The NUIG MC Maamturks Challenge made a very welcome 45th return on the 9th of April 2022 for the mountaineering participants, student and alumni volunteers from NUIG MC, Galway Radio Experimenters Club and the communities of Maam, Leenane and Connemara alike. After a hiatus of over two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Government Restrictions on organised events, it was described by a participant as ‘The Best Maamturks Challenge ever!’
150 eager participants attended pre-registration upstairs in Joe Keane’s Pub, Maam Cross on Friday evening from 6.30pm until 8pm, where they confirmed their details, collected their walk cards and tokens for a swift morning departure at the Express Registration lane. Several collected their purchased keepsakes of a t-shirt, designed by Shaylee Kieffer, originally for the 2020 challenge, but since updated for 2022. Walking strategies, meeting times, and locating the start point in daylight was discussed by many. A beverage or two and a toasted special provided the necessary fortitude for the epic day ahead.
204 intrepid mountaineers departed from the base of Corcóg between 5 and 7am on a frosty, clear morning, with several waiting till light before departure. In total, 187 mountaineers completed the 45th NUIG Maamturks Challenge, with 3 departing at Mám Éan, 3 at Loch Mhám Ochóige (The Lake) and 11 descending at the Col of Despondency/(Radiance, depending on the form), giving an exceptionally high completion rate of 91.7%. The first participant arrived at Finish 3 at 11.12am. The last mountaineers were checked in at Finish 3 by 8.10pm with all volunteers off the hill by around 9pm.
Walk control was stationed at the Maam Community Centre, where a hot breakfast was enjoyed by the Start Team. Conditions on the day were sublime, with great visibility, strong sun, and our volunteers in t-shirts at some checkpoints during the day, but temperatures descended as the sun went down, due to the minimal cloud cover.
In a change to the regular Finish 3 location of Leenane Hotel and carpark, participants concluded the Challenge at the Leenane Community Centre (an extra 1km at the end of their day), where they were sung, clapped, and marshalled safely to the Finish Line by our stalworth volunteers. Refreshments and certificates were given by our volunteers. Reaney’s of Galway were operating the shuttle bus that transferred participants back to their cars at the base of Corcóg and many participants stayed in Leenane village, making a weekend of it.
As ever, it is not possible to run this mammoth-volunteer-led event without the support of our supporters and our stellar 49 volunteers that helped over the weekend – the epitome of teamwork and social entrepreneurship. We also had members from the Galway Radio Experimenters Club providing essential support with the radio communications on the day, and a thanks also to Galway Mountain Rescue Team who were on standby for the day.
From all at NUIG MC and from the Maamturks Challenge Committee we are looking forward to the 46th Maamturks Challenge already! Pencil it into the calendars – date to be confirmed.
By Mary O’Shea, April 2022.