While on holiday in Ireland in June, a visit to “The South Pole Inn” at Annascaul was high on the agenda as it is world famous as the place that Tom Crean settled down as landlord at after his heroic efforts with Scott and Shackleton in the Antarctic. When we finally reached the village on the Dingle Peninsula was a bit 'miffed' when I discovered that I’d missed the 3rd Tom Crean International Festival by just a couple of days and that part of this involved an “Endurance Challenge” walk. This festival is set to become an annual event and that got me thinking about a possible club trip to the Emerald Isle next year to climb the thirteen 3,000 ft peaks there, ending up at the Festival where the last one, Brandon Mountain, could be climbed as part of the Challenge walk. Those who manage to finish this 19 mile high-level walk (i.e. most likely in Irish mist!) within 10 hours are awarded Tom Crean Medallions!
The plan would be to drive to Holyhead on the Friday night and catch the ferry to Dublin. Not sure yet if this would be 11th or 18th June. Next day climb Lugnaquilla 3035 ft (925m) in the Wicklow Mountains Sunday move south west and climb Galtymore Mountain 3015 ft (919m).Then move to the Kerry Peninsula where there are 10 peaks, probably done in 2 ridge walks over the 4 days.
East Peaks: Cruach Mhor 3058 ft (932m), Lackagarrin 3100 ft (944m), Cummeennapeasta 3191 ft (972m), Bearna Rua / Knockoughter 3159 ft (962m), Cnoc an Chuilinn 3143 ft (958m)
West Peaks: Beenkeragh 3314 ft (1010m), Tooth 3000ft (914m), Carrauntoohil 3409 ft (1039m), Caher 3284 ft (1001m) & its W Top 3199 ft (975m)
Finally on the Friday (18th or 25th) drive the short distance north to Annascaul to check in at the Festival and enjoy the craic. Can’t be up too late though as at 7am on the Saturday a bus leaves to take walkers to Bailebreac where the 19 miles walk over Brandon Mountain and 7 other peaks starts at 0800. The full route is An Baile Breac - Mount Brandon 3123 ft (952m) - Brandon Peak - An Gearan - Ballysitteragh - Conner Hill Car Park - Sliabh Maca Re - An Cnapan Mor - Windy Gap - Cnoc Mhacilicnain - Com Dubh Mor - Sean Droichhead River Walk - South Pole Inn.
Tom Crean was one of Shackleton’s companions in the famous open boat journey of the James Caird & was one of the 3 who made the first ever crossing of South Georgia in a 36 hour forced march, which ultimately led to the rescue of all the other Endurance members from Elephant Island and 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of these events so the festival should be a special one. Over the road from the pub is the Tom Crean Memorial Garden and not far away is the Crean family tomb at the amazing Ballinacourty burial ground, which feature in a 3 hour ‘Tom Crean Trail’ on the Sunday for those who fancy an easier walk. Last year there was music by Ned & his Merrymen on all 3 nights, a Husky display and various talks and presentations at other times.