50 peaks in 50 weeks: ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing and am sure to get lost’
Kildare man Dermot Behan has pledged to climb 50 mountains in Ireland during 2020 to raise funds for the LauraLynn Children’s Hospice.
Dermot Behan and family
At the start of every new year, most of us grapple with the idea of doing something worthwhile in the months ahead. Many will lapse after an initial burst of enthusiasm, some will realise modest goals, while others – such as Dermot Behan – will go on to achieve amazing things.
He started with the “50th highest mountain” – Moanbane in Wicklow on January 5th – and will be working his way each week to highest, Carrauntoohil, in Kerry, which he aims to scale on December 20th, 2020.
“LauraLynn is one of the most heart-breaking but inspirational and beautiful places I have ever encountered,” he says. “I first discovered them when I was looking for a charity to run the 2017 Dublin marathon for. I was taken aback when I saw the words “children” and “hospice” together. I was very familiar with hospice care from older family members, but I had never even considered one for children. So I contacted them and asked if I could visit and they gave me a tour of the facility, during which I encountered some of the children and their families. It had a profoundly emotional effect on me.
“The deeply intense sadness of a terminally ill child – and their family – waiting for the day when they pass away. It’s horribly unfair and just devastating on every level. When I left the hospice that day, I just sat in my car and cried my eyes out. I kept thinking what it would be like if anything like that ever happened to my nephew or nieces and it really lodged itself inside my head. So I made a vow then that I would keep coming up with different fundraisers for this incredible place for as long as I physically could.”
Along with raising much-needed funds for the charity, Dermot will undoubtedly become fitter over the weeks and months ahead, but says he is already in fairly good shape. “After running the 2017 marathon and raising more than I expected, I wanted to do something which spanned the whole year and others could get involved with,” he says. “I figured that with an event stretching over the year and an incentive of allowing other people to get involved with me, I could possibly raise a large amount of money for the charity. I had been planning on getting into hiking and the idea just came to me when I was looking at potential mountains I could hike. I thought 50 mountains in 50 weeks just fit perfectly into the plan for the event to span the year – so I thought of a name for it and went from there.
“I do a lot of running on a weekly basis, so I don’t think the fitness element will be a problem for me and my diet is always pretty healthy. Lately, I eat mostly plant-based during the week and at the weekends I will add some meat to my diet. I feel much better and more energetic when just eating plant-based foods, but I enjoy the taste and texture of meat, so I like to have some at the weekend. I don’t eat much unhealthy stuff, but I do like an alcoholic beverage here and there and I am a fan of sweets (especially fizzy jellies). I find that no specific diet is suited to everyone – so I think that people should experiment with what suits them and what doesn’t – not everything has to be so polarised and most things are okay in moderation.”
Behan, who is a writer and actor, used to be in the army and says this experience will hopefully be useful throughout the coming year. “I have only really ever hiked tough mountains when I was in the military (Army and Air Corps), but those hikes were under much different circumstances,” he says. “We would be carrying huge heavy backpacks filled with enough gear to last a week on the ground, as well as weapons while constantly simulating being in a war-time situation and being roared at by our nice friendly corporals.
“But although those hikes were intense, I always got a great buzz out of them. Standing on top of a mountain in Wicklow, surrounded by clouds, fresh frosty air sweeping through your body, looking through a gap in a cloud at the sun glistening off a lake in a valley below is a hard experience to match. And apart from the views, hiking is a great shared exercise. Heading off with a group of friends or family for a day of hiking just sounds beautiful to me. Plus it is some of the most beneficial exercise to do for cardio fitness and general mental well-being.”
The Kildare man, who lives with his dog Dougal near the Curragh, says he is planning to devote every Sunday of 2020 (bar one when he is away) to his challenge and is hopeful that others will join him along the way.
“I am not sure how long each peak will take, but I was looking at comments on a hiking website for some of the first mountains I’m doing and it seems it will take around 3½ hours, which won’t affect my home or work life much at all,” he says. “Although it might take me longer as I don’t really know what I’m doing and am sure to get lost on numerous occasions.
“I’m going to begin each hike in the morning, so as to allow myself maximum sunlight – in anticipation of said lostness – and I’m excited to visit parts of Ireland I’ve never seen, and that most people have never or will never see. I think the first mountain, even though the smallest, might be the hardest. Just because it will be a huge learning curve for me and the one, I will most likely make most of my mistakes on.
“But some family and friends have told me that they’ll join me occasionally and I am really hoping lots of other people come along. Firstly because it will help spread the word and will lead to more money being raised. Secondly because I’m hoping some experienced hikers join me as I don’t want to die. My sister Ciara and my friend Browners have both gone out and bought themselves new boots to hike, so they seem serious and I hope loads of my friends and family, and lots of people I may not even know yet, come with me and we make this huge as it is such a worthy cause.
“I have set the fundraising goal (see give.everydayhero.com/ie/50Peaks50Weeks) at €2,000, as that was what I managed to raise in 2017 for the marathon. But I am hoping I can raise a whole lot more than that.”