Conal Cahill chats to some members of UCD’s Mountaineering Club about all manner of climbs and hikes.
OURS is a fast-moving world, full of noise and action. It can at times feel all-consuming, impossible to escape. ‘Escaping’ means different things to different people. For some, it can be as simple as going home for a weekend. Others prefer a good night out. And then there are those for whom escaping into nature is the ideal tonic – feeling the fresh air around your face, trees rising high all around you and enjoying the silence that descends when you move away from vehicles or roads. If you fall into the latter category, then you should certainly consider signing up to the UCD Mountaineering Club.
We are open to correction on this, but it seems safe to assume that there are few clubs in UCD with leg muscles to match those of the Mountaineering Club (cue hordes of angry cyclists bashing on the Observer’s office door).
The Club engages in both hiking and climbing (for hiking, think long walks along woodland trails; for climbing, picture Spider-Man) and they conduct these activities in some of the most beautiful places in Ireland – from Achill Island to The Burren in Clare, up to the Mourne mountains in County Down.
Normally taking about five trips a year (all of which strike a balance between mountaineering and socialising), the Club also have a yearly excursion to Wales during the second semester mid-term break (where they go quarry climbing and hiking) and typically see their members off for the summer with a post-exam blowout somewhere around Ireland. And, every Sunday, a bus full of members head off for a few hours’ hiking nearer to Dublin.
But that’s not all. The Club offers an extremely flexible training schedule, with four sessions per week at the UCD climbing wall (in the Sports Centre): Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7pm and Monday and Wednesdays from 12-2pm. You can attend as many or as few sessions as you like, and there is often a trip to the UCD Clubhouse afterwards.
Oh, and then there’s the regular pizza and movie nights – and the small matter of the UCDMC Ball in the second semester (“nuts”, according to one previous member).
The aforementioned flexibility regarding training is one of the things that attracted Roisin Rigg, a second year student of Human Nutrition, to the prospect of joining the Club. She explained “it’s hard to make time for a lot of things…I think it (the Club’s schedule) works quite well”. Roisin also noted the the open and friendly nature of those within the club.
“Everyone’s just there because they enjoy it. They do compete, but I know a lot of other sports clubs are very much about competing so you have to go to every session and be part of the team and stuff. But the Mountaineering Club’s more about…everyone just enjoys climbing.”
“I think the whole travelling sense of it has kind of given me a new sense of purpose.”
Andy Keating, a final year Chemistry student, was the captain of the Club last year. Speaking to him, one is struck by the way the Club can broaden its members’ horizons and instil in them a sense of adventure. To members who already have that, the Club teaches new ways of travel and exploring the world. Andy told the Observer:
“I think the whole travelling sense of it has kind of given me a new sense of purpose as well. Before, I would just go to the cities. I’d go to Rome, or I’d go to Madrid or something. Well, now I’m looking and going: ‘Wait – where else can I go?’ Instead of going to Rome I might go to the Italian Alps or the Dolomites.”
Travelling this way is cheaper, too – he tells me that two weeks in Germany wound up around €400, including flights – and in good company, it would seem. Andy travelled with friends from the Club, and he says that the Club’s unique blend of characters is one of the things he really enjoys about it:
“Everyone’s their own character. It’s kind of like a TV show in that sense, everyone is so different and, you know, they all have different inputs. It’s funny to even sit around and watch a conversation happen from all the different points of view.”
He has put the skills he has learnt to good use: having gained a qualification in Mountain Skills, he intends to go on to try and achieve a Mountain Leader Award and, perhaps, work in the field some day.
As for Roisin, she’s just hoping to get out for some climbs with the Club when the weather picks up. But though they may have different ambitions within the sport, one thing holds true for both Roisin and Andy: the UCD Mountaineering Club is one of the most fun, friendly and unique clubs in the whole of UCD.
If you’re interested in joining UCDMC, join their Facebook group (‘UCDMC – UCD Mountaineering Club’), email firstname.lastname@example.org or simply pop down to their stand in the UCD Sports Hall on Refreshers Day on 31st January from 10-4pm. The Club provides members with all necessary equipment for participation in their activities