wind.  We could see the cross on Little Rock, and it really didn’t look too far away from here.  I started to really believe that I could achieve this now.

 Devils Bit Loop 008

Devils Bit Loop 012

At the base of the rocks below Little Rock the path disappeared.  What had been a good strong and easy-to-see path to follow was gone, just completely gone.  Husband did his best mountain goat impression and went on ahead to plan a route up the summit, and Monty and I followed cautiously on behind.  It was the husband at this point who tentatively broached the subject of turning around, but when I pointed out we were well over half way around, we both decided that if we could find a way forwards we’d prefer to do that.
We did pick a route up to the top of Little Rock (well worth it for the views!!), and then around the side of Little rock, to rejoin the main path, but I’d suggest that as this is a ‘National Loop Walk’ then perhaps the path on this section could have a little more work done, if only to make it easier to find?  I appreciate that a ‘Moderate’ graded trail isn’t meant to be all flat & easy…but being able to see where you’re meant to be going would be quite helpful!

Devils Bit Loop 025

Monty was really struggling at this point.  It was -2°C, with a windchill of at least -8°C.  It was damp, it was lightly snowing.  We’d come a fair distance, and he was an old dog.  I felt pretty crap about bringing him, and he looked downright miserable.

We stopped briefly at the grotto halfway down the slope, where Monty got extremely freaked out my the Virgin Mary statue, then at the bottom of that slope, as we rejoined our out-route below Carden’s folly, Monty perked up.  I guess he recognised that we were finally heading back to the car park.

Devils Bit Loop 031

My walking shoes really struggled on the slippery ground going downhill.  Another incentive to start saving up for a decent pair of boots. At one point I slipped badly and ended up on my arse in a boggy puddle.  I was fairly soaked from head to toe.  Fortunately the combination of knowing that I was less than 10 minutes away from the car park, and that I also had a complete change of dry clothes awaiting me there, allowed me to laugh, to get up and to just get on with it.

All the way back down the final descent.  Monty was positively pulling my arms out again, his tail was waving and his ears were up.  I had a smile across my face.  Despite presenting myself with several options to ‘give up and save face’ almost all the way around, I’d kept going and I’d completed what I had originally planned to do.

It wasn’t easy.  I’m not fit. I’m grossly overweight.  It was sub-zero and snowing at  times.  And perhaps attempting a loop walk marked ‘Moderate’ was a little ambitious for a first timer.  I stopped countless times to catch my breath, stretch my back and rest my legs.  But I bloody well did it, and that was good enough for me.

Well deserved!

Well deserved!

Next weekend its the 4-day break over Easter, and I’d like to get out at least twice…but I think we’ll look for nice flat areas, so I can concentrate on getting some mileage in, rather than altitude, haha!  Will be slightly less demoralising perhaps?

Lough Boora Parklands looks nice and flat…!

I track my walks on Runkeeper – it lets me know exactly how far I’ve been and how fast I did it.  I’m not aiming for any speed records, but its nice to see an occasional improvement in my pace, no matter how small.  It also keeps me honest!  I have set it so that it also nags me if I don’t get out often enough at home, during the week.  I need that nagging!
I had the App set for ‘Auto-Pause’ so that I didn’t have to keep pulling my phone out and hitting ‘Pause’ every time we stopped.  I had hoped it would give us a more accurate reading of our actual walking time and pace.  But what actually happened is that ‘auto-pause’ did indeed engage whenever we stopped for me to get my breath back, but it also engaged every time I so much as slowed down, and wouldn’t disengage until I was 100m or so further down the path.  I never use ‘Auto-Pause’ when I walk at home during the week, and next time we go out hiking I won’t bother either.

English: a Picture of the cross on top of Devi...

Some quick facts on the Devil’s Bit:

It is 478m (1570 feet) above sea level at its highest elevation

It is listed as a ‘Marilyn

It is on OSI Discovery Map no. 59

The 5k Loop walk is graded: Moderate

The nearest town is Templemore

The Devil apparently took a bite out of the rock when he tripped over, whilst chasing St Patrick across the land.  He stood up and spat the rock out, forming the Rock of Cashel.  That’s the version I was told – other versions of this tale exist depending on who you speak to 🙂

According to the Mountain Views website it is the 516th highest summit in Ireland

9 thoughts on “Devil’s Bit Mountain, Co Tipperary – 24/03/2013

  1. I remember the feeling well…heading uphill…totally knackered…and only 10 minutes from the car! 😆 takes a month or so to get the breathing and your own walking pace sorted out but once that’s done you’ll notice a massive difference. Good attitude though – don’t back down. It was seeing a bunch of geriatric walkers plodding on a couple of hundred metres in front of me that day that made me keep going – never looked back after that.

    Btw I’m Ken Brown from Reservoir Dugz thanks for taking the time to follow and blog roll the blog 🙂 . Coincidentally I’m writing this from closer to you than you might think – Dungarvan nr Waterford. We’re just about to drive back home.

    • Thanks for the comment, the follow and also the encouraging and kind words Ken, much appreciated! 🙂
      I love Miss Blonde and (the very colour-blind) Miss Pink and I’m really looking forward to following their adventures!

      I just re-read my blog post , and I really need to do a little spelling, grammar and completely-missing-words editing haha! I also need to get those pics up!

      As I hoped, we did get out twice this weekend, we went to Lough Boora with Dolly our GSP on Saturday. Lovely and flat, and I could get a little bit of mileage in, if nothing else, which made me feel a lot more positive about all this.
      So positive in fact that I rather ambitiously decided last night we’d have a crack at the summit of Arderin today. But when we got up there this morning there were sub-zeros on the jeep thermometer. That, combined with strong and biting winds, made even the husband suggest we find a nice lowland forestry loop to do instead. So we headed off to Kinnity and did a 6k walk in some woods there instead. Felt better and stronger on the ‘up bits already. I hope to blog about these in the next few days. We took Millie with us today, she’s Monty’s litter sister.
      Arderin can wait for better weather, better boots and better fitness….but its in my sights, and I will claim it soon!

      Hope you had a wonderful time in Dungarvan – its a lovely part of the country and we often go wild camping in the camper van around there! safe trip home x

  2. That’s a cute dog! 🙂

    Don’t worry about the fitness – the more you get out and going uphill, the better you’ll feel but it does take quite some time… About the best advice I can give you for steep uphills is to make sure you take short steps and push from the back of your legs – not pull with your front leg. All of a sudden it will feel right.

    A great read anyway. I just hate fell-runners – they make me sick as I can’t run even a few steps uphill no matter how fit I get!

    • Thanks Carol for you kind words also! Apologies for taking so long to approve them -blush-
      I’ll definitely try out your advice next time I’m brave enough to tackle another decent hill! The husband just carries on up the steep bits, and waits for me at the top. I haven’t decided if this helps or hinders me psychologically yet. Some days I feel the pressure is off me and I can take my time because I’m not holding him up, and other days I’m just frustrated with myself that he’s got up there so easily and that I’m struggling..!

      Monty says thanks too! 😉

  3. The first time I ever walked with Harri (Feb 2007), he nearly killed me!! I didn’t realise how unfit I’d become in the years of enforced inactivity (single parent, no money, no free time). He’s also quite a bit younger than me, which didn’t help. Oh, and he runs up hills for fun too. Fortunately, the body soon gets used to exercise, even strenuous exercise, and yours will too. But I agree it’s demoralising to always, always be walking with someone who is much fitter than you are. I still hate walks that start steep from the car park, preferring to ‘warm’ up first. That said, my stamina is as good as his nowadays, if not better! By the way, the photographs are great. Keep updating and let us know how you’re getting on. In a few months time, I’m sure you’ll be much fitter and raring to get up those hills for the views. Tracy

  4. Thank you Tracy!
    I’m not going to claim to be fit yet, but I already feel much better and a little stronger than I did when we first attempted the Devil’s Bit. It’s nice and local, so I hope to re-do it soon, for better pics in better weather, and also to contrast and compare my fitness levels to that bitter Sunday in March.
    My soul has always been raring to up the hills for the views and for the sense of achievement in getting there….its just taken me a few years to convince the heart, lungs and legs that its worth the effort haha!
    Thanks again for your kind words, Caroline x

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