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Mark Jameson on the Mid-Ulster Mountaineers’ maiden year…
I thought I would end 2019 with a long-anticipated sunrise hike to the summit of Doan. An early start leaving Portadown at 0545, my long suffering wife and Mourne widow made a breakfast fit for a king to set me on my way. I drove up to Ott Car Park expecting a hefty crowd, especially as the weather gave a sunny clear day. I was met only with one car with one occupant who just so happened to be Leslie Hanthorne from the BBC documentary The Chronicles of Mourne. A quick head torch to the face, blinking eyes, handshake and introduction, and he was off.
I got ready and headed up the stoney path, sliding all over the place on the icy rocks. I met up with my photographer friend and (am not ashamed to say) followed his lead to the easily-missed path to the Doan summit. A bit of a wait at the top, and after a short while, the sun with all its glory lit up the Manor – it certainly did not disappoint. I took a few pics then decided that I would be better just taking it in. That’s what I did and to be honest, I couldn’t stop smiling – the Mournes never cease to amaze. I may have got in the road of Mr Hanthorne’s photos, and I can only apologise if my big awkward head is featured in a calendar somewhere.
So that was the last sunrise of 2019. A year that saw the birth and growth of the Mid-Ulster Mountaineers, of which I am proudly Joint Chairman. Our group was constituted in February, had a two-year strategic plan in place shortly after, ran a very successful charity hike, and has begun to implement a plan to offer various training for all members, if they choose to partake. We pride ourselves in not taking anything too seriously, meaning it’s not all about hiking. We are mainly in it for the craic, the views, the fitness, the wellbeing you get from hiking, the community…but mostly the craic. It is almost guaranteed that when you finish a hike with us and the craic is flying and we have our big guns out like Arvy, Phil, Alan, Sam, etc, to name but a few, your jaws will be just as sore as your legs!
Like any group, we have seen members come and go, come back then disappear again. Thankfully, we have a strong core of members who have kept the hikes going every fortnight all year without fail. Our members come from all walks of life and from different areas and backgrounds. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your views are on anything. If you come on a hike with us, you are a Mid-Ulster Mountaineer. As long as you love a laugh, have thick skin and don’t wear denim, you’ll do us. We don’t go for the different groups to cater for different levels of fitness. Our fastest members will power on but will always wait for the rest to catch up. I think that’s important to maintain a good community spirit. If anyone wants to join us and are afraid they’ll get left behind, I tell them ‘we start together and we finish together’.
This year we will be holding our own Mourne Wall Charity walk with training beginning in the new year. We are looking forward to our training weekends at Tollymore Centre and more fortnightly walks whilst hurling abuse at strangers and being the good old rascals we have been from the outset.
On behalf of Phil and myself and the rest of the MUM, I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy new year, and if you happen to wear jeans in the Manor and hear some snide comments, it’s us, and you deserve it.