On a freezing Saturday a couple of weekends ago I found myself yawning and stretching outside the Pav getting ready to hike up Djouce Mountain with Trinity’s Hiking Society. I had managed to coerce a friend into accompanying me and by chance knew another friend on the hike but other than those two everyone else there was a total stranger.
After hiking leader, Cormac Keogh, made sure everyone was present, we all loaded onto a minibus and headed for Djouce Mountain, which is situated about an hour outside of Dublin. After winding around rural Wicklow roads we reached our destination and filed out of the bus into the rain. Not one to stand on ceremony, Keogh promptly led us out of the car park onto the hiking trail.
Although one of the easier hiking routes, Djouce was still quite challenging. The weather could have been far worse, but the mountain was still pretty steep and the hike took around three and a half hours (thankfully with numerous breaks in between).
Although I enjoyed the fresh air and camaraderie, initially I wasn’t blown away by the hike. It was cold and the decision to wear wellington boots, instead of the recommended hiking boots, was becoming increasingly regrettable. Nevertheless, I was enjoying the conversations I was having with various people on the hike and being in the fresh air made me feel healthy.
The weather could have been far worse but the mountain was still pretty steep and the hike took around three and a half hours
As we ascended the mountain my outlook changed. Although it became so strenuous the conversations halted, that didn’t really matter. The last 100 metres or so of the climb was snow covered. A mist had descended over the top of the mountain obstructing the view of the coastline and the surrounding mountains and the wind was so strong it nearly blew my glasses off. But instead of feeling discomfort, I felt a sense of adventure. It didn’t feel like I was in Ireland anymore but like I was on an amateur version of Mount Everest, and when I reached the top of the mountain I felt like I had actually achieved something.
The hike back down to the bus, although slightly more slippy, was fairly brisk. Loading back on to the bus once again conversations had died down somewhat, most people exhausted from the adventure.
Once we arrived back to Trinity some of the group headed off to the Long Stone Pub for a well-deserved pint, a nice hiking society tradition.
The impetus to go on the hike came less from a passion for immersive journalism and more from a genuine interest in going on a hike. I felt like a hike would be a great way to clear my head and get some exercise and my initial expectations were accurate.
What I didn’t expect was the sense of achievement and the very real sense of adventure. The Wicklow Mountains are on our doorstep and provide an escape from the mundanity of city life. The Hiking Society opens the door to this adventure.
A couple of days later I sat down with Alex Kelleher, the chairperson, to chat about the society. He summed up the aim of the society well. “The chief aim of our society is just to have a bit of fun, have a nice weekend. Clear your head, make some new friends. I think it’s a perfect way to make new friends, actually [that] would be the main theme.”
Alex, who hails from Jersey, joined initially as a way to meet new people, an endeavour in which he has been successful. “You’re in first year and you don’t know anyone. If you’re on a hike for a whole day you have to talk to people. You get stuck with people for a whole day, you can’t stand in silence the whole day so it’s a really good incentive to get you going.”
The hiking society is very active. Members organize hikes most weekends, usually somewhere in the Wicklow Mountains. Last reading week they travelled up to Northern Ireland to climb Slieve Donard. This reading week, they are renting out a hostel in Dingle to climb Mount Brandon, which supposedly offers spectacular views out over the peninsula.
In the course of my brief foray into hiking, I notice that a lot of the hikers were on Erasmus or were international students. When I asked Alex why that was, he said he thought it was down to them simply wanting to see Ireland. “Obviously, they would like to see Ireland and it is a very accessible way of seeing Ireland. I also think if you are a local you don’t really think about it as much.”
It was cold and the decision to wear wellington boots, instead of the recommended hiking boots, was becoming increasingly regrettable
I would be inclined to agree with him. People born in Ireland, Dublin in particular, are really missing out on a great opportunity to see their country in a very different light.
For those looking to go on a hike, a pair of hiking boots are a lifesaver (trust me). A decent lunch and some tea are also highly recommended. Some chocolate helps to get you through the more trying moments. Another less important requirement is bringing along a friend. There are plenty of people on the hike to chat with but I think convincing a friend or two to come with you definitely improves the experience.
Hiking isn’t easy but the sense of achievement, camaraderie and adventure is well worth the €6 fee for tagging along on a Saturday or Sunday morning. If that isn’t enough of an incentive then maybe the Instagram post of you, looking triumphant on top of a snow-peaked mountain, is. Regardless, a hike with some friends is definitely worth trying during your time in Trinity.