The Coopman Search and Selection team recently completed our 4 Peaks Challenge in aid of the Irish Youth Foundation, whose mission is to level the playing field for vulnerable children and young people in Ireland. The Irish Youth Foundation relies solely on donations, receiving no government funded. The global pandemic, as well as the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian child refugees fleeing the war, has further exacerbated the need for donations to help children in crisis.
On World Youth Day, we are proud to announce that our team has raised over €3,500 for the Irish Youth Foundation, which will go towards projects and programmes across the country that directly impact vulnerable children and young people, to help give Ireland’s underrepresented young people the tools needed to reach their full potential in life.
This challenge was by no means easy, requiring physical and mental resilience, and we’ve asked our team members to share their experience of the 4 Peaks challenge:
Paddy says “setting off I wasn’t sure what to expect apart from sore legs and a bit of a laugh. In the end, I got so much more than that. I’ll never forget seeing the mountain in the distance before pulling into the hotel on the first night and wondering if it was too late to start walking home… I’m glad I didn’t give in to temptation”. Gareth was slightly more optimistic, until he gave in and looked at images on Google Maps of the 4 Peaks in question – “it shattered any illusions that this would simply be a ‘walk in the park’. We were in for some serious hill climbing, and footwork would be the order of the day.”
PEAK 1: CARRAUNTOOHIL, COUNTY KERRY
Carrauntoohil was the first peak for the team to conquer, in sunny county Kerry. Within the challenge of this peak was another challenge – the Devils Ladder, which Gareth noted as a precipitous 70+ degree incline of 500-600m over scattered boulders and scree, while Orla likened it to Mission Impossible. After a quick stop for some well-deserved sandwiches, the team were off again to take on the rest of Carrauntoohil, which, though very difficult on everyone’s legs, was well worth it thanks to the gorgeous views at the top. Tiredness kicked in for some as they made their way down, though Christine was surprised to see Orla practically skipping down. It wasn’t the same fate for Will though, who sustained a knee injury, though he continued to power through.
Once fed and watered, the team got in their cars and headed to Clonbur, but alas, the peaks to be climbed weren’t the only challenge the team faced over the course of the three days; unsurprisingly, with having to navigate over 1,300km of rural roads over the course of 4 days, travel went array. Christine and her troupe of sleeping beauties, Orla and Paddy, were the first to get lost, venturing through Galway and adding an extra hour onto their already exhausting drive. They made it to Clonbur eventually and the team headed for a lovely and well-deserved hot meal before saying goodnight, ready to take on Mweelrea Mountain the following morning.
PEAK 2: MWEELREA MOUNTAIN, COUNTY MAYO
An early 5:30am rise saw the team get ready to conquer the second peak, Mweelrea Mountain in County Mayo, but as much as they readied themselves, so too did the clouds, the heavens opening for a heavy bucketing to see them off on their next venture.
Orla would prefer not to talk about this one, but Gareth kindly obliged, recounting it as “horizontal rain and lashing winds, trudging through frog and black-slug infested bogs”. There’s no buttering up the second peak, and the team, tired from the day before and battling miserable conditions, must be commended for completing this peak alone. Spirits were fast waning, and at one point it looked like Orla and Will might have turned back, but they soldiered on, determined to see it through come hell or high water. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, and the team did manage to make as much of this hike as possible, having a laugh as they went.
As they approached the top, Christine says “you could just about see the hand in front of your face”. The team gave little time to celebrate their achievement, the rain still torrential, so there was only enough time for a quick picture as way of commemorating a truly nightmarish experience and then, saturated top to bottom, the team made their way back down. Gareth puts it best as he said the team “hoisted their Irish Youth Foundation t-shirts as flapping war-banners – we beat the weather Gods and came out on top” – all we can say after that is, well done everyone.
As Mweelrea Mountain faded from view, another transport disaster befell the team. This time Mark and his trusty co-pilots Will and Gareth lost their way, as Will and Gareth both insisted that their way North was the correct one. Mark decided to follow Will’s guidance, taking them through the fields and potholes of Monaghan’s back roads, a journey none of them will forget in a hurry. Of course, they made it to their next destination in the end; Newcastle in County Down. After a bite to eat, and after two long days of travelling up mountains and down bumpy roads, everyone was grateful for a room to themselves in Saturday night’s accommodation – at times like these, it really is the little things.
PEAK 3: SLIEVE DONARD, COUNTY DOWN
The 3rd and final day saw the team facing two gruelling climbs, the first being Slieve Donard. It’s hard to imagine how you would feel facing into the day – so close but yet so far – and Christine put it plainly that “my body ached from muscle fatigue and my mind wandered, unable to stay focused.” Everyone was spent, but, somehow, they continued on. The team found comfort in the fact that it was, for the most part, a very tranquil, though very long walk, through the picturesque valleys of the Mourne Mountains. Horses, streams and sunshine were all a part of the beautiful views of Slieve Donard. It wasn’t exactly easy sailing though, with strong winds coming through as they climbed. Teamwork was needed to help keep each going, and just putting one foot in front of the other was a victory at this stage.
PEAK 4: LUGNAQUILLA, COUNTY WICKLOW
Finally, the end was in sight, though to get to the end, the team faced a 6 hour, 12km hike through misty and foggy conditions, so it’s fair to say the sight was more so a blurry one. The team were all in physical pain and drained for the weekend’s events, and poor Mark even slipped as he made his way to the top. This was just another blow to Mark, as this day happened to be the GAA All-Ireland Final, which he only caught a few minutes of before disembarking on the final ascent. The weather meant there were no views at the top, but Graeme, the team’s guide for the day, saved the day by opening his huge mac-in-a-sac and the team gathered around eating jellies. Finally, it was all downhill to the finish line of an excruciatingly tough challenge. Who knows what it was; a well-deserved sense of achievement, insatiable team spirit, delirium, or likely a mixture of all three, but Christine, Mark and Orla ran down the remainder of Lugnaquilla, while Gareth sprinted past. As they reached the bottom, the team huddled in storm shelter, and while individually the team were drained of energy, you can only imagine the collective comradery that radiated between them.
The team closed out the challenge with a pint of Guinness before heading home for some rest. Through all the challenges conquered within the 4 Peaks Challenge, everyone felt an incredible sense of pride, not just for themselves, but for their colleagues who were there, quite literally, every step of the way. Everyone headed home content, happy and ready for a good night’s sleep… except Paddy, who firmly believed he’d be.. able to get the team out of Wicklow and onto Harcourt Street for a few celebratory drinks in Coppers… maybe next time Paddy.