© 2018 KAVU Media

Irish Adventurer of the
Year Awards 

Vote for Most Inspiring Adventure

There are six award categories. And one public vote. For the Most Inspiring Adventure award. You can have your say by clicking on the Vote for Me button below each person's bio. 

About the Awards

Where: The Ivy Tower Hotel, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
When: Friday 29th March. 

How much: €5. Tickets available online and at the door. 

Joan Mulloy became the first Irish woman to compete in the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, This is a 1,600 nautical mile, four stage race and is among the toughest in the world. Sailors set on a route from off from La Harve in the north of France to St Gilles Croix De Vie.

First Irish woman to compete in the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro

Joan Mulloy

The Mayo native who has been been sailing since the early age of eight wanted to take it to the next level. After being part of a few sailing teams she made the jump to solo to work with some British solo sailing teams to get a better grasp of what was to lie ahead as she took on the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro…all eleven days and three and half hours of sheer exhaustion and mental strength and pure skill.

Joan has now set her sights on another first and on the Everest of the sailing calendar the Vendee Globe 2020. Like a world Cup it only comes around once every four years and only the best will enter. Considering there were no women sailors the last time around 2016 and more people have gone into space it’s not hard to see why this race is class as the pinnacle of offshore racing.

Joan a Civil Engineer profession, was not happy or bold over at the prospect of being sat behind a desks and made the decision to pack it all in and go for broke in offshore sailing. Her first race was Wicklow to Wicklow clockwise 750 nautical miles around Ireland race taking five and half days and from there was hooked on open water.

Described by one source as the Wild-Atlantic Woman this Westport skipper is the new Pirate Queen of Clew Bay, and with her ambition for global domination it is hard to argue with that. For more on Joan’s story and her next adventure please use the link below:

Gregor McGuckin made national and international news when he threw his name in to the hat for one the world's most daring races, The Golden Globe Race. Most would run from the thought of spending up to nine months at sea, however McGukin along with 18 fellow skippers set sail to undertake the impossible, solo sailing non-stop around the globe.

Solo sailing non-stop around the globe

Gregor McGuckin

Bad weather brought about by storms in the Indian Ocean brought an untimely end to Gregor’s race and also to that of fellow skipper Abhilash Tomy who broke his back during the storm. Gregor was at that time the closest vessel to Abhilash’s position made the daring decision to attempt to rescue his fellow competitor.

McGurkin admitted “we were in the worst possible place at the worst possible time”. Fortune Favours the Brave and it was indeed in both sailors favour when the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris was also close to their location and went to their aid. This meant the end of the race for both sailors.

Oh and did we mention un-aided by any modern technology, that means navigation by the stars!!! His boat ‘Mary Luck’ was a ketch rigged Biscay 36.Although he got off to a great start, only two months in Gregor made headline for all the wrong reasons from a sailing point of view.

For some kayaking enthusiasts, kayaking the Rondu Gorge of the Indus River is at the top of the list. Very few have attempted to tackle its rough waters and till now there have only been three teams to have conquered the Rondu Gorge; the last one being in 2008.

Kayked Pakastians gnarlist gorge, the Rondu Gorge on the Indus.

Ciarán Heurteau

Once the expedition was planned and arrangements made, the team were ready to arrive in Pakistan. “There was a mixed reaction from the people around us,” Heurteau said, when asked about people’s reactions to the team travelling to Pakistan. “Some were scared about our safety outside the river, others about the river we were attempting to kayak down and some were sure that we’d have a good time.” The team resided at truck hotels along the river and ate with locals. “Our tour guide Tajammul Hussain and driver Dildar from Golden Peak Tours made a huge difference in our overall expedition,” Heurteau explained. The team were given information about the province of Gilgit-Baltistan and educated on the history of the country. This enabled them to communicate and interact with locals who were intrigued by what they had come to do.

For professional kayakers like Serrasolses and Dawson, kayaking in Pakistan is an experience like none other. “We felt so tiny in there, when you are surrounded by mountains higher than the highest peaks in our countries. It’s a unique experience, and one you can only come by in Pakistan. Things there are on a total different scale,” Heurteau said. Not only was the experience a pleasant one for the team, but just as many foreigners fall in love with Pakistan and its people, this team was no exception.

Current Extreme Kayak World Champion Aniol Serrasolses (Spain), and two-time Olympian Mike Dawson (New Zealand) got together to organise their expedition to Pakistan, with French-Irishman Ciarán Heurteau filming and documenting every moment of this rare feat. According to the team, kayaking in Pakistan was unlike any experience they had elsewhere in the world. “Our experience down the Rondu Gorge of the Indus river was mind blowing,” Heurteau said.

The team also managed to get some of the villagers to try kayaking for a few minutes before they continued their journey. “Every village we stopped in and every person we spoke to was a great eye opener.” After such a rich and invigorating experience, the team were all praise for Pakistan, its people and culture. They urged anyone reluctant to visit Pakistan to “go there. Experience the country for what it is and not from what’s being said about it. We guarantee that you’ll have a good time and you will be blown away by everything you will encounter. The culture, the landscapes, the people. Book your ticket!” Heurteau concluded.

For Eamonn Keaveney all roads most certainly are leading to Castlebar after his nomination secured his invitation to the Irish Adventurer of the Year Awards. Eamonn as the saying goes ‘is mad for road’ and has done what most of us would have walked away from (last pun I swear) and clocked up over 2000km walking around Ireland….wait for it...in his bare feet. Thats some mean feat (ok one last pun). If that wasn’t tough enough he then set the challenge in 2018 of 10 mountains in 10 days...yes you guest it, in his bare feet. His ambition, apart from putting the rest of hikers to shame wearing fancy hiking boots, was to raise awareness and fund for Pieta House. To keep the fight for mental health going and at the forefront of people's mind and in memory of a friend he lost in tragic circumstances. It is believed that Eamonn is now in talks with suppliers of Meindl’s hiking boots, who hope to secure him with sponsored boots before he sets a new trend and has the nation of Ireland walking/hiking and climbing barefoot on more days than Reek Sunday. The peaks Eamonn reached for this challenge included not only the highest Ireland has to offer, they are also the some of the toughest. Apart from thick coarse heather he also had sharpe shale and slippery bog, all combined with lovely Irish weather. In his own words it was brutal”. In total he climbed a combined height of 8,468metres (and God doesn’t even know how many steps) and raised an impressive €2,674.46 for this challenge . Click on the link below to see more of Eamonn’ story: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/baring-my-soles

Walked 2,000km around Ireland. In his bare feet.

Eamonn Keaveney

Thats some mean feat (ok one last pun). If that wasn’t tough enough he then set the challenge in 2018 of 10 mountains in 10 days...yes you guest it, in his bare feet. His ambition, apart from putting the rest of hikers to shame wearing fancy hiking boots, was to raise awareness and funds for Pieta House. To keep the fight for mental health going and at the forefront of people's mind and in memory of a friend he lost in tragic circumstances.

The peaks Eamonn reached for this challenge included not only the highest Ireland has to offer, they are also the some of the toughest. Apart from thick coarse heather he also had sharpe shale and slippery bog, all combined with lovely Irish weather. In his own words it was brutal”.

For Eamonn Keaveney all roads most certainly are leading to Castlebar after his nomination secured his invitation to the Irish Adventurer of the Year Awards. Eamonn as the saying goes ‘is mad for road’ and has done what most of us would have walked away from (last pun I swear) and clocked up over 2000km walking around Ireland…wait for it...in his bare feet.

In total he climbed a combined height of 8,468metres (and God doesn’t even know how many steps) and raised an impressive €2,674.46 for this challenge .

Shane Young could be Ireland’s answer to Indiana Jones only he’s 100% authentic and real. This Galwegian spent 22 days kayaking and hiking through the Chiribiquete National Park in southern Colombia, which covers an area the size of Belgium to become the first Irishman to reach 10,000 year old rock paintings hidden in the Colombian jungle.

Irelands answer to Indiana Jones...

Shane Young

As Shane informed us: “When you’re paddling eight or nine hours a day your mind goes through every single scenario of what would happen if we turned a bend and encountered something we weren’t planning for……..You try to mitigate the risks as best you can but at the end of the day you’re trekking through some of the densest rainforest in the world, so anything can happen.”

Apart from trying their best not to stumble across Farc Rebels the group were faced with surviving fist-sized spiders, jaguar encounters as well as the crippling hunger. While the four men were consuming about 1,000 calories a day, they were expending about ten times that with hours of kayaking and hiking. This resulted in them facing the harsh reality of severe hunger caused by minimal food rations. For most of the trip, breakfast consisted of a small bowl of porridge, followed by dried meat and fish for dinner, provided they could catch it. And if they did catch something the hope was it wouldn’t try to eat them first. Like the incident with an aggressive piranha which took a bite out of one of their kayaks or staring down a jaguar growling at them between an expanse of trees

Along with three Polish explorers, Mr Young was searching for the “jaguar sanctuary”, a collection of 10,000-year-old prehistoric paintings on the side of an 800m Table-top mountain. The artwork is so difficult to access that previous explorations have relied on helicopter transport to view the designs, which have been named the “Amazonian Sistine Chapel”. The paintings depict jaguars, crocodiles, deer and dancing warriors. The scientific exploration of the paintings was abandoned in the 1990s because the park became the territory of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebel group and home to a booming cocaine business.

When they arrived at the site of the paintings the team spent a day and a half exploring the ‘hallucinogenic’ artwork of bat’s, large frogs and a tree from which a human figure collected some kind of unknown fruit. After documenting the paintings, the men made the long journey to their boat collection point to discover that it had left without them as they were late and it would take two days to for the next one to reach them. Cold, wet, tired and down to the last chocolate bar it is safe to say this sunk morale of the group for a while. Despite the hardships of the ordeal, Shane said that he looked forward to returning to the Amazon in the future because “there is plenty left to explore”.

Carl Lange and Ellie Berry set out in 2017 to be the first people to walk all of Ireland's National Waymarked Trails as a project called Tough Soles. The National Waymarked Trails are 42 multi-day hiking trails, up and down fields, beaches, back roads, hillsides and mountains in nearly every county with a combined distance of about 4,000 kilometres. Initially planning to hike all the trails within six months, Carl and Ellie are still on the road nearly two years later, having now walked 35 of the 42 trails and over 3,000 kilometres.

They have walked 35 of 42 of Irelands Way Marked Trails. Totallying 3,000km walked to date.

Ellie Berry and Carl Lange

Since Ellie and Carl don't have a car (or a driver's license) between them, they have gotten to know Ireland's public transport system well, and will happily tell you about their favourite bus drivers for hours. As part of the Tough Soles project, they run a Youtube channel and a blog, both of which have in-depth information and reviews of every single trail they've done, as well as tips for how best to walk the trails, explorations of Ireland's incredible heritage, and quite a few chats about coffee.

In retrospect, filming, editing, and writing in a tent is at least as hard as doing it from a desk - but it's definitely more interesting!

Quitting their jobs and moving out of their apartment in Dublin, Carl and Ellie cut nearly all ties with regular life, living on about €20 a day, hiking and camping all around the country. They've since had to return to normality twice - in October 2017, when Ellie broke her foot (while walking on the most dangerous surface known to man: sand) and in September 2018, when funds ran too low to even buy a fruitcake.

Tough Soles are ambassadors of Leave No Trace Ireland and the Great Outdoors in Dublin, and are always on a mission to get more people outside.

`Less than three there should never be and when taken to any water-way this is a really good rule to live by if your thinking of crossing the Irish Sea…AT NIGHT!!! Yes that’s right at night, Ali, Shane and David took off from Rosslare in on the 26th of June at 8.19pm and headed out into the dark night with a baring for Pembrokeshire in Wales.

Sea kayaked the Irish Sea. At nght.

David Horkin, Shane Young & Ali Donald.

The possibility of paddling in 30 degrees of sun in open water opened up more challenges than positive options as the trio would be at higher risks of exhaustion, sun stroke, dehydration and fatigue. Not to mention ships, ferriers and fishing vessels. After weighing up their options to the fullest the best option was then to paddle at night.

By 11pm they were now in the dark and navigating by their deck compass, the brightness of the moon and a support crew of dolphins leading the way. As fatigue set in their were still 30km to from any known land and beginning to slow down, not near out of danger yet. With the sun rose high in sky again the they paddling past South Bishops Lighthouse 10km from their destination.

The route was 85km as the crow flies, only they were paddling and dogging ferries and other large vessels along with tides and winds. Most would think the boys were a bunch of nutters setting of on any waterway as large as the Irish sea with only head torches and a glow stick to light the way. However this decision did not come about lightly and was a very strategic one as there was a heat wave (not seen the likes of since 1995, we all remember that one) hitting the boglands of Ireland.

In all the trio travelled 92km in a time of 10 hours 51 minutes on a busy channel crossing, racing tides and time, encountering porpoises, dolphins puffins and battling mental and physical fatigue, exhaustion and powered by hand. When asked about their experience Shane quotes Johnthan Livingstone; 'Find what we most want to do: do it, not matter what: and in the doing be guaranteed a very difficult and very happy lifetime.''

Northern Irish man Noel Hanna is renowned for his exploits on mountains all over the world. In 2018, the County Down native became the 2nd Irish man to summit and the 1st Irish man to descend K2 successfully which is the second highest mountain and arguably the toughest in the world.

Climbed K2

Noel Hanna

On keeping with his first Ascents, he and his wife Lynne were the first married couple to summit Everest from both Nepal and Tibet, proving romance is alive and well in the altitudes high above sea level.

With an extensive CV and profile in the outdoors he truly a force to be reckoned with, summiting Everest no less than 8 times and completed the 7summits.

The 21st of July was the date and the fact that less than 350 climbers have successfully completed this is just outstanding. The previous year seen him create history and become the 1st to ascent Burke Khang (6942 mts) on the border of Tibet and Nepal, a peak many have tried to summit however the Co. Down man became the first.

At an altitude over 8000m K2 is not a place to mess around, nor is it a place where fortune favours the brave, as this extremely technically tough climb has seen less than 350 people successfully summit and ascend.

Climbed K2

Jason Black

Jason has climbed Everest once before and both he and Noel had Attempted K2 once before. It was truly a proud occasion when Jason lofted the Tri-colour (and the Donegal and Red Cross flags for who he is ambassador) high above his head.

Gertie McDonnell, the mother of Ger McDonald’s (the first Irishman to summit K2) gave Jason an ascender device which would keep Ger in Jason’s thoughts as he move up the mountain.

Statistics has shown that one in four will not complete the climb has the second-highest fatality rate among the mountains that are over 8,000 metres. Only 24hour after the 2nd Irishman (Noel Hanna, Co. Down) achieved the ultimate of summit and ascend, Jason Black became the 3rd.

K2 lived up to its reputation of tough, giving Jason little rest-bite and challenging him “both physically and mentally beyond belief", as stated in his blog. This humbling experience may not sink in for quite some time to come.

What happens when you have climbed the highest peak that there is to climb in to world ...you climb the most difficult. Tyrone man Robert Smith from Omagh made it an Everest and K2 combo by successfully summiting both in 2018 and becoming one of only a few Irishman to complete the traitorous ascent and descent of K2.

Climbed K2

Rob Smith

The plan was made to minimise time on the mountain, thereby limiting the time we would be exposed to objective risk like rock-fall and avalanche. Most 8000 metre mountains are climbed in 3 rotations, 2 acclimatisation climbs and a summit bid. Robert and his team climbed K2 in 2 rotations, 1 acclimatisation climb and the summit bid, with only 3 days rest in between. The weather forecast favoured a quicker turnaround than he had originally planned. Robert and his team arrived at Base Camp on 30 June and summited K2 on 22 July. A surprisingly quick summit, however to get to the level of climbing and Guiding K2 took many, many years.

K2 is renowned as the climber’s mountain. Many more people climb Everest but K2 is revered on a different level. K2 has a reputation, and even if you are physically prepared to climb it, you have to decide if you’re mentally prepared to commit yourself to climbing it. Many fine climbers have sadly died on K2 and that’s always a reminder of the risks. To Guide K2 was perhaps the biggest challenge he has had in the mountains, looking after a group with so many variable factors, in that unforgiving environment. According to Robert,” It’s not enough to be able to reach the next camp, you need to operate on a different level, looking after others, and planning ahead for the next move.

Having read about K2 a long time ago, it had always held a certain fascination for him. Then after leading a trip up the Baltoro Glacier to a different peak in 2006, he saw K2 for the first time, such a striking peak and iconic image. For Robert, once he’s seen a mountain in reality (rather than in a book or on a screen) it makes an impression, the physical barrier has been removed and he feels a step closer to it after processing the image in to memory. This leads to him wondering how it would feel to climb it, be fortunate enough to see the view from the top.

The main high for Robert was definitely seeing so many of his team summit safely, including clients, Sherpas and our High Altitude Porters, who were really proud to represent Pakistan. Of course summiting himself will always be a personal high in his climbing career. Robert told us that’s It was such a privilege to have stood on the summit of K2! All this does not come without a price or sacrifice and although becoming one of the elite few to summit K2, leaving home again, only 2 weeks after returning from Everest was hard. It takes a lot for loved ones to offer that kind of support. After all is said and done Robert see’s mountains as an opportunity rather than a barrier.

“There is only ever one moment. And it is this moment. There is only ever one step. And it is the next step” quoted Séamus O’Bryne as he took on the challenge of his life. The summit of Mount Blanc sits 4,810 above sea level; the air is thin and cold, while the wind chill will cut you in two.

Climbed Mt.Blanc. His first mountaineering experience. Aged 68.

Séamus O'Byrne

On Wednesday 13 June they started at 1900m, and climbed to the Tete Rousse hut at approx 3500 metres, over 4 hours. The next day, after only a few hours sleep, they set off on the main climb. Setting off at set off at 5am to tackle a particularly dangerous section and the incredibly steep Goutier Couloir gully (AKA Couloir of Death). As Cónan’s guide used the fixed ropes in place to traverse, Séamus's guide decided to cross at a higher point, and for the cool stories do it without fixed ropes, effectively crawling step by step across the very steep, very icy couloir.

Relieved to catch up with each other on the other side, they both faced the steep climb up the very exposed Goutier Ridge. After passing his idol, Cónán reached the ridge before Séamus only to look back to witness his uncle marching up the French version of the ‘windy gap on steroids’. With emotions were high and Cónáns pride was comparitial to that of Johnny Sexton sticking one over the French bar in the dying seconds of a Six Nations, he bust in to tears with pride as Séamus continued to push himself to the summit. At 11am both men were sitting on top of the world, embracing each-others experiences while trying to soak in the views and emotions of their achievements.

Cónán Ó Broin, a 32 year old experienced mountaineer took to the ascent last June and brought along his uncle Séamus along for the craic….well I use that word loosely. To summit Mount Blanc at any time of year is an achievement, however to do with no alpine mountaineering experience is really tough, and at 68 is both very physically and mentally demanding.

When asked what he thought of the achievement Cónán said ‘His entire climb was the most amazing physical feat I have ever witnessed in my life’. While sitting having dinner after Cónáns guide, Christian, turned to Séamus across the table and, in a heavy French accent, asked :"What is the plan now Séamus? To live to 95?". "No Christian. The plan is to Live...to really Live”, came the response from across the Co. Meath native.

Would an 11 year old taking part in High Point Ireland's 10,000m Challenge to fundraise for Barretstown be "an unusual and exciting or daring experience" ?YES IT WOULD!!! In 2018 Dillon went on to triple the 10,000m total while completing over 70 unique highpoints around Ireland, often completing more than one per adventure and even completing 6 on one outing.

11 year old taking part in High Point Ireland's 10,000m Challenge

Dillon Lynch

Kieron Gribbon's websites highpointireland.com and theirelandwalkingguide.com are the home of the 10,000m challenge and many other initiatives to get people outdoors and are a great reference for the outdoors.

Initiatives other than the 10,000m challenge that keep Dillon interested are, Ireland High Points Week and the many lists and sub lists on Kieron's websites. Dillon will be signing up again for 2019 and plans are been made already for another great year.

On top of this Dillon writes about all the adventures on his own Blog while he sells advertising space on the blog to aid with the fundraising. Dillon also completed the 10,000m Challenge in 2017 in aid of Mountain Rescue Ireland while the previous year Dillon became the youngest person to climb to the highest point of the 32 Counties of Ireland

A family that hikes together stays together and this family have really put a new spin on less than three (soon to be four) there should never be.

An inspiration to anyone and proof that there are no better people to share the wilds of the Ireland with than those you love most.

Georgina Driver

The 32 peak challenge sees participants take on the highest peak in each county and to date Gina and her entourage have completed 29 of these. The first 24 was completed with a party of 3, however the last 5 of the she collected an extra hitch hiker and with baby no.2 firmly on route they will complete the final 3 of the 32 with two babies.

An inspiration to anyone and proof that there are no better people to share the wilds of the Ireland with than those you love most.

Georgina Driver set out to complete the 32 peak challenge and she wasn’t gonna let a small thing like kids get in her way, so she put her on her back…boom problem sorted.

Coordinating yourself can be an adventure at the best of times, coordinating a multi activity expedition from Galway to Greenland is another world of coordination. To gather a group of like minded individuals to kayak, climb and explore Northern Greenland inside the arctic circle takes a set of unique leadership skills.

lead a multi activity expedition from Galway to Greenland

Jamie Young

The 10 team crew comprising of sailors, mountaineers/rock climbers, kayaker and film-makers took on new summits and uncharted waters full of ice-bergs and wilderness. The kayakers did an unsupported 800km 14 day kayak down the coast, dodging icebergs and camping on the edge of the land. The climbers put up a couple of first ascents on some unclimbed rock walls.

Inspired to take on the unknown and a simple desire to visit a wild place before it was gone, the crew essentially did it all for the love of adventuring for adventurers sake. Prior to the 3 month trip itself there were 9 months of methodical planning and preparation to ensure nothing was left to chance. Although there were low points like on-deck morale, spicy sailing weather in both directions and small confined ship spaces, the high over-shadowed them.

Jamie Young is one such man, the Killary Adventure Centre creator took his vision to the seas on a 3 month Expedition which passed off without serious incident. An example of how expeditions should be run from 12 months of planning and preparation and 3 months of execution it was a worthy endeavour.

Spending 2 months in 24 hour day and everything that came with it nothing can be boiled down to one moment, although watching breaching humpback whales amongst icebergs and kayaking through icebergs the size of Westport one would presume are pretty special moments.

To travel from one end of a land mass to another is tough navigation at the best of times, doing it on an I-SUP (Inflatable Stand Paddle Board) is not only bold and brave… it’s a mega adventure. Fiona Quinn took on the mammoth task of paddling from Lands End to John O’Groats in Britain.

First female to SUP the Irish Sea

Fiona Quinn

After near death experience from drowning when she was younger, Fiona had a fear of the sea which meant she had rarely ever been paddling on it, in fact this meant she only paddled on the sea 3 times before she left. Bold and brave as she made, she didn’t take risks and used a support boat the whole time to make.

Her journey started off form the west coast of Cornwall, then over to Lundy Island, followed by Pembrokeshire before paddling across the Irish Sea to Rosslare and up the Irish east coast. Back over to Scotland from Glenarm, past Corryvreckan and through the Caledonian Canal to John O'Groats.

This pioneered journey set 3 world –records in the process - first female to SUP the Irish Sea, first person to iSUP LEJOG, 4 and first female length of Britain Triathlon (having walked and cycled LEJOG in 2017).

In all the expedition took 81 days and couldn't have been done without an amazing crew of people supporting her along the way (all of whom were found through Facebook!).

Why walk when you can run? Well that’s what Ciarán Fitzgearld though when he left Bray head on Valentia Island and headed for Marley Park in Dublin

First person to run the full length of the Irish coast to coast hiking trail.

Ciarán Fitzgerald

His passion to complete the run was not a selfish one, inspired by his loving bitch Mary (his dog) who he met at the dog pound and witnessing the lasting effects animal cruelty on her, his hope was to raise funding and awareness for the ISPCA. His initial target was to raise €1000 for the ISPCA, however he blew that number away and the total funds raised is currently at €3,063.14.

Ciarán was completely over the moon (and every mountain pass, boreen and bog road) after completing the run in only six days, three days ahead of his schedule time. With limited budget his support crew was his wife and rescue dog (Mary) who followed him in their van where he also slept at night. It was an amazing intro into both trail and ultra-running and he reckons he have definitely caught the bug for it now.

Over the course of the 600km he covered the elevation of one and a half times the height of Everest, not too shabby for man who only took up nine month prior to hitting the road. His main passion is cycling, however after investing in a pair of Salomon Speedcross 4 runners he figured he put them to good use and not just a fashion statement.

A month after he got married, the honeymoon was well and truly over for Alan Judge as this passionate kayaker underwent his second open heart surgery. It was a storm he and his wife Christina would weather together. Not long after surgery and still very much in recovery mode, Alan's biggest question was - "When can I get back into my kayak?". After a long year on the road to recovery Alan was able to manage paddling for 30 minutes but would need a whole day to recover afterwards and he persevered to keep pushing himself through the pain.

Three years after open-heart surgery Alan was working as a support kayak guide in Nepal.

Alan Judge

Opportunities like these come only a few times in a lifetime and Alan lives every day with kayaking on his mind and plans for more adventures. Alan is now on blood thinners (warfarin) for life because he is fitted with a mechanical heart valve. The warfarin prevents blood clots on the valve potentially causing a stroke, however this means any big bangs, wallops cuts make him susceptible to bleeding out or the risk of a clot travelling to the brain. Also he needs to know how to manage diet, medication and be able to self test like a diabetic.

Alan does not see having had surgery as a way to make his trips any better than anyone else's, his passion is to inspire and show those who have had surgery like his what’s possible after if taking the right care of oneself. To see that a young person can keep having these amazing adventures and create these levels of fitness regardless for themselves. He is truly grateful for donors, surgery teams, family and most importantly loved ones. He has been on a tough journey one both personally and physically.

Fast forward 3 years after he went under the knife and after a long painful and exhausting recovery, Alan is invited to be a support guide for a commercial trip to Nepal for three weeks. Christina’s first question was “when do you leave”? On the 4th anniversary of his surgery he would fly from Dublin to Dubai and on to Kathmandu. Along his journey he saw children breaking rocks for construction, funeral piars lit along the river banks as bodies were returned to the sacred waters. He stayed with Nepali families and paddled on multi day self support trips and those experiences are hard to put into words as I wasn't there. The journey required a lot of preparation and training before being able to commit to it. Working with the local communities rather than the guided trips they were able to have a unique adventure on a shoestring.

When asked what effect this adventure had on Alan, Christina replied “The day to day experiences of his trip I can never fully describe. But I can feel the effect it had on through his words, conversations, pictures, movies and deep friendships”. Alan living proof of what we firmly believe in “Every Moment Matters”. Learn more about Alans road to recovery on his inspirational Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/judgey81/)

After losing two close friends in separate incidents in tragic circumstances while they were abroad and dealing with his own mental health demons from his youth - Michael Quinn set off on to challenge himself on the hike of a lifetime. Starting at Beara Way in Co. Cork Michael finished walking all the way up in Northern Ireland at the Giant’s Causeway. The 1000km Ireland Way was his call to adventure, it was so far out of his comfort zone it truly was the challenge he needed.

Having never walked more than 2 days in a row, Michael walked 1,000km from the Beara Peninsula to the Giants Causeway

Michael Quinn

He faced challenges such as having never done a multi-day hike before, never fundraised before physical exertion on the body blisters, blisters and more blisters. After starting in the Beara Peninsula he had to get over 3 mountains in 4 days with a 16kg pack and by day 5 his biggest lesson had been learned and he got the pack down to 13kg. His ambition to keep his supports always up to date with his progress meant learning on the job vlogging where filming and hiking were one on a hell of a balancing act and baptism of fire while also making room in my pack all his camera equipment.

There are many fields, mountains, and woods on the Ireland Way but also roads... lots of hard underfoot roads which were tough on his feet. Every day was started a battle with his mental fatigue and at certain stages every step he took a lot of self-convincing. This forced him to both ask and accept help with was a massive thing for his personal mental development.

Having always liked hiking but having never done it two days in a row never mind 1000km the challenge was set. However, this wasn't just a challenge, due to his past this became massively symbolic as he saw it as his initiation into both adulthood and manhood. Jigsaw the young people's mental health charity and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust were the two charities Michael raised a mega €10,500 for by doing this hike.

Over the 50 days it took to complete the hike, Michael found both anguish and enlightenment with ever step he took. His journey took through an ever changing environment and scenery of the beautiful Irish landscape while encountering the amazing people who inhabit it were just some of the highs. His lows were battling with the anguish of his inner daemons, the reality of maybe not finishing a tribute to his beloved friends while trying to finish his own personal journey of transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. Then the physical pain of blisters was the not so gentle reminder of his mammoth task was ahead which began to kick in on only day 5. The words of Buddha may best sum up this journey:”No-one saves us but ourselves; No-one can and no-one may; We ourselves must walk the path”.

John Kenny is not your average preacher, this man in black is an avid outdoor enthusiast and petrol head all rolled into one. His unique style in cars coupled with his love for the outdoors is one where you will rarely see his Mini-Cooper Adventure without a SUP strapped to the roof roaring its way to the beach. Fr. Trendy as he was baptised during his early years working in the west coast, has been on many adventure both on land and on water. His work ethic knows no bounds and his heart is as big(if not bigger) than his adventures.

The Adventurous Preacher

John Kenny

His recent adventure took on the shape of cycling to Croagh Patrick, climbing the holy mountain and then doing what he loves most paddling in Clew Bay, all followed by a party...hence Peddle, Paddle, Pilgrimage & Party was born. Not satisfied to party on his own, so he brought everyone else along for the journey and made the event in aid of Pieta House. The route involved a 20km leisurely cycle from Westport to Croagh Patrick and back again (Pedal), a 3 hour hike up and down Croagh Patrick (Pilgrimage), followed by an afternoon trying kayaking, canoeing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the sea at Murrisk Abbey (Paddle) before finally cycling back to Westport we regrouped for some dancing and socializing (Party).

The event was not a race! It was non-competitive and the participants could take part in some or all of the activities. Starting the day at 8am cycling to Murrisk for breakfast in a hay shed behind Campbell's Pub. Participants join John to climbed The Reek for Mass on the summit. Then it was time to head out on to the sea at full tide, paddling around the inlet at Murrisk Abbey. Finally John leads the way by cycling back to Westport where everyone gets together again for a party at 9.30pm in The Clew Bay Hotel

A good friend and colleague of John’s died tragically in March 2016 and in response to what happened he decided to do some fundraising for Pieta House to support the work they do and spread word about their work.

This mini-adventure see’s approx. 200 people attend yearly and the funds raised presented to Pieta House West in Tuam Co Galway. His on-going work sees this man of the cloth always out and about mingling with anyone and everyone. Keep your eyes out on all media outlets and on the roads of Ireland and if you spot a Mini-Cooper with a 11foot SUP on it be sure to give him a wave.

Rowing is tough at the best of times, even if you can,’ just pull like a dog’ as it was put so elegantly by the now famous pair of brothers from the rebel county. Well I’m not so sure what type of dog would come to mind to rowing the Atlantic, maybe that where the term salty dog originates from. Damian Browne is one such Salty-Dog who did just that. The ex-pro rugby player just has a grá for pushing the limits of his mind, body and soul; and this adventure would push all three elements of his existence to the limits.

A nonswimmer - who rowed the Atlantic!

Damian Browne

To further test his metal and add turmoil, he endures a blow-back of 1.5miles due to his anchor failing to work properly. And this is what it was like by Day2!!! Was this going to keep happening? If so how many extra miles would he had to endure? “Asking the right questions at the wrong time”, as he puts it, puts in perspective what he wanted to achieve and how to deal with the adversities this great adventure was going to throw at him. And by the end of the journey the adversities were really stacking up.

Wake up calls consisted of sweet alarms going beep beep to being flung out of his slumber head first into the walls of the cabin, resulting in facial lacerations and bruising. A bitter sweet reminder of injuries from his rugby past one can only imagine. Rogue waves didn’t just strike when he inside the comforts of his luxurious (AKA tiny) cabin, that would be far too simple. Recalling the moment he feared would come to past, the white cap a massive wave breaking onto the boat caught Damian eye a he glanced over his shoulder. He knew this is it, his biggest fear had become a reality as the boat spun 360degrees. With only a split second to react he reached out and grab on to the Jack-stays line, and with one hand he held on for dear life (latterly as this giant of a man cannot swim and had not attached his safety line) and the only thoughts going through his mind were his affirmation to ‘squeeze your grip’. Once the boat had righted itself, the feeling of relief must have been surreal. Wake up calls consisted of sweet alarms going beep beep to being flung out of his slumber head first into the walls of the cabin, resulting in facial lacerations and bruising. A bitter sweet reminder of injuries from his rugby past one can only imagine. Rogue waves didn’t just strike when he inside the comforts of his luxurious (AKA tiny) cabin, that would be far too simple. Recalling the moment he feared would come to past, the white cap a massive wave breaking onto the boat caught Damian eye a he glanced over his shoulder. He knew this is it, his biggest fear had become a reality as the boat spun 360degrees. With only a split second to react he reached out and grab on to the Jack-stays line, and with one hand he held on for dear life (latterly as this giant of a man cannot swim and had not attached his safety line) and the only thoughts going through his mind were his affirmation to ‘squeeze your grip’. Once the boat had righted itself, the feeling of relief must have been surreal.

Only six hours in to his 2000 km journey his limits were on the verge of breaking after being hit with seasickness, calicoes on his hands and feet as well as diarrhoea. It was at this point Damian struggled with something far worse than a physical attack on his body, the demons of his mind; does he lie-down and rest and lose vital hours and nautical miles or does he suck it up and persevere on. Moments like this defined his race. In the words of Eric Thomas….’your already in pain so get something for it’, and so he paddles on through the pain.

From sea sickness, calicoes hands and feet, capsizing drills (near death drills) to sores the size of tennis ball on his butt from 12hours a day rowing, Damian made it to the other side of the Atlantic. After 64 long hard fought days at seas his believes to be always in the present, control what you can control and never give up.

The Force was strong with young Jedi so he and his brother packed up the sea-kayaks and headed for the coast of Kerry, to paddle to Skellig Michael. The Skellig’s is apparently commonly known to be the best sea kayaking paddle you can do in Ireland.

Two adventureous sea-kayaking novices brave the sea's around the iconic Skelligs in search of adventure.

Paul Deering

Their lowest point was waking up at 2 am and loading the sea area forecast, a small craft warning and gale working was not the ideal conditions the had hoped before the journey had even begun.

The night before setting off their tent was complacently blown over and Paul was sure they would have to abandon the mission. They started the paddle anyway and about 10 meters in our Hans Solo lived up to his name say Paul, capsizing and falling out of his kayak. Scared but not deterred the pair continued on once he got back in his boat.

These spectacular islands attract thousands of visitors from around the world every year, made even more famous by the visit of Luke Skywalker and the Star-Wars franchise. After training all summer by doing shorter trips to places like the Aran Islands, Insishmurray and under the Cliffs of Moher; Paul and his brother Hans Solo, set off in their aptly named kayaks the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star in search of adventure.

Then as they were passing little Skellig the water got very choppy once again Hans, not one to disappoint turbulent waters, capsized again but thank god he rolled. The duo had an easier trip home, with the wind on their back and sun in their hair. Staying overnight on the Island the highlight was watching the sun set over Kerry from the skelligs, it something they will never forget.

When you think of swimming in the sea you might think of lovely tropics, sunshine and sandy beaches, you don’t for second think of doing in freezing cold conditions in the middle of nowhere; the Russian Military or a relay swim between the Russian and USA land masses…but Nuala Moore does!!!

The worlds most remote open water swim? Off Cape Horn.

Naula Moore

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island.“Cape Horn was for real insane…. it was the first time I cried letting go of the zodiac.. when we plan these things.. we don't factor in the moment when it's show-time.. The reality of the remote location, the emotion of the water was so dark and changed so much and we were 24 hrs from the nearest anything -the lighthouse keeper and his family even get their appendix out before coming down so they don't have to taken out!!! -it was surreal adventure for sure”.

The biggest challenge was the emotional side-trust, stress, anxiety, nutrition, breathing in the cold air and waves height, the lighthouse keeper gives the final go ahead on location because of the dangers of the waters-a few minutes before the swim he radioed and said that her zodiac could not come into the water with her and her rescue crew. If Nuala wanted to swim this far south of Cape Horn she would have to go alone with her command vessel following off her and as you can imagine this was not part of her plan!!!

Swimming south of Cape Horn was in her head since 2012 but life's pressures took over and priorities changed. No woman had ever swam at Cape Horn, after the Bering Strait Relay Swim 2013 working with the Russian Military Swimming from Russia to the USA, she knew this was the type of extreme event she had to do it. Lowering your body off a zodiac at 3 am into freezing dark waters will create it's own emotions, it forces you to be 100% present in every stroke. For most this would mean survival but for Nuala, it Excitement and Adventure. After 6 years competing in the Ice –it was time for a new challenge…. Cape Horn Swim.

Trusting in the process of months if not years of hard work and dedication was the emotional strength Nuala knew she had what it takes to let go and take on this swim. The knowledge that her family, a proud fishing one would be so proud of her to have the strength (mentally and physically) to take on these conditions. The fact that she did not have use the emergency and safety plans which involved a defibrillator & nurse and 2 dive medics who all had to be brought with her. She was finally being able to release all the emotions once she heard the engines of the command boat coming towards her, this compounded the fact that the planning and sacrifices she had made had finally paid off.

The Wild Atlantic Way is Europe’s longest coastal drive, meandering all along the Atlantic coastline of Ireland from Cork to Donegal. It’s a fantastic drive….but why drive when you can SCOOTER!!! Duane Phillips is the lone Wolf who did just that. Setting off from Kinsale, County Cork with and to finish in Muff, County Donegal; Duane’s intention was to be the first person to foot-bike the length of the wild Atlantic way by his 50th birthday in September.

Travelled the Wild Atlantic Way - by push scooter.

Duane Phillips

Within the first 6 days of the trip he ditched about 75% of his clothes and equipment. The real challenge above everything was training for such an epic journey, for the actual trip he was going to have to cover a minimum of 80 km per day. The furthest Duane ever kicked over consecutive days prior to this adventure was 180 km over a weekend other than that he was averaging about 50 km two nights a week on an unladen footbike. When he hit the road from Kinsale he still doubted whether he could make it past three or four days.

In the outdoors there is a saying that ‘miserable is memorable’ and that was no different for this adventure as the lows of the adventure had to be the weather. Of 40 days of pushing, only 3 were dry and the wind was always the wrong direction. Early on in the trip he’d given up on wearing wet weather gear as it proved to be too restrictive and not being able to afford Gortex he ended up as soaked from sweat as he would from the rain. Not wearing rain gear wasn't too much of an issue at the beginning of the trip as the air temperature was fairly high and as long as he kept moving and maintained a good body temperature. This complacency nearly took it's toll and approaching Sligo Duane ended on the edge of hypothermia.

After 40 days and 40 nights on the road, it was a journey of biblical proportions, a bit of a midlife crisis, the Irish Wolfer was hoping for some kind of epiphany! A road to Damascus moment that would give him an indication of where to go next with his life, instead it rained every day and he got Noah's flood!

The highs far outweighed the lows and after day four the realisation that he had the strength and sheer bloody mindedness to complete the journey set this Wolf on a massive high. The trip gave him a great faith in the kindness of strangers and a realisation that the road would always provide for him. Every day without fail he would end up chatting to a total stranger and they would give me something, it may have been something simple like a cup of tea, some money for the charity that he was supporting (raising a whopping €3400 for Aiobheann's Pink Tie as part of the adventure ) or on the odd occasion a room for a night. The icing on the cake for the whole trip was his father riding 14 hours on his motorbike from Manchester and battling his way through some pretty adverse weather conditions to see me cross the finish line in Muff where they were downed pint or two….many!!.

If it’s not on Facebook it never happened is Vanessa Daws though as she went out to purchase her fancy Garman Tracker to post her swim progress on the social media site. Vanessa swapped paint brushes for swim goggles to take on and become the first person to swim the length of Lough Mask Co. Mayo....all 24km in one go!!!!!

First person to swim the length of Lough Mask Co. Mayo

Vanessa Daws

Supported by her former colleagues from Petersbourgh Outdoor Education Centre Clonbur Vanessa was able to call in the cavalry to paddle alongside as her safety crew. Vanessa worked at Peterbough for 10 years, so it’s no surprise Trish Walsh (centre head)and the staff were only too happy to help her achieve a first for the swim of the lake.

Her nominated charities for the swim were the North Connemara Social Services and All Saints Heritage Centre.

Vanessa is better known for her artwork on water than her adventures gliding through it, however now she has put this to bed in her build up to swim the English Channel. 10 hours, 22mins and 16 seconds after starting the mammoth 24km swim, Vanessa found herself sitting on the banks of the Mask, buzzing from the realisation of what she just achieve.

Team GFY is a 4-person team who have now completed 3 of their four challenges by climbing the highest county tops of each province in 24hours. Starting off with in Leinster back in 2014 ( 12 counties, 10 high points, 2427m, 44.3kms taking 22hrs51mins), the group completed Ulster and Connaught in 2018. Their aim now is to complete the last province, Munster, in July 2019.

Team GFY : Michael Kinahan, Sarah McCann, Pat Doolan, Mark Hearns

All avid hikers the team were inspired by Kieron Gribbon's and the mention of such a challenge at the back of his book Ireland 's County High Points

The Ulster County Top Challenge was 9 counties, 7 high points, 2675m of ascent, 47kms & took 23hrs33mins, while the Connaught County Top Challenge was 5 county high points, 2040m of ascent, 31kms & took 12hrs52mins.

The Ulster County Top Challenge was 9 counties, 7 high points, 2675m of ascent, 47kms & took 23hrs33mins, while the Connaught County Top Challenge was 5 county high points, 2040m of ascent, 31kms & took 12hrs52mins. Michael Kinahan & Sarah McCann are the only 2 hikers who have completed all 3 challenges whilst the other 2 members have changed for some hikes. The team bring all food etc. with them & either take it in turns driving or have been lucky enough to have a friend to help drive on some of the challenges.

Eating on the go whilst whoever is not driving trying to grab some well needed shut-eye as they moved. Night navigating mountains at 1am in the morning is exhausting and without Michaels GPS and map skills, Sarah believes they might have done more spot heights than was planned for. At the end of the day (literally) its was the small things that made it worthwhile….like take-away coffee from service stations and lots of them!!

The (amazing) Nominations

A note on typos:
Yes, we know that there are some typos in the stories above. If you're an English teacher reading this...we're sorry! In our defence, we're a small team and transcribing and compiling these stories took a lot of time. And we wanted to share it as soon as possible. Better 80% done than perfect and not done.